British Liberal MEP Andrew Duff was re-elected President of the Union of European Federalists at the Congress in Brussels on 25-27 March 2011.
After an overwhelming vote of confidence in his presidency, Duff said:
It’s a great privilege to be able to continue to lead the Union of European Federalists for another two-year term. This is a fruitful time to reanimate and deepen political thought across Europe about what kind of European Union we wish it to be. The federal movement continues to believe that Europe will only prosper if integration deepens.
The goal of UEF as a campaigning and lobbying organisation is to press for more concrete steps to be taken to build a credible economic government for the euro area. Last week’s European Council can only be seen as the beginning of this process.
By 2013 we will be ready for a new revision of the EU treaties which will fill in the gaps left by the Lisbon treaty and repair some of its shortcomings. I hope that these issues will be addressed by the European political parties as they prepare for their campaigns in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections on the basis of transnational lists.
If the democratic reforms continue to take hold in the Arab countries, the EU will have viable partners in North Africa and across the Middle East with which to project shared values of security based on the rule of law and fundamental rights.
The UEF collaborates with the Spinelli Group and other associations committed to building a strong and democratic European Union.
Monday, March 28 2011 By manajan
British Liberal MEP Andrew Duff was re-elected President of the Union of European Federalists at the Congress in Brussels on 25-27 March 2011.
One of the most important challenges for European integration is the strengthening of the sense of a European belonging
It seems a well established fact that the loyalty to the nation-state is stronger than European belonging, as evidenced by all recent Eurobarometer surveys. Indeed only a small percentage of European citizens identify with the EU, the overwhelming majority still considers themselves first a citizen of a nation state. This is partly owing to the matter that after the end of the cold war national identities have been strongly enhanced by the media and politicians. Although the consequences of this trend have not always been positive (ethnic wars, growing feelings of intolerance), the growing attachment to the nation-state is a matter of fact. Therefore, it is more than ever necessary not only to stress the risks of nationalism but also to develop, foster and strengthen a sense of (pan) European belonging, a sense of positive, nondiscriminatory European identity”. But how to do it?
Culture is part of the answer.
Common cultural and social practices seems a strong medium to do just that - develop, foster and strengthen this notion : spreading common symbols, introducing common holidays, teaching a common understanding of European history and of the roots of the European integration process, which is based on the idea of shared sovereignty.
The introduction of the concept of European citizen in 1992, endowed with certain entitlements and strengthened by succeeding reform Treaties, is another important factor in developing a sense of identity, but 18 years is much too short a time to have any effect in a sociological process which has to evolve bottom-up.
With to 27 Member States in the European Union and nearly half a billion European citizens, the wealth of European culture and cultural history is a great asset for the EU and, beyond this, all of Europe. Bringing the various strands and local expression together into a common cultural space is an important element for building a common cultural identity.
Read the full resolution adopted by the UEF on federalists.eu
Sunday, March 27 2011 By manajan
The world order is changing. The rise of new global players such as China, India and Brazil risks the marginalisation of Europe. Europe's neighbouring Arab countries struggle to become democratic. Global warming requires a radical systemic response. The banking crisis exposes the fundamental weakness of current financial rules. Faced with these and other challenges, the good governance of the international community needs a strong European Union which makes a leading contribution towards peace, justice and liberty
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Tuesday, March 1 2011 By Laurencija
By Lucio Levi, president of the Movimento Federalista Europeo and professor of Political Science and Comparative Politics at the University of Torino in Italy
After the fall of the fascist regimes in Mediterranean Europe, in Latin America and in Asia and after the fall of the communist regimes in the big region that for fifty years was under the control of the Soviet Union, now the time has come for the Arab people’s awakening. The “third wave” of democratization, as Huntington called it, started in 1974 with the Portuguese revolution, has not exhausted yet.
The EU and US governments have been caught by surprise by the masses’ spontaneous movement that invaded the cities’ squares of North Africa and the Middle East. In the name of the international stability they backed until the end the old, falling, oppressive and corrupted regimes in Tunisia and in Egypt and they accepted their fall with disappointment. The governments of the EU and unfortunately also the European Parliament did not find the words nor did they formulate any political proposal in order to intervene on the great on-going movement of liberation. After the decline of the US influence and with the absence of Europe, the international system does not seem to have the economic and power resources, nor the political view to positively affect the current events and to help and direct the transition to democracy.
It’s disheartening to observe how the European political leaders see the people’s liberation movement fighting against their government’s oppression only in terms of security, so that they just propose to send policemen to guard the sea-coast. This is the Europe that we do not want: the fortress Europe which closes on itself, which exhibits xenophobia, which excludes Turkey, because it is an Islamic country, which in the name of Christian religion represents its own God with the features of the Western man. The Union for the Mediterranean project (2008), which should have deepened the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (1995), has failed. The meeting of the national governments who are members of this association, expected for 2010, did not take place. The free trade area, planned for 2010, was not achieved, nor did the European governments honour the commitment to interrupt the economic cooperation with the countries on the southern shore of Mediterranean Sea which do not respect human rights.
It should be noticed that the pattern of the enlargement, adopted for Central and Eastern European countries, and of their inclusion in the EU cannot be repeated in North Africa and the Middle East. An international organisation, based in this region – the Arab League – is the potential vehicle of a process of regional integration, which should include Israel, too. Unfortunately, integration is yet to come. If we consider Maghreb, only 1-2 per cent of these countries’ external trade develops within the region. And yet, the UN Commission for Africa reckons that the economic integration of Maghreb would pave the way to a 5 per cent growth of the GDP of the region. The EU, which has continued to have bilateral relations with North Africa, could have encouraged regional integration, as the United States did with Europe when it launched the Marshall Plan and the aid supply was subject to the condition that the reconstruction plan would be devised in common.
The bogeyman of Islamic extremism, which is shaken by Western governments in order to justify the support of authoritarian regimes, belongs to the logic of the past that does not consider the economic development, the social modernisation and the secularisation in progress in the region. The spread of education especially between the younger generations and the decrease of the birth rate, which is a consequence of the growth in women’s education, have brought the population closer to the values of freedom and equality that are typical of the most developed societies. These are the objective conditions which promoted the development of civil society and pluralism. Islamic fundamentalism is a reactionary movement which wants to oppose this trend. In fact, it seems to be the main looser in the on-going revolution. At the forefront of the movement there are the youngsters, who despite good education are penalised by the exclusion from the labour market. They used the new media for mobilisation, replacing the parties and other organisations of traditional politics. What strikes about this movement is the lack of leaders in the traditional sense of the word. The figure of a nowadays leader is the Egyptian Wael Ghonim, a Google official.
The unusual dimensions of the revolution show that the economic and social change, developed in the wake of globalisation, requires with it political and institutional changes. Therein lies the mystery that the “short-sightedness” of the Western political élites was not able to penetrate. It was not a mystery for Emmanuel Todd, who ten years ago (in his book Après l’empire) diagnosed the passage to modernity of the Islamic world and he foresaw the institutional change. It should be noted that the weak links of the Arab world, where the collapse of the old regimes has begun – Tunisia and Egypt – are countries without oil. The oil-producing countries, instead, have the resources to promote consensus through free service concessions to the population (water, electricity, education etc.). In fact, these countries show greater resistance to the contagion of the revolutionary movement.
The armed forces in Tunisia and in Egypt have the merit of having helped the fall of the dictatorships without a bloodbath, which unfortunately took place in Libya. The huge Tahrir square in Cairo, where the people that determined Mubarak’s fall has gathered, has not been a new Tiananmen It should be noted that the army played a progressive role on other occasions, first of all during the coup d’état of Nasser, which toppled king Farukh in 1952. After the Khomeinist revolution in Iran (1979), when the elections paved the way for the establishment of the Islamic republic principles in Turkey and then in Algeria, again the army prevented the success of Islamic fundamentalism. All over the Arab world the armed forces are the only structure able to direct the transition to democracy, with all the involved risks. For many years the risk that democracy will become an appearance rather than a reality and that real power stays in the hands of the generals will overhang Arab people, as the case of Pakistan shows. On the other hand, it should be underlined that the Turkish army relinquished power even because of the EU pressure during the accession negotiations with Turkey.
The examples mentioned above prove that elections are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for democracy. The transition to democracy will be a long process, full of pitfalls. During many years authoritarian governments destroyed (or did not allow the creation of) the essential social structures which can through elections pave the way to a democratic government: political parties, independent unions, civil society associations. The transition will be successful if the constitutional norms were elaborated; these norms ensure the creation of public spaces where the political debate and the choice of leaders take place in a free and transparent way.
On these bases Pan-Arabism would rise again as a solidarity force between people who chose freedom and who want to protect it, by creating common institutions and initiating a federative process within the Arab League.
This article was translated from Italian by Giulia Tartaglia.
Just 3 days prior to the presidential elections, inside Belarus the message is not easy to ignore. From Ottawa to Buenes Aires, from Tirana to Stockholm famous monuments are going quiet, while banners are expressing demands such as “Free Belarus”, “Give a Voice to the Citizens of Belarus” or simply “Give a Voice to Democracy”. It is us, young people, who are determined that we can change the world we live in if we work together across borders – young people who refuse to close their eyes to the violations of human rights, the oppression of activists, the prevention of free media and right to assembly as well as the harassment of civil society inside Belarus.
The massive Belarus action is already having its 6th edition. It was before last presidential elections in Belarus that we decided to make as much noise as possible across Europe to give attention to the situation in Belarus, which was largely unknown, but also to show a strong support to the civil society in Belarus and to demand action from our European leaders. We thought that, if we could make an attention-grabbing action simultaneously across Europe, and make the action so easy that everyone could spontaneously join in, we could really achieve this. First year we were amazed to include 25 cities, but the year later the number grew to 60, 80 and last 3 times we could count over 100 cities on 4 continents worldwide! 100 cities is more than you could even imagine – it is as if you counted statues instead of sheep to fall asleep, but it would never end.
Every year more and more young people are joining in and spreading the word, NGOs and MEPs and Belarusian opposition leaders are giving their support and we have also built up a tight cooperation with the youth civil society inside of Belarus. And, as a great side effect, the action has inspired activists of all ages; how simple it can be to make yourself heard using innovation instead of money and strong beliefs instead of infrastructure. I have the feeling that even if we stopped organising this action, it is so strong that it would now continue of itself, since it is now so well-known and so big.
And the message has been heard. Hundreds of articles have been written about the action in Russian and Belarusian media in the past years. Radio interviews, TV reports, but also schoolbook chapters and prestigious prizes have been won. Last week we already started to feel the attention in Belarusian independent media and we are working with many organsiations and people in Belarus to spread the message of this action, together with all the pictures, across Belarus.
The JEF Free Belarus action shows the solidarity among youth across Europe and across the world and their willingness to take action. And, above all, it shows that there is nothing that can stop this, and that, despite disastrous EU visa regimes preventing young Belarusians from travelling, and despite oppression from the Belarusian state, young people in Belarus and in the rest of Europe will always have a common project for freedom, democracy and European integration.
I was chatting some days ago on Skype with an activist in Belarus who has supported us in every Belarus action in the past 6 years. He summed up that his entire “life looks like one big Belarus action!” And the point is that, whereas we could safely go home yesterday night, possibly told off by the police and surely cold and frozen, our friends in Belarus who have just e-mailed their pictures have to go home in fear. Fear of being caught, fear of being recognised in the pictures, fear of being expelled from universities or fired from jobs, of being arrested or even tortured. It is in solidarity with them that we took to the streets tonight in over 100 cities worldwide. It is to never forget their work that we have continued to do this over the past 6 years and will continue for the years to come – until the day Belarus is truly democratic.
In front of a large number of MEPs, the Spinelli Group in the European Parliament was officially launched today during a one-hour long event to which also EP President Buzek took part.
Born "over dinner" from a conversation between ALDE Group President and federalist Guy Verhofstadt and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Co-President of the Greens Group, the Spinelli Group will act as a network of MEPs to promote action, reflection and intervention for a federal Europe inside and outside the European Parliament.
"We will organize twice a year a shadow European Council to voice a federal view of integration, we will have federalist lectures and generally defend the European interest: federalism shall not be a taboo any longer. We cannot accept an intergovernmental Europe where the European Council sets the pace of integration", Mr Verhofstadt said. "Our mission is simple: we shall put Europe first and defend the Community method", he added.
Andrew Duff and Sergio Cofferati have been appointed as co-chairmen of the Group. "Our priority shall be to enhance the democratic legitimacy of the Union by establishing since 2014 transnational electoral lists for the EP", said Duff, President of the UEF and author of a pamphlet on the subject which was distributed today to the MEPs present.
Other key issues that the Group and all other federalist forces in Europe shall work on are a federal budget, a real economic government for Europe, an effective European Citizens' Initiative, European defence, EU-centred education and school programmes.
The incoming Treaty revision will provide a window of opportunity that the Spinellians are eager to exploit in order to focus once again on institutional issues. Gianni Pittella, MEP and Spinelli Group member, went even further, proposing a new Convention.
A key challenge facing the newborn Group will be how to communicate with the "external world". As recalled by President Buzek, national capitals are still in many ways the guardians of the Treaties. The Group will have to dialogue with national governments and parliaments, with the European Commission as well as of course with the citizens, NGOs and think-tanks which want more Europe. "We need to close the gap with our citizens", Bas Eickhout Dutch MEP recommended, adding that "being from a country which votes down a Treaty is an experience I do not wish to anyone".
"We shall be Spinellians in everyday life and proud of being federalists!", concluded Sylvie Goulard MEP. Alea iacta est. The next meeting of the Group will take place in Strasbourg in mid December ahead of the last 2010 European Council. Treaty change will be the main item on the agenda.
By Savino Rua, member of the Union of European Federalists
The United Kingdom and France have concluded this week a military cooperation agreement covering, among other issues, the establishment of a joint combined force, the sharing of military assets and information and even cooperation in managing their atomic arsenal. Should this be seen as a positive development on the way to a common European defence? And if so, under which conditions could the entente be Europeanised?
