The Conference on the Future of Europe is imminent. While the three EU institutions are still negotiating its mandate, composition and way of working, its launch on the 9th of May seems confirmed. The Conference represents an historical opportunity towards a sovereign, democratic and federal Europe.
It will offer the chance to place the question of a re-foundation of the European Union at the heart of the European debate. It will also be a great opportunity for our movement to be influential as our topics and demands will be at the very centre of the real political debate: we can put our federalist goals in the debate as the answer to the very same questions that the Conference will be addressing.
As agreed in our last Federal Committee meeting in Rome, a coordinated campaign by the federalist movement at all levels, from the local to the European one, is essential to influence the debate and the outcome of the Conference and should be the focus of federalist activities in the coming two years. It is an intellectual, political and organisational challenge that we should face head on.
In the past months, the Executive Bureau and myself have devoted significant time to influence the mandate of the Conference and prepare the ground of our future Campaign.
Thanks to our work - and the work of some Members of the European Parliament very close to the federalist organisations - the European Parliament has taken a good position on the level of ambition of the Conference and its composition and way of working, taking up many federalist proposals.
We have started to create a network of European Civil Society Organisations that share our vision on an ambitious Conference and are willing to engage in a concerted advocacy effort.
We have started communication activities online and on social media. Through a number of press releases and articles we have been promoting our vision of a “Constitutional Conference”. Our website hosts a page dedicated to the Conference with useful information and campaign tools.
On the 21st January we have organised a “Conference Simulation” in Brussels and have been the first to engage young people in debates with Members of the European Parliament to voice their expectations on the Conference.
We have leveraged the local events of the Schuman 2.0 project to include panel debates on the Conference, most recently in Lille and Trieste and soon in Tartu, Bilbao, Graz, Hamburg and the project final Citizens Summit in Brussels on the 8th of May.
I know that many national sections have meanwhile started their activities at national and local level with events to raise the awareness of politicians and the public opinion on the challenges and opportunities ahead with the Conference. Our Italian section is also assessing the possibility of a public action in Dubrovnik, if the official launch of the Conference will be there, which we are monitoring closely.
We should now forge together our future campaign, which will be stronger if it will be a concerted campaign at all levels, from the local to the European one.
On Saturday 21 March we will hold an extended Bureau and campaign meeting open to all heads of national sections and FC members interested to engage in the campaign for the Conference on the Future of Europe. The meeting will be the occasion to provide an update on the Conference, share ideas and plans developed by the Bureau for the campaign, share plans and ideas from each national section, and further develop together a campaign framework. I ask all of you to make an effort to participate and ensure the outcome of the meeting is as much as possible the result of a collective effort. You can register here.
Our objective is a common launch of the campaign on the 9th of May, at European and national level, on the same day of the official launch of the Conference.
In the meantime, in preparing your activities for the next months, I ask you to consider how you can contribute to promote our federalist positions on the Conference. In particular:
- as the Member States are still reluctant to support an ambitious Conference with the mandate to change the Treaties or elaborate a new Treaty, it is important that those national sections that have good contacts with their governments, make their voice heard advocating our federalist position for a Constitutional Conference that discusses not only policies but addresses the institutional framework of the Union. Advocacy activities at national level on this objective in the coming weeks could have an important effect.
- in preparing your activities for the European Week around the 9th of May, you could ask your local sections to focus on the Conference as subject of debate and of promotional material that you will prepare for that week.
- activities with politicians and citizens to raise awareness on the Conference are important to create the right sentiment and support for an ambitious Conference.
- even though the rules for appointing the members of the Conference are not yet fully defined, you could start approaching federalist-minded MEPs, MPs and people susceptible to run for appointment to make sure that they understand the importance of this opportunity and of trying to become active members of this assembly.
By doing so we will not only prepare the ground for the Conference, but also prepare our organisations to play a role in the next two years acting at European, national and local level to influence the members of the Conference, the debates in the envisaged Citizens’ Agoras and Youth Agora and the positions of member states, as well as raising public attention.
I look forward to meeting you soon and most of all to working with you in our campaign.
