From Civil to Human Rights

From Civil to Human Rights

Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe

Helle Porsdam

Europeans have attempted for some time to develop a human rights talk and now European intellectuals are talking about the need to construct ‘European narratives’. This book illustrates that these narratives will emphasize a political and cultural vision for a multi-ethnic and more cosmopolitan Europe.

Chapter 6: Divergent transatlantic views on human rights: the role of international law

Helle Porsdam

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights


When it comes to the international situation, Europeans are, again generally speaking, more willing to promote international law and human rights institutions than are Americans – even at the ‘cost’ of subsuming national law and national concerns under those of supranational law. It was Winston Churchill who famously said in a speech in Zürich in 1946: We must re-create the European Family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can. The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny. Therefore I say to you: let Europe arise!1 The idea of the United States of Europe has a long history, as Stefan Collignon points out in his introduction to Guy Verhofstadt’s The United States of Europe: Manifesto for a New Europe (2006). Jean-Jacques Rousseau envisaged a Europe, where ‘there are no more French, German, Spanish, even Englishmen whatever one says, there are only Europeans. They all have the same tastes, the same passions the same habits.’ To Montesquieu, ‘matters are such in Europe that all states need each other. Europe’s a state made up of several provinces’, just as Kant...

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