Altiero Spinelli and the Idea of the US Constitution as a Model for Europe: The Promises and Pitfalls of an Analogy
Title: Altiero Spinelli and the Idea of the US Constitution as a Model for Europe: The Promises and Pitfalls of an Analogy
Author: GLENCROSS, Andrew
Series/Number: EUI RSCAS; 2008/02
Altiero Spinelli believed European integration needed to draw inspiration from the US constitutional founding. This paper uses Spinelli’s analogy to assess how useful it is to compare the predicament of European integration with US constitutional politics. The analysis contrasts how Europe and the US experienced problems of sovereignty clashes and institutionalizing democratic accountability. It reveals both how Spinelli exaggerated the extent to which the US Constitution established and delimited federal political authority once and for all as well the way in which, despite its functionalist non-constitutional origins, the EU has experienced its own brand of constitutional politics. The analogy is thus most useful in showing how both polities faced a similar tension between the process of constitutionalism, restraining unit sovereignty, and the institutionalization of popular sovereignty at the federal level. Furthermore, the contrast with the US suggests the EU is mired in a Calhounian situation, reminiscent of the antebellum republic, where federal constitutionalism is only indirectly supported by popular sovereignty. Consequently, it seems that bolstering federal constitutionalism requires a better linkage between the exercise of popular sovereignty at the national level and EU constitutional reform.
Subject: Spinelli; EU constitutionalism; US Constitution; constitutional politics; popular sovereignty
Type of Access: openAccess