Europe, Hungary and the Project of a Transnational Democracy

This article represents the first publication and translation of a lecture given by Jurgen Habermas on the 29th of May, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary. The lecture was organized by the Goethe Institut and was originally titled Europe, Hungary and the Project of Transnational Democracy. His lecture covered the areas of transnational democracy and the path forward for the EU. Following the analysis of the relationship between Hungary and Europe, one gains an idea about the project of transnational democracy. According to this, the socio-political problems of the global world only can be solved beyond the level of the nation-states; therefore, Europe needs not only an economical but a political union. It is unnecessary, however, to establish this union on the basis of the federal system of the US. The legitimational deficit of the EU can be eliminated, and solidarity between European states can be established by a common European constitution. A constitution that, importantly, should not be built on withdrawing competences from the member-states. Instead of a hierarchical relationship between the member-states and the European Union, a heterarchical one is needed: nationstates should not impart their sovereignty to the organizations of the EU, but only share them. It is this tendency that decreases the legitimacy of the EU – namely, that while the sovereignty of the member-states decreases, certain EU organs, without the possibility of democratic control, acquire too much power – could and should be avoided. The deficit of a broader political culture needs to be overcome, as a common political culture is a crucial condition in the development of a unified Europe, where solidarity is seen as fundamental. The pre-condition of this common political culture is a common political public, a common political culture, and the mutual trust towards each other. Habermas demonstrated that the first two conditions are not utopian ones, but that they can be achieved, and achieved without a common European language. Concluding his lecture, he talked about the impact on this possibility in light of the harsh austerity measures taking place across Europe, and the distrust and division this has fostered.

Released: Replika 87, 57–65.
Ferenc Szijj