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Switching from EU to Euroland Daring the future,

by Franck Biancheri
19/10/2001

 

The unability of the European system to find sustainable ways towards the future, as well as the scattered aspect of the political contributions of the European leaders, show it : the EU has reached a limit. Illegitimate child of the European Community and of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, wobbly compromise between the Communitarian method and the inter-gouvernmental approach, it is most probable that this form of the European construction will no survive much longer ; in any case, it will certainly be relegated to a middle-distance once the Single Currency has reached the citizens’ pockets. Born from an unanticipated transition, it will last the time of a transition. The two new constraints of the coming decade are called single currency and common democracy. It is upon their ability to manage these constraints that the competing methods’ merits must be assessed; and no longer upon theoretical or principles aspects. Euroland, whether we want it or not, will be the political arena for this common re-invention.

“Founders” think the future without being blinded by the past or future

Those whom novelty make anxious should not worry. Those current forms of the European construction which they are familiar with and which reassure them, result from radical breaks from the past or the present.

Contrary to what think or say the disciples of all sorts, ” great men “, ” founders “, ” leaders “, have an essential capacity to “envisage ruptures”, they do not cling to pre-established schemes, they can free themselves from a dominant thought, they are able to see the future without being blinded by the present and even less by the past.

And indeed the founders of the European construction were great men. Jean Monnet, the inspirator and leading architect of the project, had to fight to overcome resistances, conformism, habits, and impose the foundations of the Community architecture and method.

No doubt that he would be appalled today (eventhough maybe not surprised) to see the lack of imagination used to think the future of the European construction; the lack of audacity of the leaders; the terrifying conformism of these European institutions supposed to “shed light on the way”…; all of seem content to turn around the institutions and methods inherited from the 50’s, desperately seeking for the keys to the European 21st century.

He knew how to put together the riches of Europe then which control divided and opposed the States. Today, these riches are no longer our coal or steel, but our human resources (the grey cells) and our new technologies. It on these tracks that we should follow the inspiration of the Founding Fathers; it is in the power of their imagination, in their intellectual audacity and in their political tenacity that the message they left us should be sought for.. There it lies, the key to the future… not in the institutional forms nor in the dated treaties.

A good illustration of this is provided by the recent contribution of former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the newspaper Le Monde, where he states the fact that Jean Monnet himself found useful to create the European Summit initiated by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. This shows that Jean Monnet himself was certainly not a prisonner of the model he had invented in the 50’s.

But the disciples (fake or true) always prefer to manage the heritage rather than undertake to reinvent the process. Founders are usually prefered in their momified form rather than as living spirits. As when it comes to the European construction today, it is clearly the case.

Let’s stop fiddling with the EU… and let’s build the Euroland where 300 million citizens are about to arrive

Time is running for the reinvention of the European process.

In less than 2 and a half month, 300 million citizens irrupt within the Euroland … and nothing is ready to welcome them. At present, the country is quasi-empty, merely inhabited by central bankers, Eurocrats, heads of States and Gouvernments, experts, banking executives and cash machines !

While all our leaders and institutions are obsessed fixing up the EU, no one cares building Euroland. But Euroland is what European citizens are heading for; and not for the EU. Of course the EU and its institutions will not disappear all of a sudden; but, except for some precise sectors of activity (Commerce, Justice and Internal Affairs, Consumer protection) they are already no longer the places of invention of the future. And in Euroland, everything remains to be done. There is indeed a single currency, but no common executive, no common legislative, no common police nor justice, no common foreign policy nor defense, no common citizenship, no common parties, trade-unions, nor associations, no common media, no common political class… and with the emerging economic recession no common growth, maybe just a common unemployment !

Moreover, this ” democratic void ” of Euroland can generate various perverse side-effects at the level of our national democratic systems. Through the national elections (sole democratic means of expression available to the citizens of Euroland), we are about to witness a number of rough evolutions that will modify the votes of about a third of the citizens of Euroland… who will integrate their European concerns in their national vote.

If you are a candidate in 2002, beware listening your political advisers or your polling institutes which predict similar elections are usually : they do not know how to anticipate ruptures. But if your programmes do not specifically address issues such as “where are we going ? and how ? ” after the Euro, be sure to record unpreceded rates of abstention among your own troops, especially among the youth and among all those opinion relays of civil society, whatever the net-beneficiaries of this choice may be.

Then, between an empty Euroland, a drifting EU and some national systems soon to be seriously disturbed at the heart of all this, is it still possible toi doubt that it is now an emergency to build a new common political and institutional architecture adapted to Euroland and to the 300 million Eurolanders. Their entry in Euroland introduces a fundamental rupture in the EC or EU European model. It is shifting the center of gravity of the system from technocratic to politic; from experts to citizens; from small numbers to great masses.

These 300 million new actors will be interested by a new global building site, ensuring them that they invent all together their common future. Frankly speaking, whether the Commission, the Council or the Parliament should be modified, whether the Social and Economic Committee or the Regions’ Committee should be integrated in the Convention, etc…, no one really cares, apart from those who blong to these institutions. Euroland would require simple decision-making processes because 300 million Eurolanders will neither have the patience nor the sense of self-sacrifice of experts, for them to understand the subtelties of some “byzantine processes”.

This is all a matter of plumbing problems… and a matter of rethinking the whole of EU processes

To make it simple: The EC and the EU were built as plumbing systems meant to canalize a few dozens of thousands of gallons (experts) each day. Euroland requires a plumbing system able to canalize some hundreds of millions of gallons (citizens) each day. The quantity and the nature of the contents processed have radically changed. Ask your plumber and you’ll get the following answer: “You must change the whole facility. If you try to fiddle things, everything will explode”. Alas, there are not enough plumbers in the EU system!

The whole common architecture must therefore be re-invented. And though a common executive is required, everyone should bear in mind that it might not be the Commission nor the Council, but eventually a new institution; and though a common legislative is required, it might not be the European Parliament as it exists today; and it could be that all those institutions are settled elsewhere than in the cities that host them today.

About the last aspect: how can anyone seriously think that a geographic settlement meant to bring together yesterday’s enemies (as is was the case in 1950/60) therefore based on neutral areas (Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg) could survive in a future where the main requirement will be to anchor a political entity made up of hundreds of millions of citizens into the “hard soils of history”, bringing the insitutions closer to the people and proving that the European edifice is not a centralising process?

It is a question of re-founding Europe and to re-consider all its various componants. Otherwise, the result will be a non-viable hybrid thing, similar to what the EU somehow has been until today.

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