December 1997

 

 

 

 

Economic and monetary union (due, if all goes according to plan, to come into force on 1st January, 1999) is currently the central issue in European debate. Indeed, EMU represents a crucial step forward in the process of European unification. The governments of the countries wishing to enter the single currency, and the political forces which support them, or which share their interest in EMU, are doing all they can to create the conditions necessary to enable their countries to be part of the sin-gle currency from day one. However, monetary union should not be seen as the fi-nal stage in the process of European unification; on the contrary, there is already a need to take a long, hard look at what will happen in the wake of its introduction.

It is widely recognised that, of the many problems that will emerge, two in par-ticular may be considered the main ones. The first is the need to create the condi-tions for a European economic policy that will serve to complete monetary union. The indisputable need for the European Central Bank to be independent cannot dis-guise the fact that monetary union, on a scale such as this, cannot survive for long, and overcome the imbalances which will emerge within it unless there exists a Eu-ropean budgetary policy and an authority with the power to implement such a pol-icy. There is, moreover, no point trying to ignore the fact that failure of monetary union would mean the end of the process of European unification and mark a return to nationalism and the crisis of democracy.

The second major problem to emerge will concern the enlargement of the Union. It is a matter which cannot be put off indefinitely without damaging the legitimate hopes and aspirations of those peoples of Europe who have broken free of Soviet do-minion and obstructing their march towards democracy and a market economy. Should such a situation arise, the credibility’ of the governments of today’s member states would be damaged beyond repair. On the other hand, should enlargement take place without there first being the implementation of a reform of the institu-tions of the Union (a reform designed to increase dramatically both its capacity to act and its democratic legitimacy) then it will have the effect of watering down the Union, of turning it into a large free trade area and thus of creating the conditions that will lead to its dissolution.

Although there is considerable awareness of these problems, the political world seems unable to act upon this awareness. The answers and solutions so far given, or put forward, by the governments of the member countries are inadequate to say the least. The pact for stability (according to which, in spite of EMU taking away from governments the principal means of intervention on monetary policy,the individual national governments would be solely responsible for respecting the budget disci-pline imposed on them) is inadequate; so too is the idea of setting up a “Council of the Euro”, prevented by its very structure from going beyond traditional coordina-tion of national policies, which is founded once again on the good will of the gov-ernments which would become members of it.

On the other hand, the European Council in Amsterdam demonstrated the degree to which the intergovernmental method is limited in its capacity to reform the insti-tutions of the Union. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that even had the most courageous of the proposals put forward during the course of the work of the inter-governmental conference which preceded the Council been approved, the result would not in any case have been adequate to deal with the challenges facing the Union.

In truth, with the end of the Cold War and the imminent arrival of monetary union, the European Union is on the brink of a historic change. What is needed in order to ensure that this change is successfully carried out is not, as has been sug-gested, changes in the majorities required for the Council of Ministers to pass those decisions which are taken under the majority rule, or changes in the way the Com-mission is composed and elected. What is needed is something more radical than minor institutional amendments such as these. The European Union needs a strong power founded, in the framework of a federal constitutional order inspired by the principle of subsidiarity, on democratic consensus.

Left to themselves, the national governments will not have the strength to make the radical decisions which this historical moment demands. Such strength can orig-inate only from popular consensus. This is why we need to see an end to European politics as the exclusive domain of a small circle of experts, and why the democrat-ic political forces need, especially in view of the European elections due to take place in 1999, to open a major constitutional debate on the future of Europe - a debate which will involve fully the European citizens. Likewise, the European Parliament and the national parliaments need to be mindful of the constituent role which, in view of their European democratic legitimacy, it is their duty to fulfill.

This is the objective towards which federalists are working and, to achieve their aim, they have launched a permanent European campaign throughout the conti-nent. This letter is an attempt, by them, to give the citizens of Europe (so far left out of the process of European construction) a voice, and to make that voice heard by Europe’s political class.

Publius

 

 


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