Stalled Union, New Horizons

In a speech delivered near the end of September 2017 at Sorbonne University, the French President, Emmanuel Macron outlined his vision for a post-Brexit Europe. Amongst various statements detailing the struggles facing Europe, he signalled a commitment to common European policies on defence, asylum and taxation. The formation of new European universities, geared towards the adoption of new languages. The creation of a position of finance minister to supervise the 19 member state eurozone area and a European Monetary Fund. His plans for taxation included an expansion of existing laws to allow for the taxing of multinational technology companies based on where they operate rather than where they are registered. He pushed for minimum wages to be set across the EU and a financial transaction tax to benefit overseas aid spending.

He also called for Europe to be a safe haven for asylum seekers who had risked their lives by theorizing the construction and deployment of an EU asylum agency and the standardization of EU documentation. Intriguingly he also mentioned he could be willing to make concessions on the current common agricultural policy which has commonly been thought of as largely benefitting the French agricultural sector and its numerous lobbyists. Additionally, he called for a reduction in the number of commissioners, to 15 a significant move from the existing policy around one member one country one commissioner.

However, Macron’s policies however well-intentioned suffer from the same technocratic mindset that continues to provide ample fuel for anti-EU populist sentiment. Rather than democratic reform, he proposes a further top-down reorganization, which again fails to take on board many of the real concerns of EU citizens. What is missing once again is democratic accountability, there were no suggestions for example of making the closed door Eurogroup meetings, held between eurozone finance ministers more transparent. No references to the failed policies of austerity after Berlin had ruled out the Eurobonds option for shared borrowing across the eurozone and no references to making the names and organizations which from which the huge number of lobbyists present in Brussels is comprised, public.

Crucially no reference was made to the political authority vested in the existing EU institutions which in many cases lacks the true legitimacy that comes from being imbued with consent drawn from the body politic. For the EU to be truly democratic, it must derive it’s authority directly from the sovereign people and not from the states from which it’s comprised. Whilst some might think that the EU parliament is arguably the equivalent of this, a closer look would reveal that not only is parliament unable to initiate legislation, only submit amendments, whilst the majority of the legislature is decided by the European Commission with a directive provided by the European Council. With this in mind, one of the areas for immediate reform should be the creation of a truly sovereign European parliament which also respects national self-determination whilst sharing power with municipal councils and regional assemblies.

Additionally, Parliament should have the ability to both freely elect the President of the Commission and freely dismiss both the Commission and it’s President following a constructive vote of no confidence. Subsequent consultation should commence with the eventual goal being to subsume all current treaties into a democratic constitution including preserving rights such as freedom of the press, judicial independence and free movement. There’s also a pressing need for a wholesale reform of the commission tenure for EU officials should be ended, the generous salaries cut, meetings of the commission should no longer be classified and instead disclosed to the public, legislature from individual member states legislature should also be allowed to challenge commission directives to further improve democratic legislature. New regulations should ideally be accompanied by the sun-setting of old ones.

In addition to its current roles, the European Central Bank should act formally as the lender of last resort in situations in future financial crises, it should also be allowed to purchase and sell government bonds directly on the secondary market. Whilst it’s overall key for the European Bank to maintain independence it should also be required to regularly make reports of its activity in front of the aforementioned sovereign parliament with fully recorded minutes. The imbalanced surpluses which regularly accrue to countries within the EU, particularly Germany, should be properly redistributed to member states running a deficit through either taxation, a European monetary fund or through an overdraft facility via the ECB.

The overarching objective should be a revitalization of Europe by all those invested in its future, power devolved from the technocratic meddling to wide-reaching democratic planning to realize a future for European and it’s citizens outside of systemic unemployment, and failed austerity. Crucially bottom-up reorganization is key, rather than continued top-down integration.

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