The main protagonists of the agreement, Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy, have both emphasized that the deal in no way represent a reduction of sovereignty – or a move towards a European army. Rather, they insist that the deal should be seen mostly a cost-efficient solution for defence in a time of budgetary restraints. However, the accord is historical and its consequences, both intended and unintended, could alter radically European defence in the incoming years.
As in other cases, as for instance Schengen, it might be possible that what starts as purely intergovernmental transforms itself into a European instrument or framework. Borders are as much part of national identity as armies and especially atomic arsenal, so I believe there is ground to be optimistic. Moreover, if the deal surely represents a powerful precedent for further cooperation among other European countries: if France and the UK do it, why not think of Italy and Germany for instance going on the same lines? Defence ministries in all of Europe will be following the accord closely in the next months…
However, what could trigger the Europeanisation of this deal, in other terms what might move intergovernmental "enhanced cooperation" in European defence from a bilateral beginning to an EU-wide end? I believe that some factors could play a role here.
First, the current economic crisis represents a clear window of opportunity for more rather than less Europe in defence: why not pool together resources in such an expensive field as defence in times of economic distress and budget cuts? The EU should further emphasize the utilitarian aspect of more cooperation in defence, marketing it as a smart and sustainable solution on economic grounds first and foremost. In short, Europe shall prove that it can really provide an added value in the sector. Building on the example set by the UK and France will surely make the argument more convincing.
Secondly, the Union clearly needs more vision when it comes to defence. Military missions are not enough. The EU should catch the momentum and try to exploit all the possibilities offered by the Treaties, including the currently ill-defined mechanisms of "permanent structured cooperation", envisaged by the Treaties.
Finally, there is of course no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the Europeanisation of intergovernmental agreements. The Schengen case represents a good example. It all began as a deal between five European countries in 1985 to lead to the Treaty of Amsterdam incorporating the acquis into EU law in 1997. Legally the matter is surely different and might be much more complex, however the path to be followed should be rather similar: intergovernmentalism first, then Europeanisation.
In conclusion, the “new entente” between the UK and France could represent a milestone towards common European defence. The EU should exploit the momentum, use sound economics and the compelling logic of saving to convince more countries to move forward in defence cooperation, be bold and exploit fully the Treaties and finally follow its previous success stories. The crisis provides an opportunity for increased added value in European defence that the Union should not waste. After France and the UK, it is time for all of Europe to enter a new era of defence cooperation.
By Guido Montani, UEF Vice-President
The European Parliament has defined the European Union a “Supranational democracy”. Unfortunately, the citizens’ behaviour mitigates this statement: since the first European election of 1979, until the last election of 2009, the turnout continuously decreased. Without doubt, a participation problem exists. Citizens are involved in national political debates everyday, but only occasionally in European politics. Accordingly, they do not consider the European Union a political union of national peoples. Forty years after the first European election, the public image of the European institutions is alarming.
Today, a change is becoming possible. After the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, European citizens and organisations of civil society can exploit a new democratic power, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). Art. 11 of the Lisbon Treaty states: “Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.” Of course, the practical possibility to exploit this new democratic instrument depends greatly on the procedures under discussion in the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council.
Some uphold that the ECI confers a new political right to the citizens: the right to initiate a legislative process, on an equal footing with the Commission. In such a case, the ECI can work as a bridge between representative democracy and direct democracy. The question is tricky and deserves a deep discussion, especially in a phase in which the Lisbon Treaty shows clear limits for UE governance. We shall examine the ECI in the context of the EU institutions and politics, considering that the ECI can have a real impact on the future of European democracy only if institutions of representative democracy, first of all the European Parliament, fully support the citizens’ will. In order to discuss this problem, we shall examine the following topics: I. The original sin of European integration; II. The European system of parties; III. The European public sphere; IV. One Government for the EU.
I. The Original Sin of European Integration
In his Memoirs, Jean Monnet remembers that the project of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was kept secret until the last minute, because Schuman and Adenauer were afraid of negative reactions within national bureaucracies and political parties. The Schuman Declaration, of May 9th 1950, came as a surprise in European politics. Secrecy was a necessary condition for the success of the project. After the fait accompli, it was easy to ask other countries to join the Franco-German group and resist UK attempts to dilute the political contents of the project.
The ECSC was not conceived as an international organisation, but as an embryo of a federal state, with a democratic body, the Common Assembly, temporarily constituted by representatives elected in national parliaments until its election by universal suffrage. Jean Monnet, the first President of the High Authority (today, the Commission), in his first speech to the Assembly said: “the European Assembly is endowed with sovereign power … All institutions can be modified and improved by experience. What will never be disputed is that they are supranational institutions and, let us say the word, federal. They are institutions that, within the limit of their competences, are sovereign”. Even in the Council, excluding exceptional matters, the unanimity rule was abandoned. Indeed, what today is called, in Brussels and Strasbourg, the communitarian method is the federal method, “let us say the word”.
Historical circumstances and conditions are what they are. Without the ingenious device and the bold initiative of Jean Monnet it is difficult to imagine how a supranational institution could have been set up in 1950’s Europe. But, very soon, when the Six had to face the problem of a common defence, the ECSC became inadequate. The French government proposed a European Defence Community (EDC), i.e. a European army. Right away, Altiero Spinelli and the federalists understood that a European army had to be entrusted to a political Community, democratically legitimated by a Constituent Assembly. The history of the Assemblée ad hoc and the failure of the EDC, in 1954, are well known. Here, we want only to stress the fact that the federalists made the first attempt to put the European institutions onto democratic legs. Moreover, after the EDC’s failure, without delay, the federalists tried anew to build a democratic Europe campaigning for the European People’s Congress, a kind of directly elected European parliament, whose main goal was to claim a European Constituent Assembly. But even this attempt failed.
The lack of legitimacy of European supranational institutions had negative consequences on their future. When in the Sixties, the President of the Commission, Walter Hallstein, proposed to complete the reform of the Community with the institution of a Community budget and the majority vote in the Council, President de Gaulle strongly rejected the Commission’s proposals: they were considered an onslaught to national sovereignty. France could never accept to be outvoted. In 1966, in Luxembourg, France gained the preservation of the veto right when a major interest of one of the member states was at stake. Since then, unanimity and not majority became the decision-making rule in the Council.
We can read the history of European integration as the struggle between the supranational principle and the national sovereignty principle. After de Gaulle, Europe advanced in many crucial fields, such as the Single Market and the Monetary Union. These advancements went along with institutional reforms, like the direct election of the European Parliament in 1979, which was considered a major federalist achievement. The elected European Parliament, at the beginning considered just a consultative body, was able to seize significant powers. Today, with the Lisbon Treaty, it co-legislates with the Council on many issues. In such a case, we can say that the communitarian (or federalist) method has been adopted: the Council and the Parliament legislate on the basis of the majority rule; the European Commission executes and the European Court of Justice watches over the implementation of European laws. The real problem is that for important matters, such as foreign and security policy and the size of the European budget, the main powers remain in the hands of national governments. Therefore, an intergovernmental Europe gets along with a federal Europe. No wonder European citizens do not understand the workings of the European Union.
Without the citizens’ support, the EU is weak and incapable to act effectively. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, Europe has to face new challenges: the instability of the global market, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, migration, climate change, and the increasing competition of emerging economies, like China, India and Brazil. The old international order, built by the USA after the Second World War, is under stress and a global breakdown has become possible, as the 2008 financial crisis has shown. Europe’s incapability to face global challenges is reflected in the debate on Europe’s decline. But Europe’s decline is not a destiny. Europe, for its history and the universal values embedded in its culture, is able not only to solve its problems but also contribute to the progress of humankind, showing the way for a new world democratic order. If national politicians are not able to see how to give a future to Europe, citizens and civil society can show the way.
II. The System of European Parties
The construction of a supranational democracy proceeds alongside the construction of a supranational state, even if the speed of the two processes can be different. The ECSC and the EEC were built without any significant improvement of European democratic institutions. But, after the direct election of the European Parliament, we can observe a closer interdependence of the two processes, even if the European parties did not play their role fully.
In a democratic state, political parties are the indispensable link between citizens and institutions. A political party takes in people’s values and elaborates a programme to carry them out. The present democratic deficit of the European Union is partially explained by the weakness of European parties. For the first thirty years of European integration, in the European Assembly, the European parties evoked the symbol of the supranational values of their ideology, but only national governments fostered European construction. National parties were usually passive, with the exception of the ratification phase. Europe was considered a foreign policy affair of their government. After the direct election of the European Parliament a moderate improvement came about. Indeed, the European Parliament was able to exploit all the reforms proposed by the governments to obtain more powers. But the European Parliament – if we exclude Spinelli’s Project of 1984 – was never able to take an autonomous initiative for a constitutional reform. The passive attitude of the European Parliament is difficult to explain. The European Parliament is the only legitimate representative of European citizens and has many powers – if it wants to exploit them – to impose a European-wide debate for reforms, on which the European citizens agree, such as a European rapid reaction force and a Plan for growth and sustainable development. The citizens cannot but think that the behaviour of the European Parliament means implicit subordination to the Council.
The passive role of the European Parliament is certainly one of the causes of its insignificance in the citizens’ opinion and of the low turnout on the occasion of the European elections. Rousseau’s critique of representative democracy fits the European case very well. “Sovereignty cannot be represented – wrote Rousseau in the Social Contract – … the people’s deputies are not, and could not be, its representatives … The English people believes itself to be free; it is gravely mistaken; it is free only during the election of Members of Parliament; as soon as the Members are elected, the people is enslaved; it is nothing.” In effect, the European citizens vote for a Parliament, which does not fight to affirm a more democratic Europe: after the Election Day, “the European people are enslaved; it is nothing”. Accordingly, for the euro-sceptics it is easy to maintain that the European people do not exist and that the European Parliament is a waste of public money.
Two are the interrelated causes of the passive role of the political parties: the first is the ideology of the primacy of national democracy over European democracy; the second is the lack of organisational autonomy of European parties before national parties. As far as national democracy is concerned, it is enough to quote Carl Schmitt’s sharp statement: “The French Revolution of 1789 … assumed the nation française as a historical fact; ... one nation moulds a state, a state incorporates a nation” (Verfassungslehre). It is true that the making of the nation state and the spread of democracy were two parallel and self-enforcing processes. Nevertheless, the nation is assumed as “a historical fact,” a pre-political entity, a myth. Today civil society relationships spill over national borders, but a supranational democracy cannot have national roots: Europe is not a nation. For backward-minded people this is an insuperable hurdle. The main political leaders prefer to fight for national powers instead of fighting for a seat in the European Parliament, where they can spur European democracy. This behaviour testifies that they believe that the future of their national people depends more on the survival of national sovereignty than on the European Union, as a political union of national peoples, who manage their sovereignties together. The national leaders do not accept to give more powers to the EU, especially in the fields of foreign policy and budgetary policy. Each of them prefers to be one of the 27 leaders of a disunited and weak Europe, instead of being the architect of a united and strong Europe.
The other face of the supremacy of national democracy is the weak, and sometimes inexistent, democratic organisation of European parties. The so-called European Congresses are nothing more than the old international meetings with a new name. Usually, only national leaders speak because European ranks and files are inexistent. The real political debate occurs in the congresses of national parties, where Europe is considered an issue of foreign policy. Only the national party congress elects leaders and decides a political line. In European congresses, the national leaders negotiate a compromise among several national programmes and, of course, the European programme is the lowest common denominator. The inexistence of a real European democratic party life has some negative effects: ordinary citizens do not know about the existence of their own European party and the decisions taken at a European level are practically ineffective for national parties. The vicissitudes of the European Constitution are a good example. A great majority of the European Parliament – including the Socialist Party – invited the European citizens and national Parliaments to ratify the Constitution. But in France, a fraction of the Socialist Party, dissenting from the European Party’s decision, decided to launch a campaign to reject the draft project on the occasion of the national referendum (let us say that this behaviour was possible because of the wrong ratification procedure: a European referendum, approved by a double majority of citizens and states, would have made it impossible to exploit national party divisions).
The construction of European democracy is not opposed to national democracy. On the contrary, today the nation state is so weak that there are serious dangers of secessions in some countries and the birth of populist parties where a leader is able to show that he/she, with the direct support of the citizens, will overcome state powerlessness. Indeed, national politics is no longer the arena in which citizens can face global challenges. For these reasons the ECI can widen, albeit gradually, the horizon of European politics. The ECI can be exploited in different ways: a) civil society can draw the attention of European parties to special problems ignored or underrated up to then; indeed economic lobbies are today more influential in the European Parliament than citizens; b) European party members who want to reinforce the European organisation of their party can promote an ECI, in agreement with civil society organisations; c) the creation of a network of civil society organisations, in view of one or several ECIs, will reinforce the European ranks and files of political parties and favour the transformation of the present coalition of national parties into a true European federal party, based on a democratic congress and with European leaders.
III. The European Public Sphere
Day by day, public opinion breathes life into a democratic state. Public institutions become a bureaucracy if the political class, mass media, intellectuals, universities and civil societies do not debate the most pressing problems of the community daily. Of course, as Hegel first noticed, we find contradictory statements in public opinion. Nonetheless, a pluralistic society, as a democracy is, cannot survive without a permanent debate between governors and the governed. Democracy is a form of government, whose aim is to eradicate, in the last resort, all differences among citizens, bringing about the self-government of the people.
For these reasons, some critics of the European Constitution affirmed that the European Union’s legitimacy is based only on the will of the nation states and not on that of European people. Without a European public sphere, the only working democracies are national democracies: a European people does not exist and a European Constitution is an empty institutional construction. To answer these critics, after the negative French and Dutch referenda on the European Constitution, the European Commission launched a plan, called Plan D – D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate – to “set out a process aimed at encouraging a wider debate on the future of the EU institutions and citizens”. In 2005-06 the fortunes of the European Constitution were extremely uncertain and the European Commission made an effort to further a public debate on some possible ways out. The goal of Plan D was to find “ways to develop a European Public Sphere particularly through audiovisual media as well as a European narrative”. The role of civil society and their active contribution to European dialogue and debate were also addressed.
