EUphoria – What is the European Union?On January 29, 2020 by Raul Dinwiddie
The European Union. Representing sixty years of treaty-making and collaboration, it is a gathering of 28 countries, mainly located in Europe. Speaking 24 official languages, the European Union is an international, intergovernmental and supranational organization of member-states. Member-states that have autonomous but overlapping accounts of history, preferences and sense of identity. Coming together on the basis of common goals and increasing economic and political strength in a rapidly changing and globalized world. Set at nearly 13 trillion euros the EU now represents the largest economy in the world and around a quarter of global production. In 2012 the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. But just what is the European Union exactly? How did it come about? How does it function today? And is the European Union living up to its Nobel Peace Prize-winning qualities of spreading peace, democracy and human rights? We intend to shed light on these important questions and more, as we take a closer look at the European Union. Firstly, let’s take a few steps back and review how we got to where we are today. Medieval Europe was a hostile environment. Kings and tyrants, religious divides and language barriers battled endlessly for land, power and influence. Although splintered territories, realms and kingdoms had been established, official borders and statehood had not yet been conceived. Territories were decided by mutual arrangement and agreements decided by war and conquest. Europe emerged from the medieval ages with a central but divided theocratic government, the Roman Empire. Following 30 years of bloodshed due to the catholic/protestant divide and internal political problems, an arrangement of treaties, known as the Peace of Westphalia, established in Europe a cluster of sovereign states in 1648. It started as an effort to unify Europe which had been divided in the past centuries and had been through several wars. Two world wars and the Franco-German War and other wars in the past. In 1945, Europe was in a state of devastation. Years of warfare had left many millions dead and a Europe in rubble. The restoration of stability and development in Europe reconciled both European and foreign interests. I think the European Union began from good motives, I don’t think anyone should deny that. After the horrors of the Second World War and the fascism that had preceded it, I think a lot of people thought anything is worth trying to prevent Europe having to go through this again. And, our generation thank god has not had to go through that, we shouldn’t be disrespectful of the motives of those who did. A distrust between European states of each other’s economic prosperity that had escalated during the war had also left behind traces of protective-measures in trade-policy that Europe might be better off without. A fallout between large European powers had led to an outbreak of violence that had spread to cover the globe. And relations based purely on a balance of power was no longer seen as a way to go in Europe. In Washington, George C. Marshall made known the principles of the plan that was later to bear his name. The whole situation is critical in the extreme. In Europe, the response had been immediate. In Paris, world statesmen met to discuss how and where the proper American aid could best be applied. Among the delegates was Soviet Russia’s Mr. Molotov, for the Marshall Plan took no regard of politics. Only human need. There was a clear awareness after the end of the Second World War that this situation should not continue and that we should overcome the divisions in Europe. I mean the point of exit was in 1948, in order to avoid any future conflicts. And I think that has been achieved on a magnificent basis: Europe hasn’t known a war, at least Western Europe without the Balkan states, hasn’t known a war for the last, what is it? 60 years. It’s the first time in history that we have peace for 60 years and where people co-exist peacefully next to each other. Which I think is a fantastic achievement. First, there was a treaty to form an alliance in 1948. That alliance is already forgotten that was the Brussels Union of five and later seven countries. Only a handful of nations signed the Brussels Treaty. But in terms of European unity, it was an historic step and the continent owes much to the foresight of the five. Then NATO was formed, which was not a European unification project but a project to defend Europe. And following that, a number of steps, the present European Union was formed. One important factor in bringing Europe together was seen to lie in the trade factor. In Paris the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation was set up. A council of sixteen nations whose task it was to rebuild a shattered economy and to reestablish inter-European trade on the basis of strength. Two Frenchmen, Jean Monnet, and the French Foreign Minister from 1948 to 1953, Robert Schuman, are seen as the early architects of European integration. Jean Monnet, although never elected to public office, was described as a pragmatic internationalist and did a lot of behind-the-scenes work for European and United States governments. The EU really started life out as a trade-relations union. Trade-relations are great ways to ease the flow of people, goods and services across borders, ultimately reducing net inefficiency. Trade relations could simultaneously resolve diplomatic and development issues whilst creating a mutual system of trust. Germany had a massive coal reserve and France had a steady, constant flow of steel. It was important that member-states reconstruct and develop with mutual free-market principles that required relationships. On May the 9th 1950, Robert Schuman made an important speech based on the ideas of Jean Monnet. He proposed that France and the Federal Republic of Germany pool their coal and steel resources into a new organisation which other European countries can join. For this reason, May the 9th is now considered annual Europe Day. On the 18th April 1951 in Paris, the representatives of six countries: Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands — all signed the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community. Better known as the Treaty of Paris. It came into force on the 23rd of July 1952 and was originally set to expire fifty years later in 2002. And then in one step, one agreement, all were brought together under one community: The European Community of Coal and Steel. The dream of France’s Schuman turned into reality. The ECSC established an independent High Authority and a Council of Ministers to ease