Although over the last years the Union has made progress in the process of increasing its competences and strengthening its institutional architecture, significant open issues remain in fundamental areas. Most importantly, the Union lacks autonomy from Member States – in essence a European sovereignty – and sufficient democratic legitimation and ability to act, even in the areas where integration to date is more advanced.
The Federalists propose to carry out a deep overhaul of the European institutions and decision-making processes to meet fundamental benchmarks of democratic governance systems: 1) own ability to take sovereign decision, 2) increased parliamentary legitimacy of decisions and better implementation; 3) streamlined decision-making processes; 4) reinforced accountability of the executive; and 5) clearer separation of the executive and the legislative powers. The most important measures to achieve these goals would be:
1. Switch to the Ordinary Legislative Procedure in all policy areas and in particular in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs, Citizens’ Rights, taxation, energy and environment and EU finances. If the Union is to get closer to its citizens, their voices, represented by the European Parliament, need to be taken into account in all decisions made. In addition, while unanimity in the Council in general leads to common minimum denominator decisions, Qualified Majority Voting allows more qualitative and positive-sum decisions to be made.
2. Democratise the Council through the establishment of a single legislative configuration and a permanent representative for each Member State. In order to become a democratic and political institution, the Council needs to adopt a more transparent functioning, where responsibility for decisions made can be clearly assigned to political representatives.
3. Split legislative and executive powers. The executive competencies of the European Council and of the Council, including the Eurogroup, should be transferred to the Commission so that it can act as the sole executive of the Union. In parallel, Member States’ influence in the executive tasks now handled through various committee procedures should cease.
4. Transform the Commission into a true Government with a reduced composition, a greater role for the President-elect in the selection of the College, a simplified administrative structure, and a greater role in key EU policy areas. A reduction in size and a more political composition, reflecting the majority in the European Parliament, is essential for the Commission to break the link with national governments and embody the European interest.
5. Creation of pan-European/transnational lists for European Parliament elections, offering European citizens the opportunity to cast a second vote for the same set of candidates and contributing to Europeanisation of the political debate. Transnational lists could be combined with the Spitzenkandidaten system started in the 2014 elections.
6. The upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe should e should draw input, in the initial phase of its work, from the demands for a more effective and democratic European Union raised by European citizens in the Eurobarometer surveys, the Citizens’ Dialogues and the Citizens’ Consultations. It should lead to drafting the proposals for a Constitutional Treaty which would comprehensively include all the reforms which emerge as necessary in the course of the work of the Conference. This new Treaty would amend the legal framework of the EU, including self-determining the arrangements for its ratification and entry into force so as to overcome the obstacle of unanimity; in any case, these arrangements have to be fully compatible with the goal of ensuring the unity, effectiveness and democratic legitimacy of the European Union.