Plan D was a failure. The citizens did not show a sensible new interest in the problem nor did a European public sphere emerge from the Commission’s efforts. Plan D is a special case of a wider problem. In theory, the Commission has a democratic legitimacy, just as national governments more or less have. After the European election, the President of the Commission presents his team of commissioners to the Parliament, which has the power of approval or dismissal of the entire Commission or of a single commissioner. But this is not enough to transform the Commission into a democratically accountable government. One problem is that the main powers in the fields of foreign policy and of Community budget financing are in the hands of national governments. But there is something else.
Jürgen Habermas’ communication theory can help us to understand Europe’s communication trap. Habermas distinguishes between two kinds of power: communicatively produced power and administratively employed power. In a democratic state the two powers are mutually related and one can reinforce the other. A government, a party, a leader capable of raising popular consensus can also rely on the administrative power to realize a certain policy. In Europe, the communicatively produced power is located at national level, while the administrative employed power is at European level. The outcome is that the public image of the European Commission as a bureaucratic body is created by the Council of Ministers (or the European Council), which claims to be the true government of the EU. Until this image of the EU governance is publicized by mass media, the role of the Commission appears to be that of a secretariat of the Council and the Parliament turns into a consultative body. In any case, European democracy is mocked: 27 national governments are not a European government democratically accountable before the European Parliament. The truth is that eurosceptcism is bolstered by national governments.
Therefore, the Commission’s effort to communicate something to the citizens is doomed to failure. Citizens look for a piece of political information when they feel that such information is important for their life and for their political judgement on the occasion of the next election. Active citizens want to participate in the political debate and – maybe, only with their vote – in the governing of their community. If they understand that some information comes from a bureaucracy and not from a government capable of acting, the message cannot create a “dialogue.”
In order to change this state of affairs and build a European public sphere, the straightforward solution is an institutional reform of European governance. In this perspective, the initiative of European citizens can play a substantial role. The present European Union is a kind of minimal state – the state as night watchman – as proposed by some liberal thinkers of the 19th Century and the so-called contemporary libertarians (as opposed to communitarians). The pre-eminent interest of the one-dimensional citizen of the minimal state is the defence of his/her personal wellbeing: for this kind of citizen a well working single European market is enough. Indeed, in Maastricht an Economic and Monetary Union was agreed, but, of this project, only the Monetary Union was fully implemented. The Economic Union is still waiting. The EU, as it is today, can be compared to a minimal state. The size of the European budget was more or less 1% of GDP before Maastricht and it is of the same size today. The budget is the financial instrument to provide citizens with public goods (or European policies). In fact, the main share of the present EU budget is devoted to Common Agricultural Policy and Structural Funds (for regional development). Very few finances are left for other policies. But, in the 21st Century, Europe must face new challenges. Today, the European minimal state should become a republic, i.e. a political community in which the values and the expectations of multi-dimensional citizens are taken into account by public powers. The European Commission will be able to communicate with citizens if it begins to answer their questions, providing new and better European public goods: an effective environmental policy, a plan to fight poverty in Europe and the world, an effective security policy and a European civil service for young people, a plan to foster research in advanced technologies and human sciences, student mobility, aid to poor countries, a common immigration policy, etc. A series of ECIs asking for new European public goods can attract mass media attention and oblige the European Commission to “debate” with the citizens. Active citizens can force Europe to act.
IV. One Government for the EU
The European decline is not caused by a mysterious adverse fate, neither by good-for-nothing people, since in all societies passive and talented individuals live together, nor by a weak economy, which has several serious problems but is also, with the euro, one of wealthiest and strongest in the world. The fundamental cause of Europe’s decline is its political divisions. Notwithstanding sixty years of integration, Europe’s political unity is weak. The claim of national governments to act as sovereign powers, subordinating the EU to their national interest, is the root of Europe’s division. National governments say that Europe should speak with one voice, but they prefer to sit divided in the IMF and the UN Security Council, instead of asking for a single EU seat. They have created a single market and a single money, but they protect national champions in energy and advanced technology sectors tooth and nail. They decided, twenty years ago, in Maastricht, to build a European army, but up to now practically nothing has been done.
The European Union needs one government. The tragedy is that it has two. The first is the European Commission. It is a legitimate and democratically accountable government to the European Parliament. But it is invisible to European citizens, because ordinary people believe that the real European power is in the hands of national governments. The other more “visible” government is the Council, in which 27 representatives of national governments decide – in some important fields, unanimously. But the Council is not democratically accountable: European citizens and their representatives cannot dismiss it. So, European supranational democracy is seriously baffled.
The Lisbon Treaty allows for some steps forward, for instance with the creation of a European External Action Service and the opportunity of allowing a group of countries to set up enhanced co-operations. At the same time, with the creation of a permanent President of the European Council, the Lisbon Treaty has also reinforced the image of the Council as the real government of the EU. The European Parliament has in several occasions defended the communitarian (or federalist) method and criticized some intergovernmental decisions. But the European Parliament has not yet taken serious initiative to overcome the democratic deficit. Only recently, a group of MEPs has created the “Spinelli group” to protest against intergovernmentalism which “is not only warfare against the European spirit, but an addiction to political impotence.” The goal of this group is “a federal and post-national Europe, a Europe of the citizens.”
Obviously, an ECI, whatever the subject claimed, reinforces the action for a democratic and federal Europe in the European Parliament and alerts public opinion, capturing the attention of the mass media. But to build a European government is a difficult task. In order to further and hasten a new set of institutional reforms, citizens and civil society organisations should take some crucial intermediate steps into consideration. The storming of the Bastille, the symbol of the Ancien Régime, preceded the proclamation of the French Republic and the execution of the King. In present-day Europe the Ancien Régime Européen is well symbolized by the pictures of the 27 Heads of State and government published by the mass media at the end of all European Councils. The European Union needs one government with one President, one foreign minister, one ministry of the economy and finance, etc. Thankfully, the Lisbon Treaty allows for a significant step forward: nothing in it prevents the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council from being the same person. If this happens the EU will have one President. This does not mean that all the problems of the European government are solved: some important institutional reforms should follow. But the single President of the EU will be accountable to the European Parliament and this is a decisive step towards a politically united Europe and a real supranational democracy. Moreover, if the claim for one President of the EU comes out from an ECI, all the people can understand that a movement of sovereign citizens for a European sovereign government is born.
The time is ripe to emend European integration’s original sin. The founding fathers conceived a supranational Europe, but their dream is still unaccomplished. To build a supranational democracy is a revolutionary undertaking, not only for Europeans. Carl Schmitt affirmed: “The essential contents of democracy is a people not humanity,” where Schmitt explained clearly that only national people exist: for Schmitt, a world without nation states and war was unthinkable. Eradicating democracy from its national prison is not only a great institutional innovation, it is also a cultural revolution: cosmopolitan democracy becomes thinkable and possible. This is the true contribution of Europe to the future of humankind.
Article published also on "Europe's World"
European Economic Government and Fiscal Sovereignty. The European Exit Strategy from Financial Crisis
Friday, July 2 2010 By Laurencija
By Guido Montani, Vice-President of the Union of European Federalists
The crisis in the Monetary Union is at a crucial turning point. On the 9th May the EU governments created a stabilization facility of 750bn euro in an attempt to avoid financial breakdown in heavily indebted member states but because France and Germany do not agree on the nature of European economic government there is a risk that this decision might turn out to be insufficient. The European Parliament, on the other hand, has for quite a time held the common position, recently reasserted by the leaders of the four main parties (People’s Party, Socialists, Liberals and Greens), that the only way to solve the complex problem of the present economic and institutional crisis is by resorting to the “Community Method” (or “federalist method”, according Jean Monnet). In brief, the European Parliament wants the Commission to become the EU’s “economic government”. But President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel do not agree. In their view the Council, not the Commission, should be the economic government of the EU.
In order to shed light on this disagreement we must point out that fiscal sovereignty is at stake in this debate: namely, that economic government and fiscal sovereignty are two sides of the same coin.
Fiscal sovereignty – The roots of the present crisis of the EMU go back to the Maastricht Treaty which cautiously instituted the Monetary Union with its own Central Bank while leaving the issue of Economic Union undetermined. In fact the EU budget, i.e. the means at the disposal of the Commission and European Parliament for European policies, is now becoming inadequate, being only 1 per cent of European GDP, while 90 per cent of its revenues come from national budgets. The EU budget therefore is not considered a powerful enough instrument for a European economic policy. This explains why the EU has no economic government.
It can easily be seen that the main cause of the present EMU crisis is the lack of adequate EU financial resources. The ratios between deficit and GNP, on one hand, and total public debt and GNP of the euro zone, on the other, are better than those of the USA. But, because the EU has a fiscal system split into national watertight compartments, international financial speculation was able to hit the weak point: Greece. In comparison, if the USA had no federal budget, but only 50 states’ individual budgets, some of those states would certainly have suffered the same speculative attack.
With reference to this, the President of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet, affirmed: “Nous sommes une fédération monetaire. Nous avons maintenant besoin l’équivalent d’une fédération budgetaire” (Le Monde, June 1st). Mr Trichet is right. If the EU were a fiscal federation – with a reform similar to the proposal of Delpa-von Weizsäcker of the Bruegel Centre, i.e. funding the 60 per cent of European member states’ debt, substituted by a Blue Bonds issue – the European financial market could reach a size similar to that of the USA: an alluring prospect for many international investors. Real European own resources are the key to strengthening the euro as a global currency.
Yet Germany strongly opposes this perspective because she does not want a “union of fiscal transfers”. The rough exchanges between the Germans who do not want to pay for Mediterranean spendthrifts and the Greeks who do not want to be judged like robbers are a clear indication that the time has come for a solution able to avoid a revival of nationalism. The right course to follow would be European fiscal federalism, i.e. that the citizens supply each level of government with its “own” fiscal resources. The Monetary Union was founded by transferring monetary powers from the nations to the EU with the creation of the ECB. Fiscal sovereignty is a more complex procedure by which Europeans decide how much to give to EU institutions and how much to keep within the nation state. The fiscal pressure on European citizens should of course remain unchanged. Nevertheless, citizens should be aware that the European Union’s own resources, whatever their size, must be assigned to “legitimate and autonomous” European institutions, i.e. to the Commission answerable to a bicameral parliament (this means co-decision between the European Parliament and the Council). Today, citizens are probably not aware that the EU spends 1 per cent of their income. Transparency in public finance is a crucial step toward European democracy.
If the problem of EU finances is considered from this point of view, any possible quarrel among national governments disappears. European citizens will certainly accept a minimum of fiscal solidarity to finance policies which increase the general wellbeing of all, be they German, Greek or any other EU nationality. European defence is a European public good, and so too is the Galileo satellite system and so on. Everyone can benefit from these services. Nobody is excluded. For this reason, it is necessary to single out, as the European Parliament has done, certain taxes as being especially suitable to European finances. The best and most likely solution would be a mixture of ecological and capital taxes plus a percentage of VAT.
European economic government – The Franco-German proposal to base the economic government on the Council raises many questions. In particular, it would be impossible to avoid a directoire of strong countries. The effects of governance of this kind are already visible. Germany, for example, is imposing financial austerity on all member countries. Such a policy is not wrong in itself. A rebalancing of national budgets is certainly necessary. But it is wrong that one government should impose its policy on the others and also to imagine that this policy is the only one Europe needs. France, for example, rightly remembers that growth is equally necessary. Without growth, austerity policies in some countries (think of Greece) soon becomes unsustainable and leads to social discontent and political riots. Nevertheless, the French stance is barren, since only very modest growth can be achieved in Europe by means of purely national policies. Even great Germany will experience growing difficulties since at least half its exports goes to other European countries. Either the EU must launch an effective plan supported by public opinion – similar to the Commission plan “2020” – or the crisis will worsen.
In order to become a true economic government, the European Commission would not need a huge amount of financial resources. The European Financial Stabilization Facility, just created, is almost half the present Community budget. With a budget of 2-2.5 per cent of EU GDP as proposed by the McDougall Report it is likely that a good distribution between national and European financial resources can be achieved. With an appropriate size of Community budget significant savings for European citizens will become possible, thanks to economies of scale for the provision of basic European public goods, the rationalization of expenses and a reduction in interest rates. Indeed, a Blue Bonds issue could be held at interest rates lower than those of German Bund, because it will become possible to collect capital from a wider geographical area than at present and from global investors who today prefer US Treasury Bonds.
To sum up, we should abandon any idea that Europe can overcome the present crisis with provisional measures such as those proposed by the Council. The Financial Stabilization Facility is not so credible among international investors since it is again based on the potential of national budgets. If, for instance, Italy honours in their entirety her May 9th engagements the Italian public debt could grow from the present 106 per cent to over 120 per cent. The true guarantee for a public debt is rooted in the citizens’ confidence in the public institutions issuing it. Today, a European government would be more credible than national governments acting divisively.
Devising a European exit strategy is difficult because it involves institutional and political problems. The European Parliament must therefore take on the responsibility of opening a free and wide ranging debate on fiscal sovereignty without taboos. Today, two parallel reforms are on the table: the Community budget reform and a new Growth and Stability Pact. These two reforms must be unified. A new European fiscal pact should be agreed. This will not be easy. Member states’ governments lack of confidence in the Commission and their residual national instincts hamper fiscal federalism and need to be overcome. For these reasons, it is necessary to involve all citizens and their representatives, both in the European Parliament and in national parliaments, in the debate. Substantial steps towards a European federal fiscal system can be achieved without amending the Lisbon Treaty, although a new Convention could be convened if the European Parliament judges it necessary. What matters is that the European citizens should be involved in any reform concerning fiscal sovereignty. Any other way out, such as a committee of experts giving advice to the Council, would not only be anti-democratic, but also illusory.
The EU Crisis and European democracy, the role of the European Parliament for an effective European government of the economy
By Guido Montani, Vice-President of the Union of European Federalists
The European Monetary Union is in danger and, since the EMU is the most important achievement of sixty years of European integration, this means that the survival of the European Union itself is also at stake. The cause is not simply the Greek crisis but also the inadequate governance of the EU itself. For example, in order to save the Greek economy from defaulting on its debts George Papandreu first planned to visit not the President of the European Commission but Mrs Merkel, Mr Sarkozy and Mr Obama. So who, under the present system, is actually responsible for the future of the EU?
