PART 8 | 19 MARCH – 01 APRIL 2022
Article VII elaborates on the relationship between the Citizens, the States and the Federation. It is the final piece of the meaning of the concept of vertical separation of powers. The Constitution deals with that vertical separation in five steps. Because that vertical separation encompasses the essence of federal state formation, I will list those steps here again.
The first stage is in Article I, Section 2 which says that what is not expressly given to the Federation belongs to the complex of powers of the States and of the Citizens.
The second stage is Article III, Section 2. That specifies limitatively those federal powers.
Stage 3 is Section 3 of Article III which specifies the limits within which those powers of the Federation must be exercised for the protection of the Citizens.
Stage 4 is Section 4 of Article III which sets limits to what the Federation and the States may do.
And then, finally, there is Stage 5 in this Article VII which makes it even more clear how some aspects in the Federation-States-Citizens relationship must be understood.
Clause 1 of Section 1 makes it clear that citizens of a Member State are also citizens of the Federation. They receive a single passport, issued by their own Member State but indicating citizenship of the federation. This gives the citizens certain rights, such as diplomatic assistance outside federal Europe and the right to vote in elections to the House of Citizens and the President.
Clause 1 further states that states may not discriminate against the citizens of other states in favour of their own citizens. All citizens receive 'national treatment'.
Clause 2 introduces another form of direct democracy by stipulating that a minimum of 300,000 citizens may submit an initiative bill. The procedure for its consideration by the Houses and the President is strict in order to guarantee that democratic right of the citizens.
Clause 3 regulates the extradition of criminals between member states. Clause 4 prohibits slavery and forced labour.
Section 2, Clause 1 requires member states to recognise the law of other Member States. Clause 2 states that Member States are exclusively competent to regulate matters of nationality and citizenship. With the stipulation that they treat citizens of other states as if they were their own citizens.
Clauses 3, 4 and 5 are of a different order. Clause 3 provides that after the federation is established, new states can join. Through a strict procedure.
Clause 4 imposes a special burden on those new states, namely, that they retain their debts. See this in the light of what I describe later in Article X, Clause 1. There, it is stated that Member States joining the federation shall, at the time of its formation, cancel their debts. The federation takes them over. So then, as a Member State of the federation, they start with a clean financial slate. But if they join only after the formation of the federation, they retain their debts.
Clause 5 states that changes in the number of member states - whether by splitting or merging - require a special procedure. The reason is that such changes may weaken the balance of power between states and the federal body, for example in the composition of the Senate. This is a departure from the US constitution, which prohibits splitting or merging of states. This is not workable for Europe. The various peace treaties after five hundred years of wars because of nation-state anarchy have led to borders within which some peoples feel confined and strive for their own sovereignty. It is obvious that when the United States of Europe is established, regions that have been fighting for their independence for years should be given, or take, the opportunity to become independent and apply for membership of the European federation. The constitution must therefore provide a procedure for this.
Section 3 states that the federation guarantees representative democracy in the Member States and that the federation has no authority to interfere with the internal order of member states. A federal state is not a supranational state with top-down powers to intervene in the internal structures of Member States.
Article VII – The Citizens, the States, and the Federation
Section 1- The Citizens
1. The Citizens of each Member State of the European Federal Union also hold Citizenship of the Union and are therefore full Citizens of the Union. They receive a single passport, issued by one's own Member State, stating Citizenship of the Federation.
2. According to Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 all Citizens of the European Federal Union over the age of eighteen, unless they lack capacity due to mental illness or mental incapacity, may participate in elections to the House of the Citizens. They may launch or support popular initiatives on federal affairs. They may be elected delegates of the House of the Citizens, provided they meet the requirements of Article III on competence and suitability.
(a) The way in which scientific institutes, political parties, associations, societal movements, and other organisations may contribute to the forming of public opinion is regulated by a law of the European Congress for the verification and control of possible conflicts of interest that may exist between them and the media.
(b) Access to transparent and objective information will be ensured through the creation of Citizen Agora spaces by a law of the European Congress. This Citizen Agora should serve as a space for debate and the creation of a well-balanced public opinion, working as a link between different sources of information and citizens.
