The Maastrichtian Model of Transnational Relations

Twenty-five years after the entry into force of the Treaty of Maastricht a new model of inter- or transnational relations has come to light based on the Theory of Democratic Integration, deveoped by Jaap Hoeksma.

The new model has emerged in deviation of the prevailing Westphalian System of International Relations and may be described as the Maastrichtian Model of Transnational Relations.

The theory of democratic integration offers a theory concerning the democratisation of the European Union.

More specifically, the TDI is the first political theory to provide a philosophical foundation for the functioning of the EU as a European democracy.  The novelty of the new theory is that it replaces the traditional template of states in the study of the EU with the civic perspective of democracy and human rights. 

Perceiving the EU from the angle of the citizens, the TDI holds that, if two or more democratic states agree to share the exercise of sovereignty in a number of fields in order to attain common goals, their organisation should be democratic too.

The TDI constitutes a breakthrough in political theory inasmuch as politicians have been insisting so far that the EU should either form a state or an organisation of states.

They also argued that the EU could become democratic only, if it evolved into a federal European state.

The TDI supersedes these outdated dilemmas by submitting that the goal of the EU is neither to form a state nor an organisation of states, but rather to function as a European democracy.

The relevance of the TDI is demonstrated by the citizens’ definition of the EU. While scholars have been wondering whether it would ever be possible to define the EU, the TDI suggests to describe the European Union as a Union of States and Citizens, in which the citizens are entitled to participate both in the national democracies of their countries and in the common democracy of the Union.

The practical value of the TDI lies in the diagnosis that the EU is currently evolving from ‘an organisation of democratic states’ to ‘a democratic polity of states and citizens’. In some areas the EU already functions as a democratic polity, whereas it still works as an organisation of democratic states in other areas.

The organisation of the election of the members of the European Parliament proves how intricate this transition can be. Consequently, the first political priority should be to bring the democratic functioning of the EU in line with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty.

The greatest asset of the TDI from the viewpoint of International Relations is that it encapsulates the entire complex set of relations between the EU, its states and its citizens in the Maastrichtian Model of Transnational Relations. The differences between the prevailing Westphalian system of International Relations and the emerging Maastrichtian Model of Transnational Relations may be highlighted in the box hereunder:

Subjects                            Westphalian System                Maastrichtian Model

Sovereignty                         Absolute                                      Flexible

War                                     Not excluded                               Materially impossible

Customs                              National                                      Common

Borders                               National                                       No internal, Common external

Market                                  National                                      Internal

Citizenship                           National                                       National plus European

Currency                              National                                       Single

Democracy                           National                                      National plus European

Internal Affairs                      Non-interference                         Supervision

Global Stage                        Irrelevant                                     Major player

The comparison between the Westphalian System and the Maastrichtian Model is far from a mere intellectual exercise. In 2014 the EU introduced a Rule of Law Framework. The aim of the framework is to prevent situations, in which a serious risk of violation of the values of the EU may arise.

A number of countries, against which Rule of Law-procedures have been initiated, claim that the EU should respect the traditional principle of non-interference and should refrain from meddling into their national affairs.

Their arguments are based on and entirely in line with the Westphalian system of relations between states.

The Prime-Minister of Hungary has already indicated his determination to address the EU Court of Justice, if action against his country will be taken.

Other member-states from the Visegrad-countries may follow suit. In consequence, it is only a matter of time before the EUCJ will decide whether the Westphalian system still applies or has given way in the context of the EU to the Maastrichtian Model of Transnational Relations.

The stakes can hardly be higher!

This article first appeared on the Peace Palace Library blog and is reproduced here with kind permission



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