The intergovernmental method of managing the European affairs confuses and mingles national and European interests. National governments cannot do without Europe, but they are also obliged to defend their own national interests. The result is a decision-making process which is slow, contradictory and inefficient. The proposal to expel Greece from the EMU opened the door to financial speculation against the euro and the possibility of an eventual legitimization of a split in the Monetary Union. Moreover, the decision to involve the IMF in the rescue package of 750 billion euro was a tacit admission of the euro’s weakness as compared to the dollar. The US Government has never asked the IMF for help when any of the 50 states of the Union risked being in default, as happened with New York in 1975 and today with California. The EMU’s survival is a purely European problem. No-one will save the euro so long as Europeans remain unable, or unwilling, to change their inefficient decision-making system.
Germany’s insistence on greater budget austerity in EU member states is correct. But it is only one side of the coin. The other side is the growth of the European economy. Too much austerity can kill the patient. After a dramatic economic downturn, the likely outcome would be a deflationary vicious circle with lower public expenditure, lower purchasing power, lasting stagnation, etc. The future of the European Union cannot simply be “l’Europe des patries” with strong ‘virtuous’ states able to face the challenges of the global economy, and weak ‘guilty’ states lagging behind. The Lisbon Treaty states that the Union “shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among member states” (art. 3). The present European Union is unable to attain these aims because it is not endowed with the necessary means for the effective governance of the European economy and, in particular, a suitable budget.
In Maastricht, December 1991, the heads of state and government decided to create a Monetary Union but did almost nothing to establish an Economic Union. The Delors’ Commission in 1993 launched an ambitious long term Plan for growth and employment, but the Ecofin refused to issue the required Union Bonds. The Lisbon Strategy, launched in 2000, was a complete failure because it was founded on the illusion that cooperation among 27 national governments could happen spontaneously. The European Commission was not seen as a potential government of the economy but merely as the secretariat of the Council. If the new Commission’s plan “2020” will not be financed by appropriate means, it is easy to forecast a new failure.
The time has now come to complete the EMU by establishing a fully-fledged Economic Union. Two parallel processes of reform of the EU institutions are on the table today: reform of the Growth and Stability Pact and reform of the Community budget. These two reforms are to be merged because the EMU can work only if supported by a fiscal union within which it is possible to decide how much to allocate to purely European projects (i.e. European public goods) and how much to national projects (i.e. national public goods). The global economic crisis has greatly worsened the state of European public finance. Taxpayers will be compelled to face new sacrifices for years ahead. The voice of the European citizens and their representatives cannot therefore be ignored.
We need a fresh pact between the citizens of the EU, from Germany to Greece, from Finland to Portugal, setting out the principles of a new fiscal responsibility and solidarity. To achieve this historic agreement, national parliaments should be involved in the reform process, along with the European Parliament, the European Commission and the national governments. The European Parliament – which defined the EU as a supranational democracy – should therefore promote an Inter-Parliamentary Conference (on the model of the “Assises”, convened in Rome in 1990) in order to exploit all the possibilities of the Lisbon Treaty and to propose the rules for an effective European Government of the Economy.
The article has been published on EuropesWorld.org
By Guy Verhofstadt, Honorary President of UEF Belgium
Sixty years ago our continent had to answer a crucial question: are we going to work, live and die like we did for so many decades? Or are we finally going to work together? Robert Schuman was the one answering that question. Knowing that only by European cooperation, only promoting a community method for coal and steel, only with more Europe we would reach peace and prosperity. And by answering that question he made the 9th of May a turning point in world history.
Today, sixty years later, we stand again on a turning point in history. Today again we must answer a crucial question about the direction of the Union in the future: do we want a Europe of the member-states, an intergovernmental Europe? Or do we want a political Europe, a Union based on the community method? In other words, are we going to an ever looser or an ever closer Union? That is the question that we need to answer today.
Some people would argue that with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty the community method has been carved in stone. Theoretically they are right. But what we see in every day politics is exactly the opposite. In every single important dossier it is the intergovernmental approach that has been taken. Every single time!
Take for example the EU 2020 strategy. Today everyone agrees that the Lisbon strategy was a failure. Not because of the current crisis, but because of the method of open coordination, peer review and best practices. The only method that would really work is giving the European Commission more power to enforce member-states to reach their goals: the Community method. But what do we see? The Council gave not more but less power to the Commission. And even worse, they have set up themselves a taskforce on economic governance, degrading the European Commission to a kind of executive secretariat of the Council. Making the EU 2020 an intergovernmental strategy.
An even more striking example is of course the way the problem of Greece has been handled. I almost said solved, but it is not solved yet. Instead of giving the Commission and the European Central Bank the task to wok out as soon as possible a European loan to Greece, our capitals have discussed for months what they would do and after that another month on how they would do it. At the same time increasing the anti-European sentiment all over the continent. And event letting Greece and the euro collapse in the process. It proves that the intergovernmental method is too slow and inefficient to deal with the problems of today.
But apparently, this experience was not enough. We haven’t learnt our lesson. Because the proposal for the European External Action Service is again based on the intergovernmental method. As far as possible from the Commission. And of course from the Parliament.
That is why I am saying that we are at a turning point in European history. Just as we were in 1950. Are we choosing an intergovernmental Europe? Or are we choosing a Union based on the method of Schuman and Monnet? What Schuman did on the 9th of May 1950 wasn’t just visionary. It was in the first place courageous. To give away important national power in order to build a European power.
Today, sixty years later, we need to follow his example and be courageous. We must fight for the Community method. Even if we have to fight alone. The European Parliament did not only receive new powers, it also received a new responsibility. And I must say I am glad. Because I feel in all different political groups enough people ready to take their responsibility. And to push Europe in the direction of Robert Schuman, the direction towards an ever closer Union.
Wednesday, May 5 2010 By Laurencija
Article by Sergio Pistone, Movimento Federalista Europeo
The Schuman Declaration (9th May 1950), whose 60th anniversary is celebrated this year, is the founding document of the European unification process. Based on the Franco-German reconciliation, it marked the first step in the actual construction of a united Europe, a process that, despite not yet being completed, has progressed so much that the achievement of the final goal seems possible – though not to be taken for granted. This is explicitly stated in the declaration, which establishes the pooling of coal and steel production, managed by an authority independent from national governments and whose decisions are binding on France, Germany and the other subscribing countries. It represents “a first concrete foundation of a European federation”, which provides a key contribution to the creation of world peace. Precisely because the final goal has not been achieved yet, the declaration is still of topical interest, not only in relation to the rules and purposes it sets but also due to the crucial choice of making a qualitative leap forward without being hindered by national vetoes. That being stated, I shall focus on the analysis of three main points: 1) the genesis of the Schuman Declaration; 2) its federalist content; 3) its topicality.
1. The dynamics of the European unification process were illuminatingly clarified by Altiero Spinelli, in an embryonic way in the Ventotene Manifesto (written in 1941 and representing the founding document of the movements fighting for the federal unification of Europe) and then, more precisely, after the War. According to the founder of the European Federalist Movement, the European unification process is based on a deeply rooted and enduringly powerful historical drive, deriving from the structural and irreversible crisis of the European national States. This basically consists in the structural inability to face, by means of absolute national sovereignty, the fundamental problems of economic development, democratic progress and security, which have become supranational issues due to the growing and unrelenting interdependence created by the advancement of the industrial revolution. After the collapse of the European system of States occurred at the end of the World Wars period (during which the hegemonic unification of Europe had been attempted), national democratic governments were faced with the unavoidable choice between “joining or dying”, a situation that the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Aristide Briand had already foreseen in September 1929, when he presented the first proposal for a united Europe put forward by a national government. This led to the establishment of a European unification policy having a sound structural basis but hindered by a major structural obstacle, i.e. the tendency by those who hold national power – deriving from the law of self-preservation of power already explained by Machiavelli – to oppose the actual handing over of most of that power to federal supranational institutions, a prerequisite without which an effective, democratic and irreversible unification of Europe cannot be achieved.
Given this contradictory stance held by the national governments, a strong European unification policy (going beyond mere intergovernmental cooperation based on unanimous resolutions) can assert itself only when the structural crisis of the national States results in a severe crisis of power as well as in complete government impasse. The process also requires the presence of bold statesmen and the active participation of authoritative personalities – yet independent from the logic of conquering and preserving national power – and movements working towards the federal unification of Europe and the mobilisation of the general public in support of this objective.
It was such a situation that inspired Schuman’s action in 1950. Until then, policies for the unification of Europe had been pursued in Western Europe (the only portion of the continent in which there was a certain freedom of choice). These policies had been stimulated by the failing power of national States, the breaking out of the Cold War, and the decision by the U.S., with the Marshall Plan established on 5th June 1947, to link recovery aid to the establishment of intra-European cooperation. However, the international organisations that were created as a direct or indirect consequence of pressures by the U.S. – i.e. the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (which in 1960 became the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), the Brussels Pact (which in 1955 became the Western European Union), and the Council of Europe – were characterised by an extremely weak confederal structure. This was mostly due to the fact that the United Kingdom (a country in which the historical crisis of the national State had manifested itself less evidently), the main founding country of said organisations together with France, was particularly strict in defending national sovereignty and the other partners were unwilling to proceed without the United Kingdom. The qualitative leap from these early, weak forms of European cooperation to a European integration process was strongly facilitated by the evolution of the German question, induced by the American policy.
A fundamental corollary of the American strategy for the containment of the Soviet block (which, starting from the Truman Doctrine of 12th March 1947, had led to the Marshall Plan and then to the establishment of the Atlantic Alliance) was the decision to carry out the economic and political reconstruction of the portion of Germany occupied by the Western powers, rejecting the previous policy which had aimed at preserving the division among Western occupation areas and at severely limiting the economic development of Germany. Aware of the fact that, without the full recovery of one of the nations that had always been crucial for the economic development of Europe, Western Europe would have remained fatally weak, the Americans achieved the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany and then included in their agenda the elimination of any obstacle to the full development of the German economy. As a consequence, they enabled the Germans to reclaim their heavy industry, which was under the Ruhr International Authority and hence subject to production limitations. Faced with this decision by the U.S., the French government – whose foreign minister was now Robert Schuman, representative of the “party for the reconciliation with Germany” – was caught between two fires: severe concerns about the future revival of the German power, based on its economic recovery, and the prospect of a heavy diplomatic clash, doomed to failure, with the Americans, determined to accomplish the full economic recovery of West Germany without delay. Nevertheless, France was able to overcome this impasse with the courageous proposal, put forward by Jean Monnet, to place under common European control the coal and steel industry of Germany, France and any other European country willing to undertake this venture. Following immediate positive responses by Adenauer in Germany (Adenauer was the leader of the German party for the reconciliation with France), De Gasperi in Italy, and the Benelux countries, the problem was solved by creating, as suggested by the Schuman Plan, an organisation that was completely new if compared to the Brussels Pact, the OEEC, and the Council of Europe.
What is fundamentally new about the European Community of Coal and Steel is the federal perspective it implies. Before proceeding with a detailed analysis of this aspect, I wish to clarify two issues. First of all, the extremely important link between the German question and European integration does not at all mean that integration is a tool to exert control over Germany. The European unification actually originates in the permanent and irreversible crisis of the system of European national States, which during the period of the World Wars and the antifascist Resistance led to a widespread awareness of the “joining or dying” issue. Against this background, without which the European unification process could not have started and developed, the issue of Germany (the last State in modern history aiming at hegemony over Europe, after Spain and France) peacefully living together with the other European countries has played a crucial role, since it has provided the most progressive pro-Europeans – in France, Germany, and other partner countries – with a significant and concrete political resource to overcome any nationalistic oppositions to a deep supranational unification policy.
Secondly, it should be underlined that one of the fundamental reasons for Schuman’s ability to overcome nationalistic opposition in his country lay in the method he adopted to develop his action. He prepared the launch of the ECSC project without involving the personnel of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, knowing full well that there would have been strong opposition capable of thwarting his initiative right from the start. He instead entrusted Monnet and his collaborators from the Planning Commission with the drafting of the Plan and worked towards raising public support in France and in the other countries, in order to make it harder for the diplomacy or the entrepreneurial world to run the project aground.
2. If by federation we mean the overcoming of absolute national sovereignty through the creation of a federal State (a State of States) and thus of supranational democratic institutions with direct power over the citizens of the federation and with direct participation by the national States in the decision-making process, hence ensuring the preservation of their inviolable autonomy, then it is evident that Schuman’s initiative contains a federal perspective. Despite not having led to the establishment of a fully-fledged federation, it achieved the overcoming of simple intergovernmental cooperation and it laid the foundations for the creation of a federal State, since only the brave and dramatic decision of relinquishing exclusive national sovereignty was capable of preventing a prospect, i.e. the full re-establishment of German sovereignty, that was rightly perceived as full of extremely dangerous implications.
More precisely, if we wish to wholly understand the federalist content of Schuman’s proposal, we should refer above all to Monnet’s vision, as he was the main inspirer of the proposal. The functionalist approach to European integration, which Monnet consistently and practically supported, and the federalist approach, which undoubtedly had in Spinelli its main promoter , share a common objective: the creation of a federal State. Hence, the two approaches belong to the same coalition, in contrast to the party promoting confederalism, whose main representatives were Churchill and De Gaulle. That being stated, Monnet’s functionalist approach was characterised by the belief that the best way to overcome any opposition to going beyond national sovereignty is to gradually develop integration in limited but increasingly important state sectors or functions, in order to achieve a gradual and almost painless draining of national sovereignty. Monnet, who had devised the specialised supranational organisations created during the two World Wars to pool the economic and military resources of the Allies and make their war efforts more effective, was convinced that the method implemented during the Wars could be applied also in time of peace to pursue the unification of Europe.
In concrete terms, the method he proposed in the post-war period consisted in handing over the administration of some public activities to a dedicated European administration body, which would receive common directives from the national States, formulated by means of treaties and intergovernmental resolutions. However, within the scope of said directives, the administration body would be separated and independent from the national administrations. The national policies to be pooled – destined to create the most serious grounds for rivalry among European States – were those concerning coal and steel, which were considered at that time as the two basic products in the economy of industrialised countries. Placing the production and distribution of coal and steel under common rules, applied by a supranational administration body, would generate shared interests and solidarity, so deep and so crucial for the economy that they would lead to the gradual integration of all the other economic aspects and, at a later stage, of any other key state activity, among which foreign policy and defence. The unification accomplished by the various specialised agencies around concrete interests and efficient supranational bureaucracies would in the end lead to the crowning achievement of a federal constitution.
