Heinrich SchneiderEidgenossenschaft – Vorbild und Leitbild für die Einigung Europas?

2.5    Heinrich Schneider, Eidgenossenschaft – Vorbild und Leitbild für die Einigung Europas? In Thomas Cottier, Rachel Liechti – McKey, Die Schweiz und Europa, wirtschaftliche Integration und Institutionelle Abstinenz, Zürich, 2010, p. 107 ff.

[The Swiss Confederation – Model and Guiding Vision for the European Unification?]


a) Background

The text was published in 2010 in a book on a series of lectures and workshops held at the University of Bern entitled, “Die Schweiz und Europa:,wirtschaftliche Integration und Institutionelle Abstinenz”, (Switzerland and Europe: Economic Integration and Institutional Abstention ) edited by Thomas Cottier and Rachel Liechti – McKey.

The text takes a broader, historical and political science based perspective on Switzerland and is evidence of the international perception of Swiss law and Swiss legal culture; it is a view of an Austrian scholar and a representative from a “Kleinstaat” (small state) in the immediate geographic vicinity located to the east of Switzerland.

Heinrich Schneider is an emerite Professor of Political Science at the University of Vienna. With an international education in political science and sociology, he deals with issues of Europe at large focusing on international politics, European integration, security policy, political education as well as history and theory of political thought.

b) Summary

The text approaches Swiss legal culture from the perspective that Switzerland is a role model (Vorbild) and a guiding vision (Leitbild) for European integration. Heinrich Schneider contrasts the two concepts of “balkanization” and “Helvetisation” to the concept and “Europeanization”. He summarizes the contributions to Europe at large from Switzerland’s lawyers, historians and philosophers. He further describes activities in connection with the idea of Europe on Swiss territory such as those of Richard Nikolaus Couedenhove-Kalergi, Johann Jakob Kindt-Kiefer, Willem Visser’t Hooft and Salvador de Madariaga, as well as describing various conferences and conventions on Swiss territory among others by the “European Union.”

These initiatives, partly held in line with official Swiss policy, evoked their own philosophies beyond the actual developments in the Europeanization of European states in the post-war years. It is notable that many of the conventions and activities on the European developments within the nation states have happened on Swiss territory and by individuals working within Switzerland.

Although many crucial crossroads of European policy have been shaped outside of Switzerland, numerous have had their roots in Swiss soil. Switzerland has given those visionary initiators a chance to elaborate and realize their thoughts such as Denis de Rougemont, Richard Nikolaus Couedenhove-Kalergi and Max Imboden. Swiss legal and political science scholars have made contributions to European integration such as – Christoph Binswanger, Curt Gasteyger, Alois Ricklin and, in particular, the historian Herbert Lüthy. Heinrich Schneider, therefore, describes the variety and intensity of intellectual and academic activities in Switzerland in the early phases of post-war Europe. These people and institutions involved felt responsible for this early development of thinking on European integration.

According to Heinrich Schneider, the key to and core of Switzerland’s attractiveness in the thinking of these forerunners of European ideas lies in the fact that Switzerland was, at that time, the only multilingual and, in essence, multinational successful democratic confederation on European soil.

The next part of the text deals with the post-war intra-European developments of policy and constitutional thinking, which had its roots in the institutional and structural thinking of the early Swiss thinkers. These roots and sources became relevant, in particular the EU’s dealing with the constitutionalization of the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkan, with key areas of the intra-EU discussion on the final nature of the EU as a political subject between a centralized supranationality and a decentralized confederacy.

The text ends with the question, could Switzerland also be an example and a model for the EU based upon its experience in the formation of the nation state in 1848. The new liberal confederation was able to put an end to the ancient régime and restoration where, with jealously protected privileges, Switzerland was at that time was an example of highly complex political structures, which by no means met democratic standards; for many years protectorates within the conglomerate of cities had fiercely guarded their sovereignty. This experience of the fundamental re-formation (Qualitätsändernde Umgründung) in forming the confederation in 1848, embodying fundamental steps of modernisation and democratisations is what Schneider advocates should be noted and analysed within the EU.

c) Text

You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here:
E_2.5_SCHNEIDER_Vorbild und Leitbild

© Prof. Jens Drolshammer, office@drolshammer.com,  www.drolshammer.net

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