A new beginning for Europe, now
By Nicos Giannis
A member of the Federal Committee of the Union of European Federalists
THE EUROPEAN UNION cannot wait for the elections in Member States to take place. This well includes the large member states like France and Germany, the engine drivers of the European idea.
The EU cannot depend on conditions of global enthusiasm or unanimity either. That would be impossible, but also undemocratic.
The time is ripe to submit a visionary draft project towards a new beginning for Europe – a great Europe. The upcoming elections in some countries constitute an opportunity to uphold the merits of such project and, therefore, provide the much needed democratic legitimacy. The predominant view, which is shared especially by short-sighted national politicians and supporting conventional academics, contends that a federalist project may not meet with popular support before the economic crisis has been tackled.
The reality, in fact, is different. While the EU remains politically incoherent or, otherwise, an unfinished project, demagogue national politicians (but not only), who bear a great deal of responsibility for past and current problematic situation, continue shifting the blame on the EU. In this frame, the European economy will continue to deteriorate in the wake of fierce global competition, which, as a result of Trump’s election, is in turn bound to evolve into a new round of protectionism at a spectacular scale. Citizens should not be disillusioned; refusing to accept that the world has changed, preventing change for themselves and romanticising a glorious national past is not the way forward. If they think that they can negotiate in financial terms the European political integration, they will never stop negotiating. As a result, neither a political union, nor economic recovery will ever occur.
Our target audience are these Europeans stretching across a broad alliance consisting of clear majorities in most member states of the EU and strong minorities in the rest. We appeal to the YES campaigns in the respective referenda held in countries such as the UK, Greece and Italy. We appeal as well to all these people that have massively mobilised in streets and squares across Poland, Hungary, Romania, and also in Ukraine, which although not an EU Member, looks forward to a politically united Europe.
The advocates of a united Europe are no longer passive, their opponents have always been the opponents to the European idea.
Federations are governed by the principle of subsidiarity. This bedrock of European integration embodies the premise that individuals should be entrusted with the responsibility to decide by themselves for their prosperity; that decisions are taken at the level closest to the citizen; that wider and more complex organisations should not assume responsibilities, unless these cannot be better dealt with at the local, regional or national level. Whereas economic and social solidarity can flow in a top down fashion the responsibility over one’s prosperity cannot and shouldn’t be lifted upwards.
United in Diversity. This scheme ensures the minimum necessary unity, while preserving diversity of the identities and interests of the constitutive entities. It also creates a shared infrastructure required for all to feel free to initiate. Hence, subsidiarity is all about preventing rather than promoting the creation of a bureaucratic super-state.
Finally, achieving economic recovery by means of a common economic policy however desirable may be, it is not realistic – there is no time for this. In addition to this, in the aftermath of the recent referenda national politicians promulgate further their own fears as insurmountable mountains.
Federalism is not an economic ideology, but a political ideology. It is more specifically a type of democracy and state organisation, exceeding national egoisms and nationalistic divisions forever, ending wars and creating a new political community, with one constitution, in a democratic constitutive process and with a democratic content.
The great project for a new beginning for Europe must be crisp and clear. What is now needed, more than ever, is a joint proposal by a group of States including France and Germany at the extraordinary forthcoming European Council for the future of Europe on the25th of March in Rome. Such project shall feature three cornerstones:
1. An economic government for the Eurozone countries (full-fledged banking union, a common tax framework, redemption fund, Minister for the Economy, significant EU budget with an investment plan)
2. A common foreign and security policy and a defence policy, to protect both the European external borders and the internal ones order from asymmetric threats.
3. Proceeding to a convention consisted from representatives from the national Parliaments and the European Parliament, which will be invited to submit a draft Constitution for a European Democracy. This, in turn, shall be submitted to the European citizens who will be called on to elect their representatives in the European Parliament elections of May 2019.
It will enter into force once a critical number of Member States have adopted it in accordance with their respective national ratification procedures. Member states of the Eurozone will be offered to opt-in by default; those reluctant of not part of the Eurozone will be able to join in a later stage. States experiencing particular financial difficulties will be also considered part of this project as a matter of utmost political importance so as to avoid the impression of an elitist club.
For such a project to be implemented, it will be necessary to transform the European administration in its executive machinery. Federalists and active citizens-officials should be on the lead again, with the same enthusiasm which prevailed during the first decade since the establishment of the EC. Now we need devoted supporters of the great European idea, of this extraordinary common course. Federalism cannot be taken hostage by the economic crisis, we must turn the crisis as a hostage of federalism! A European democracy may not in itself be able to solve the various problems in their entirety but can definitely provide the right framework to address them. On the other hand, the absence of a European democracy we stand zero chances of overcoming the problems.