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Roberto Castaldi

Roberto Castaldi

Professore Associato di Filosofia Politica presso l'Università eCampus, Editor Perspectives on Federalism and Bibliographical Bulletin on Federalism, Direttore dell’area Ricerca e Sviluppo di  CesUEsrl

 

A genuine European Union to ensure welfare, security and democracy

 

We European citizens are worried and scared. The economic and financial crisis has impoverished many of us. Youth unemployment risks creating a lost generation. Inequality grows and social cohesion is in peril. The EU is surrounded by war and instability from Ukraine to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. The flux of refugees and migrants has become a structural feature we must address together, in a human and forward-looking manner. In many Member states we witness authoritarian tendencies and the rise of nationalist and xenophobic forces. Democracy and the core values of the European modern civilization are under attack. The EU itself is questioned, although it ensured peace, democracy and welfare for decades.

 

We European citizens don’t want our national politicians to care only about their next local or national election. They ask for European solutions to European problems but then they act to render those solutions impossible or ineffective. They disregard sensible Commission proposals or fail to implement decisions already taken , including when agreed by all. They claim, one day, for Europe to do something and protest, the following day, Europe’s proposed actions. We ask national politicians and the media to stop depicting integration as a zero-sum game, thus pitting nations against one another. In an interdependent world no nation can satisfy all of its citizens’ basic needs and appeals for social justice. In this context, integration and supranational government is a positive-sum game. Our European social model based on liberal democracy and a social market economy can only survive in a multi-level framework of government, on the basis of the subsidiarity principle.

 

We European citizens are aware that globalization is transforming the world. We need a European government to foster our common values and contribute to the solution of the global problems threatening humanity. The world needs an outward-looking cosmopolitan Europe to help build a more effective and democratic global governance to cope with climate change, peace, global poverty, and the transition to an environmentally and socially sustainable economy.

 

We European citizens recognise the EU as an incomplete Res Publica. It has a ridiculous budget (0,9% of GDP) and no financial autonomy from Member states, while its current competences are out of date for what is necessary to successfully answer the challenges of the current crises. It has a federal like legislative, judiciary and central bank. But democracy is the possibility for citizens to choose the government and make it accountable. For the Union to work and be democratic its decisions, including budget, foreign and defence policy, and the reform of the Treaties, should primarily be taken by a qualified majority representing the majority will of European citizens and states. The Commission should evolve into a fully-fledged government, setting and promoting a political agenda legitimated through elections. European parties should present their candidates to the Presidency at the European election. The alternative is a directly elected President of the EU merging the Presidencies of the Commission and the European Council.

 

On 14 February 1984 the European Parliament adopted the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, the so-called Spinelli Project, pointing towards a political union, which Member states disregarded. On 14 February 2017 we call upon the European Parliament, the only directly elected body of the EU, to take a new initiative to kick-start the EU on strengthened democratic basis. Talking about banking, fiscal, economic, energy, security, defence and political unions makes sense only within a genuine democratic European Union, with all those policies under a European government.

 

On 25 March 2017 the Heads of state and government will celebrate the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community and Euratom in 1957. We call upon them to match the vision of the Founders. They should open the way to the re-foundation of the EU on the basis of the European Parliament proposal, and immediately exploit all the Lisbon Treaties’ instruments to strengthen EU institutions and policies, especially on foreign and security, economic and social policies. We call upon the Europe’s youth, its civil society, workers, entrepreneurs, academia, local governments and European citizens to participate in the March for Europe in Rome on March 25 (http://www.marchforeurope2017.eu). Together we shall give the political leaders the strength and courage to push forward the EU to a new beginning. European unity is key to solve our common problems, safeguard our values and ensure our welfare, security and democracy.