communications between the High Authority and national governments. As well as a Common Assembly (chosen by the national parliaments) and a Court of Justice. The organisation would ease communication and diplomatic relations between the main actors of European WW2. A treaty organization between the large powers of Western Europe. Binding signees to their European neighbours and partners. When you think of the EU as an organisation of twenty-seven states you mustn’t forget that it is one market. We often kind of lose that fact in our description of the EU. It is one single market. Which means that what happens in one part of the market, effects the whole market. The internal market is a very driving force of more European policies because as soon as everything is freely moving then you need to define it at the European level. So it is a very fundamental decision, so don’t pretend by saying: ‘Oh I only want an internal market’ — as if that means no ‘Europe’. It means a lot of Europe because of the internal market. Holland could import three quarters of the cotton needed to keep her textile looms in full production. By their recommendation, could Britain receive the carbon-blacks needed to make the tires for her all-important automobile industry. Thus could France bring to her ports the sulphur needed to make fertilisers, to maintain her world famous vineyards at their best. Then there were tractors and other equipment for Turkey, to bring her agriculture in to line with that of her more fortunate neighbours. Then, steel for the shipyards of Italy, for Trieste, Genoa and Naples, revitalizing Europe’s economy. In modern times, the effects of globalization have meant that certain issues are becoming increasingly difficult to handle at the state-level. Examples include trade, environment and security. Also how do we govern in a global world? A good way to handle this, has been seen to be an ever increased need for more unity and more decision-making, both at the intergovernmental and supranational levels. It’s really two sides of the same coin. Corruption, cyber-crime, environmental pollution: These are problems of an international dimension. And a traditional response, which used to be, which still is ‘the state on our behalf’. That traditional response doesn’t work. The development is going to be to more and more integration, to more federal structure. But there is no grand scheme on how to get there and there are many different ways to get there and this road is always going to be a compromise. And therefore in the coming years it will always be difficult to fully grasp whats going on at the European level. That is not a compelling story. It’s not as if people would say “Oh I love that picture” but I think it is hard to prevent. And I think that is going to ask a lot of patience and acceptance with people and that is going to be the biggest challenge for politicians to get that. There has never been a clear roadmap to getting to European integration, but the common goals were to get the best out of cooperation in Europe and on the world stage in the form of a union. All the products they move freely throughout the internal market. So if you have all twenty-seven different demands for what is safe: Then first the producer does not know what to do because he has to make different products for different countries. But also, what is the use of it? Because one definition in one country and then immediately it moves to the other country because we do not have internal borders. So you need European defined criteria, safety regulation, because we have an internal market. The European Economic Community was established in 1957 with its corresponding bodies, the European Commission and the European Council of Ministers given official legal status. Because in the end if you know to distinguish three institutions, being: The Commission who is writing the laws and then the Council of Ministers which is representing the national member-states, and the European Parliament which is representing Europe. And every law which is being written by the Commission needs to be approved by Council and Parliament. If you know to distinguish those three institutions, you are halfway in understanding Europe and that is really not that difficult. Of course behind it, it is difficult because you have got political differences, you have got national differences, so it makes it more complex. But in the end, sometimes I have the feeling that the core is even neglected. And if you do not even understand how the core of how Europe works, then of course every additional power structure becomes very hard to grasp. So I think the knowledge of the EU needs to be improved for sure. But that does not mean that from then on everyone understands exactly how it works because there are so many different forces ongoing of course at the European level. Many stakeholders agreed that although the fascist threat had for the most part been eliminated, a political and economic threat that divided Europe ideologically with Soviet communism and physically with a wall, meant that European unification was even higher on the political agenda. I think the first meeting of leaders took place already in ’61 with Charles de Gaulle trying to set the overall direction the EU, or the European Communities at that time, was heading. And that is still the case. The European Monetary System was launched in March 1979 with eight member states. The underlying goals of the European Monetary System, were to prepare members for European Monetary Union (EMU) and provide a central, distinguished and disciplinary framework that could bring extra credibility to the European Community and its competiveness. The creation of the European Monetary System provided European Monetary policy-making with some central structures and powers. The German Mark was to be the anchor of the European Monetary System, largely down to the Bundesbanks strength and it’s stance toward price stability. The communitys differing financial practices were also an obstacle to forming a coordinated approach and different aspects of economic and fiscal integration were having mixed results on different member countries. This also led to mixed feelings about forming what is now known as the Eurozone. This government has no intention of abolishing the Pound Sterling. If the Hard-ECU evolved into much, much greater use, that would be a decision for future parliaments and future generations. It would be a decision which could only be taken once. And a decision which should not be approached in this atmosphere, but only after the greatest possible consideration. I believe both Parliament and sterling have served our country and the rest of the world