What is sovereignty today?


More and more often not only in Italy, an expression is heard to circulate until a few years ago by the big media: sovereignism . And just as the race of many political movements and as many journalists and columnists began to define themselves as sovereignists, some wonder: what exactly is meant by this expression?

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Neologism. Sovranismo is a neologism that derives from the sovereign noun borrowed from the French souvrainisme. According to the online encyclopaedia of Treccani it would be a "political position that advocates the defense or reconquest of national sovereignty by a people or a state, in contrast to the dynamics of globalization and in opposition to supranational concertation policies" .

Sovereignism, in other words, opposes the transfer of powers and competences from the national state to an international body. Indeed, citizens consider this process a threat to national identity or an attack on the principles of democracy and popular sovereignty.

The expression would have started circulating already in the fifties, when the European Community was born. But the paternity of sovereignty is disputed. In fact, there are those who trace the first use back to the movements that from the 1960s claimed the independence of French-speaking Quebec from the rest of Canada (which is a federal state).

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Is it right or left? If overseas sovereign ideas are well represented by US President Donald Trump and his protectionist and anti-immigrant policies, on the continent more and more sovereign movements are on the rise. Here the enemy is mainly the European Union.

But if it is true that the sovranisti propose themselves as the champions of the "exercise of national sovereignty in Europe", it would be reductive to consider them simple heirs of the old right nationalism. Indeed, sovereignty embraces within it themes dear to certain right-wing movements as well as to certain left-wing movements. Above all, border disputes arise with sometimes manifest hostility towards migrants.

On the other hand, the claims against European liberal policies seen as the long hand of global financial capitalism come from the sovereign left. Both types of sovereignty choose economic and border protectionism as a response that, in their opinion, best protects the interests of the people.

Image The Italian Senate. |

Do the people decide? According to many jurists, however, sovereigns are spokesmen for an ideal of majority democracy that risks going beyond the legal boundaries of international law.

In fact, the sovereigns claim the right of the majority to decide regardless of the international legal constraints established after the Second World War in order to avoid new conflicts. Europe itself was born with this noble goal.

But how to hold together popular will and international law? The great democratic question opened today by sovereignty, not only in Italy, is above all this: to what extent is it permissible to disregard international rules in the name of popular will?

In other words: is it possible to respect the popular demands without upsetting the international balance and above all without creating the premises for future national conflicts?