Incidentally, I wish to emphasise that, besides some superficial contrapositions emerging within the context of political debate and a certain amount of verbal animosity from both sides, the fundamental difference between the federalist approach and the functionalist approach can be summarised in two points. The federalist approach is the constantly reasserted belief that European integration is doomed to remain precarious and reversible until a federal constitution is implemented, which can be achieved not by intergovernmental conferences (unanimous and secret resolutions by government representatives and unanimous ratifications) but only through a democratic constituent method (resolutions by majority approved by representatives of the citizens and ratifications by majority). The second feature is being in contrast with functionalist automatism, being persuaded that achieving a federal State requires the creation of a movement for the European union, which can also pursue intermediate objectives but must be independent from governments and parties as well as capable of mobilising the public opinion by playing on the structural limits of functionalist integration. These limits lie mainly in its precariousness and inefficiency (due to the need for unanimous decisions concerning key issues) and in the so-called democratic deficit (the draining of national sovereignties without the establishment of a fully developed supranational democratic sovereignty). Therefore, the two approaches are different (Monnet’s approach was defined as weak federalism versus the strong federalism of Spinelli) but, at the same time, dialectically complementary (i.e. each one having an autonomous and decisive role).
After having clarified this point, let us go back to the relationship between the functionalist approach and Schuman’s initiative. The previously mentioned impasse, which the French government had come to, opened for Monnet a window of opportunity that enabled him to realise the revolutionary invention of the European Community system. The ECSC actually had in common with the early European intergovernmental organisation the characteristic that decisional power was ultimately still in the hands of the national governments, which corresponded to the fact that not all the governments were willing to accept the irreversible handing over of their sovereignty to supranational bodies (the treaty’s validity was limited to only fifty years!). Nevertheless, it already displayed some important federalist traits: the crucial role given to a body, the High Authority, that was independent from national governments; the direct effectiveness of Community legislative and judicial acts within the member States; the allocation of own resources to the community budget based on a levy and on European bonds; the principle of vote by majority for a part of the resolutions of the Council of Ministers; the possibility to directly elect the common parliamentary Assembly, which also had the power to dismiss the High Authority with a no-confidence vote. It should be underlined that the governments had to accept these federal characteristics because the achievement of an objective much more advanced than the mere liberalisation of trade actually required stronger and more efficient institutions, which should be, at least in perspective, democratised, in order to avoid a situation in which the competences transferred to a supranational level might not be subject to effective democratic control. The final goal of a federation was not mentioned in the text of the treaty but it was stated in the text of the declaration on the basis of which the negotiations were carried out; since the declaration was accepted by the other governments, it turned into an official commitment towards the final purpose of European integration.
Besides these elements included in the Schuman Declaration and in the treaty deriving from it, the federal perspective can also be detected in the choice of proceeding on the basis of a more limited group of countries in comparison to the States involved in earlier pro-European initiatives. When the ECSC proposal was put forward, the OEEC had existed for over two years and the Council of Europe for one year; they included the Six as well as the United Kingdom and the majority of Western European countries. The crucial procedural choice made by Schuman was precisely to operate outside the juridical framework of these two organisations, within which the United Kingdom and, in its train, the Scandinavian countries and Portugal would have eliminated the innovative features of the initiative, and to open negotiations only among the governments that were willing to discuss the implementation of a supranational authority. This led to the creation of an advanced core group of States within a wider circle supporting purely intergovernmental cooperation, in the belief that the success of the venture would later result in the involvement of States that had previously been reluctant – which is what actually happened.
This procedural choice asserted itself due to the nature of the problem to be solved (avoiding the full re-establishment of German sovereignty) and thanks to the initiative of the EFM and the Union of European Federalists, of which the EFM was a member and the leading vanguard. Immediately after the Council of Europe came into being, the federalists organised a wide campaign throughout Europe to promote the stipulation of a federal pact for the establishment of a supranational political authority, democratically elected and provided with the necessary powers to implement a progressive economic unification, run a common foreign policy, and organise common defence measures. The coming into effect of the federal pact among the ratifying countries – and this was the key point – would not require unanimous vote by the member countries of the Council of Europe, but its ratification by at least three States reaching a total population of one hundred millions would be sufficient. The federalists basically proposed to apply to the European unification one of the fundamental principles characterising the procedure on the basis of which, in North America, the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 drafted the first federal constitution in history, i.e. the overcoming of the unanimous ratification requirement. This move by the federalists undoubtedly made Schuman and the governments of the Six even more determined to proceed with the strategy of the vanguard group.
3. Sixty years after the Schuman Declaration, it is clear that great progress has been made towards European integration. Within a framework of gradual advancement in a federal and democratic direction of the European Community system (in particular, direct election and widening of the powers of the European Parliament, and extension of the majority vote), very relevant integration goals have been achieved. These range from the single market to the historic transition to a monetary union, which would not have been possible without the option in favour of the method of the vanguard group, from extending to most European countries to the Treaty of Lisbon, whose steps forward – though not decisive – are linked to the involvement, through the Convention, of European and national members of parliament. These developments testify, with irrefutable factual evidence, the soundness of the choice made in 1950 to overcome mere intergovernmental cooperation and to include the federal perspective in the European unification policy, in relation to both the institutions and the procedures to establish them. In order to have an appropriate, comprehensive view of the process, I wish to draw on what mentioned before and emphasise that pro-European movements supporting federalism have greatly contributed to these steps forward. Through their continuous, systematic, and pervasive actions, they have kept alive the idea of a European federation and of the participation by the people in its creation, based on the democratic constitution method – an idea that would have been erased from the political agenda without their contribution. Moreover, they have played a fundamental role at a number of crucial moments in the creation of today’s Europe. In particular, I wish to mention: the transformation of the project for a European Defence Community into a plan for a military, political, and economic union on a federal basis (the European Political Community), which failed in 1954 but laid the foundations for the later creation of a European Economic Community; the campaign for the direct election of the European Parliament and for the strengthening of its powers; Spinelli’s action in favour of the European Union Treaty, approved by the European Parliament in 1984, which strongly contributed to the drafting of the European Single Act and, more generally, to the process for the reform of European treaties, whose most recent achievement is the Treaty of Lisbon; a steady commitment to the implementation of a single European currency, which has been constant since the 1960s (in this regard, I would like to mention that in 1965 the federalists had some symbolic coins named Euro minted in Bologna!).
This said, it is a fact that the final goal of the European federation has not been achieved yet and we should now ask ourselves if Schuman’s declaration is still relevant in relation to it. This question must be asked because the validity of the distinction between federation and confederation is being challenged by many, thus denying that the European integration process could or should be aimed towards the creation of a federal State. This stance is often linked to the belief that, within the context of globalisation, the State form is not only objectively in crisis but doomed to be replaced by something else, which however those who challenge the integration progress are not able to define clearly.
Conversely, I believe that the federalist discourse is nowadays still fully relevant. This conviction is based on the following remarks:
- The federal State model, reasonably conceivable as the solution to the European unification issue, shall have characteristics that are original and different from those of the federal systems implemented so far. This is because, for the first time in history, it shall bring together into a federation a set of national States that are historically consolidated and a continent characterised by cultural, linguistic, religious, economic, and social pluralism with no equals in the world (which is a major asset that should be protected and supported). Therefore, it shall be a strongly decentralised type of federalism (hence, I believe, more authentic) but in which any form of national veto shall be excluded, despite granting space to qualified majorities. The federal monopoly of legitimate force shall be implemented and the principle of democratic responsibility of supranational political bodies shall be fully applied. These are the necessary requirements to fully overcome the shortcomings of European integration from the point of view of efficiency and democracy, thus making it irreversible.
- The only valid response to the draining of national sovereignties ensuing from the growing international interdependence, of which globalisation is the most recent development, does not lie in resignedly accepting the decline of the State but rather in extending the scope of the democratic State and in strengthening the democratic participation tools, which are made possible thanks to the subsidiarity principle typical of a fully developed federal system. Since the State form is the irreplaceable starting point for the pursuit of the common interest, i.e. for pacific cohabitation, for the protection of liberal-democratic rights, for social solidarity and solidarity to future generations (sustainable development), the great design that should be pursued by all those who, in a steadily more interdependent world, wish to commit themselves to progress and to the very survival of humankind is the gradual and coherently sought creation of a worldwide democratic and federal State. In this perspective, the most urgent issue is completing the construction of the European federal State, because only a Europe that is fully capable of action can play an active and crucial role in a world hanging in the balance between setting up institutions and policies indispensable in order to face a common destiny and catastrophic anarchy. As stated in the Schuman Declaration, the mission of a united and pacified Europe is to provide a fundamental contribution to world peace, which consequentially means endorsing, through example and action, the creation of other continental federations and, at the same time, contributing to the federal unification of the entire world, as declared in the Ventotene Manifesto. The only alternative to this form of development is the triumph of a neo-feudal dispersion of sovereignty and, as a result, of generalised anarchy, which those theorising the new Middle Ages seem willing to accept with irresponsible thoughtlessness.
- Thanks to the progress made, the European integration process has reached a point in which postponing its evolution towards federalism is no longer compatible not only with the advancement but with the very preservation of European integration. On one hand, the monetary unification (the most important objective achieved so far) has led to a point in which it is no longer possible to back up the contradiction that has always characterised the functionalist integration model, linked to indefinitely postponing the implementation of supranational democratic sovereignty. If draining the ability to steer the economic process by means of national economic and social policies is not complemented by the creation of a European democratic government capable of ensuring economic-social cohesion and the competitiveness of the European economy within the framework of globalisation and, more generally, of overcoming the abnormal discrepancy between the dimension, still fundamentally national, of political-democratic responsibility and the dimension of actual decisions, then the democratic system is doomed to plunge into a fatal crisis. An alarming warning sign of this is the fact that populist, Europhobic, micro-nationalistic, and xenophobic tendencies are gaining more and more ground. On the other hand, a rapid transition to a fully federal union is imposed by the international context, characterised by the irreversible decline of the American hegemony and by the creation of a pluri-polar world system – and it is of vital importance to make this federal union structurally cooperative. This means that the European Union must become a producer of global security instead of remaining a mere consumer of security in the shadow of the American umbrella. The creation of supranational democratic and efficient institutions is finally indispensable to face the problems linked to the extension (already implemented and still to be completed) of the Union to central, eastern and Balkan Europe and also to Turkey – which represents a great and imperative challenge for Europe but is doomed to result in devastating consequences if not complemented by the complete overcoming of the limits of functionalist integration.
These are the reasons why it is fully and urgently topical to achieve the ultimate goal – a European Federation – stated in the Schuman Declaration, but it is equally topical to keep in mind the strategy of the vanguard group. Nowadays, this implies two things. On one hand, it is necessary to implement any possible steps forward within the framework of the Treaty of Lisbon (in particular, those concerning the European economic government and the international role of the European Union), by going ahead together with those who agree to said steps and, consequently, by taking advantage of strengthened cooperation and structured cooperation in the field of defence. On the other hand and simultaneously, it is necessary to initiate, based on initiatives by those countries that are willing, a transition process towards the European federation. This implies: transferring to the European level sovereignty in the fields of foreign policy, security, and economy (in their general aspects), with the allocation of financial resources and sufficient armed forces to allow for the ability to act and govern independently; the drafting of a federal Constitution, providing for a government system structured across several coordinated and independent levels, with a federal executive branch responsible to the parliament and a bicameral legislative branch made up of a chamber of the States and a chamber of the people’s representatives; the drafting of the Constitution by a democratic constituent convention and its ratification by the citizens, within a framework that is respectful both of the acquis communautaire and of the wish to join the project at a later stage by those countries that shall decide to do so.
M. Albertini, Una rivoluzione pacifica.Dalle nazioni all’Europa, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999.
G. Bossuat, A. Wilkens (a cura di), Jean Monnet, l’Europe et le chemins de la paix, Paris, Pubblications de la Sorbonne, 1999.
M. Burgess, Federalism and European Union, London, Routledge, 2000.
P. Gerbet, La construction de l’Europe, Paris, Colin, 2007.
J. Monnet, Mémoires, Paris, Fayard, 1776.
S. Pistone, The Union of European Federalists, Milano.Giuffrè, 2008.
R. Schuman, Per l’Europa, Roma, Cinque Lune, 1965.
R. Poidevin, Robert Schuman, Paris, Beauchesne, 1988.
K. Schwabe (a cura di), The Beginnings of the Schuman Plan, Baden Baden, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 1988.
A. Spinelli, Una strategia per gli Stati Uniti d’Europa , a cura di Sergio Pistone, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1989.
Tuesday, May 4 2010 By Laurencija
This post is also available in: German
JOINT DECLARATION OF THE UNION OF EUROPEAN FEDERALISTS & THE YOUNG EUROPEAN FEDERALISTS
Sixty years ago the Declaration of Robert Schuman changed the course of European history. It had the virtue of brevity and clarity. It was bold, and at once visionary and down to earth.
"Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity."
The proposal to pool the coal and steel production of France and Germany made the two states depend on each other for mutual well-being. Their destiny was shared.
"The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe ...".
Their example was to be followed by others. The new coal and steel community was from the outset "open to all countries willing to take part".
"In this way there will be realised simply and speedily that fusion of interests which is indispensable to the establishment of a common economic system; it may be the leaven from which may grow a wider and deeper community between countries long opposed to one another by bloody divisions. By pooling basic production and by instituting a new higher authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany, and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realisation of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace."
Sixty years on, after many successes and some failures, the goal of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet to create a European federation has come closer. Sovereignty is pooled to a great extent in the European Union, whose constitutional architecture has many federal characteristics. The recent entry into force of the Lisbon treaty has widened the competences of the Union and strengthened the powers of its institutions. Yet building a federal Europe is still work in progress. Much remains to be done.
The single market has still to be completed, not least in the services sector, intellectual property, science research and energy.
