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February 1999

 

 

 

 

The coming into force of the single European currency should be celebrated as an exceptional event in the history of the continent. As many have rightly observed, it is the first time in the history of humanity that a wide group of large independent states has subjected itself to the rigid constraints attendant upon the adoption of a single currency. By doing just this, the eleven countries in the euro zone have taken a vastly important step. By taking away from EMU member states the instruments of monetary policy, the single currency reduces drastically their capacity for intervention in the economy. Monetary union calls into question the sovereignty of its members who, therefore, are bound sooner or later to find themselves faced with a choice: either to give up their sovereignty or to renounce monetary union.

It is a dilemma which the overwhelming majority of politicians and commentators naturally prefer to ignore. In recent weeks, the newspapers have been full of fantastic theories on how monetary union can be made to co-exist with a plurality of sovereign states: a possibility which while supposedly based on a dissolution of sovereignty is, in truth, motivated by a desire to preserve it within the ambit of the nations. The shrewdest politicians and journalists are, of course, well aware of the nature of the contradictions which the single currency will cause to flare up, and they are aware, too, of the need to set in motion a process of reform of the Union’s institutions. And yet, hardly anyone seems to have the courage and clear-sightedness to do anything more than propose institutional makeshifts of purely legal import.

“Europeanists” across the board fail to realise that in order to extricate itself from the situation in which it is currently ensnared, the European Union must make a revolutionary leap forward: its current member states must cease to exist as sovereign entities so as to allow a new European state to be born which will, in its turn, exercise the prerogative of sovereignty. Clearly, this state must be a federal state endowed, as such, with limited powers - a state in which many and vital areas (defined by a constitution and guaranteed by a Court of Justice) will fall within the province of lower levels of government (national, regional and local). But, it will still be a state, founded on a people, whose central government will, among other things, be responsible for foreign policy and defence and whose presence will be sufficiently visible to make it the object of strong popular consensus.

This vision is scorned by European “realists” who, without fully understanding what it is all about, reject the concept of a European “superstate” and seek, instead, to peddle the idea that a European state, being a state, would inevitably be centralised and bureaucratic. This view is quite unfounded: a bureaucratic and centralised state could never conceivably unite a plurality of national states which have different languages and cultures, as well as a centuries-old history of independence and conflict. Pouring scorn on the idea of a “superstate” is nothing other than a means of evading the basic issue. Thus, while anti-Europeans are able to press their points in open and aggressive language, timid pro-Europeans, overwhelmed by the fear of provoking scandal, of clashing with interests and of hurting feelings, only feel able to advance innocuous proposals that are not going to offend anyone.

The truth is that this revolutionary leap (on which the survival of monetary union and the future of Europe depends) is not an advance that can be made furtively, without anyone noticing. If we are to create a political Europe, the intergovernmental method, founded on secrecy and compromises, must be superseded. And even though the national governments are destined to continue to play a crucial role in the process leading to its abandonment (assuming the process is to have a happy outcome), the intergovernmental method cannot plausibly be used as a means by which to supersede itself. Our objective can only be achieved if the intergovernmental method employed up to now for the reform of the treaties is replaced by the constituent method as that way, the people, through their elected representatives, would be the ones deciding what form their cohabitation should take and stating the values on which it must be founded.

It goes without saying that all this presupposes a strong wave of public opinion which, in turn, can only be created if there are those who, in the face of the serious crises which in the near or more distant future are bound to develop, are ready to speak out forcefully in support of the truth and to expose themselves to the risks which the adoption of a courageous stance will always generate. If there are not, then the hopes of all those who believe that time resolves all things and that monetary union can, in the absence of a European state, come unharmed through the succession of political and financial storms which ravage today’s world, will all too soon prove to be illusions.

Publius

 

 


Under the auspices of the Luciano Bolis European Foundation
Initiative in support of the Framework for Action for a European Federal Union
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