November 24, 2020

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The essence of Europe's identity is its unity in diversity. This makes federalism the optimal political organization for the European Union (EU). The Ventotene's manifesto says that Europe's reordering after World War II "must culminate in a Federal Europe that has its own army, its own foreign policy, and is based on solidarity and cooperation." We are not there yet. The new opportunity ahead to move towards this objective is the future Conference on the Future of Europe, proposed by the current European Commission chaired by Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, together with the European Parliament. Its purpose is to open a debate with citizens to set the EU's future priorities.

3 November, 2020 Victor Pou (Pro Europa)

Víctor Pou holds a PhD in law and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Barcelona, an MBA from the IESE Business School of the University of Navarra and a Graduate in European Integration from the University of Amsterdam. He is a professor at IESE Business School and the International University of Catalonia (UIC). He is a partner of the consultancy TAS Europroject (Brussels). He has been Head of Unit and Director of Foreign Affairs to the European Commission (Brussels). He has been Director of the Catalan Board of Trustees for Europe (Patronat Català pro Europa) and Director General of Adequacy to the European Communities of the Generalitat of Catalonia

The federal or federal terms come from Latin word foedus, which means, pact, alliance. Foedus designates any territory which, while retaining a certain degree of independence, is bound by a treaty to other territories with which it forms a territorial higher area. Foedus, at the same time, derives from the Indo-European root bheidh (trust), from which the Latin word fidere (have confidence). This etymological chain reveals that any political reality of a federal nature is a historical process of adaptation among the members of a superior territorial unit that is always put by a pact between them, indicator of relations of mutual trust.

Federalism is a certain idea of creating and organizing a state political reality through the federal procedure, that is, the integration of several sovereign political entities that cede some of their sovereignty that the federation needs in order to act effectively. Federalism therefore means unity in diversity. The official motto of the European Union (EU) is precisely this: in varietate concordia (united in diversity). Their translations in the 22 official EU languages have the same value. It is one of the symbols of the EU that originates from the Council of Europe. According to the European Commission, the motto means that in the EU “Europeans work together for peace and prosperity, and that Europe’s many cultures, traditions and languages are a positive asset for the continent.” Europe is a diverse reality and yet it has common cultural and civilization characters that make it unique. Federalism is a system of political organization that therefore serves as a ring to the finger.

The Federalism has an essential travel companion that is the principle of subsidiarity. According to this principle, in any social and political organization, the higher political entity must only assume responsibility or should intervene only when the lower political entity is unable to do so. This means that each entity simply must take care of itself, that is, what it knows how to do better than the other top or bottom features in the federal gradation chain.

The principle of subsidiarity has been enshrined in Article 5 of the current Treaty on European Union (ETE) or Lisbon Treaty, in force since 2009. It appears together with two other principles also considered essential in European decision-making: the principle of attribution (the EU has only the powers assigned to it by treaties) and that of proportionality (the means used by the EU to achieve the objectives set by treaties cannot go beyond what is necessary). When the EU has reached the ideal of a federally united Europe in diversity, a situation will have been reached in which the principle of subsidiarity will be applied extensively to states and sub-state bodies, within the framework of a multi-level European governance system. A European Committee of the Regions (CoR) established in 1994, which is an advisory body representing Europe’s regional and local authorities, currently operates within the EU.

The Manifesto of Ventotene, drafted in June 1941 with the full title “For a free and united Europe. Draft manifesto” is a precursor text of European federalism, which inspired the Treaty of Rome (1957). Its authors, in order of importance, are the Italians Altiero Spinelli, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni. Spinelli, one of the futures “fathers of community Europe,” thought that a European Federation required “the creation of a new federal political organization, reflecting the common and diverse identity of our continent.” He agreed with the forerunner of united Europe, the Austrian Coundenhove-Kalergi, when he wrote to his great work “Paneuropa” (1928) that “Europe is one and diverse” and that “it must come together respecting its diversity if it does not want to be a permanent battlefield”.

The Ventotene Manifesto was drafted in a guarded residence on the island named after him, located in Italy’s Lazio region, north of Naples, where the three political activists mentioned had been deported for their determined opposition to Mussolini’s Italian fascist regime. He was therefore born in a context of incarceration. The Manifesto was written on cigarette paper, hidden in an iron box behind a double background. The text was later adopted as a programme within the European Federalist Movement (MFE), an organisation founded in August 1943 in Milan by Spinelli himself, who became a true European federator leader. Spinelli was later co-founder of the Union of European Federalists (UFE).

The Ventotene’s manifesto says that Europe’s reordering after World War II “must culminate in a Federal Europe that has its own army, its own foreign policy, and is based on solidarity and cooperation.” We are not there yet.

The new opportunity ahead to move towards this objective is the future Conference on the Future of Europe, proposed by the current European Commission chaired by Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, together with the European Parliament. Its purpose is to open a debate with citizens to set the EU’s future priorities.

We European citizens cannot fail to seize this opportunity. As Ursula von der Leyen pointed out in his final words from his first recent State of the Union speech, “the future will be what we will do and Europe will be whatever we want it to be, so let’s stop underestimating it and get to work.”

The Manifesto of Ventotene, drafted in June 1941 with the full title “For a free and united Europe. Draft manifesto “is a precursor text of European federalism, which inspired the Treaty of Rome (1957).

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