very well. I believe we are more stable and more influential with it. I believe it is an expression of sovereignty. This government believes in the pound sterling. A 1985 White Paper, the sentiments of which were formalised in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and other agreements to the present day, expressed the need to remove barriers within the Community market which restricted efficiency, growth, trade and employment, which could all be promoted, by removing 3 types of barrier: physical, technical and fiscal. The Single European Act was signed in 1986 which brought tighter economic and monetary policy and monetary integration in order to gain from the expected benefits of the free flow of people, goods and services. It called for the completion of a single European market by the end of 1992, arguing that a single European market was much better suited to international trade competition. Just before the signing of the Single European Act, the European Monetary System seemed to be working. Inflation rates were declining and interest rates of the member currencies also aligned at a lower level. This incremental process reflected Monnets belief in a gradualist approach for constructing European unity with trade-liberalisation as a catalyst. In 1989 Jacque Delors, then President of the Commission, was charged in 1989 with devising ‘a plan for a monetary union in Europe’, so he convened with independent central bank governors from the Community and another member of the Commission and ‘three personalities’. Many critics argued that giving up certain areas of fiscal policy to the Community raised severe sovereignty questions. There is an economic objection and a democratic objection. The economic objection is a very simple one: The EU is not a free-trade area, the EU is a customs union. The day that you join the EU you give up your right to sign a bi-lateral free-trade agreement with a country outside Europe. Now, if you are a basically free-trading country, as the Netherlands is and as the United Kingdom is, basically atlantisist, basically mercantile people that is a huge drawback because our trade is artificially redirected towards the one bit of the world that is shrinking. Every continent in the world is now experiencing economic growth except Antarctica and Europe. We have trapped ourselves into the only trade-block that is not growing. We need to be where the customs are. You know, in South-America, in East-Asia, in India. And we are not able to fully exploit those opportunities you and we as basically free-trading peoples because we are dragged into these trade-disputes. Which are really about the desire to protect French farmers or the film-industry or the European textile or coal industry. We, as free-trading countries, would have signed much more liberal accords than we are able to do because we are obliged to stay in the Common External Tariff. That is the economic objection. The democratic objection is this: You should be able to hire and fire the people who pass your laws. Again, not many countries in Europe have a long, unbroken tradition of parliamentary representation. You do, we do, the Nordic countries, Switzerland, after that the list gets pretty short and the European Union, sadly, is not a functioning democracy. Rules are made, laws are proposed, by 27 unelected European Commissioners who have been made deliberately invulnerable to public opinion. And that was done quite calculatedly. After the Second World War, people were slightly scared of democracy. You know, if you look what Monnet and the other founding fathers were writing in the 1940s and the 1950s they were very nervous about public opinion. They thought that they would lead to more ‘Mussolinis’ and more populism. And so they were quite open about vesting supreme power in the hands of unelected functionaries who didn’t need to worry about the ballot box. And that has led to where we are now where public opinion is seen as an obstacle to overcome not as a reason to change direction. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequent break-up of the former Soviet bloc, opened up new opportunities for the European unification project. Which was then able to look towards extending the European Community into formerly unreachable areas. When we looked at the 1990’s a number of post-Communist countries applied to join the European Union. 1991 to 1993, basically a number of countries, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, later after the split, the Czech and the Slovak Republic, the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania: They all applied to join the European Union. These countries were in the process of multiple transformations. Transformation of their economies, from planned economies with no private property to privatised market-economies. From communist, authoritarian or totalitarian regimes to, hopefully, democracies. And they were changing their whole system of administration and regulation. We have many bi-lateral agreements. The major agreement was concluded in 1972 is a free-trade agreement. This is the main body where we interact with the European Union. We tried at the end of the Eighties and then at the beginning of the Nineties to conclude a multi-lateral agreement It was a European Economic Area agreement. Which was however rejected by the Swiss people in December ’92. And since then we had to try and find other ways to cooperate, we concluded many more bilateral agreements in many different fields of cooperation. The benefits of a single monetary zone were expressed by heads of state and influential political- and economic- thinkers of the time. The movement towards a common currency had long been put in motion and with the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 the Euro was conceived. The British Pound however suffered a massive decline and was forced to leave the Exchange Rate Mechanism. The Maastricht Treaty’s entry into force in 1993 renamed the EEC the European Community (EC) federal scope and power was increased. The European Union would also be represented by 3 pillars. The EU parliament and the Council of Ministers were given more power in terms of deciding which new EU laws pass. This treaty emphasized the goal of creating an economic and monetary union by 1999. By applying to join the European Union these countries committed to absorbing the European Union’s rules and policies. The so-called acqui communitaire. And they also committed to fulfilling a set of criteria. These criteria were formulated by the EU in 1993, by the Copenhagen European Council. And they had to do with those three things which were aspects of the transformation of the post-Communist