As he had promised in his “State of the Union” address to the European Parliament last September, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, made public on 1 March a White Paper on the future of Europe. The paper describes the difficulties faced by the EU sixty years after the historic Rome Treaties that led to its creation, but also underlines the many achievements that have made possible today’s peaceful and relatively prosperous Union of 28 countries and more than 500 million people.
Looking to the future, Mr Juncker and the European Commission see a Europe in steady decline in terms of percentage of global population and wealth, collectively and for each individual member state. When it comes to specifically visualising the EU of 2025, an EU of 27 members since Brexit will have taken effect by then, the Commission President puts forward five possible scenarios. They range from continuing with the current status quo of gradual decline to an EU that becomes only a common market, or chooses to move forward at different speeds, to a Union that is deeper in select areas like defence or an EU that makes the big step towards an actual federation.
Up to this point, our analysis would welcome the White Paper as a fair assessment of the current situation and a comprehensive set of potential courses that the EU could take in the coming years. We would welcome it if the source of the White Paper was an academic expert or a think tank, to be precise. Difficult to see it in the same light when it comes from the head of the executive arm of the Union, which the Commission is supposed to be.
The White Paper could have been what the Commission research and analysis services had given to Mr Juncker as his options, so that he could choose one to own and promote. Perhaps this indeed is what happened, only that Mr Juncker did not dare choose, under pressure from many sides, different national and other interests. He thus served the European leaders and the public at large with a half-baked stew, which could end up being savoury or sour, bitter or sweet, whatever the others decide, eventually. Thus we have in front of us a White Paper that is not exactly tabula rasa but definitely takes no clear positions and rather offers a process that could be followed to eventually reach a decision, maybe…
Mr Juncker’s process foresees a first reaction by the leaders of the EU27 (the UK is out of this de facto) at their summit in Rome on 25 March 2017, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. Then consultations, on the Paper and whatever the leaders may issue in response and/or in their own volition. Mr Juncker promises to take a position in his next “State of the Union” address to the European Parliament in the fall of 2017. All this is supposed to lead to decisions in time for implementation with the next European Parliament elections in June 2019.
It is sad to confirm that no leadership or vision can any longer be expected from a body that really opened new avenues to European integration in decades past and under previous heads, such as Jacques Delors. The current hapless body is the shadow of its former, glorious self and cannot bring about consensus among EU member states or citizens on issues like migration or climate change, let alone the future of the EU in its totality.
Nevertheless, as much as we do not appreciate the EU leadership’s lack of decisiveness and vision, we resolve to be part of this process proposed by Mr Juncker. And we, the signatories of this text, members and supporters of Stand Up for Europe, clearly state our preference for Mr Juncker’s fifth option of more union and deeper integration. Let it be said, this can have elements of Mr Juncker’s other (fourth) option, according to which the EU would reduce its involvement in policy areas for which there is broad preference that they stay with national institutions, while deepening cooperation in areas where only collectively the EU member states can have an impact.
We are federalists, which means we think that issues should be dealt with at the level closest to the citizen that is most appropriate for each issue. We do not want a centralised super-state that controls all aspects of the lives of hundreds of millions of citizens. We want unity in diversity, a well-functioning whole run to the benefit of all its citizens, on the basis of democracy, transparency, respect for diversity, solidarity and justice. You can see our concrete proposals for a better Europe here https://standupforeurope.eu/about/#manifesto
We call on all well-meaning citizens of the EU27 to join us in this effort (and still hope that the UK citizens will do too). Let us build a unifying vision and legitimate institutions through our direct participation, without waiting to be led by leaders who cannot choose between good and bad.
Stand Up for Europe