It’s not hard to figure out that I am European Federalist. I hope that some day there will be some sort of European Federation, which manages to bring all the people closer together. But how will it happen and are current ideas holding this up?
One of the biggest threats to a Federal Europe is this idea of Budget commissioner with the ability to veto budgets of member states. Could you imagine this happening in any federal state? No way! As Jan Macháček writing in Prague’s Respekt states
If individual states in the U.S. were ordered by a central authority to rubber-stamp the financial budgetary rules and budget advice sent to them (i.e., change their own constitutions), to submit their budgets to Washington for approval even before they voted on them themselves – and then send them back for inspection (which is the principle of the European fiscal compact), it would lead to a revolt and the American federation would break up.
But as also pointed out building a federation also takes a long time and the American one was only completed in the 1930’s!
But how are we going to build this federation?)
One idea was floated in Milan’s Il Fogio by Lucio Caracciolo. He suggests a referendum across the 27 (soon to be 28) member states on the issue of more integration, not a treaty text.
The time has come to ask Europeans if they want to bring their country into a union – yes or no. By referendum. And not by one of these national consultations in which the voters of a Member State approve or reject (in the latter case, voters are called to the polls solely to approve the text) a treaty that is unreadable and, therefore, that remains unread.
This referendum among the twenty-seven Member States of the European Union (from next year, twenty-eight), which should take place at the same time and under the same rules throughout the European community, would pose the fundamental question: “Are you for or against the emergence of a European State comprising all member states of the European Union or of some of these states (specify which)?”
This would be a good idea. While it would be a consultative ballot, the power of this on European Leaders would be immense. The appetite for further integration would be quite obvious and ensure countries that want it can move forward. This would have important outcomes for the future of the European Project and how much support exist for a “Federal Europe” among Europhiles!
Whatever the outcome, we would finally have a clear picture of the degree of Europhilia among Europeans. Which is something that the Europhiles have always carefully avoided. It should, however, be clear by now that if we can one day unify Europe or a part of Europe for good, to make of it a force for democracy in the world, it will happen only on the ashes of Europeanism. On the ashes of its complacent paternalistic reflexes and its fundamentally elitist and undemocratic culture. The result is that, 55 years after the Treaty of Rome, not only do we not have a unified Europe, but we are exciting base emotions and tearing out the liberal and democratic roots of its member countries.
Of course it will be a tricky road. As Jan Macháček points out that identity is what will hold this back, something I have long said also.
Critics of federalism argue that the very idea is naive, and even dangerous, because there is no European political nation. An American is first an American, and only then from Minnesota. A German is first a German, and only then a European.
The emergence of a European identity, however, can be “artificially” promoted and accelerated. This and that may help here and there: direct election of a European president, an Institute of European citizenship, some minimum common European tax, and so on.
But at the end of the day I agree with Claudio Magris writing in the Corrierre Della Sera, it is a long hard road, but it will be worth it.
The establishment of a real European state is the only way to ensure that we can look forward to a worthwhile future. The problems we face are not national, they are of concern to us all. It is ridiculous, for example, to have different immigration laws in different countries, just as it would be to have different rules on migration in Bologna and Genoa. Furthermore, a genuine European state would result in significantly lower costs by, for example, doing away with the expense of endless committees, agencies and parasitic institutions.
Europe is a great power, and it is painful to see it reduced to bickering, or worse still, to the timid powerlessness of a building residents’ meeting. If it is to really become an entity that is able to punch its weight, the European Union will have to establish a decisive and authoritative government, give up on wooly ecumenisms, and abandon any reluctance to confront those who keep their own houses in order by dumping rubbish on their neighbours. No doubt it will have difficulty assuming a role of unshakeable authority, but if the European Union continues on the dangerous course on which it is currently embarked, its days will be numbered.
For the first time in history, we are attempting to build a large political community without recourse to the instrument of war. However, the rejection of war implies the need for a functional authority, and it is in this context that hesitancy is not democracy, but rather its death. It is natural for believers in Europe to feel dejected and uneasy, as I did on that in evening in Madrid, when faced with the spectacle of a European unity that is crumbling and fading away. However, that does not mean that we should surrender to melancholy. We have not been brought into the world to indulge our moods, or to give into gloom like so many small-minded sufferers from indigestion. No matter how we feel, we must continue to work for what we believe to be right, or at least for options that we believe to be better, with the stubborn conviction of “non praevalebunt”, they shall not prevail.
We must be prepared to fight against the evils of pessimism and weariness, which are continuing to gain ground. However, that is not to say that we cannot acknowledge the discrepancy between our terrible era and the aspiration for unity in the great professions of faith written by Europe’s founding fathers. As Karl Valentin, the great cabaret artist who inspired Brecht, liked to put it: the future was better in those days.