NEW FEDERALIST AVANT-GARDE IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Ahead of the European elections, over 250 candidates to the European Parliament from different countries and political parties committed to support the demands of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) and the Young European Federalists (JEF) for the next European Parliament.
Ca 50 were elected and will form a strong core of federalist supporters in the new European Parliament.
Other MEPs will be asked to join this initiative in the upcoming weeks.
On July 1-2, during the opening session of the new European Parliament, the European Federalists will rally federalist MEPs and citizens from all over Europe in a public agora hosted by the Municipality of Strasbourg and a demonstration in front of the new European Parliament to kick off their activities for a federal Europe.
Key demandsof the European Federalists supported by the MEPs include a stronger Economic and Monetary Union (with a Eurozone own budget), a single European foreign, security and defence policy (with stronger European defence capabilities), a European migration system (including the management of external EU borders through European forces and EU channels for legal migration), make Europe a global leader in combating climate change and promoting the transition to a fully environment-friendly economy, and an increased European budget based on own resources.
Candidates have also pledged to engage the next European Parliament in reforming EU treaties towards a stronger, more democratic, more social, more effective, federal Europe.
Below, the list of the MEPs.
From today, 1st February, Sandro Gozi is a Member of the European Parliament. The former Secretary of State for European Affairs in the governments led by Matteo Renzi and Paolo Gentiloni was elected in France, in the list of the Republique en Marche of President Emmanuel Macron, and after the exit of the representatives of the United Kingdom will fill the ranks of the third political group to the Europarliament, Renew Europe, whose size is reduced to 98 members, along with liberals from many countries but no Italian MP. In this legislature, the President of the European Federalists, 52 years old in March, is the only one elected with a nationality different from that of the country that voted for him. Only the former Greek Minister of Economy, Yanis Varoufakis, in addition to him, was a former member of the government candidate in another country, in his case Germany, but he was not elected. In this interview with AGI on the day of his official entry into the European Parliament, Gozi makes himself available to his colleagues and Italian institutions as "the only interlocutor who speaks their language in the third European political group".
Sandro Gozi, you were elected in France, what will be your relationship with your country of origin and your Italian MEP colleagues?
I think this is an opportunity for Italy. So far Italy has been absent from the third group in Parliament, one of the most active, one of those who have dictated the European agenda since the support for Ursula Von Der Leyen. I am open to full cooperation on the basis of political choices. I believe that there is a possibility especially with some political groups: I will be the first Italian in Renew Europe, and for Italy I think it is an advantage that there is a strongly pro-European Italian who goes to the third largest group in the European Parliament. Today also in the meetings of that group (from tomorrow 97 MEPs, ed.) there will be the translation into Italian; with humility, I believe I can offer an opportunity for dialogue also to companies, associations, consumers, regions, which from today can have an interlocutor who speaks their language in the Renew Europe group.
How will relations with other Italian MEPs be?
I doubt that except on some issues it will be possible to deal with the Italian elected representatives of the extreme right, of the League, of the Marine Le Pen group because they have positions at the antipodes not only compared to mine but also to those of many other Italians in the plenary. The European Parliament is increasingly linked to political lines rather than national affiliations. However, I am open to cooperating with everyone knowing that there are political choices and values that I want to pursue for Europe for Italy.
How does the MEP Sandro Gozi, who enters Parliament as a result of Brexit, feel?
I feel great emotion and great satisfaction but for my person and my path, certainly not for Brexit! I believe deeply in Europe, I am in love with it: I have worked for 10 years in the European Commission and I have proudly represented our national interests in the EU Council of Ministers, but apart from an internship I have never worked in the European Parliament and I always thought that sooner or later I had to have this experience. For those who did politics at 99% just to do European politics, this was a motivation and the European Parliament at this stage is the best thing that could happen to me. I am excited and very determined to make my contribution to a European renewal that is absolutely urgent. For me it is also the concretization of what was utopia and hope for so many of us: to begin to realize transnational politics, a politics that goes beyond narrow national borders and lays the foundations for the construction of what is lacking in Europe and is fundamental for a real European democracy accomplished: real transnational political movements.