countries. So, democracy: Stability of democratic political institutions. Human rights, rule of law, respect for minorities. Number two: The economies. They had to develop their economies as market economies capable of withstanding the competitive pressure from the older and more developed economies in the EU. And a third one: They committed to take on the European Union’s rules. For a while now we’ve called them the ‘new’ members-states but it’s been some time since 2004 when a majority of these countries joined. And 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania joined. Now, what I often joke with my students is that the process was too short if you ask Dutch students. But it was too long if you ask citizens from Central- and Eastern European countries. Those, for example in the Czech Republic or in Poland, and this is well documented also by for example the accounts of the chief negotiators but it’s also a widely shared sentiment amongst citizens, who felt that basically it was way too long, the countries were ready, they were, they had always been part of Europe. And the European Union was obsessing about a number of really small and difficult conditions. And sometimes, at the last minute, it seemed that last-minute conditions were being put on the table. Countries were being asked to do things previous candidates were not asked to do. For example, closing nuclear power-stations which had to do with fears of neighbours. That old, Chernobyl-style reactors would really present a problem for Western European countries and so on and so forth. It was a long process for Central- and Eastern European countries, for citizens. It was a process with lots of restructuring, lots of change. The European Union was very prominent in that period. When an EU Commissioner would visit this was headline news, this was first-page news. When a new chapter of the negotiations was opened and closed this was headline news. And even citizens knew much more about the European Union than citizens of the older member-states do nowadays. Because the changes effected their everyday lives in a number of ways. On the 1st of January, 1999, at midnight, the Euro took over from the European Currency Unit and was created in cheques and digital-form. The Laeken European Council was held at the royal palace at Laeken, Belgium, on the 14th–15th December 2001. The main matters the Laeken European Council dealt with were new measures in the area of Justice and Home Affairs. The European Convention was a body established by the European Council in December 2001 as a result of the Laeken Declaration. The intention was to produce a draft EU constitution for 2004 for the European Union for the European Council to finalize. Following hours of disagreement, the European Council failed to reach an agreement and decided to leave the decision until the following year. At the beginning of 2002 the Euro currency began circulating in the form of coins and bank notes. The planned Constitutional Treaty was put back on the agenda. It was intended to create a single, federal framework for European Union decision-making and give the Charter of Fundamental Rights full legal recognition and bring Qualified Majority Voting (as opposed to unanimity) into certain policy areas, streamlining decision-making. However, a more powerful supranational presence also meant member-states having to adhere to new laws with which they perhaps did not agree. Even to this very day people are finding that what their governments agreed upon in negotiations matters tremendously for the future. So in that respect it was a long, difficult process. It was clearly an asymmetric process. Where the European Union had the power, the candidates much less so because they really wanted to join. At the same time a number of politicians, reformist politicians they basically said “Look guys, they’re difficult reforms but what we are doing is we are doing things that we anyway would like to do”. And that’s how this really worked and that’s how it really was meaningful at least for the elites in these countries as a set of reforms which had to be done anyway. The reason I’m against the EU is not because I’m anti-Europe. I speak French, I speak Spanish; I’ve lived and worked all over the continent. My problem with it is that it is not democratic and it’s become remote and cut-off and it has ceased to represent the people it purports to speak for. In response however, some European member-states held referendums on the signing of the Constitutional Treaty. On the 20th of February, 2005, Spain was the first country to hold a referendum on the Constitution, approving the Constitutional Treaty by 76%. On the 29th of May, 2005, the French public rejected the constitution and three days later the Dutch followed suit. I well remember the day after the Dutch referendum on the European Constitution. One after the other my fellow MEPs and Eurocrats stood up and said ‘People have got this wrong. They haven’t understood their true interests. We need better information, we need more effective propaganda. They need to be brought to understand that there is no viable alternative to the European Constitution and the European project more widely’. Nobody, with a handful of Eurosceptic eccentrics, nobody sat down and said: “Well hang on, 63% of Dutch people have just delivered a verdict maybe we have to deal with that new reality”. It was like that eerie poem by Bertolt Brecht that finishes: “Wouldn’t it therefore be easier to dissolve the people, and elect another in their place?” And that could be the motto of the European Union. Democracy, or ‘populism’ is what they call it. But democracy is seen as a problem and not as an end. Following the failure to ratify the Constitutional Treaty, which required consensus across members, a period of reflection was initiated. And a group of wise-men was set up to form a plan of action. This small group of high-level European politicians, known as the Amato Group, consisted of former Prime Ministers, ministers and members of the European Commission. They first met in September 2006 in Rome. What was proposed was a new treaty, all federalist symbols would be removed. And the name of the text would be changed from the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, to the Reform Treaty. The stated aim of the Reform Treaty was “to complete the process started by the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam and by the 2001 Treaty of Nice”. With a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and to improving the coherence of the Union’s actions. It’s been an anti-democratic process, not undemocratic — an anti-democratic process. When we had the constitution back in ’05 and the