(c) Transparency shall be ensured by a law of the European Congress with respect to the ownership structures of the media, as well as their relationship with parties, companies or positions that may influence or shape public opinion. These media will be encouraged to participate in the Citizen Agora by meeting certain requirements.
3. At least 1% of Citizens with the right to vote may, within 6 months of the official publication of their initiative, request a partial revision of the Federal Constitution. Such a Citizens’ Initiative of the Federal Constitution has the form of an amendment to the Constitution.
4. Any Citizens' Initiative to amend the Constitution shall meet the requirements of consistency of form and content and shall not infringe mandatory provisions of international law. If these requirements are not met, the Federal Court of Justice of the European Federal Union will declare it invalid in whole or in part.
5. In case of a Citizens' Initiative in the form of an amendment to the Constitution, the House of the Citizens shall, within three months, organize a multi-day meeting with panels of Citizens with the aim of discussing, analyzing, and weighing the proposed amendment and assisting Citizens in the elaboration of that amendment. The House of the Citizens can adopt this proposal for amending the Constitution and to put it into procedure in accordance with Article VIII of the Constitution, or to organize a referendum. An amendment submitted to a referendum is adopted if a simple majority of the Citizens entitled to vote have voted in favour of the amendment. Thereafter, the procedure of Article VIII follows.
6. The following shall be put to a referendum:
(a) a decision on ratification of an international treaty and on accession of the Federation to collective security organizations, supranational communities or international organisations;
(b) federal emergency laws which are not based on a provision of the Constitution and whose term of validity exceeds one year; such federal laws must be put to a vote within a year of being approved by the European Congress.
7. The following may be put to a referendum:
(a) federal laws;
(b) federal executive measures required by the Constitution or a law.
8. Referendums submitted to a vote of the Citizens as mentioned in Clauses 6 and 7 shall be accepted if approved by a simple majority of those entitled to vote.
9. All referendums must, within three months, be preceded by Citizens' Panels organised by the House of the Citizens with the aim of preparing European Citizens for the vote by providing information on the proposals. On the basis of the outcome of the Citizens' Panels, the European Congress may submit a counterproposal. An act of the European Congress shall lay down the methods for voting on the proposal of the Citizens and on the proposal of the European Congress.
Section 2 – The States
1. Full faith and credit will be given in each Member State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of all other States. The European Congress may prescribe by general law the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings will be proved, and the effects thereof.
2. The Member States of the European Federal Union have the exclusive power to regulate matters of Citizenship. A State’s Citizenship is valid in any other State of the Federation. The Citizenship of a Member State implies the Citizenship of the European Federal Union.
3. States may join the European Federal Union with the consent of a two-third majority of the Citizens of the acceding State, a two third majority of the legislative branch of the acceding States, a two-third majority of the Citizens of the Federation and a two-third majority of each House of the European Congress, in this order. The European Federal Union takes note of this consent and acts accordingly. The European Congress shall lay down by law the requirements to be met by States acceding to the European Federal Union
4. Member States may leave the Federation by the same route as indicated in Clause 3. By law of the European Congress, the financial obligations of such Member States are determined.
5. All debts entered, and engagements contracted by States, acceding to the Federation at the moment of the ratification of this Constitution, according to Article I, Section 1, Clause 6, will remain valid within the European Federal Union. States acceding to the European Federal Union after the Constitution having come into force retain their debts and are bound to the laws of the Federation as of the moment of their accession.
6. Any change in the number of Member States of the European Federal Union will be subjected to the consent of a two-third majority of the Citizens of the concerned Member States, a two-third majority of the legislative branch of all Member States and a two-third majority of each House of the European Congress, in that order.
7. A person convicted in any Member State of the Federation for high treason, felony, or other crimes, fleeing from justice and found in a different Member State, will at the request of the executive authority of the State from which he fled, be surrendered to the State with jurisdiction relating to that crime.
8. Slavery or any form of compulsory servitude, except in case of punishment for a crime for which the said person has been lawfully convicted, will be ruled out in the European Federal Union or in any territory under federal jurisdiction.
Section 3 – The Federation
1. The European Federal Union will guarantee a representative democracy for each Member State and will protect them against an invasion and, at the request of the legislative branch, or that of the executive branch in case the legislative branch cannot convene, against internal violence.