What will be the first thing you will do as an MEP?
The first objective will be to reform European politics, first of all by introducing transnational lists and thus doubling the voting power of European citizens in 2024, then also by strengthening the power of MEPs starting from that of legislative initiative, to be able to propose laws, which is not possible today. I consider myself lucky and proud to be able to embody a project that I learned for the first time from Marco Pannella, an MEP at the time when I was a trainee: the idea of getting politics out of national borders. Among other things, I am a member of the Transnational Radical Party and this fundamental idea is a great challenge for me.
Why did you stand for election in France?
In 2016, I was the first in Europe after Brexit to propose using the 73 British seats to finally introduce transnational lists, i.e. lists common to the whole of Europe, embryos of real European political parties. We did not make it: I fought with the Renzi government, then Gentiloni and then I continued in France, with Macron. We were stopped in parliament by the opposition of a large part of the EPP and the nationalists. So we decided to do it in France: this I would like to explain to the Italians: Macron decided to do in France what the right people in Europe denied us, that is a list with 7 nationalities and Italy was represented by me". Gozi was born in Sogliano al Rubicone, in the middle of Romagna.
What do you think about the electoral result in your region?
The elections went well: it would have been dramatic if Emilia Romagna had lost in the face of Salvini's violent, demagogic and nationalist strategy. In Emilia Romagna, good governance, the wisdom of the Emilia-Romagna people and a strong civic sense, still very deep in this region, won. From the sardines to the high mobilization and participation in the vote, there was a civic reaction against the verbal violence and not only of Salvini that gives me hope. I believe, however, that we must be very cautious: there is an enormous amount of work to be done in Italy. Beating Salvini in Emilia Romagna does not mean winning the national match, quite the opposite. But it's certainly good news for Italians and Europeans, because by then he had become a European symbol of the fight against nationalism, and in particular for me, born in Sogliano, with my family of origin all still there in Sogliano and Cesena. And, since there is no Romagnolo in the European Parliament, I am ready to make the voice of the people of Romagna heard in Europe
You are President of the European Federalists, do you still think that federalism is an objective for the Union today?
I am increasingly convinced of it: the real alternative to nationalism is to regain control at European level of issues that are completely beyond the nation states' control. 'Take back control', say the brexiters: the question is very correct but their answer is wrong and goes against history as well as their real interests. The right answer is to build a federal Europe that can truly take back control over digital, over finance, that can build a truly integrated defence policy and that can push Europe to be an international political player at least on vital issues. Federalism means a sovereign and democratic Europe and remains the only approach that can also make it possible to restore powers to the territories, to civil society, to the regions, at a time when Europe must perhaps do fewer things but more immigration policy, foreign policy, the fight against climate change and artificial intelligence: all issues that justify our federalist proposal, which is a radical alternative to neo-nationalism.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization called the outbreak of the coronavirus originating in China a pandemic, given its spread over more than three continents, affecting no less than 100 countries. This disease is easily transmitted and has a death rate significantly higher than that of influenza. It is therefore urgent to limit the increase in cases, even if the expansive wave of the disease has a longer duration, in order to avoid the collapse of hospitals due to the lack of beds to treat the most serious patients.
The coronavirus also highlights the fact that the European Union has not equipped itself with sufficiently strong instruments to deal with a typically transnational emergency such as the spread of an infectious disease, which by definition knows no borders. We need to quickly set up a Health Union which, as a fundamental part of the much-trumpeted Social Europe, encompasses and goes beyond existing mechanisms, and makes it possible to coordinate the response at European level, thereby directing the necessary resources, whether material (masks, respirators, medicines, etc.) or financial, in a spirit of solidarity, to where they are most needed. At present, for example, the European Solidarity Fund, which deals with natural disasters, does not include public health crises in its scope. This is one more reason to address the essential reform of the Treaties within the framework of the planned Conference on the Future of Europe.
