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The Value of European Values

Europe's leaders have revived the constitutional talks that broke down last December in a dispute about voting rights. Such disputes are, of course, subject to compromises, which are likely to be found. What still needs to be settled is a clear understanding of what the constitution is meant to achieve.

Two fundamental principles have underpinned European integration: solidarity and subsidiarity. Both principles lie at the crossroads of philosophy, politics, economics, sociology, and law. For years they have been present in the legal and institutional framework of the European Union - in treaties, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights (which quotes them in the Preamble), in the recent draft Constitution. They are, in short, inscribed in the EU's history and ideals. But what do solidarity and subsidiarity really mean?

Consider solidarity, which is open to at least two interpretations: static solidarity, which concerns only the distribution of income and wealth, and the broader concept of dynamic solidarity, which concerns the production of income and wealth as well.

In the postwar history of European integration, dynamic solidarity was strong in the first period - that of the European Coal and Steel Community - both in its economic development strategy (reconstruction) and in the Treaties, particularly the Treaty of Rome. This does not mean that dynamic solidarity was subsequently suppressed: European Monetary Union, for example, is an expression of it.