The financial system needs to be made more transparent, buoyant and progressive, equipping the EU with the money it needs to fulfil its political objectives and meet the demands of its citizens. The EU needs more capacity to raise revenue, borrow and lend in order to boost investment in European public goods such as education, green technology and infrastructure.
EU budgetary policy should promote Europe's economic recovery. In the impending mid-term review of the budget and in the design of the new multi-annual financial framework from 2013, spending should be transferred from the national to the federal level where economies of scale and cost efficiencies can be made, or to correct market failure. This is particularly the case in the military sector where the European Defence Agency shows the way forward. Conversely, where EU expenditure is no longer appropriate, national treasuries should play a larger role.
Current negotiations on strengthening the regulatory framework for the financial sector should drive towards the eventual establishment of a single EU supervisor for transnational financial services.
A return to fiscal rectitude and tinkering with the Stability and Growth Pact is not enough. An economic government is now urgently required, above all within the eurozone, with sufficient executive authority to oblige the state governments to adopt mutually reinforcing economic policies within an overall common strategy aimed at the twin objectives of stability and competitiveness.
We urge the task force established under the authority of President Van Rompuy to emulate the Schuman Declaration in terms of courage and clarity of purpose. The members of the European Council must accept individual responsibility and be held accountable for their collective decisions.
The European External Action Service must be set up as fast as possible with all the resources it needs to correct the current dislocated and uncoordinated external activities of the Union. The Commission and Council should set aside their institutional jealousies and follow the logic of the Lisbon treaty to establish a common diplomatic service with the capability of turning the Union into an impressive actor on the world stage.
Those states which are militarily capable and politically willing should move soon to form an integrated defence structure on a permanent basis, as foreseen by the Lisbon treaty.
The European Parliament must continue to upgrade its performance. The European political parties should revitalise themselves by campaigning to make a reality of EU citizenship and championing the development of the common area of freedom, security and justice. We strongly support the proposal to establish a transnational constituency for a certain number of MEPs in time for the 2014 elections.
We the undersigned Presidents of two long-standing federalist organisations in Europe call on the institutions of the European Union and on national parliaments to recall the motivation behind the Schuman Declaration and to confirm the Union's mission to peace, solidarity and enlargement. These are the next steps towards the building of a European federation.
Andrew Duff MEP, President UEF
Philippe Adriaenssens, President JEF
Tuesday, April 13 2010 By manajan
Article by Sergio Pistone, Movimento Federalista Europeo
Italy is going through a very serious crisis. The solidity of the democratic state is in danger and, consequently, its capacity to contribute efficiently, as one of the Founding States, to the European unification process and, in this context, to contribute legitimately to make Europe a world actor committed to the establishment of peace and international justice. We must be aware of this situation, identify the causes that lie behind and find solutions.
The gravity of the Italian crisis and its consequences
On the economic and social cohesion
In the general context of a “no-holds-barred” globalisation, and in the particular context of the world financial and economic crisis, which is one of its major consequences, Italy is currently experiencing trends of slow or stationary growth, unemployment, growing job insecurity, social exclusion, poverty, worsening of the immigrants’ situation, backwardness of the South, thus reaching a level that gives rise to tensions that are incompatible with the maintenance of the economic and social system.
The dramatic nature of this situation appears clearly if we keep in mind the deep dilemma faced by the political class. On the one hand, considerable financial resources must be mobilised to implement the structural reforms required to make up for the backwardness of the Italian system in comparison with its more advanced European partners, to stimulate an environmentally and socially sustainable development and to guarantee a suitable protection of the income levels (starting from the insufficient incomes of the most underprivileged categories); to fight against exclusion (immigrant integration policies); to guarantee efficient solidarity among the regions. On the other hand, not only the public debt must not increase, but its constant reduction must be strongly pursued, in order to avoid the emergence of a catastrophic situation of financial insolvency for the State. This situation calls for a strong commitment in the fight against waste, inefficiency, parasitism, tax evasion, illegal economy. None of the member States of the European Union can face on their own the current crisis or the challenges of globalisation but, in the case of Italy, which has the highest debt, failing to respond to the issues arisen by the crisis means endangering peace and social cohesion.
On the unity of the state
The Italian State has a weak structure in comparison with the more advanced European partners. In addition to the inefficiency of public administration, the widespread corruption and a weak public spirit, the control of the state is practically inexistent in large areas of the country, due to the strong presence of mafia. The government is weak in front of the pressures or diktats of groups representing specific interests in economics, politics, religion, local policies. This situation is bound to further deteriorate if, as a result of the lack of serious immigrant integration policy, ethnic ghettos develop in big cities. The structural weakness of the government allows strong micro-nationalistic trends to develop, with worrying secessionist characters that endanger the preservation of the unity of the Country. The implementation of federalism should therefore take into account these internal conditions. In this respect, there is the strong need to highlight and clarify two points.
Today, the transformation of the Italian state towards a federation is high on the agenda, as is the overcoming of the centralistic system the Italian Unity is based on. This was an inevitable choice in order to unify a country that is particularly backward, in a context where the clash of power among the national States called for a strong centralisation of the national power, for safety purposes. The implementation of the European integration process has deeply changed the situation. Against this backdrop of European Peace Process and of the subsequent economical and social progress, federalism in Italy has become not only possible, but necessary, as it is a determinant factor that can strengthen the democratic system, give impulse to administrative efficiency and fight parasitism.
In particular, fiscal federalism would allow to base the activity of each government level upon their own resources, but only if associated with a solidarity trend among strong regions and weak regions and, obviously, the reinstatement, on the whole national territory, of the State authority and the defeat of organised crime, conspiracy between politics and underhand dealings, illegality, abuse of the welfare state and secessionist driving forces. If these conditions were to fail, federalism could, in Italy, pave the way for the disintegration of the unity of the Country.
On the eve of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, many voices are rising to opposite it strongly, both practically and on principle. If the unity of the Italian State was questioned, the damages would be tremendous, not only for our Country (where catastrophic conflicts would break out) but for the very process of European unification, both due to the disruptive pressures that would spread to other European countries and due to the fact that the European constitution (that is not yet achieved and thus still depends on the national political decisions) cannot rely on states paralysed by their own contradictions; not to say on collapsed States.
Against this backdrop, the limitations of the proposal made on the Europe of the Regions, understood as a European federation made up of hundreds of regions, should be pointed out. Without the support of national governments, the European institutions would be bound to alternate between disruptive pressures and centralistic temptations. On the other hand, the federal model would allow to structure the political institutions on several government levels and to develop solidarity among the regions within a Senate of the Regions at national level, and solidarity between the States within a Senate of the States at European level. The second point to be stressed is the close connection between the national problems and the building of the European Federation. New progress in the European integration process would allow to relieve the Italian State from duties and responsibilities that it is not longer able to fulfil, and thus to promote the improvement of the efficiency and democratic nature of national institutions. European public assets such as foreign and security policy, energy and environment, if managed by the Union, would relieve the national levels, which would be left with the protection of the national public assets.
On the democratic system
The government, led by Silvio Berlusconi, expresses populist tendencies that result in alarming decisions of illiberal-authoritarian orientation. These tendencies are showed by the project of introducing a drastic strengthening of the executive to the detriment of the other institutions, thus altering the constitutional balance among the State powers. Other issues worth pointing out are the refusal to solve a conflict of interests that generates a concentration of media power at the service of the Prime Minister, a situation that does not exist in any other liberal-democratic State and that deeply alters information; the systematic effort to limit the autonomy of the judicial power and to depreciate the role of the Parliament; the ad personam laws that damage the most elementary constitutional principles; the attacks to the independent press and on pluralism. The attempt to reduce the organs of control to mere symbols is distressing, as is the attempt to remove important public services from the democratic control of the Parliament and the Head of State, through their privatisation. What is more, we should not forget the xenophobic forces that contaminate the government’s course of action in relation with the crucial issue of immigration. We are getting close to the disruption of the constitutional state.
On the basis of the European Treaties, Italy runs the risk of getting out of Europe. Art. 6 and 7 of the European Union Treaty provide initiatives and sanctions if, in any Member State of the Union, there exists a “serious risk” of infringement of democracy and freedom. And, if no drastic change of course is implemented in Italy, this serious risk exists. Furthermore, if it is true that the democracy crisis is a general phenomenon resulting from the incapacity to cope with and control globalisation, we cannot ignore that the risk is particularly significant for Italy as it is a member of the European Union. Democracy is the indispensible requisite to the transition to supranational federalism. In fact, the respect of the democratic principles and the constitutional state are the condition to access the EU. The efficiency of this principle is proved by the relation existing between the EU accession and the democratic-oriented evolution of the countries of the Iberian Peninsula and Central-Eastern Europe. The suspicion about Italy’s democratic reliability may undermine its credibility in Europe, which is the strategic ground on which its future is at stake. For Italy, the problem is worsened by the risk of collapse of the State, as a result of the astronomic public debt. For the most indebted states (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy), the main risk brought about by the economic and financial crisis is bankruptcy. Today, the victims of the crisis, following the collapse of the banks, are the States. The most urgent therapy is the reduction of the public debt.
The causes of the Italian crisis
The incompleteness of the European integration process and globalisation without government
Responding to the crisis implies first of all identifying its causes.
First of all, the starting point can only be the denunciation of the responsibilities, incapacities and inadequacy of the Italian governments of the last thirty years (regardless of their political trend), that were not able to raise the Italian system to the standards of its more advanced European partners. The process, initiated after the war with the purpose of making Italy more European, came to a halt. The condivision of some founding values, such as Resistance and Constitution, Europeanism and Parliamentary democracy, failed. As a consequence, the gap among Italy and the more advanced European States could not be bridged; on the contrary, it became deeper.
Today, the specific responsibility of the current government must be added to the above-mentioned responsibilities, with the existence of illiberal and Eurosceptic tendencies that further increase the crisis in the country. It should be stressed that there are forces, within the government body, that are trying to slow down the demanding requests of expenditure growth and, consequently, of debt growth, and that hinder the antidemocratic drift, reorienting the political debate towards the respect of the constitutional state and the balance between its institutional components. And we must not forget the crucial deficiencies of the Opposition which proved to be, in particular over the last few years, incapable of offering valid alternatives to the government policy, solutions and shared proposals . Even when the Opposition had government responsibilities, it failed to pursue a coherent federalist commitment and to give effect to the most significant and innovative decisions, such as the accession of Italy to the Euro zone, that it had achieved.
However the analysis cannot be limited to this sole point. The responsibilities of the political forces must be set in a broader context, where determining factors are represented by the incompleteness of the European integration process and by its relation with globalisation.
After the Second World War, European integration was the strategic response to the structural inadequacy of the national sovereign States to guarantee peace, industrial development and democracy. European integration gave rise to an institutional system characterised by important federal aspects, but also by the continuance of a confederal mechanism founded on the national vetoes in key sectors such as tax resources, foreign and security policy, defence, constitution revision. On the one hand, it established an institutional system characterised by important federal aspects, including the currency, the domestic market, the foreign trade, the legislative and monitoring power of the Parliament. On the other hand, the maintenance of the confederal limits entails very severe deficits that make this system structurally precarious and affect in a very negative way the life of the European States. These States strongly oppose the transfer to the Union of the powers and resources required to operate in economic, foreign and tax policy and therefore to tackle the complex issues of today’s world.
Since the 70’s, the situation has become increasingly complicated. Globalisation has triggered processes and given rise to issues of such importance that they cannot even be dealt with by the States of macro-regional dimensions or by unions of States of similar sizes. This contradiction is similar to that generated by the European unification, which created difficulties for the national States. Now, globalisation is creating difficulties for the macro-regional political groups and thus calls for a democratic and federal world government.
It is therefore more than ever crucial and urgent for the Union to complete the federalisation project, a necessary condition to give EU the capacity to cope with the domestic and international issues. This is the actual root of the declining consensus for the European Union. For half a century, peace has been the main objective of European unification. Today, the continent pacification has been achieved. What citizens expect from politics is a response to their concerns. The continent is hit by new dramatic issues that remain without solutions: economic and financial crisis, unemployment, job precariousness, competition with emerging countries, pollution and climate changes, terrorism and international crime, nuclear proliferation, urban insecurity, migratory flows, etc. All these issues are related to uncontrolled development, which must be ruled democratically. The above mentioned issues are such that the EU cannot face them on its own. They require a joint commitment of the world political protagonists, as well as a commitment of the EU to speak with a single, influential voice.
The consequence of an incomplete Europe (without government) in a globalised world is that politics ends up looking for solutions at the national level. In a country with a fragile democratic fabric, this search results in demagogic populism, in the search for the “saviour of the nation”. This is a mechanism that Italy experimented between the two World Wars, in a situation of “international anarchy” and that is reappearing today, obviously in a different form, because the world unrest, caused by ruleless globalisation, generates in people the same feelings of insecurity; thus, the search of a scapegoat (the odd man) and the delegation to the absolute leader. The Euro zone helped establishing a first important barrier against monetary and financial disturbances and led to virtuous behaviours at all levels. But the single currency was not followed by a European economic policy, nor by a real European government, resulting from the European elections.
There exists an organic connection between the need for a rapid and full federalisation of the EU and the building of the world government, since a fully federal Europe and, therefore, capable of acting efficiently, is indispensible not only to improve the living conditions of the Europeans but to take a decisive part in the building of a fairer and more pacific world.
Facing the Italian crisis: supranational commitment and National commitment
The crisis of democracy is occurring at all levels. The national democratic systems are relentlessly disorientated by the supranational dimension of the underlying issues. The condition of incomplete federation experienced by the European integration process and the lack of democracy in the UN institutions have until now prevented the creation of a fully developed and efficient supranational democratic system.