In any case, beyond the health aspects of the problem, the coronavirus pandemic has already generated a considerable economic crisis, which is compared to the Great Recession that exploded in the summer of 2007 in the United States with the sub-prime mortgages. The losses in the stock markets on 12 March 2020 were historic. The Ibex-35 fell by 14 percent, the Milan Stock Exchange by 17 percent, and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange by 12 percent. In the United States, the Dow Jones lost 10 percent, the S&P 500 9.5 percent, and the Nasdaq 9.4 percent.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its preview of Spain's annual report published, concludes that the effect of the coronavirus on tourism, trade, domestic consumption and supply chains will have a very negative impact on Spanish economic growth. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reduced the growth forecast for 2020 for the Eurozone from 1.1 to 0.8 percent. Depending on the duration and intensity of the pandemic, the OECD warns, the coronavirus could reduce global GDP growth to 1.5 percent from the 2.9 percent initially projected for 2020. In any case, the economy is expected to shrink in the first two quarters of this year. Parallels with the 2008 crisis are inevitable, and the IMF chief economist believes that the decline in supply and demand resembles those seen during the more acute phases of the global financial crisis.
Against this background, the European Council met by videoconference on 10 March 2020. The Heads of State and Government agreed to allow for higher national deficits resulting from the public expenditure needed to tackle the crisis, thus relaxing the Stability and Growth Pact as foreseen for these cases. The door was also opened for companies and sectors in need to benefit from state aid. Finally, it was agreed to allocate EUR 25 billion to support health systems, facilitate liquidity for small and medium-sized enterprises and combat the possible effects of the virus on labour markets. The European Commission proposed on 13th March to increase this amount available to the States to 37 billion from the unused Cohesion Funds. But this is in any event funds that have been budgeted for other purposes and not additional funding.
Instead, a European anti-crisis spending plan is needed, as proposed by President Macron and Commissioner for Economic Affairs Gentiloni, mobilising the resources of the European Investment Bank and the European Stability Mechanism. Let us hope that at the Eurogroup meeting, scheduled for 16 March 2020, an expansive fiscal position for the Eurozone will be agreed, and a series of extraordinary and coordinated fiscal measures, as the echo of past mistakes reverberates not only in the lack of ambition and decision on the part of the leaders, but also in the lack of coordination and the adoption of disparate measures in each of the Member States, putting the internal market at risk.
The same North-South gap that already emerged between creditors and debtors with the eurozone crisis seems to be reproducing itself. The North is so far less affected by the virus, and their economies are much less dependent on tourism than those of the South, so they do not seem willing to increase resources and mutualisation of anti-crisis spending.
But it is unthinkable that in this situation of health and economic emergency that is the coronavirus, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the European budget for the period 2021-2027, is limited to 1% of the Community GDP as claimed by the governments of the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Austria.
It should be remembered that the current MFP proposal was drawn up before the election of Von der Leyen as President of the Commission. Therefore, the proposed amount of 1.11 percent of the EU's GDP is not in line with the Von der Leyen Commission's Six Priorities, and in particular with the plan to finance the economy's ecological transition (known as the Green Deal), which requires between 300 billion and one trillion euros per year. The Commission must withdraw the current proposal and present a new draft MFF in line with the threshold approved by the European Parliament of 1.3 per cent of EU GDP.
The European Central Bank (ECB) announced on 12th March new liquidity injections via credit addressed to companies and the purchase of government and corporate bonds up to the end of 2020 to a total of 120 billion additional - this should enable the increase in public deficits not to lead to a new sovereign debt crisis. The ECB's room for manoeuvre is certainly not large after years of negative rates and massive liquidity injections, but it could resort to buying shares, and direct money transfers to Eurozone households to avoid a collapse in demand and mass unemployment.
We must urgently recover the lessons learned during the management of the Great Recession, when the citizens paid dearly for the lack of solidarity at European level and the policy of extreme fiscal adjustment. The scale of the health, financial and economic challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic cannot be underestimated. The full range of options available to us should be used, through a combination of expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, as part of a comprehensive European response covering both the health and economic dimensions.
