PROPOSALS FOR THE PLENARY
26th February 2022
Since its inception, the EU has followed a political process of integration in different stages, in which attempts have been made to strengthen its institutions and prepare them to better fulfil their objectives. However, these reforms, in many cases, have not been fully completed, due to the reluctance of the states to cede sovereignty to the institutions oriented from the outset by Schumann with federation as Europe’s goal, and have resulted in a political entity of 27 member states, halfway between a confederation and a federal state. Thus, we can still observe the excessive strength of national governments and the excessive concentration of power in the European Council, whose action is mediated or even blocked by conflicting national vetoes. In many cases, important advances have been made that have not been able to culminate adequately, as shown by the fact that monetary union has been achieved and the European Central Bank can be considered a federal institution, but no agreement has been reached to develop a real fiscal and social policy for the euro.
This institutional weakness of the European Union has meant that it has not been able to react adequately to the most important crises we have suffered in the first years of the 21st century: the economic crisis of 2008, the subsequent migration crisis, the exit of the United Kingdom and the health and economic crisis that triggered the covid-19 pandemic. These crises have had a high social impact, further highlighting the inequalities generated by the neoliberal policies of recent years. To these crises must be added the emergence of ultra-nationalist, protectionist and reactionary political forces that are growing in the face of the EU’s weaknesses. In foreign policy, weakness is evident in the rule of unanimity in the face of emerging powers such as China and dependence on the US in defence matters.
Added to this institutional weakness is the evidence that our welfare society model cannot be guaranteed solely from the national perspective, due to the impossibility of acting adequately in the taxation of large fortunes and corporate beneficiaries, especially technology multinationals. Nor will a lasting response to the problems of the welfare state be possible without the abolition of shameful tax havens.
From a democratic point of view, the development of democracy at the international level is historically and contemporarily unprecedented. Citizens are represented through the European Parliament (seats according to population), and member states are represented through the European Council and the Council of the European Union, whose members are directly accountable to their national parliaments or their citizens. However, the EU still lacks effective citizen participation in debate, agenda-setting and scrutiny; sometimes the European Council or the Council follows intergovernmental dynamics of consensus-building, where the influence of the larger and more powerful states is imposed on the others and the wishes of the majority are not respected.
To strengthen democratic processes in the EU, citizens should know and understand European political functioning; be able to participate effectively and equally in voting; be able to exercise control over the political and legislative agenda; and have institutional and political accountability.
However, the fact that debates on European policy options do not take place in national elections, as is the case in Spain, or that accountability for the decisions of the European Council or the Council is not a regular exercise in Parliaments such as our Cortes, although they do not hide a great democratic deficit, is not due to the European political system, regulated in the treaties, but to each of the national practices.
Convening of the Conference on the Future of Europe
With the prospect of the health and economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU opened the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) with the aim of giving a new impetus to European democracy and citizen participation, through a consultation process involving Members of the European Parliament, national parliamentarians, government representatives, the Commission, social partners, civil society, and citizens. The EU’s political agenda will have to consider the conclusions and recommendations that come out of this conference in the lines to be followed in the construction of the European project. This process began on 9 May 2021 and must present its results by spring 2022, expected in May.
To this end, a multilingual platform has been created to channel citizens’ proposals, disseminate the events that take place and create a space for transnational debate among stakeholders, and citizens’ panel debates have been set up, which are taking place in parallel. Events and events have been promoted in Member States, regions or with the support of civil society to address with citizens the challenges of Europe’s future, although they seem to have received little coverage in the national media.
In this context, the Union of European Federalists of Spain (UEF-Spain), which aims to involve citizens in the construction of federalism at its different levels, decided to participate in the conference, making its own proposals.
These were initially drafted by Federalistes d’Esquerres-UEF Catalonia, taking as a basis the paper approved by UEF-SPAIN on 19 June 2020 “For the great federal step of the EU”. Subsequently, they were submitted for consideration by the different sections of UEF-Spain, with the idea of drafting a final document that can be presented at the plenary of the Conference for the Future of Europe CoFoE, scheduled for 12 March 2022.
Proposals for progress in the federalisation of Europe
The UEF Spain, in accordance with its commitment to the construction of Europe, with the idea of actively participating in the Conference on the Future of Europe, considers the following points to be a priority:
1.- Elaboration of a European Fundamental Law or Constitution that supports the conformation of a European constituent subject, legitimised by the citizens and that integrates the political and social actors of the Union, giving special relevance to the participation of civil society and public opinion.
Therefore, the Conference for the Future of Europe CoFoE must end with the convening of a convention aimed at a FEDERAL EUROPEAN UNION and a reform of the treaties in a FEDERAL key.
2.- Bring elections closer to the citizen and make their vote have an impact on the direction of policy. To this end, it is important to reform the Electoral Act of the European Parliament, since the absence of a uniform electoral law means that the election of the Parliament is carried out in accordance with 27 national laws with different conditions depending on the States. Equal participation of all is one of the prerequisites for a system to be considered democratic. We consider it essential to make progress at least in deepening the common aspects, such as the size of the constituency, the age for voting and being voted for, the conditions for being elected and the appointment procedure.
Transnational lists should be created, in a Europe-wide constituency, representing the whole of the Union, with agreed heads of lists and a single Europe-wide electoral programme, together with the number of MEPs elected per Member State. The list and the candidate would defend a common programme in all Member States, which would give a European and federal dimension to the election and promote a Europe-wide debate on different political options. The electoral system and transnational lists should lead to direct election by European voters for the election of the Presidency of the European Commission of the EU. It would help to make citizens aware of the scope of European politics and debates and to overcome the idea of European elections as second-order national elections.
