Europe's Bloc Diagram
Imagine trying to persuade 25 countries with almost as many languages to give up bits of their sovereignty to a new political entity with no name, two presidents, and a 145-page constitution.
Europe will need a few Ben Franklins and James Madisons as most of its nation-states - from Lithuania to Ireland - decide whether to adopt a draft constitution approved last week by a 105-delegate convention led by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The former French president compared the exercise to the 1787 joining of the 13 American colonies in Philadelphia.
But the comparison can't go too far. The draft is aimed at putting both political muscle and an improved structure on a European Union that's mainly been an economic unit up to now. The EU needs a new structure as it absorbs 10 new members next year. And many EU leaders want better political cohesion in order to give Europe a strong voice, especially in competing with the US.
The draft makes only a start along those lines because of little consensus on key issues, such as a name for this superstate and whether to allow one nation to veto a joint foreign policy.
It also reaches for a new reality by referring to the 450 million people to be included in this entity as "citizens," supposedly different from their current status as just "nationals." The idea of a European citizenship for all assumes that a poor Polish potato farmer and a rich London banker really want to sing the same anthem (the convention chose Beethoven's "Ode to Joy").
And the draft cites Europe's origins in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as the Enlightenment, but says not a word for Christianity, which once united the Continent.
If Europe seeks to learn from the US, it should look at the difficult balance of power between Washington and the states. Power has flowed away from the states over two centuries, creating a growing disconnection between government and citizens. Europe can try to avoid that.