 

The appeal, promoted by Prof. Roberto Castaldi together with Giuliano Amato, Yves Bertoncini, Stefan Collignon, Anthony Giddens, Ulrike Guerot, and Miguel Maduro, in few days was subscribed by more than 400 intellectuals, academics, think tanks directors and experts, and personalities in all the EU, and beyond. It was published by some of the main European Newspapers including Le Monde, El Pais, Corriere della Sera, and many others. Among the people who have already signed are: Edmond Alphandery, Enrique Barón Crespo, Vitor Bento, Emma Bonino, Massimo Cacciari, Alessandro Cavalli, Anna Diamantopoulou, Luigi Ferrajoli, Marcel Grignard, Emilio Gabaglio, Enrico Letta, Tomasz Koguc, Monserrat Guibernau, Julius Horvat, Daniel Innerarity, Paul Jaeger, Jean-Victor Louis, Jo Leinen, Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, Claus Offe, Gianfranco Pasquino, Dusan Sidjanski, Javier Solana, Natalie Tocci, Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, Loukas Tsoukalis, Nadia Urbinati, Vladimiro Zagrebelsky.

 

The full list is published here, and it is open to the adhesion of all citizens who wish to support it. The Appeal is available in several language versions here.

- Sign the APPEAL -

- Join the MARCH FOR EUROPE -

 

@RobertoCastaldi

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British Prime Minister Theresa May held yesterday a speech to clarify the Brexit negotiating objectives: out of the European Union, out of the Single Market and probably out of the customs union. She seems to have forgotten the 48% of the British population that have voted to remain in the EU and the Scottish government request to find a way to remain in the Single Market. Nonetheless, May wants a free trade area that would allow the City to remain the heart of the financial world. The Scottish PM replied that it will all lead to a new referendum on Scottish independence from UK. May has kindly agreed on the parliament taking a decision about the issue at the end of the negotiations. It looks like a move to strengthen her negotiating position, since the UK parliament at the end of the 2 years negotiating period set by the “Lisbon treaty” will have to face a choice between leaving the EU with or without the agreement negotiated by the government. It will have to ratify the agreement, despite its being most probably different from British desires.

 

The same day the “High-level group on own resources”, chaired by Mario Monti and formed by three representatives of the European Parliament, three of the Council and three of the Commission has presented its report on the EU budget reform. The report asks to strengthen the system of own resources by making a series of proposals regarding the financial transactions tax, the carbon tax, VAT, taxes on enterprises income and other related to European policies and the single market. Not only that: the group also opens the way to the creation of an additional Eurozone budget through enhanced cooperation. Those all are proposals based on common sense that aim to rationalize the system of the European revenue. The report moves in the framework of the existing treaties, and proposes immediately applicable improvements to the EU budget architecture. Such a pragmatism, though, leads to the lack of two key proposals: the increase of the EU budget, as of today only 0.9% of GDP, and the overcoming of the balanced budget requirement for the EU, in other words the ability to have debts at a European level, without the need of surreptitiously resorting to the European Investments Bank owned by member states for this purpose.

 

The same day the European Parliament elected to its Presidency Antonio Tajani, European People’s Party, thanks to the agreement with the Liberals, defeating the Socialist and Democratic candidate, Gianni Pittella. Italian commentators focus on the consequences on national politics - the strengthening of the pro-European approach of Forza Italia and the increased distance with the position of Italian nationalist Salvini – and showcase national pride after achieving for the first time the presidency of the European Parliament.

 

I’d rather suggest to focus on another aspect: in order to achieve the top positions at European level it takes a long and constant commitment, to gain credibility and partnerships. Tajani and Pittella are among the few Italian long-time MEPs. Normally, the Italian continuous replacement of MEPs weakens them and precludes the chance of obtaining significant roles in the Parliament.

 

In any case, Italian pro-European personalities now hold the posts of President of the European Central Bank, President of the European Parliament and of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission. If Germany held those positions Italian medias would talk about the “German domination” over Europe: we can notice here the double standard that comes from methodological nationalism...

 

To sum up: concomitances are revealing.

