"Rome is no longer Rome"
“Rome is no longer in Rome: 60 years of Europe, and after?” The title of the debate organized by the Jacques Delors Institute, in partnership with other European “think tanks”, on the 23rd of March in the National Assemblyof France, is itself indicative of the current situation regarding the project of European integration: it is currently at a crossroads, in view of critical times ahead.
The results of this sixty-year period are rather a matter of concern. The economic crisis has highlighted all the inherent weaknesses of the Eurozone while the nationalist far right is on the rise. The widespread identity crisis that followed the economic crisis has now crystallized into a crisis of Democracy. In other words, we have not achieved at all the objectives set in the early 1950s by the founding fathers of the European project: consolidation of Democracy and economic development in a Europe devastated by the Second World War.
Today, we need to ascertain the causes of this multifaceted crisis and suggest a proposal that will shape the future of the European project as envisaged by Monnet, Schuman, Spinelli, De Gasperi and the other founding fathers of the EEC.
This ascertainment relates to the triple deficit characterizing the EU today. A democratic legitimacy deficit, a political leadership deficit and a lack of a common plan for the future. It is now common knowledge that the tackling of political, economic and social problems arising from these deficits should not be left only to unelected technocrats who have no democratic legitimacy.
The alienation of citizens from European decision-making bodies, the downgrading of the role of representative institutions, the implementation of stringent budgetary constraints in an “ordoliberal” framework, which was how Jürgen Habermascharacterized the European Commission's approach in a recent interview, have led to multiple deadlocks. Sluggish growth, high unemployment, particularly among young people in southern European countries, and increased introversion (due to the migration/refugee flows and the failure of the Dublin Regulation), are evidence of these impasses. Unfortunately, this dead end situation is being successfully manipulated by far right parties – the rhetoric of Marine Le Pen in France (she recently referred to a “European Soviet Union”) or Wilders in the Netherlands is indicative of this manipulation. Citizens reject the current model of European integration. The decision of the British people who voted for Brexit is indicative...
Technocratic solutions and approaches such as the one taken in a recent meeting between France, Italy, Germany and Spain in Versailles, which revive an old idea, the idea of a “multi-speed Europe”, are doomed to fail. Not because of a lack of good intentions, but because of a structural inability to meet the real needs of European societies.Namely, social stability and cohesion, growth that creates jobs, ensuring a decent future for young people. These are the objectives that should be the focus of a new Plan / Project for Europe, with emphasis on the needs of citizens and the future of societies. A forward plan that should introduce, with respect to European values and ensuring social justice, a new, democratically legitimized relationship between national and supranational structures for the benefit of citizens, not for the benefit of individual economic interests. “I don’t wish to suggest that there is something inherently superior about national institutions over others. But we should recognize the reality of nations and states, and note the risk that, when neglected, they become an electoral resource of virulent nationalists”, the historian Tony Judt observed in 1996, before the impact of the collapse of Lehman Brotherscrossed the Atlantic and highlighted the structural weaknesses of the Euro.
2017 may not be 1957, as the international, political and economic conditions have changed drastically, but the challenge still remains the same: a European project that takes into account the needs of citizens for growth, work, security, justice, solidarity, a project that will listen to their voice. A project produced by the citizens, working in partnership with the citizens for their interests. “We are not forming coalitions of states, we are uniting people” wrote Jean Monnet. Sixty years after its launch, the European project will either find the driving force that made it unique or will give way to national selfishness and isolationism.