The past decades have been a turbulent period punctuated by economic, natural and social crises. Some temporary and manageable, others long-term and we do not necessarily know their end yet. What is more worrying is that a kind of social isolation can be observed, which may foreshadow a deeper crisis: a crisis of values, which does not only dominate European public opinion, but can be apparent elsewhere in the world as well.
Today, Western values, Eastern values, liberal democracy, illiberal democracy, liberalism, conservatism, nation states and globalisation, etc. are juxtaposed, with the different positions becoming more radical and more divergent in each corner. The will and the need to find a common position seems to be less and less important, to the point where only one truth is accepted, and the domination of one force over others may only lead to conflict over time until history may repeat itself. Meanwhile, we are facing problems – such as global migration and climate change – that can only be tackled by taking a multitude of opinions into consideration when looking for solutions.
Such a multitude of opinions is easily translated, in the European context, to the variety of viewpoints reflected in the different Member States’ public and constitutional discourse, that embodies “unity in diversity”. However, migrating constitutional ideas have shaped European legal, political and constitutional systems for centuries, even before certain scholars called these tendencies “cross-fertilization”. Academic and scientific views contributing to a European constitutional discourse are key to realize an ancient democratic principle that goes by the name “audiatur et altera pars”, and “may the other party be heard as well”. We hope that Constitutional Discourse may with time become a platform for constructive dialogue representing diverse opinions regarding the future of Europe, our closer every-day environment, and the future of our globe as well.
This blog, Constitutional Discourse, focuses on global problems and deepening disagreements on which we have increasingly become stronger and more divergent. To the extent that these questions can be answered at the level and with the ways and means of law, especially constitutional law and constitutional discourse. In the 21st century, no nation can be fully independent of other nations in this field of problems, while there are issues that are regional or purely national. In addition to some overarching global issues, Constitutional Discourse also focuses specifically on the European integration process and those questions that are important when we want to address the future of Europe in the broadest possible sense.
In the ‘Western world’, the European Union is perhaps the most affected by a crisis of values. The resulting divide within the European Union seems to stress the differences and conflicting interests between the Member States and erode the basic principle of European integration laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU: The peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them, are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values.
What lies at the root of this conflict of values within the European integration is obviously the growing tension between the Central and Eastern European members and the Western countries. It seems as if the two blocs were speaking a different language and their communication, their dialogue gets lost in translation. It would be unwise to deny the existence of a serious conflict of values and the ensuing antagonism within the EU, as this has become a well-established fact by now, and is echoed on a global scale in public and constitutional discourse as well. We have to emphasize here, however, that the actual source of the conflict originates in the lack of common or shared historical experiences rather than the lack of confidence in a common European future.
The formation and development of European integration has been a long process consisting of innumerable components, with social, cultural and constitutional values of the individual member states playing a significant role in this process. These values must be protected and are being protected by constitutional law and constitutional jurisprudence. Undisputedly, the main driving force behind European integration is political consensus, but we must not forget that it is the discipline of constitutional law that is destined and able to maintain and support the stability of the process of integration. This role or mission has been in the crossfire in heated constitutional law debates for some time (often between constitutional justices and courts), which cannot be easily separated from the parallel political debates of the past few decades.
When we examine the problem of European integration within the context of debates about identity or European constitutional dialogues, we cannot ignore the fact that each Member State and nation relates to and interprets European collective identity on the basis of its own historical past and will shape its own identity accordingly by reaching back to its specific historical tradition. Naturally, this perception is bound to determine its attitude to the idea of integration and to other Member States, which will also be reflected in its political thinking and concept of constitutional order and structure. To put it simply, that is why Eastern and Western Europeans think differently about the notions of nation, identity and the rule of law, and at times even about the content of human rights.
Those European thinkers and constitutional law scholars who wish to contribute to this dialogue will have to keep in mind that they all share the responsibility to uphold the basic principle of European integration, and that the unity of European nations rests on the idea reliance on the input provided by the national level in the resolution of crises in Europe can be an added value in addition to respecting the contributions of the international level.
The founding fathers realized early on at the birth of European integration that European nations cannot be united in a melting pot. That is why the key to creating a unified Europe is unity in diversity. A kind of Europe where the system of values of Western states and the national consciousness and national identity embraced by Central and Eastern Europeans do not extinguish or prevail over each other, but rather move forward hand in hand while sharing thoughts, supporting and learning from each other. In order to keep the idea of European integration alive and to make it workable and successful for generations to come, it is absolutely vital for the diverse group of member states to conduct a meaningful dialogue and show solidarity to achieve the ultimate goal: integration. In this respect solidarity means that by engaging in a dialogue the members states must show genuine willingness to get to know each other and accept the specific national constitutional traditions of the other members arising from different national and constitutional identities. Solidarity and dialogue will pave the way for a common European identity.
Constitutional law scholars – from outside and inside of Europe – also have a huge responsibility when they examine the constitutional structures and systems of the individual members of the European integration. They have to find a common language that will lead to the formation of a united community which is capable of realizing the basic aim of European integration: to build up and share a peaceful future based on common values by creating an ever closer union. In order to contribute to the realization of this common ambition, we have decided to create a platform, which will give an opportunity to constitutional law scholars to participate in a cross-border dialogue in the spirit of solidarity.