French voted ‘no’ and the Dutch voted ‘no’ and they rebranded it as the Lisbon Treaty, boasting that they wouldn’t need to have any more referendums because it was a treaty not a constitution. The Republic of Ireland’s constitutional legal system did not allow for the adoption of such a treaty without enquiring the people. The Irish people rejected the Reform Treaty in June 2008. This came as a shock to proponents of the treaty, particularly the high-level groups responsible for its drafting. Developments culminated at the EU summit of June 2007 under the German Presidency of the European Council. Constitutional issues were brought back onto the agenda and all then 27 EU-member states agreed on a mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference to draft a new ‘Reform Treaty’. And when the Irish, the one country that did, voted ‘no’, I’ll never forget, Mr. Schulz (who’s now the Parliament President) who then led the European socialists. He said in the Parliament the day after the Irish vote “We must not bow to populism”. By which he meant, we couldn’t care less how you voted, we’re going to ignore you and press on regardless. So, if you say it’s ‘undemocratic’ you imply that it could be improved. We could tinker around the edges and make it better. I prefer to say it’s anti-democratic, because they’re absolutely doing everything they can to make sure that the will of the people is not heard. A new Treaty was drafted and subsequently signed in Lisbon on the 13th of December 2007 whereby it adopting the name, the ‘Lisbon Treaty’. And entered into force on the 1st of December, 2009, With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the three-pillar structure was abandoned and much of the failed Constitutional Treaty was salvaged. The Treaty of Lisbon brought together and enhanced previous international agreements in order to streamline decision-making. Such as abandoning unanimity in many areas of the Council of Ministers and European Council decision-making. The EU Parliament was given more powers alongside the Council of Ministers. In order to gain a more representative role, the Lisbon Treaty created the long-term President of the European Council and a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The EU also obtained legal personalilty and the European Union’s bill of rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, became legally binding. Well, first of all the European Council is where the presidents and prime-ministers of EU meet. So this is what we often call the summits of European leaders. So formally speaking it’s a quite new institution in the European Union, in fact it’s one of the very newest, only created with the Lisbon Treaty so in 2009. But I think it’s fair to say it’s probably not the least important institution. It’s the newest institution because it was only created with the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 with its own permanent President of the European Council, whom I happen to work for. Why I’m saying it’s an important institution is this is where the ultimate decision-makers — This is where the heads of state and government are meeting and are taking important decisions for the future of Europe. The most active policy areas of post-Lisbon EU, are those that work to promote competition and the free movement of people, goods and services. Developments in these areas have led to policies designed to help create a coordinated and coherent single market. It is quite clear that Dutch businesses are benefitting from investing in Bulgaria and Romania. They’re one of the biggest investors there and of course also Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland. So this new relationship needs to be maintained. These countries are part of Europe nowadays and only being negative about it as I’ve seen in the media and this country, it’s not helping basically the future of a European home. The whole idea. If you ask a Polish person “Why do you work here?” He says “Well, that’s what we worked for. You know, freedom of movement is one of the things that we worked for, it meant a lot”. Starting from communism, starting from closed borders, to be able to essentially move freely. To be able to work where you are. These essential freedoms which people in the West have taken for granted for many years. Now the old European leaders knew that, but nowadays I have the feeling that the current generation does not know that. Working together to improve these democracies is a better way, than stereotyping and being only negative without really understanding much of the dynamics of what’s going on. I don’t think there’s a concrete plan of people. But if you ask me “Where is Europe going?” In the end it will be far more a federal structure. That’s the only way, at the European level, to have a very clear division of work. What we have now is we are moving towards a federation but we are stuck somewhere in the middle. So the member-states are still the most powerful entity. But at the European level you still have to do things because of the Euro, because of the internal markets etcetera. So that’s making it very unclear for people “What is Europe? What is Europe?” So what is the European Union today? How it works now in Europe: You do regulation at the EU level but the implementation is at the national level. So all the checks need to be done at the national level. So, this is once again a good example of that it’s ‘Europe half-way’. And that’s, most of the time, causing the problems. Because Europe contains a diverse collection of languages, cultures and expectations, it is not an easy project. We will move more toward a federation. And the terminology of ‘federation’ always seem to be heavy to people. They get scared of it. But what it means in the end is you get clearly defined topics that you decide at the European level and ones which you don’t. That’s what ‘a federation’ means, and then you have several ways to deal with that. That’s the only thing ‘a federation’ means. I think that everyone in the end, they need clarity: ‘Okay, what do we do at the European level?’ It’s monetary issues, economic issues. I mean it’s quite fundamental because of the monetary union. And what kind of things we don’t do there, hence, it’s healthcare, it’s education, these kinds of issues. Like in the US, it’s being done at the state level. So, that development it will move in that direction, however, because it’s an ongoing project the road we’re going to take there, no-one knows. There will always be a compromise, it will be falling sometimes, standing up again, making moves further. We don’t know how that’s going to develop so the road is very unclear but in the end it will be more a federal structure. The EU is, in itself, not yet a state. And there is still debate as to whether that is achievable in any conventional sense or even desirable. Federation worked in the United States because it was happening within a single nation. If you go back to the debates that accompanied the confederation and then the US Constitution, people were already using the word ‘nation’ to mean ‘America’. Not to mean North-Carolina or Rhode Island. And the reason that they were doing that is because the thirteen colonies met all the criteria of nationhood: A single language, compatible religious practices, a shared historical experience, the same legal system. It was a very practical concept to have a federation within a single nation. And that always works. Having maximum devolution of power within a nation-state. Great idea. Whether it’s Australia, whether it’s Austria, whether it’s the United States, it’s always a good thing. The European Union is not a nation-state. Almost nobody feels European in the same sense that somebody feels Japanese or Norwegian or Dutch or Portuguese. And the problem is if you try and build the institutions of statehood when you don’t have any European public opinion, you don’t have any European media, you don’t have any pan-European political parties, you don’t have any European sense of community of identity, then you make government more remote and more alien to people. That’s been our problem the past forty years in Europe. Let me put it this way: Democracy needs a ‘demos’, it needs a unit with which we identify when we use the word ‘we’. Okay? If you say to me, we’re doing pretty well in football, we know what the ‘we’ means. You don’t have that or almost nobody outside Brussels feels that ‘we’ meaning the European Union. And if you take the ‘demos’ out of a democracy then you’re left only with the ‘kratos’. You’re left with the power. The power of a system that has to compel by law what it can’t ask in the name of patriotism or community of values or civic engagement and that’s the basic problem. The European Union, if you like, has to bribe or bully people into doing what it wants because it can’t call on any sense of common identity. Now I would say let’s accept that and let’s treat as the basic democratic unit those that have earned their place over centuries as the focus of peoples’ loyalties. By and large, the European Union has also several problems. One of them is of course the secrecy of bargaining in the Council of Ministers. The other is the lack of interest of national parliaments in what exactly is the negotiating mandate? What is happening in EU politics? The lack of connection between national political life and European life. So, my first suggestion there is: Even countries that are Eurosceptic or where the public is not very enthusiastic about the EU. Which is fine, a critical attitude is very important. Especially there, parliaments should pay more attention to EU negotiations as they’re happening before their national representatives go to the Council of Ministers. The European Union is also typically described as an ‘ongoing process’, an integrational project of epic proportions based on collaboration and the principle that big is better. The Eurosceptics are wrong. They don’t see the long-term benefits. The need to be together, a voluntary, integrating group of countries. The world of the future will be dominated by very big players. China, 1,300,000,000 people. India is going to be 1,600,000,000 people, it will be the biggest state in the world. United States will grow to 500,000,000 people and is, by far, the biggest military power. European countries are stable or declining in size. We are demographically not growing and economically we are more or less stagnant so the action in the world is elsewhere. I suppose that my total outlooks towards the European Union is positive, also in the sense there is no alternative. I mean, what do we want? Small nation-states to compete with large countries, almost empires, in the rest of the world — we can’t. We have to create our own sort of empire called Europe. So in that way, a) we don’t have a choice. b) I think about it very positively. Although there are certain aspects which I consider to be negative. It’s not all positive. The big myth behind the European idea is the notion that big is beautiful, the concept that you need to be part of a large block in order to be successful or prosperous. That sounds plausible enough but it’s not true, if it were true, China would be wealthier than Hong Kong and Indonesia would be wealthier than Singapore and the European Union, for that matter, would be wealthier than Switzerland. The richest countries in the world (or the countries with the richest people in the world) are the micro-states. Monaco, the United Arab Emirates the Channel Islands, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the only big country that gets into the top ten is the United States. Why the United States? Because they are administered like a confederation of tiny countries. They give more power to individual states, even to individual counties in some cases than, in some areas, whole nations have within the European Union. Delaware can set its own corporate- and indirect tax rates, the Netherlands can’t. So that’s the secret of success in the modern world is maximum devolution of power. It’s growing. But there’s still a fairly big gulf of misunderstanding. People think “Oh Brussels is boring”. A lot of them don’t realise that what happens here impacts their lives massively in every single way. The more people wake up to it, the more they’ll be opposed to it. So we’re getting there, there is progress but for the moment, the political class have got the whip-hand, they’re in charge. And the people, particularly in the Mediterranean, are suffering terribly. Not pretty. Luckily, Britain won’t be here too long. Many of the benefits, and setbacks, that result from EU decision-making are usually realised after-the-fact in member-states and even non-member states. Decisions taken in the European Union effect very much Swiss policy in general. First of all, for geographical reasons. We are in the middle of Western Europe. We have, apart from Liechtenstein which is a small country, smaller than Switzerland, in the East. We have Germany, France, Italy and Austria at our borders. So four member states of the European Union. So we are a crossroad, North to South and South to North. This tells you much about how we are affected by decisions taken by the European Union in general. Geographically, geopolitically, this is absolutely clear. Then of course, the European Union is our first partner in absolute terms, by far, the first. We import