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Adress by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Slovenia at the conference "The new constitutional process for the European union"

Ljubljana, 18. 4. 2016 | press release, speech

Keynote speech of the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor at the conference "The new constitutional process for the European union" on the Tenth Anniversary of the European Faculty of Law Distinguishing Its European Identity and International Involvement.

President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor at the conference "The new constitutional process for the European union".
Photo: STA

Ladies and gentlemen,

My heartfelt thanks go to the host for the invitation to the conference, which I was very happy to accept. And also quite relieved. After the disturbing absence for many years of discussion on the European Vision, a much needed debate on the new constitutional process is beginning in Ljubljana today.

After more than ten years, the debate will – we hope – yield a new draft of a European Constitution to be presented to the Slovenian, European and global public. In intellectual, legal and political terms, this is an event of the utmost significance, and I hope it will be an important milestone.

This conference, its central topic and the drafting of a new European Constitution are one of the first tangible initiatives for a deepened European Union as an alternative to current intellectual and political movements, which choose to ignore the need for the Union's revival and modernisation, and instead interpret the situation as one of decline or even dissolution.

The greatest contribution of the conference, of course, will be a draft of a new European Constitution. In the past few years, we advocates of the European idea have often publicly stated the need for concrete steps towards an institutional and substantive deepening of the European Union, but were unable to propose any specific initiatives. Until today.

At this moment, procedurally speaking, it is probably not so important whether the new draft European Constitution truly and without reservations reflects our perceptions and expectations of constitutional changes. What is most important, and most welcome, is the fact that, following this conference, the European public will find it easier to generate ideas and proposals on how to continue the constitutional process and crown it by adopting a new Constitution.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The European Union has found itself in the situation where its institutional order established with the Lisbon Treaty has no lasting value and historical potential. The EU must decide which direction to take, as it cannot remain much longer in this legal and political status quo. Stagnation is, in fact, regression. And regression means returning back to national policies and loosening even further the institutional ties within the European Union.

On the other hand, progress, in my opinion, would mean forming a federal European Union. At present, this may seem an incredible perhaps even an inconceivable step forward. But in fact, from the current crossroads we can only go backwards to less Europe or forward to more Europe. There are no other options, at least none that I can see.

There were and will be many discussions about federalism in the European Union. Without a doubt, such direction of the development of the Union would lead to a sui generis federation. Ever since its establishment as a community of states, the European Union has been something special. One of the most important reasons for this is the delicate balance between unity and diversity. This was always the case in the past and will remain so in the future.

The presented draft Constitution contains impressive ideas. One of them is the proposal to choose the president of the European Union at general elections. Furthermore, the draft foresees the establishment of a bicameral parliament and other changes that, until now, seemed impossible.

Those of us who strive for a deeper integration of the European Union have to be especially cautious. For its further development, it is of vital importance to understand how much unity is necessary for the Union in order to operate effectively, while still allowing diversity to the extent that is both required and expected. In this sense, the United States of Europe should not replicate the United States of America.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Usually, when I present the idea of the United States of Europe in Slovenia, and the more so abroad, I am often asked why, as the president of a relatively small state, I speak in favour of a more integrated community of states that will only further erode the sovereignty of my country. This is a legitimate question and I always answer it without embarrassment.

This path certainly involves some risk. However, it is a reasonable risk even for small states. Stagnation of the European Union and return to old geopolitics would pose a greater risk, especially for small states. In short, my intellectual and political beliefs encourage me to assume responsibility and contemplate a more connected, more effective and more efficient Union. Of course, one has to consider the possible drawbacks, as well. This is why it is evident that the constitutional process cannot but be long and complex. Yet, I believe that these efforts are heading in the right direction.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nowadays, we often hear that the European Union is dealing with a financial and a refugee crisis, and that it may soon face a security crisis. In fact, I would say that the Union itself is suffering from a crisis. Its institutional structure and functioning are in a crisis that further exacerbates the problem of its legitimacy. This in turn increases the general dissatisfaction. When unhappy with the European Union, people often overlook the fact that without the Union, there would be no reconciliation, no peace and no security. Certainly, such oversights are understandable. At the moment, the Europeans still take peace for granted. But their dissatisfaction undermines the faith in the European idea itself. Hence, it is high time for everyone who believes in the European idea to become aware that we all share the responsibility for it.

In this context, today’s and tomorrow’s discussions are of greater importance than they may seem at first glance. They represent an intellectual resistance against indifference and absence of alternative visions in face of the stagnation and disintegration of the European Union. They show a vision of the Union that will be able to withstand the high expectations of future generations. It is my desire that, at the end of the conference, the organizers would in some way or another call upon the European public to join this discussion.

The nature of this matter is very complex and nothing can happen overnight. Yet, it is crucial for any vision to have a reference point. The proposal for a new constitution presented at this conference could represent such a reference point. Everyone involved in the preparation of this draft deserves our most sincere gratitude. And all of us who believe in its importance for our common future can draw fresh inspiration and energy from this proposal to pursue our aspirations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to participate at a conference with such a potential, a potential that will hopefully not remain untapped. I will do everything in my power to promote it. I wish you successful deliberations at the conference and thank you for your attention.