The uniting of Europe is a success story. The signing of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957 in the Italian capital was and still is a cornerstone in the European integration history. For 60 years the European Communities and then the European Union have been guaranteeing that European peoples live in peace and under the rule of law after centuries of wars. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing the European Movement and the Union of European Federalists, together with thousands of citizens, demonstrated their support in powerful actions in Rome.
And there are other positive signs. The UEF welcomes the electoral success of the pro-European forces in Austria, the Netherlands and France. The populists and the Euro-sceptics have not prevailed. On the contrary, the election of Emmanuel Macron as President of France has shown that important elections can be won with a clear commitment to Europe.
On his first visit abroad, which led him to Chancellor Merkel in Berlin, the French President announced a new European initiative in close consultation with Berlin. The UEF supports these plans and calls on the EU-governments to accept this offer and start a new reform initiative. Europe needs urgent new impulses. The successful “March for Europe” in Rome and many demonstrations of "Pulse of Europe” in numerous European cities in the past months have shown that the citizens appreciate the advantages of Europe and that they want to continue the European path of integration
Uniting Europe was and still is the basic condition for peace, prosperity and progress of our continent. But the EU remains an inefficient and incomplete construction at risk of even collapsing if not completed without delay. It is still struggling against multiple difficulties that are threatening its existence and the political project of peace and integration that it embodies. The European Union has not recovered yet from the prolonged economic and financial crisis, nor have its Member States succeeded in successfully dealing with the refugees’ emergency, and the problems of both domestic and external security. After the close result of the Brexit-referendum in the United Kingdom for the first time in history a Member State intends to leave the Union. Anti-European, populist and xenophobe parties have been gaining ground in nearly all Member States, until the positive outcomes of the Dutch and French elections in the spring 2017, in coincidence with the pro-European citizen’s mobilisations and the Rome demonstration.
The immediate reform Europe needs
We therefore call on the EU institutions and the Heads of State and Government to approve a concrete and ambitious roadmap in order to relaunch and complete Europe’s economic and political unity. The existing Treaties must be used in full to promote immediate progress in important political fields:
- As the European Union has a single currency, the Euro, and as the economic and financial crisis of the recent years has damaged European economy, so affecting citizens’ trust, the Eurozone should be strengthened with a European economic, fiscal and social policy funded with a budget based on own resources, allowing to modernise and relaunch the economy, finance productive investments, foster competitiveness, promote sustainable development and employment, ensure social cohesion and guarantee the future of the European social model.
- As the European Union has a common external border and ensures the free circulation of persons within its single market, immigration and asylum policies should be managed at the European level, including European border and coast-guard forces taking responsibility for that common external border.
- The introduction of the Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European elections should be strengthened by the creation of transnational lists, each voter casting a second ballot for one of these lists. A proportional system would be appropriate.
- As wars and instability afflict the regions around Europe, European defence forces should guarantee Europe´s common security, help pacify our neighbourhood and contribute to the management of international crises and conflicts. To proceed towards this goal, willing Member States should start immediately a permanent structured cooperation within the European Union framework in line with the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon.
- As threats of international terrorism and international crime increase, they should be prevented through European cooperation and strong European support, including mandatory exchange of information among national police corps and the establishment of an EU Prosecutor’s office with a broad mandate.
- As millions of people flee from war and economic despair and try to land in Europe, the European Union should develop and apply a common, modern and effective migration and asylum policy on the bases of solidarity and fairness.
- As populism troubles European societies, the European Union should re-affirm and defend its common values and take measures to protect and effectively defend democracy, tolerance, justice, solidarity and the rule of law, within its territory and on the international stage.
A new phase of integration beyond the existing Treaties
Moreover it is necessary to launch, without any delay, a new phase of integration going beyond the existing Treaties in order to preserve and complete the Union’s achievements, prevent any institutional instability that the prospect of the United Kingdom exiting the Union may create, and achieve full political unity on the basis of a federal constitution.
This new phase is needed to consolidate the economic and monetary union into a political union – so enabling the building of a truly European sovereignty, the creation of a federal system of effective and democratically legitimised levels of government while complying with the principle of subsidiarity. If not all Member States are prepared to support this new move and willing to proceed to closer economic and political integration, those Member States who indeed are should start without any delay and become the political core of a multi-tier European Union.
If the European Union is to thrive for the many years to come, it must pursue the paths of social cohesion, prosperity and political unity and solidarity, which can only be pursued by a democratic European government. As national democracies can’t govern political and economic forces beyond national borders, only a strong European government accountable to citizens and a fully developed European democracy would allow Europeans to control their own destiny. A federal Europe with strong democratic and efficient institutions is the only way to meet this challenge. Europe will not be united if it is not democratic. And it will not be fully democratic if it is not a federation.
This is why we call for a concrete reform agenda including a structured dialogue of the Institutions with the pro-European civil society, a dialogue that should start immediately and come up with both a bold agenda and a clear mandate for Treaty changes leading to a European Constitution.
The necessary debate on the future of Europe
The debate on the future of Europe has begun. The European Parliament voted on several own-initiative reports indicating the right direction: Mercedes Bresso and Elmar Brok have proposed the possible progress under the existing Treaties and Guy Verhofstadt shows the need for further reform. The report by Pervenche Berès and Reimer Böge deals with the necessary further developments in the euro area. These three reports provide important foundations for the discussion on the future of the EU.
Until now the reactions of the other political leaders to the dramatic situation within the European Union are unsatisfactory. The Rome declaration of the Heads of State and Government is vague and does not include promising proposals on how to proceed. The White Paper of the Commission on the future of Europe presents a variety of scenarios instead of giving a clear vision of the necessary reforms. But the Commission’s White Paper structures the debate which must be continued in the coming months.
The interest of those who stand for European progress is focused on the scenario “Progress in the circle of the willing”. The drawbacks of this model in the form of a “Europe à la carte” are obvious. There would be no balance of interests between all parties, and the readiness for solidarity would scarcely exist. Instead of such a dangerous venture, reform steps should be taken in a larger and more or less fixed group of integration-oriented Member States always open for the rest. This group can be formed by the Eurozone countries which are jointly involved in areas with urgent and concrete reform needs, such as stronger economic governance, joint taxes and an increased EU budget, with social policy objectives. The Monetary Union must urgently be transformed into a fully-fledged Economic Union in order to prevent a break-up of the Eurozone.
Now it is the time to stand up for Europe
The time has come for those who really care about Europe and the Europeans to make themselves heard, and to show that they still make up the majority in this continent. There is a need for a more political Europe, in terms of democratic institutions and the realisation of true federal continental policies. Faced with a struggling economy and fading influence in a globalised world dominated by continental powers, we Europeans cannot close ourselves within national borders hoping to fence problems off. European states will have no future if they remain divided and compete with each other instead of standing united. Nationalism will weaken us all. We can stand up to European and global challenges only together, by completing Europe’s political unity.
For those who believe in a strong, united and democratic Europe, it is time to stand up. Against nationalism and populism. For a Europe of unity against divisions and new walls. For a united Europe that delivers on its promises of peace, solidarity, freedom, equality, security, prosperity and shared responsibility. For a Europe that protects European interests and values in the world. For a Europe of democracy that empowers European citizens. For a Europe of hope, against a Europe of fear. For a plan to relaunch and complete European political unity.
Together we can stand for a Europe turned towards the future, able to answer to the big challenges of our times, and to preserve its values, the achievements of the European social model, and its way of life. The 70th anniversary of the Hague Congress in May 2018 provides the momentum to bring forward this agenda for a full Federal Union in Europe.