about three quarters of what we use and consume from the European Union. We export almost two thirds of what we produce into the European Union. We exchange, per working day, 1,000,000,000 Swiss francs in goods and 500,000,000 in services. Per working day. We have, per working day with the European Union, an exchange in both ways which is larger than the one we have in one year with Indonesia. So, you understand immediately that everything that is decided here affects us. And at the same time, what we do, what we decide, might affect the functioning in certain domains of the European Union. But of course, in all cases, we can participate in the shaping of decisions, in the decision-shaping. We are never there when decisions are made. Because the decision-making is something reserved of course to member-states. So we have to find a way of participating in many domains of cooperation. Safeguarding our interests. Finding a common interest with the European Union, which we have always found since we have these bi-lateral agreements which are beneficial to both. But accept that, as a non-member, decisions might be taken elsewhere than in the bodies we have set up with the European Union. At the same time, as a consequence we are not submitted to certain decisions. And so, it’s the right ways to find how to cooperate with a partner which is so important to us, the European Union. We are an important partner to the European Union too. And find special ways, as this is the way the Swiss people have chosen so far. If al European Union decision-making did require unanimity across member states, the decisions would hardly ever be made or implemented. Meaning that in some ways, individual member-state preferences and reservations have to be overlooked. Making it a give-and-take relationship. What is interesting again to stress, is that his process works only if it’s a two-way street. On the one hand, the European Union in its various institutional pathways and actors: So through the European Parliament, through the European Commission and any kind of negotiations on either candidate status association agreement/partnership agreement, through various members of the European Parliament, through member-state governments, should support basically democratic forces in the countries involved. As it happened, as it has been done in Central- and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, there should be always some kind of interest to become more democratic. Not only to become richer, to develop trade with the EU, but to become more democratic. If you don’t have actors from civil society or from politics who are interested in improving political freedom, party pluralism, giving more rights to the citizens to control their political representatives. Developing genuine political parties and so on and so forth. The European Union can do nothing. So it’s very important now to me that the European Union remains proactive towards Eastern Europe. For example, Ukraine and Belarus.. Right now, we are seeing tremendous pressure from Russia, towards especially Ukraine but also Moldova, Armenia, a number of countries, not to sign an agreement with the European Union. Russia has been trying to threaten, has been for the last two to three months, threatening Ukraine, threatening Moldova. Stopping the import of Ukrainian chocolate on so-called hygienic grounds. Stopping the import of Moldovan wine, similarly. These very typical tactics. Russia has been threatening to stop gas to Ukraine which will be quite difficult for this country in the forthcoming winter. All this is an indication that the Russians care quite a lot about whether the EU comes closer to these countries or not. So this agreement matters. So this is a golden chance for the European Union to say “Let’s do it, let’s move a step further.” And of course nowadays we have this tendency, especially in the Netherlands, to say “Oh, well these countries are corrupt, they have imperfect democracies, they have problem with rule of law.” This is all true. This is all correct. At the same time we are at the stage of geopolitical development of Europe where waving the finger and saying: “Oh well you have to become more perfect before we can take the next step” Is not going to help. The only thing that will happen is that a big country like Ukraine, like Turkey has done at the moment, saying: “Ok, we don’t care. You don’t want us, we have a different geopolitical path to follow”. They will instead, they have a possibility to join the so-called customs union that Russia is developing. And this would not be good, simply for Ukrainian citizens the majority of whom would like to see themselves as Europeans. We can not only blame the citizens for not participating in EU politics. I think of course the usual cuplrits are the lack of media attention. The fact that member-states governments are inclined to blame the European Union for painful reforms. Rather than admit that these are things that need to happen anyway. The EU Commission is the only body within the European Union framework able to write new laws. The legislation produced by the Commission is based on the Commissions own expertise and the assistance of thousands of workings organisations and contributors. From the 22nd to the 25th of May 2014 there will be European Union-wide elections to determine who will represent the people in the European Parliament. Who will then be able to decide, in cooperation with the Council of Ministers, the composition and leadership of the EU Commission. What I do think is very important is that people realise that the European project is under development. Like I said, probably the end-goal, no-one is really clear how to put it. But it is clear it will be further integration. Also being pushed because of international development. Europe will get smaller and smaller relatively speaking. For the first time actually we are trying to integrate European law into Swiss law. And not only acknowledge that Swiss law is compatible with European law so they can coexist. This time we are integrating and so we need a new institutional setting. We are discussing the reviewing of an agreement on taxations saving, on taxation. We would like to discuss new agreements in the field of the treatment of chemical substances, it’s called the REACH. And so on, and so on. So we think that the good track is this bilateral track. Which we first need to keep open and then to develop, that’s the option we have for the future. There is a legitimacy problem at the European level. That has to do of course by the feeling of people that they mostly feel represented by their national parliaments still. So that means that, for example, the acceptance of