At national level, where democracy is, at least formally, fully developed, choices of strategic importance can no longer be made. At European level, not only efficient decisions cannot be made due to national vetoes, but the decisions made do not have any acceptable base of democratic legitimacy. At global level, due to the superpower of the financial and industrial multinational giants and to the violence of international terrorism and organised crime, the international organisations do not succeed in imposing the respect of legality. We must ask ourselves for how long democracy will be able to survive in a world where the citizens are excluded from the decisions their fate depends on. The question can be addressed to the European Parliament itself, which represents the first attempt to extend democracy at the international level but which loses approval, in spite of the ongoing increase of the legislative powers, as confirmed by the constant decrease of the voting participation at the European elections. Consequently, the fundamental factor of the political and democracy crisis that characterises the European countries in general and, more particularly, Italy, is not only the EU democratic deficit, but also the lack of democracy at world level. When the sense of uselessness of the active political participation starts spreading among the citizens, due to the fact that the democratic mechanisms are idle, when no consistent answers are given to the vital concerns of the citizens, political listlessness becomes inevitable and, at the same time, decisive political areas are conquered by the most irrational trends– from populism to micro-nationalism or xenophobia – that contaminate the democratic dialectic.
Trying to explain the connection between these trends and the wider context involving the incompleteness of European integration and its relation with ungoverned globalisation, cannot be considered a justificatory attitude, but allows to impose a political-strategic guideline that is truly appropriate to cope with the Italian crisis.
The supranational commitment of Italy
The Italian situation is strongly conditioned by the lack of European economic government, which needs a federal budget based on its own resources, represented by European taxes (starting with environmental taxes such as the Carbon tax) and by a European loan in Union bonds. A European economic government could implement the macroeconomic policy (investments for the European infrastructures in communications, renewable energy, advanced research, support to industrial restructuring, fight against unemployment and underemployment) that the national states are no longer able to implement. These policies should also aim at achieving a more suitable level of solidarity among the States, together with a better capacity to regulate the national budget policies. The lack of European democratic and federal government leaves the European countries “on their own” to face globalisation. The weaker European states, such as Italy, risk to collapse.
At the same time, the EU does not have the means to speak with a single voice in the world. Implementing permanent structured cooperation would allow to bring together the armed forces of the States willing to improve the EU intervention capacities in the operations aimed at maintaining, building and imposing peace, thus making the European defence system suitable to take part, under the aegis of the UN, in the building of peace in the world and reducing at the same time its overall cost in favour of the social and investment policy.
The critical economic-social and financial situation of Italy is clearly conditioned by the lack of global rules and institutions to govern the financial markets and international trade, and by the crisis of the international monetary system based on the dollar central position. The objectives of topical interest should include: the reform of the world monetary system towards the gradual implementation of a world currency; a world environmental organisation based on the ECSC model (having the power and resources required to reduce the polluting emissions and contribute to the financing of the ecological reconversion of the world economy, in particular in the developing countries); the UN strengthening and democratisation through the transformation of the Security Council into the Council of the main regions of the world (that would allow all the States of the world to take part in this organisation through their respective regional organisations) and the institution of a world parliamentary assembly; the institution of a European seat at the IMF and at the UN Security Council.
The fight against organised crime is a long-lasting problem in Italy, and this fight can only be carried out with successful results in a framework of economic-social and political-democratic progress. European unification is a driving force of this progress; however, due to its backwardness and incompleteness, it is a source of serious contradictions. One of them is the freedom of movement achieved by organised crime with the common market (as well as the removal of obligations as a consequence of globalisation) that is not associated with the creation of a suitable supranational capacity to guarantee public order (considering, on the one hand, the lack of European public prosecutor’s department and the embryonic nature of Europol and, on the other hand, the limits of the International Criminal Court and of UNICRI).
To strike at the root of the global economic, environmental and social imbalances and to cope with the flows of the “biblical” migrations that we are witnessing today, a development plan for Africa and the Middle East, coordinated by the United Nations is required, with the contribution not only of the EU, but also of the United States, Japan, China, India and Russia. The challenge of immigration in the EU calls for an efficient federal government, capable of implementing hosting and integration policies (recognition of the right of asylum, physiological emigration, right to vote, citizenship acquisition), fighting illegal immigration (supporting the states with strong emigration trends), providing resources on a much larger scale than those currently dedicated to the problem.
The national commitment
The Italian crisis is extremely serious. It can be confronted successfully only if a policy is defined; a policy aimed at tackling the overall causes. The driving moment of this policy is the commitment to a steady and fast progress towards the European Federation, that should be characterised by two distinct, yet closely related moments:
1) fully implementing the opportunities and progress introduced by the Lisbon Treaty;
2) starting an action aimed at completing the European integration process.
The immediate step forward is the application and exploitation of the potentials of the Lisbon Treaty, which makes it possible to strengthen the common policies, to build a European economic government and allow greater capacity of international action. In parallel, the constituent process of the European Federation will need to be restarted – since the Lisbon Treaty is an important step forward but not the finishing point of European integration. This action can be implemented by a group of favourable countries, overcoming the national veto right in the revision process of the Treaties, and shall involve the European citizens in each stage of the process, until the final consultation, through a European referendum. The fully democratic nature of the constituent process is an essential condition of its efficiency and a critical element in order to overcome the ongoing crisis of EU legitimacy.
As shown by the history of European integration, progress towards the completeness of the European Federation requires a decisive commitment on the Italian side. All decision initiatives (in particular French and German) have benefited from the indispensible and strengthening support of Italy.
Increased European solidarity, required to face the serious economic and social situation of the country, cannot be pursued with credibility and efficiency if Italy fails to play its part. But Italy’s supranational commitment will be possible and efficient only if associated with a powerful and decisive commitment of internal recovery.
Without regained democratic credibility capable of taking it out of its isolation, Italy will not succeed in recovering its due role in Europe and in bringing about real progress in the European integration process.
To cope efficiently with the Italian crisis, a large front of political forces should accept to guide the country in the right direction. This can only be an emergency government. A government founded on broad convergences between all the sectors of the political front, that would not allow illiberal-authoritarian, populistic and micro-nationalistic trends to condition their decisions and that would be able to make the very difficult choices required to achieve economic-social, financial and political-institutional recovery, which go beyond the normal government-opposition dialectic.
The European Federalist Movement, based on an unconditional autonomy from the national political forces,
- reasserts that Italy’s exit from the crisis can only be successful through a quick recovery of the commitment to reach the primary objective, i.e. the achievement of the European unification
- denounces the degenerative trends that undermine the government led by Silvio Berlusconi, as they are in contradiction with the contents and the spirit of the Constitution and are incompatible with the active participation of Italy in the building of the European Federation.
- calls for the world of labour, production, services, mass media, and to the associations of civil society, to commit themselves to overcome the crisis and contribute to the creation of an emergency government that will prioritise the implementation of
- a policy of efficient economic-social, financial and political-institutional recovery of Italy, giving priority, in line with the European policies, to the respect of the constitution and balance among the powers of the State, the repayment of the debt, ecological reconversion policies, income support for precarious citizens, and fighting xenophobic and racist expressions, mafias, pressures and diktats from groups having specific interests in economic, religious, local policies, waste, inefficiency and tax evasion. These actions are the bases required to restore the active and decisive participation of our country in the European constitution;
- a policy promoting the achievement of the federal unity of Europe, in particular through the creation of a legitimate and efficient government of European economy, with sufficient financial resources, and an independent foreign and security policy, based on a federal armed force, that will allow the EU to speak with a single voice and to take part in the building of the world peace.
Federalists urge bold initiative on euro governance. Andrew Duff welcomes Van Rompuy task force on EMU
Monday, March 29 2010 By Laurencija
The Union of European Federalists has welcomed the decision of last week's European Council to establish an inquiry into the future governance of economic and monetary union.
Meeting in Brussels on 27-28 March, the Federal Committee of the UEF, debated at length the financial crisis and the options for economic recovery.
Summing up the debate, Andrew Duff MEP, President of the UEF, said:
"The heads of government have at last taken a decision to examine the weak points in the treaty-based structure of Economic and Monetary Union. This is good news, if late. The UEF will in due course be submitting to Mr Van Rompuy's task force a number of proposals to strengthen the economic governance of the eurozone. These will include the establishment of a European Monetary Fund. The decision of the European Council on the EU-IMF deal for Greece is both convoluted and insufficient.
"We need to go further to give financial means to express the political solidarity which underpins EMU. The Union has to be more agile and inventive if it is to strengthen the stability of the euro over the long term.
"It is obvious that the European Parliament would demand a Convention to prepare any IGC which sought to reform the Maastricht arrangements. In that case, the UEF will be pressing MEPs to make the connection between financial stability and budgetary reform. We must not waste this opportunity to draw all the necessary salutary conclusions from this crisis.
"Tinkering with the Stability and Growth Pact will be an inadequate response to the scale of the problem the Union faces. The EU needs a budgetary policy with the capacity to support measures designed at economic recovery.
"We need to go beyond the Commission's Europe 2020 agenda. Completing the single market and underpinning the single currency are the most important priorities for the Union today."
Tuesday, March 9 2010 By Laurencija
by Joan-Marc Simon is Secretary General of the Union of European Federalists
Remember the slogan of the EU during last 10 years? Yes, that thing about becoming the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world? Well, then get ready to continue laughing or crying- because the European Commission has published its new economic strategy for 2020 and it seems we are willing to throw 10 more years down the drain.
The Lisbon strategy didn’t work because of lack of political instruments, lack of financial means and, above all, lack of political will from the member states. The new economic plan that the European Commission published on March 3rd insists on setting targets without providing financial and enforcement tools to achieve them. Yes, the objectives are nice (albeit being too short and unambitious):
- 75 % of the population aged 20-64 should be employed.
- 3% of the EU's GDP should be invested in R & D
- The climate/energy targets should be met.
- The share of early school leavers should be under 10% and at least 40% of the younger generation should have a degree or diploma. .
- 20 million less people should be at risk of poverty
But how is the European Commission planning to achieve them? How do we want to create employment without investment? To add insult to injury the EC requires that these objectives are met whilst respecting the Growth and Stability Pact and without increasing the own resources of the Union… In times when the Monetary Union is at risk and the Growth and Stability Pact is violated by most member states what is the great solution from the EC? Just more business as usual and repeat the same mistakes of the Lisbon strategy. Depressing.
The text of the commission doesn’t say anything on how to reform the financial markets, doesn’t provide any proposal on how to reform the economic governance to tackle problems such as Greece indebtedness, there is nothing on social Europe, nothing on Euro-Bonds or any ideas of how to increase the own resources of the Union…
Plus, why do we need a strategy for 2020? The only reason I can think of is in order to guarantee that all those who should be responsible of the next failure can be out of the game by then and therefore escape any attempt to hold them accountable. If the current Commission, the current European Parliament and the Council want to go ahead with this insufficient plan let’s set the goals for 2014 so that at the end of their mandate we can see what they have delivered.
In February the new Barroso Commission was approved by the three big groups in the European Parliament -Conservatives, Socialists and Liberals- under the promise that he would change the business as usual, that he was not the grey and submissed Commission president that he was during his first term. Well, here is the first test and the lack of ambition can’t be more blatant. What are they going to do now? If the big groups in the EP are consequent with themselves either they force a radical change in the economic strategy or they should threaten with blocking the EU budget. Anything less will put the Parliament at the same level as the Commission.
But let’s not fall in the usual trap of blaming the EC for everything. The EC is not guilty for its lack of ambition alone, I’m convinced the Commission is aware -and probably shares- what I mentioned above but the main problem lies on the lack of political will from the member states. Lack of political will boycotted the Lisbon strategy, boycotts the creation of any kind of European economic governance and will stop any attempt to give to this European economic strategy any chance to succeed.
In a perfect example of the prisoner dilemma the Commission and the member states opt for the worst possible option, an option that will harm both Europe and the member states.
The issue is very serious and the Europeans deserve a lot more. If Barroso doesn’t dare to take the risk to challenge the status quo, then the European Parliament should stand up to defend the future of the Union. If nothing else because nobody else will.
This post is also available in: French
On 23 February 2010, Mr Guy Verhofstadt, who was Prime Minister of Belgium between 1999 and 2008, joined the UEF-Belgium, an organisation aiming at a federal Europe, as its Honorary President.
Mr Verhofstadt succeeds the former Minister and MEP Mr Fernand Herman, who in turn succeeded the former Minister, European Commissioner and MEP Mr Willy De Clercq.
UEF-Belgium offered the political guidance of the organisation to Mr Verhofstadt due to the role he played in the adoption of the Laeken Declaration, and his federalist views expressed in several of his books, first and foremost “United States of Europe”. This book follows in the footsteps of Mr Altiero Spinelli, founder of the European Federalist Movement in 1943.
Since his election as a Member of the European Parliament and Chairperson of the ALDE group, Mr Verhofstadt has been contributing crucially to the process towards a more integrated and more efficient Europe, capable of exerting a wider influence in the World.
The UEF-Belgium Board members met on 23 February 2010 and unanimously expressed delight at Mr Verhofstadt's agreement to be involved in the action of UEF-Belgium.
For the fifth year running, the Young European Federalists are organising a pan-European street action on the 18th of March 2010, to protest against and raise awareness on the last remaining dictatorship on the European continent. Lukashenko, undemocratically re-elected president of Belarus in 2006, has oppressed human freedoms ever since coming to power.
As an organisation that promotes freedom, democracy and federalism, JEF cannot leave the Belarusian citizens behind! JEF is calling for young people, their friends, families and networks throughout Europe and the wider world to act NOW!
The street action is very simple: take to the streets on the evening of March 18th or early March 19th, put cloth around the mouths of famous statues to symbolically gag them, take pictures of your action and send them as soon as possible to Belarus@jef.eu! By collecting pictures from young people from all over the world, we make an important statement that will be heard loud and clear by the EU Institutions and officials, the dictatorial regime and the population in Belarus. Mark democracy in your agenda for the 18th of March 2010!
For more information on how to organise your event, more in depth explanations of the action and for a number of useful tools to help you gain support and media attention please download the ‘Free Belarus 2010 Action Pack' here.
Don't forget to also register your action before the 14th of March 2010 by emailing Tomas Spragg on Belarus@jef.eu stating your name, country and, organisation (if applicable)!
By Guido Montani, Vice-President of UEF
The EU will not be able to face the challenges if it doesn't reform its budget.