"To the Nordic countries who are still calling for temporary measures on flexibility, I say that the world they liked will no longer return. I think we should use the resources of the European Stability Mechanism without conditionality. And finally create Eurobonds. And we need the ECB to come up with an extraordinary 12-month anti-spread plan in which it commits itself to buying the bonds of countries with higher interest rates than German bunds. Otherwise we will find ourselves tomorrow that those who have invested more, have put their industry back on its feet; those who have indebted more, find themselves weaker."
Sandro Gozi, an Italian MEP but elected in France in the Macronian lists of 'La Republique en marche', speaks to us on the phone from France, where in the meantime the controversy over the leader of his party and president of the Republic Emmanuel Macron, accused of having acted late and with many mistakes against the coronavirus epidemic, is going crazy. "But all of Europe has acted late," says Gozi.
Let's start with the controversy about Macron. They accuse him of having acted late, of having wanted to maintain the first round of the municipal elections last Sunday, delaying the bans on the gathering, of having given the Parisians time to escape from the capital by announcing in the evening a French-style 'restateincasa' that would only be taken the following day at noon. Hard to defend...
The main reason for the attacks is the decision to hold the first round of the municipal elections. But there was no agreement between the parties on the postponement. Part of the opposition did not agree, the Republicans especially wanted to keep the date, the president of the Senate as well. What would have happened if, despite the negative opinion of the opposition, Macron had decided to postpone the electoral appointment? He'd be accused of the opposite: He doesn't respect democracy, he doesn't even let us vote...
But he acted late.
I think the whole EU was late. For at least a week now, they've had to turn the whole EU into a red zone. And instead they continue to accumulate delays and errors: re-establishing the borders between us risks blowing up the internal market. Instead, we must control external flows, as was decided yesterday.
Here, but Britain is not aligning itself with the decisions taken in Brussels and is leaving its borders open. While the British will be able to continue to come to the EU because, as von der Leyen said, they are still "European citizens", because the negotiations to define the Brexit have not even begun. It means that in theory a Briton can visit the other countries of the world, return to Britain and from there come to the continent, with all the risks that this entails in terms of spreading the pandemic.
Unfortunately, it is already happening: in the north of France, there are already many British people who have arrived these days because they are attracted by the French health system which is better than the British one. I think that if these differences with London continue to exist, it will be necessary to use all the public order and health clauses to close the border with Great Britain. I hope it will not come to that, but it will be necessary if there is no agreement with Johnson.
Europe is acting late. What are you of Renew Europe proposing?
A European research consortium: we must ensure collective security and the common good, namely vaccine research. Research laboratories and pharmaceutical companies must work together as a team to find the vaccine as quickly as possible. Von der Leyen says that we may have found the vaccine by the autumn. That's it, we must do it as soon as possible: speed up.
There are still European countries nostalgic for an old world that will never return. I say to the Nordic people: there is no point in them calling for temporary measures any more. This pandemic brings with it devastating effects like a real war. I understand that there are people who have been negotiating Stability and Growth Pact, 'Six and two pact', for years, and now they are struggling to leave their world made up of these rules. But we have already entered a new world.
We need a massive investment plan, both at national and European level. The Commission and also Parliament should focus on green investment, green deals and health. And then: since we have resources from the European Stability Mechanism, we must use them without conditionality. That is to say, without having to sign a memorandum of draconian cuts. The ESM conditionality is decided by the ESM itself. That is why it would be appropriate to take action without conditions or troikas. I don't understand why populists are shooting at a mechanism that's ready for emergencies. On top of that, Eurobonds must be created.
What can the ECB do? Lagarde has so far messed up with his statements that have caused the spread to widen and the markets to collapse.
In addition to buying government bonds (QE) and bank financing (ltro) and interest rates, the ECB can buy both EIB and ESM bonds. The ECB needs to make an extraordinary intervention. All countries will make massive investment plans. But this must not lead to further imbalance between North and South, i.e. between those who can afford to spend and those who will do so by getting into debt. We therefore need a 12-month ECB plan in which the Central Bank undertakes to buy the securities of countries with higher interest rates than the German bunds. That is to say, an 'anti spread' plan, otherwise tomorrow we will find that those who have invested more, have put their industry back on its feet; those who have indebted more, find themselves weaker.
