The term “political union” is often used by both supporters and opponents to indicate the ultimate goal of the process of European integration and the future of the European Union. However, what “political union” really means with respect to the competences and institutions is often left vague or completely undetermined. In a period of crucial decisions for the Eurozone and the European Union as a whole, and at a time when many citizens have concerns on what an ever closer European integration really brings to them, it is crucial to clarify what “political union” should really mean for Europe and how to achieve it. Federalists believe that “political union” should be a federal system of government with certain competences and certain institutions and that today the Eurozone is the framework where such a process can start.

With respect to the competences and policies of such a federal political union, federalists believe that:

(1) the current monetary union of the Eurozone should be completed with a fiscal and economic union. This should include the power for the European level to raise its own revenues via taxation or the issuance of debt, to assist member states in difficulty, fund economic projects of pan-European interest and in general promote macro-economic stabilization and growth.

(2) the single market should be fully completed by removing all remaining barriers to the single market in services, developing fully integrated networks in the fields of transport, energy and digital economy, and developing European tax regimes for trans-national companies and workers;

(3) a plan should be developed, similar to the plan that led to the European monetary union in the 90’s, to progressively build a really European foreign, security policy and defense policy as an exclusive European competence, ultimately placing also part or all of national military capabilities under European command;

(4) the European level should have enhanced competencies and adequate resources in the field of home affairs, and in particular asylum and immigration policy, internal security and fight against organized crime.

While many existing federal systems are characterized by a strict separation of competences between the federal level and the member states (each level with its own “exclusive competences” and a few “shared competences”), the complexities of European integration are likely to require a more flexible approach with more areas where the member states and the European level would have “shared competences”. This may have to be the case even in fields which traditionally have been an exclusive competence of member states or their regions, such as education (where the European level can play a role, for instance with projects on students’ and researchers’ mobility) and social security (where the European level can play a role with projects on workers’ mobility and transnational social security schemes for international workers). On the other hand, the opposite may have to be the case in fields which traditionally have been an exclusive competence of the federal level, such as foreign and security policy, where European member states will presumably keep a residual role for a long transitional period.

With respect to the institutions, federalist believe that in a federal political union:

1) the European Commission should become a fully-fledged European Government, with the exclusivity of the executive power. Eventually, its President and the Commissioners should reflect a political majority in the European Parliament.
2) the European Parliament should have equal legislative powers with the Council of Minister. Its pan-European legitimacy should be strengthened by electing a sizeable number of MEP’s on pan-European lists
3) the European Council, where the heads of state and government sit, should relinquish all its residual executive powers to the European Commission and revert to a role of setting the long-term political agenda and ensuring general policy supervision. It should take all its decisions by majority or qualified majority in critical areas.
4) a “Constitution” should replace the current international treaties and provide that it could be amended by agreement of a majority in the European Parliament, the European Council and the member states.

Federalists acknowledge that such changes are very far-reaching and that not all member states of the European Union will be willing to move in the direction of such a federal political union for the foreseeable future. However, the Eurozone is already evolving from a simple monetary union into a more integrated area with a banking union, debt stabilization mechanisms, close coordination of national budgets, and prospectively a fiscal and economic union. Federalists believe that in the near future addressing such issues will inevitable confront member state with the choice of moving to a political union, initially mainly in the fiscal and economic field, but prospectively also in the foreign, security and defense fields, depending also on the evolution of the international situation.

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