Reforming Europe sixty years after its birth
“We have experienced open borders and easy travelling, a single currency and common citizenship, education exchanges and new technologies, all of which allowed us to meet other Europeans and concretely enhanced our conviction of belonging together”. That is the gift that our generation has received for free by the founding fathers of the European Union, starting from Schumann and its 1950 declaration and that is why, in front of “these turbulent times”, “we, the young generation, see it as our duty to not only uphold Europe’s legacy, but to strive for its urgent renewal”.
These are only some of the statements that open the Rome Manifesto, a document elaborated and signed on the 25th of March 2017 by a group of eighteen young intellectuals in occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. As one of its signatories, Matteo Scotto, currently Junior Fellow at Villa Vigoni, underlines during the event held in collaboration with European Generation, the main aim is “to do something new and without compromises” through an initiative able to relaunch the project of European integration.
The one-year work necessary for presenting the final version of the document has been organized in three committees: the first one dealing with the issue of European identity, whether it is unitary or plural and on which values it must be based; the second one concerning the narrative that lies behind the European project and finally the one working on the institutional proposal, i.e. the transformation of the EU in a federal system. Therefore, the first two sections of the paper briefly go through a recalling of the historical and cultural heritage of Europe, stating that “our European identity is built on reconciliation after terrible wars and cruelties”, and the necessity of reaffirming Europe’s reason d’être, since it is “more than ever needed to safeguard our security and prosperity”. The third part is then concerned with the building of a new constitutional architecture for a European Federal Union based on the principle of separation of powers.
First of all, it should be underlined that the context in which the institutional reform should be adopted is the one of a change in the intergovernmental structure, affirmed after the Maastricht Treaty for both the previous and new EU competences, in favor of a more democratic and legitimate decision process that puts the citizens at the heart of the project again. Then, a clear separation of power both in a vertical and horizontal direction is supposed to be reached along with a common currency and a fiscal policy “designed to ensure the proper functioning of the economic and monetary union”.
On one hand, for what concerns the vertical separation of power, a net division of competencies and sovereignty between the Federal Union and the member states should be developed according to a principle of subsidiarity and avoiding any excessively intrusive intervention by the Union as a “super-state”. On the other, horizontal separation of powers requires a clear distinction among the functions of the various EU institutions, according to the legislative, executive and judiciary power. In this sense, the signatories of the Manifesto propose the delegations of the legislative power to a reformed European Parliament with a completely different structure which would grant a greater power of decision. Indeed, it would be composed of an Upper Chamber – like a Senate – with the representatives of the governments of member States (in substitution of the actual Council of the European Union) and of a lower chamber directly elected by the citizens through a uniform electoral procedure. The executive power should instead be delegated to the European President, elected through a democratic process and invested with representatives and administrative functions and the judiciary one to the European Court of Justice.
For what concerns the implementation of these procedures, the Rome Manifesto clearly stands for the drawing up of a new constitution of the Federal Union. A constitution that should be adopted with the consensus of the majority of the member states – decision-making process that, contrarily to unanimity, would be able to give birth to, a maybe smaller, but certainly more compact Europe. The issue of feasibility of this proposal is by the way is very controversial, since, even if there is a widespread political will to increase the rapidity and effectiveness of the European decision-making system with the use of a majoritarian procedure, especially in some divisive fields like fiscal policies – in this sense stands as emblematic President Juncker’s speech on the State of the European Union of last September - one should reflect on whether it would be possible or not to amend a unanimity rule with a simple majority process and bear in mind the implications that a similar constitutional shift would have on the institutional European setting.
In conclusion, Giorgio Sacerdoti, member of WTO and Professor of European Law, comments on this new project stressing even further the fact that nowadays Europe is less and less united, but adding that after recent very divisive events, such as Brexit, the political input has come back. The recent tendency in Eastern European countries to display very nationalist attitudes and to take advantage of the economic benefits coming from being part of the Union, although abstaining from politically engaging in it, together with the rising issues of devolution and separatism, e.g. Scotland and Catalonia, which the EU has many difficulties in dealing with because of the strong role of national governments are only some examples the Professor makes in order to show how “there could be no future for the EU if you see the future country by country”.
And these are the words that the audience keeps in their mind while leaving the meeting with a copy of the Manifesto in their hands.