3.- Strengthen the European Parliament by giving it more powers, with the power of legislative initiative, with the capacity to legislate on an equal footing with the European Council and with fully developed research competences. Its functions should include monitoring the government, also using the mechanism of the constructive motion of censure.
Decisions are often taken by representatives of the Member States, which sidelines the Parliament. In such cases, Parliament neither approves the policy nor can call for accountability. The Treaty needs to be reformed to include citizen representation in all areas of decision-making, although there may be some exceptions such as common foreign and security policy, because of the desire of Member States to retain control of issues that are sensitive to them.
4.-Constitute a EUROPEAN FEDERAL Government, headed by a Presidency of the European Commission of the EU, directly elected on transnational lists and with the system of heads of list, which as a last condition must win the majority confidence of the European Parliament.
This means concentrating executive power in the European Commission, competent to formulate and implement all policies, accountable to the European Parliament, competent and equipped with the necessary instruments to formulate and implement all common policies.
This FEDERAL government should assume greater executive, economic and fiscal powers and have a powerful Treasury secretariat, to strengthen fiscal and economic union, at least for the Eurozone countries, and should have the capacity to levy European taxes and to issue public debt securities. Its government, currently the College of Commissioners (European Commission), will be reduced in the number of members, thus avoiding any intergovernmental parallelism.
5.- To convert the Council into an effective European Senate, turning it into a chamber representative of the different Member States and abolishing the unanimity rule, authorising the Council to replace unanimity with qualified majority in matters in which the Treaties require unanimity. For example, on decisions affecting own resources, the multiannual European budget, taxation, and foreign policy,
6.- Propose accountability for national parliaments, obliging them to dedicate a minimum of annual sessions to the debate on European policy where the president or head of government, supported by a commissioner, would present, and discuss with national MPs the main political issues of that six-month period. It would also reinforce the idea that national parliaments are part of European political action and that they are equally entitled to debate and scrutinise the overall political direction. To democratise the European political system, it is essential to ensure that there is debate and accountability at the national level as well. This would be an extra opportunity for the media to cover major European issues. It would be a double opportunity to strengthen accountability and socialisation. Ideally, this obligation should be introduced in the Protocol on National Parliaments annexed to the EU Treaty; but, until the Treaty is reformed, it could be substantiated in a compromise between governments and national parliaments.
7.-Adapt the multiannual financial framework to the political one, shortening it to five years to coincide with the parliamentary political cycle. This measure would allow a newly elected Parliament with a majority and the Commission that would emerge from it, together with the European Council, to design European policies and their financing in accordance with what the citizens had voted for.
8.- Complete the federal European Banking Union and European Taxation, by creating a Common European Treasury and the Federal Treasury of the European Union, establishing continuity in the mutualisation of debt and recovery funds; consolidate a European deposit guarantee fund, the issuing of Community debt to finance recovery (Next Generation Recovery Fund) and investments in the ecological and digital transition from the Community budget, for the continuation and completion of the EU Green Deal.
Support such a Union with taxes on financial transactions, on carbon emissions and on the profits of the European Central Bank, or by raising part of the direct or indirect taxes: personal income tax (e.g., 1%), corporate tax, product tax or start-ups.
9.- Strengthen social protection in a Single Framework through the improvement of the European labour market, facilitating labour mobility between member states and making possible the constitutionalisation of the social pillar that should include European unemployment insurance, a standardised European minimum wage and the reinforcement of the youth guarantee together with the implementation of a Child Guarantee for families at risk of poverty in the EU, with the establishment of a backpack of citizens’ rights and duties.
Integrate all social policies, including health, in order to respond on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity, with a better and more solidarity-based response to collective crises.
10.- To educate in the culture and values of European and world citizenship, secular, far removed from religious dogmas and dogmatic philosophies, providing young people with a vision far removed from the short-sightedness and short-sightedness of nationalist education. So that it gives a vision of the issues that unite Europeans in their common culture and history and with the objectives of solidarity, cooperation, and fraternity of European Federalism.
11.- To establish a Common Immigration and Asylum Policy that is co-responsible and not only supportive, effective, and respectful of Human Rights in the framework of a society that respects diversity in order to make the EU area of freedom, security and justice a reality. Establishing an efficient Federal immigration and asylum reception system that shares solidarity, duties, and responsibilities among member states.
Strengthening the consular rights of EU citizens outside the Union; constitutionalising the objective of promoting a diverse and multicultural society and combating racism. Frontex should be a real Federal Border Police that organises and efficiently implements the reception and control systems at the common borders of the European Union. Not the kind of riot police they are now.
Increase the protection of Unaccompanied Migrant Minors (MENA) who are especially vulnerable and require greater protection by the Member States and the European Union.
12.- Increase the influence of external action as a single political subject, so that the EU becomes an influential actor in global governance. To this end, the European External Action Service and the representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy must be given the necessary resources and powers to become a real foreign minister, putting an end to the rule of unanimity in decision-making and in the common position of the European Union in foreign policy matters.
Demand a permanent representative on the United Nations Council.
A credible European Armed Forces, commensurate with the size, size, and population of the European Union, with a rapid response capability and a Common Intelligence Service.