Monday, 9 September 2013

Failed former European leaders try to hide their failures by advocating a federal European state

A group of (mostly) retired European politicians - and a few academics - have signed an article in which they pretend that a federal European state is the answer to all present European problems:

When the heads of the EU’s three major institutions -- the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament -- collected the Nobel Peace Prize together in Oslo last December, they spotlighted the vague mandate and lack of institutional clarity that are at the core of the organization’s current problems. Unless these institutions can garner legitimacy among European citizens and transform the EU into a real federal union, with common fiscal and economic policies to complement its single currency, Europe will be worried by its future as much as its past and continue to find its social model battered by the gales of an ever more competitive global economy.

The first step forward has to be developing an economic growth strategy, to escape the union’s current debt trap and to create breathing space for the tough reforms that can make Europe as a whole competitive again. As former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said, “Structural reforms can only work in conjunction with a growth trajectory.” Then, to sustain reform, the union needs a clear path to legitimacy for a strong but limited European government, one that resembles today’s Swiss federation. This will entail creating an executive body that is directly accountable to Europe’s citizens (emerging from the current commission), strengthening the parliament as a lower legislative house, and turning the council (a committee of the leaders of the member states) into an upper legislative house. Along the way, France will have to yield more sovereignty than its historic comfort zone has so far allowed, and Germany will have to realize that its own self-interest calls for it to bear the burden of resolving the current account imbalances within the Eurozone.--
Any move toward such a political union would obviously raise myriad thorny issues. The new institutions and their rules would ideally be established from the bottom up through a constituent assembly, rather than by a treaty change -- but how could a truly ground-up process ever get traction? The large parties that would win the most seats in the European Parliament would need to hash out a compromise or a common agenda robust enough to make governing possible -- but what if they did not? And what is most fundamental, could a political union ever really cohere if not preceded by continent-wide nation building aimed at forging a forward-looking common identity? What is crucial now, however, is recognition that the current system is not working and that closer, rather than looser, integration is the more sensible and attractive option. 

In 1789, Alexander Hamilton, then the U.S. secretary of the treasury, proposed a strong federal system of government that would assume the states’ debts from the American Revolution while guaranteeing a steady future revenue stream, further integrating fiscal policy while preserving a large swath of local sovereignty on nonfederal issues. This was the first step in making the United States a continental and, ultimately, global power. So, too, in Europe, debt resolution can be the midwife of a political union that could make Europe a powerful pillar in the geopolitical order of the twenty-first century. The only way to answer Europe’s current challenge in the face of the many uncertainties is for Europe’s leaders, and its public, to at last commit to this transformation instead of remaining paralyzed with hesitancy.
Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Juan Luis Cebrián, Jacques Delors, Mohamed El-Erian, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Felipe González, Otmar Issing, Jakob Kellenberger, Alain Minc, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Romano Prodi, Nouriel Roubini, Gerhard Schroeder, Michael Spence, Joseph Stiglitz, Peter Sutherland, Matti Vanhanen, Guy Verhofstadt, Franz Vranitzky, and Axel Weber.
Blair, Schröder, Delores, Prodi and all the others know that a federal European state is a totally unrealistic scenario - an overwhelming majority of Europeans reject it. The real purpose of the article is, of course, to make ordinary Europeans forget that these are the people who through their failed policies to a considerable degree are to blame for the continuing European crisis.

I find it surprising that professor Niall Ferguson has signed the article. It was not long ago, when he, very aptly, wrote this about the economic integration of Europe:
Ultimately, it was a conspiracy by the European elite against their electorates. 

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