Despite Brexit arouses great interest in the media all over the world, it is mainly a British issue. The EU loses a recalcitrant Member State, that was not in the single currency monetary system already, out of the Schengen treaty and partially out of the “Charter of Fundamental Rights”. The UK is not the main commercial partner for any of the European state apart from Ireland, while the EU is on the contrary, and by far, the first commercial partner for the UK. British have always liked the idea that “the continent is isolated”, but it is their fantasy. The EU and its member states cannot waste time to run after the future of the UK, but have to worry about reforming the nowadays incomplete and not perfect EU, which is not ready to properly face challenges that comes from growth, employment, geopolitical crisis on its borders and the resulting flows of migrants. The budget is the basic tool to achieve political and European public infrastructural results. In recent decades EU’s competences have increased while its budget has reduced (it reached once 1.27% of the GDP but now it is 0.9, roughly a third less). The proposals from the Monti group are all welcome, as the first step in the right direction. The European Parliament has a central legislative role – much greater than the Italian one, where all the major measures are approved by way of maxi-amendments and votes of confidence – and its democratic life develops in parallel with the citizens and media interest for its activities. The EU looks forward, while the UK is deep thinking about its future.

 

@RobertoCastaldi

in collaboration with Luca Martinelli

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Trump’s election to the US presidency prompted debate about its impact on Europe future. Many have focused on the similarities of public anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic, on the recurrence of some key themes during electoral campaigns, such as economy and immigration. Only a few realize the essential difference between United States and Europe, between EU and US citizens. The former have a federal government and may change the political class and US policies with their vote. The latter can't. The policies are defined at European level, but the political struggle remains within national borders. Citizens can change their own national government, but being one country out of 28, this will not affect European policies. In addition, the European states have more constraints on their policies and budgets than American States, mainly because of the absence of a federal government, its policies and its solidarity. This combination fuels political opposition and the crisis of national democracy in Europe.

 

The EU is an incomplete "Res Publica" where decisions are taken by different players and with different procedures depending on the subject. Supranational institutions - Parliament and Commission - play a crucial role over the Single Market, state illegal aids, trade, agriculture, environment. On the above mentioned issues the Council, where national governments sit, deliberates by qualified majority and no Member state has a veto. It is the communitarian Europe, that works, pursues state aid condemning tax evasion by multinationals, as in the case of Apple and many more.

 

On the opposite, national governments have to decide unanimously as far as foreign policy, security, defense, the European budget revenue, coordination of economic and fiscal policies are concerned. This is what can be called intergovernmental Europe, a Europe governed by the power struggle between Member States where German hegemony has emerged.This is the Europe of austerity, run by governments, defending supposed national interests and pseudo-sovereignty. In a historical time of globalization dominated by continental States - the US, China, Russia, with India and Brazil on the rise - national sovereignties are simply an illusion.

 

The EU economy is equivalent to the American and Chinese ones. The EU is the world's biggest trading power. It has an excellent education system. EU Member states military expenses together makes the 2nd World military spending, but with very little military capacity caused by duplications over 28 different countries! All the ingredients for another cycle of development and for the management of geopolitical crises around Europe would be there, but cannot be properly exploited to achieve those goals. The EU has a single market, a single currency, but not a European economic and fiscal policy. It has a ridiculous budget of 0.9% of GDP. So the burden of fighting the crisis lies within the only federal institution: the European Central Bank.

 

To exploit its potential, Europe needs a government. We already elect a European Parliament: but it must be able to decide over the budget, to achieve investment policies and solidarity that it proposed, but currently does not have the powers to decide upon.The European parties should support their candidates to the Presidency of the Commission - which is responsible to the Parliament - and complete its evolution into a true federal government. That means approving a budget based on a fiscal capacity and loans to finance investments that would be impossible nationwide: since the EU has no outstanding debt, EU bonds would have ridiculously low interest rates.It means a foreign, defense and migration policy, including representation in international organizations, military and European intelligence, and border control.

 

The old order of the European nation-states is collapsing in front of globalization. We may not like it, but there is nothing we can do about it. The construction of a European federal government, which could save us, however, has not been accomplished yet. We are in the middle of a raging torrent ford. Populist nationalisms suggest us to stick to our old national side, that can lead us only to an obvious decline. Landing on the shores of European democracy is the condition to start again and try to govern globalization, to change politics and policies through the citizens vote, giving a perspective for the future and a meaning to the concept of democratic citizenship.

 

@RobertoCastaldi

in collaboration with Luca Martinelli

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