At the end of last year’s financial turmoil, Jean-Claude Trichet i, President of the ECB, said in an interview that “the Stability and Growth Pact is the legal framework that we have as a quid pro quo for the fact that we do not have a federal budget and a federal government”. Recently, the European Commission initiated an excessive deficit procedure for 9 countries (11 had already been warned). The present situation in the EU is that only 7 countries (in the euro area, Luxembourg, Finland and Cyprus) out of 27 do not comply with the 3 per cent reference value of the deficit to GDP, as required by the Growth and Stability Pact (GSP). Moreover, not only the present situation of the EU public finances is alarming, but the future too. According to the OECD, public indebtedness of the euro area could be more than 100 per cent of the GDP in 2015 (it was 66 per cent in 2007). Therefore, the suspicion that the GSP is not the appropriate instrument to guarantee sound and stable finances for the European economy is legitimate. It is true that even the USA, severely affected by the financial crisis, are going in the same direction: their public debt should increase to more than 100 per cent of the GDP in 2017 (it was 63 per cent in 2007). But the USA were able to react to the crisis with a common plan (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). On the contrary, the EU approved a European Economic Recovery Plan assembling national recovery plans. Indeed, the size of the EU budget – one per cent of the GDP yearly, as established by the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2007-13 – does not allow any significant margin for manoeuvres. This unsatisfactory response depends on the fact that the EU decided to provide an effective instrument for a European monetary policy (the ECB) for itself, but the main instruments for fiscal policy remain stubbornly at a national level. The EU has a federal currency, but not a federal budget (and neither does it have a federal government)
There are two good reasons for considering a federal reform of the EU budget. The first is that Europe has to face serious challenges: the economic recovery after the financial crisis, the reform of the world financial and monetary system, in the agenda of the G20, and, last but not least, the fight against climate change. The second reason is that the new Commission should soon open the process for reforming the EU budget. A Conference , which will close the debate and open the reform phase has been planned for November 12th at Brussels. In the following part of this short paper, we want to discuss some crucial topics dealt with by the two exhaustive and well-organized Studies backed by the Directorate General for Budget of the European Commission. The first Study is devoted to EU spending and the second one to Budget financingii. In 2007, the European Commission asked to discuss the EU budget reform “without taboos”, but unfortunately some taboos are still steadfastly on their pedestal. Our comments concern: a) the stabilisation policy, on the spending side of the balance sheet; b) the problem of own resources, for the revenue side; and, finally, c) the link between the budget reform and the democratic deficit of the EU.
The first Study on EU spending convincingly proposes that the budgetary reform should increase expenditures in the following three policy areas: climate change and energy resources; knowledge and innovation; common security and foreign affairs. At the same time, it proposes a sensible reduction of funds for agriculture and rural development policies. But it is unclear if the size of the EU budget (as a percentage of GDP) should be increased. The question of the budget size is linked to the question of the macroeconomic stabilisation policies – i.e. policies designed to stabilise aggregate income and the employment level –, which in the present situation are not considered a European policy area. The conclusion of the chapter devoted to this problem is that “all in all, there seems to be no need for the EU budget to be involved in stabilisation policies. In the end, this may also be a non-issue, as the EU budget is currently far too small to be able to have a significant impact” (p. 72). This drastic judgement seems more influenced by academic doctrines than by the needs of the EU and its citizens. It is true that the theory of fiscal federalism, originally proposed by Musgrave and Oates, assigned stabilisation policies (or anti-cyclical policies) to the federal government, for the good reason that at the local or regional level anti-cycle budgetary policies are not effective. But that result was reached within the general theoretical framework of Keynesianism, which succumbed under the attack of monetarism, the supply side economics and the rational expectations doctrine. Macroeconomic fiscal activism was increasingly taken into consideration with scepticism. While the increasing integration of the world market was shaping a global economy, national governments were fascinated by an economic policy based mainly on monetary stability. Indeed, during the last decades, the idea that a global market could go through a steady growth without global governance was widely spread among politicians and economists. The 2008 world financial crisis swept away that illusion. All governments rediscovered fiscal policies and accepted huge budget deficits in order to avoid a more dramatic fall of income and employment.
In Europe, the Commission proposed a European Economic Recovery Plan, to sustain internal demand. Contrary to the dominant doctrine of fiscal scepticism, the Commission proposed “to inject purchasing power into the economy, support demand and stimulate confidence”. The amount of the “macro-economic, anti-cyclical” European plan should have been, according to the Commission, 1.5 per cent of GDP. The main problem was that the European contribution to the Plan was only 0.3 per cent of GDP, the main share (1.2 per cent) consisted of a summation of national plans. The outcome of that unfortunate decision was that: a) only Germany, France and UK launched a national plan of the amount required, but the other countries, especially the more indebted ones, were not able or willing to follow; b) the European governments decided to finance national public goods and national employment, endangering the European internal market; c) the rules of the GSP were grossly violated.
A more general comment should be added to these shortcomings: the European recovery plan turned out to be not only of an amount lower than required but it was less efficient, because in order to face a EU external shock a certain amount of euros is spent more efficiently by a “federal government” than by a national government. Let us consider the old Keynesian idea of the multiplier. There is a wide and open debate on the scale of a fiscal multiplieriii. The effect of a fiscal stimulus depends on the way governments act (tax cuts have a different impact from building bridges and railways) and on expectations about prices and taxes. But there is a general agreement on the fact that the value of the multiplier depends on the size of the economy. Indeed, the more open an economy is the bigger the demand for foreign goods and therefore the leakages of the fiscal stimulus. According to the OECDiv there is “an inverse correlation between multiplier values and openness” (Box 3.1). The size of the short-term fiscal multiplier can take on a value of 0.4-0.6 for very open countries, like Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary, and 1.3-1.6 for Germany, USA and Japan. The OECD does not provide an estimate for the EU economy but – we can guess – the EU multiplier should be of the same order as that of the USA and Japan. To sum up, the money of the taxpayers spent at the federal (European) level of government for European public goods has a greater impact on EU income and employment than the same amount of money spent by national governments for national public goods. A European recovery plan, entirely financed by European own resources, would have been more effective and would have avoided the free-rider behaviour of some national governments.
Now, let’s consider the objection that the EU budget “would have had to grow enormously to be able to implement successful fiscal policies” (p. 71). This statement is not true and brings about a vicious circle: the EU budget is small; since it is small no stabilisation policy is possible, therefore there is no need to propose an increase of the budget and a European stabilisation policy. The Delors plan of 1993 – for growth, competitiveness and employment – required a financial effort equivalent to 0.33% of the GDP for five years. The financial resources should have come from the EU budget, the EIB and the issue of Union Bonds. The Delors plan was considered too expensive and was not implemented. It was a mistake, probably due to the refusal to issue Union Bonds. Nevertheless, here we are interested in the size of the financial effort. A recovery plan is quicker to carry out, if the Commission can bring forward some investment projects already planned for the following years. Therefore, the size of the European budget matters, but the EU does not need an “enormous” budget. The McDougall Report, of 1977, came to the conclusion that a federal budget (excluding defence) should be 2-2.5 per cent of GDP. Even for the present day European problems, that evaluation is likely to be appropriate. With a European budget of that size, the European Commission could have proposed a recovery plan of 1.5 per cent of GDP, entirely financed by own resources: i.e., by the EU budget, by the EIB and by the issueing of Union Bonds, which certainly could have got a better rate on the international financial market than national bonds.
The second Study – Financing the EU budget – wisely states that “there is neither a best Community resource funding for the EU, yet no shortage of broadly satisfactory ones” (p. 12). Among the new revenue sources the study suggests a corporate income tax (CIT), some ecotaxes – like a carbon tax and the proceeds of selling emission trading permits – and the monetary income of the European Central Bank. Likewise, the European Parliament is willing to support these proposals. Here, we propose to focus on the crucial concept of own resources. In his classical study on Federal Government, K. Wheare says that a Federal state is based on the principle that “the general and the regional governments are coordinate and independent in their respective spheres”. If we apply this principle to the EU, it follows that the EU budget should be financed fully by European own resources, and not by national resources. The present situation is nearly the opposite. As the Study clarifies, own resources finance only 10 per cent of the EU budget; 90 per cent comes from national contributions. The consequences are ominous for EU policies, for transparency reasons and for European democracy. Since every national government provides a slice of the budget, every national government wants to receive a just retour. The EU budget becomes an appendix of national budgets. The European Parliament and the Commission are not responsible for finding the taxpayers’ money, but they spend it and, at the end of the story, the voters cannot understand who is responsible for European finances.
The degeneration of the European own resources system was caused – in greatly or completely – by the principle of the budget in balance, stated in the Treaties. There is neither an economic nor a political justification for observing this constraint strictly. The EU budget should observe, in principle, the same rules applied to national budgets by the GSP: the ratio of the deficit to GDP should not overcome a reference value during an economic cycle (and not every year). A sound management of a firm is impossible without financial outsources, coming from the financial market or the banking system. Even local governments need some financing when in deficit. The constraint of the yearly budget in balance requires a “residual resource”, when European own resources are not enough or are diminishing, as has happened in the last decades. And, since the EU has no “independent” power to raise its revenue, the residual resources can come only from national governments.
In order to be financially independent from national governments, the European Commission should have the power, of course in agreement with the European Parliament, not only to collect eurotaxes, but also to issue Union Bonds. The objections put forward by Otmar Issingv on the probable negative impact of a common European bond on certain member states, which should become less responsible for lowering their excessive rate of indebtedness, are aimed at another target. “It would be hard to find a clearer case of free riding – says Issing – a common bond would undermine the credibility of the eurozone as an area of stability and fiscal soundness.” This observation is sound, but only if the Union Bond issue is planned for “solidarity” reasons among strong and weak member states. Completely different is the case of a Union bond issue to finance the EU budget for providing European public goods. In such a case, the aims of the bond issue are European growth, employment and the welfare of European citizens: the responsibility of the indebted states is not at stake. At present, the GSP establishes rules of good behaviour among the EU member states. Now, the time has come to include the EU budget and the GSP into a single Community financial framework.
The third comment concerns the democratic accountability of the EU, the budget policy included. The two Studies take into consideration the federal perspective, but as one among other “Possibilities for our Grandchildren”. Our view is that there is an opportunity now for a federal reform and that the European parties should not miss it. The last European election showed a further lowering of the turnout and a widening gap of confidence between the citizens and the European institutions. The democratic deficit of the EU has two roots: the first one is the lack of a European democratic government (in the Lisbon Treaty the word “European government” does not exist); the second root is the veto right: were the veto survives (like in foreign policy, budgetary rules and ratification rules) a tiny minority can block the democratic process. The European Parliament approved a resolution (on June 7th 2007) in which it declares the European Union a “supranational democracy”, but it should explain to European citizens how a supranational democracy can work with the veto right and without a democratic government.
The reform of the EU budget offers the possibility to overcome at least some aspects of the European democratic deficit, even though for a more comprehensive reform a new Convention is necessary. The European Parliament should face the budgetary reform in view of the European election of 2014. The next election will be a success if the citizens can understand that, with their vote, they can choose not only a party but also a government with a political program. It will be a failure if the European election boils down anew to a summation of national elections. The European parties have the power to change the citizens’s perception of the European Union. They can include the main lines of the budgetary reform in their political programme and, at the same time, present their candidate as President of the European Commission before the election. If the main parties have the courage to do that, the voters will have the chance to take part in a real European political debate on the future of the European Union. The core of sound politics is a clear relationship between ends and means. The European parties should explain to voters that the EU has a cost, and therefore they should accept that a share of their taxes should be devoted to the EU. But the EU also provides numberless advantages. Today the citizens of Europe live in peace, a way of life unknown to their grandfathers. They can benefit from a rich internal market and can move freely in a Continent without national borders. Now, the EU has to face dramatic challenges, like the world economic crisis, international terrorism, mass poverty, migrations and the menace of climate change. The duty of European political parties is to ask for the means to face the challenges of the 21st Century.
This article was first published on Europe's World
i Trichet J.C., Interview with the Financial Times, Financial Times, 15th December 2008.
ii See the website of the European Commission “Reforming the Budget”.
iii For a survey, see The Economist, September 26th, 2009.
iv OECD, Economic Outlook, Interim Report, Chapter 3, 2009.
v Issing O., “Why a common eurozone bond isn’t such a good idea”, in Europe’s World, Newsletter 34, EW Issue 12, Summer 2009.
Conference in Berlin, Friday October 23: Federation or Confederation, where goes Europe after the Lisbon treaty?,
On Friday 23rd October 2009, the Union of the European Federalists, with the collaboration of the Altiero Spinelli Institute for Federalist Studies and Europa-Union Deutschland, is organising in Berlin (Representation of the European Commission in Germany) a Conference entitled “Federation or Confederation, where goes Europe after the Lisbon treaty?”
Prof. Dr. Ingolf Pernice, Humboldt-University Berlin will introduce the conference, and Mr. Andrew Duff MEP, President of UEF, and Mr. Peter Altmaier MdB, President of Europa-Union Deutschland will open the discussions with the panel.
All the information as also the registration forms can be found on UEF website
Federation or Confederation – where goes Europe after the Lisbon treaty?
Berlin, Friday 23rd October 2009, Representation of the European Commission in Germany, Unter den Linden 78, 10117 Berlin
09:30 h Opening address
Heinz-Wilhelm Schaumann, Vice-President of UEF
Barbara Steffner, Head of the political department of the Delegation of the EC in Germany
09:45 h Introduction speech
"As much Europe as necessary but also as little as possible? – Europe’s chances to get a Constitution after the rule from the German Federal Constitutional Court on the Lisbon treaty"
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ingolf Pernice, Director of the Walter Hallstein-Institute for European Constitutional Law of the Humboldt-University Berlin
10:10 h Comments from Peter Altmaier MdB, President of Europa-Union Deutschland, and Andrew Duff MEP, President of UEF
10:30 h Panel discussion
"Towards a European state or a Union of states? – which direction does the EU go after the Lisbon treaty?" with
Peter Altmaier MdB, President of Europa-Union Deutschland
Andrew Duff MEP, President of UEF
Armin Duttine, Ver.di (tbc)
Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, President of Europa-Union Berlin
Yvonne Nasshoven, President of Young European Federalists Germany
Prof. Dr. Ingolf Pernice, Humboldt-University Berlin
Thomas Silberhorn MdB, (tbc)
12:00 h Reception
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