2. The European Federal Union will not interfere with the internal organization of the States of the Federation, but still demands that those states as democratic states will be governed by the rule of law.
3. The European Congress has the power to have at their disposal and make all necessary regulations with respect to the territory or other possessions belonging to the European Federal Union.
Explanation of Section 1 – The Citizens
Clauses 1 and 2 elaborate on the concept of the Citizenship. The Citizenship of a Member State goes hand in hand with Citizenship of the Federation. As soon as a person possesses the nationality of a Member State, he or she also has federal Citizenship. One receives a single passport, issued by one's own State, stating Citizenship of the Federation. This means that he or she has the federally granted political and other rights and that he or she can also call on its diplomatic or consular services outside the Federation in matters for which they are competent. The latter implies that those federal services must allow Citizens of the Federation, residing outside the Federation, to participate in elections for the House of the Citizens and the President/Vice-Presidents.
The Clauses 3 to 9 regulate another set of direct democracy, in addition to and reinforcing provisions on direct and deliberative democracy, regulated in other articles of the Constitution. They are expressly intended to solve the democratic deficit of the Treaty-based intergovernmental European Union. The Constitution introduces two issues here. First, the right of Citizens to launch a Citizens’ Initiative to amend a part of the Constitution. Second, the concept of compulsory and optional referendums. Because this partly concerns possible changes to the Constitution, Article VIII, dealing with changes to the Constitution, naturally also plays a role here.
Explanation of Section 2 – The States
Clause 1 requires States to recognise the practice of law in the other States of the Federation as of right. Thus, the States do not subject each other's law to evaluation, but let it apply to them. Among other things, this provision avoids administrative burdens for Citizens, administrations and judges concerning the use of official documents. In the European Federal Union, therefore, any requirement for legalization of documents drawn up by a Member State is waived; these documents therefore have legal force in other States of the Federation.
Clause 2 of Section 2 means that only the Member States of the Federation have competence in matters of Citizenship with all the political and social rights attached thereto, although the Federation becomes competent for immigration policy. Each Member State recognises the Citizenship of another State and, according to its legal order, treats the Citizens of that other State as its own Citizens. This also implies that all the Member States of the Federation provide help and assistance to each other's Citizens abroad through their diplomatic and consular services where necessary.
Clause 3 provides for the conditions to be fulfilled by States who want to accede to the Federation.
Clause 4 rules that leaving the Federation is possible, provided the leaving Member State follows the same procedure as indicated in Clause 3.
Clause 5 makes clear that the States, acceding to the Federation at the moment of the ratification of the Constitution, are freed from their debts. Under a federal tax system, complemented by a Fiscal Union, they start their lives as Member States of the Federation with a clean financial slate. Under a federal tax system, complemented by a Fiscal Union, they start their lives as Member States of the Federation with a clean financial slate. Under a federal tax system, complemented by a fiscal union, they start their lives as member states of the federation with a clean financial slate. This does not apply to States that register as members of the Federation after it has been established and has entered into force. Those States retain their debts and must apply the federal rules in force from the time of their accession.
Clause 6 rules that any change in the number of Member States of the Federation, by merging or splitting States, shall be submitted to the Citizens concerned, to the Parliaments of all the States and to the European Congress. The reason for these various authorizations is that they alter the balance of power between the Member States and within the Federation, institutionally for example, by affecting the composition of the House of the States. This provision is important for regions with activist groups that aspire to establish their own state, such as Catalonia in Spain, Corsica in France, Flanders in Belgium and Scotland in the United Kingdom.
Clause 7 provides for extradition of suspects between Member States as the flip side of the free movement of persons in the Federation. Clause 8 reaffirms the principle of prohibition of slavery and forced labour.
Explanation of Section 3 – The Federation
Clause 1 emphasizes the guarantee that the Federation secures a representative democracy for each Member State and that it will protect them against an invasion and against internal violence.
Clause 2 stresses - as an explicit aspect of the vertical separation of powers of this centripetal federation – that the Federal Authority does not interfere with the internal order of the Member States, but rather ensures the unconditional application of the rule of law throughout the Federation. A federal state is not a supranational state of which hierarchical decision-making is a feature.
Clause 3 says that the European Congress can make all regulations it deems necessary.
Article VII – The Citizens, the States, and the Federation