This is the toughest test for the Union.
We must move towards a federal Europe. The conference on the future of the Union must stipulate that coordination between governments is not working and must move towards a federal Europe. If this is not acknowledged, it is clear that this crisis will be the last act for the EU. We must have a sense of urgency, not only to save lives but also because we have entered a new world and the rules that existed until now are completely outdated. Beautiful cohesion, patriotic and national feeling, but if we do not build a real transnational policy, we will all lose the battle.
Read the original interview (in Italian): https://www.huffingtonpost.it/entry/lagarde-si-svegli-serve-un-piano-straordinario-della-bce_it_5e72097bc5b63c3b6487d0d2?utm_hp_ref=it-homepage
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, yesterday in the plenary session of the European Parliament urged EU leaders in vain to decide on measures to counter the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. “If you, President Von Der Leyen, really want to show that you understand that intervention is urgent, take the bull by the horns: put forward a proposal to establish the Recovery Bonds", confronting governments with their responsibilities, Sandro Gozi, Member of the European Parliament elected in France in the lists of Renaissance, former undersecretary of European Affairs with Matteo Renzi first and then with Paolo Gentiloni, told the Adnkronos. "We leave the technical solutions to the Commission: the objective is to have the extra zero that is missing today" in the resources allocated, "because the Europe of governments is a Europe that has failed and is failing".
The technical ways to minimize the risk that Germany will end up paying Italy's debts would actually exist. "That's why - says Gozi - I call them Recovery bonds, and not Eurobonds. It is not a question of mutuality of public debt in this case, but of using different instruments, such as the EIB, to put bond issues on the market, gathering resources on markets where there is a great deal of liquidity".
It would be, Gozi continues, "resources strictly aimed at recovery, that is, economic and health recovery, in the restart phase after the peak of the emergency has passed".
It is for this reason, Gozi adds, "that we are insisting with the Germans, because it is not a matter of paying the debts of the Italians, but of acting together on the market, with a new leverage, to have fresh resources in addition to those already made available by governments and EU institutions, to finance an economic and health investment plan, unprecedented since the Second World War". The Marshall Plan, which resurrected Europe from the ashes of the Second World War, was called the European Recovery Program.
If you have to add "a zero" to the figures made available today in Europe, for Gozi, "the only way is to talk about Recovery Bonds. It is not a nominal issue, but one of substance. And for this reason, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was right to take up our proposal again. It is not a generalized instrument and it is not a mutualisation of the debt already accumulated by the States".
Gozi explains, "we are working for the European Parliament to take a clear position on Recovery Bonds and to ask the Commission to take an initiative in this direction.
The Commission, reports the MEP, "is studying various proposals, but in the face of the impasse of governments, Parliament and the Commission must take responsibility to quickly make a clear proposal on Recovery Bonds, to put governments in front of their responsibilities.
Debt mutualisation is taboo in Germany and the other Nordic countries, whose governments are under pressure from nationalist forces on the right. "I believe - Gozi observes - that an agreement is also possible with Germany and Holland, if we explain to them that we are not asking them to pay our debts, but we are asking them to face all together the exit from the crisis.
This crisis is affecting Europe as a whole. The problem is that they think it will affect only a few countries: Italy, France and Spain”. Instead, continues the MEP, "unfortunately this is not the case: the virus affects the whole world. That's why we're working with the Germans: I worked a lot with Rainer Wieland, from CDU, through the Union of European Federalists. Wieland two days ago made the very important proposal to introduce Recovery Bonds without debt mutualisation".
"It is a very important signal - he underlines - now we must convince the German Chancellor and the German Minister of Finance, but the statements of an important personality like Wieland, which is also the result of our work, goes in the right direction".
"We have to wait until Easter - he continues - so that even Germany, which yesterday had 6,000 more cases, understands that this is not a moral hazard? It would be morally unacceptable not to equip ourselves with fundamental instruments for recovery. Perhaps - concludes Gozi - we must wait until Easter for Germany to understand it too".
English version of an article originally published in Italian on AdnKronos shorturl.at/tuNS6
*To take office after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.