Last Saturday, the Italian capital provided the setting for events marking the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. These included official institutional commemorations, but also a pro-Europe march organised by the MFE and the Union of European Federalists (UEF). This “March for Europe” was an extraordinary success, and we now need to ensure that Saturday, March 25th 2017 will, for all those who care deeply about European unification, prove to have been the turning point they were waiting for.
All forward-looking citizens, political forces and social forces wanting advancement of our society, together with the European institutions and national governments, are now called upon to show quite clearly that Europe, with renewed determination, is ready to come together to combat the nationalistic, defeatist and obscurantist forces currently seeking to plunge our continent back into a climate of hatred and war and destroy our peaceful civilisation, founded on democracy, freedom and solidarity.
On Saturday, federalists, together with numerous citizens and various forces that, in an impressive and important display of courage and support, decided to join them on the March for Europe, successfully met their first great challenge. Determined and united under an array of different colours which made the march, starting from a packed Piazza Bocca della Verità, a wonderful spectacle, these demonstrators were out in force. So much so — they numbered at least 10,000 people — that they completely overshadowed the anti-Europeanists (sovereignists and the StopEuro contingent), whose counter-initiative was, on the other hand, a resounding flop, drawing far fewer participants than it is being suggested to have done. Conversely, the turnout for the March for Europe left press and media commentators astounded; this is reflected in numerous articles published in leading European newspapers, even though, here in Italy, it seems that not everyone reporting on the event was willing to acknowledge this remarkable achievement by pro-European campaigners. It was, as we have said, a massive turnout that impressed even the politicians and other prominent figures who addressed the crowd from a stage bearing the slogan “For a Federal Europe!”. There were 30 speakers in all, coming from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and experiences, such as unions, youth movements, associations of local authorities and a galaxy of pro-European organisations; there were also representatives of Italy’s Democratic Party (PD), of the Greens and of the newly created Forza Europa party; and there were MEPs, from all political families, who belong to the Spinelli Group and are conducting the federalist battle within the European institutions. To crown this remarkable level of support, it is worth remembering that the demonstration was appreciated by the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, who, wishing it every success, reminded its participants that the “the process of building a united Europe…requires us…[to pursue] greater integration and express ourselves more effectively, also at international level, [speaking with] a single voice”. Later, President Mattarella, hosting Europe’s Heads of State and of Government at the Quirinale, reminded them that the time has come for Europe to embark on “a constituent phase”.
In this regard, the EU Heads of State and of Government, meeting in Campidoglio to pay homage to the signing of the Treaties of Rome and to demonstrate their willingness to continue along the path laid down by the founding fathers, were able to take only a small step towards the objective that history has assigned them. Ahead of the event, the anniversary Declaration had been seen as an opportunity to inject real and renewed impetus into the European process, and Angela Merkel’s recent bold move in supporting openly the need to create a multispeed Europe had allowed us to hope that it might indeed have this effect. In the end, however, the impact of the Declaration was muted by a series of circumstances. First of all, it was hindered by the different views on what European unity actually means (differences of opinion that often set the member states in opposition to each other, in particular, the countries of central-eastern Europe against the founding member states and the countries most attached to the political objective); second, given their forthcoming general elections, France and Germany, in particular, were willing to adopt only very cautious positions. Finally, the fact that the very idea of a multispeed Europe remains difficult to envisage and frame in the correct terms makes it even more difficult to embark on its implementation, even though, given the widely differing views on the very concept of Europe, this is clearly an inevitable course. Indeed, to avoid being divisive, this implementation will have to be based on a bold process of institutional reform that will give the European institutions the political and fiscal tools they need in order to be properly equipped to protect and strengthen the 27-member single market, but also to give the eurozone a supranational government that is both democratic and legitimate before the citizens — a government capable of developing the European policies that are crucially needed in order to rise to the enormous challenges of our time, which the Declaration itself highlights so effectively.
In short, we are all called upon to play our part in the current historical phase that is crucial for the future of our society. Yesterday, the federalists, in playing theirs, were joined by countless “fellow travellers”, including those who gathered at the Colosseum under the slogan “La nostra Europa” (Our Europe). We believe that these fellow travellers are destined to become more and more numerous, and sincerely hope that they will, more and more, be flanked by the governments that believe in the great plan for a united, democratic, federal Europe.