the European Parliament is far less than national parliament. So that is bringing attention in the political debate because we are doing more and more at the European level. So you need a European Parliament, but the acceptance of it is difficult. So I think that’s one of the issues. And secondly, again, the Euro Crisis is now pushing this to further integration at a faster rate than the public acceptance is willing to accept, it seems at least. And that debate is also really leading toward a more, well, legitimate questions on: Are we represented at the European level? So I do think it needs to be improved this is one of the fundamental challenges of the EU. If you don’t know how to improve your democratic legitimacy then you are having a problem for acceptance of Europe as a whole. On the other side I do have the feeling that it is being exaggerated, as if there is no democracy. In the end, no decision in Brussels is taken without the approval of at least the majority of member-states and the majority of parliamentarians at the European Parliament and that is of course a double-check. And the Council (the member-states) are being checked democratically by their national parliaments. The European Parliament is being directly chosen by the citizens. So, there are of course checks and balances there. It needs to be improved, but it’s not as if it’s a dictatorship – that is of course not the case. I would like to see a European free-trade area based on free movement of peoples, free movement of goods, free movement of services, free movement of capital. But also based on the maximum devolution of power and on the recognition of national democracy. The recognition of the reality that people feel more connected with their national parliaments than with the one in which I sit. Some countries will share that vision and some won’t. And I think that maybe the solution would be to try and create a pan-European free-trade area which would be open to everybody. Open to the existing member-states and other European countries. You know, the Norwegians; the Swiss; the Danes; the Swedes; the Netherlands; the UK — we could all join. You could have a thirty-five-, forty- member European free-trade area stretching from Iceland and the Faro Islands to Turkey and Armenia. And then within that, twenty-, twenty-five member-states have gone for federation and a single currency and a Presidency and European Foreign Office and all the rest of it. Wouldn’t that leave everybody happy? It would allow the federalist countries to pursue their dream without constant vetoes from the more reluctant members and it would allow the peripheral countries to be in a free-trade area without being in a single political unit. Doesn’t that solve most of the problems? You know, the federal countries would have lost some bad tenants and gained some good neighbours. The European Union is not an end in itself, it’s a means to an end. And the end is described in the treaty, being peace and prosperity and democracy in Europe and beyond Europe. And the European Union is an extremely important means to get there in today’s world with global challenges that can only be reasonably and sensibly in a cooperation between member-states. And that’s basically what the European Council and the European Union is very much about. We still have a high level of education. But we suffer seriously from environmental problems and we also can improve the way our democracies work. For all that you need cooperation. Otherwise you have no influence anymore on your own future. Then the future is determined by bigger, other players. It’s as simple as that. The next question is “What can those political debates be about?” One of the good, important things to understand is that it is much more productive for us not to have debates about whether there should be European integration or not. That’s not a very helpful debate. Of course we could disband the European Union, theoretically it’s possible. So for a member-state to leave. This is not going to take us very far. It will probably take us on a route of nationalism and insecurity and economic crisis. At the same time, this doesn’t mean we should just accept everything the European Union does as policy. So the best way, to me, to increase participation and interest by the citizens is to have debates on cleavages. On issues that matter for people today. And these are things also young people can help define. I mean for example, one of the current debates is, let’s say, how far do we go to alleviate climate change? How far should we invest in new green technology? Should we pay the money now so that we are changing our economies and our world for the future? And there’s a number of issues in that. People might say but we would lose jobs, we would lose coal-power to power stations, we would lose traditional industries. So this is a spectrum of interest and opinion on which it is quite possible to have political debates and have choices at the EU-level. And once this is clear for the citizens we can form two opinions that we can have debates about without destroying EU integration. This can happen simply at the national level and at the European arena. Now the arena that things can happen about is again: Safety, security, to what extent are we interested in having our data protected? — As again security. This is a debate that European citizens are interested in. The European Union as a whole is in a much better position to stand up to a big actor like the United States. So again, this is something that can be debated at the EU level. Then you can have a debate of: To what extent is austerity good. To what extent we should go for more austerity type reforms or we should go for public investment. Again, if we have elections where citizens can vote for different views in the European Parliament. Then these views can later be translated into the European Commission’s working programme, it might be possible to increase the interest. So we have a number of cleavages, which can be now formed at the European Union level. There’s also a very well-known cleavage between people with an exclusive national-identity who will say: “I’m only Dutch” or German, or Polish, and people who feel themselves citizens of the world. Who would like to continue to travel freely. And the first group might say “We just want to close our borders, we don’t want to take anymore EU citizens from other countries that want to work. We want to revise the Schengen Treaty”. That’s a legitimate position. It’s not my position, but it’s a legitimate position. An economic union needs to be developed further – if we want to maintain the Euro. Of course you can say ‘We give up on the Euro’ but then we are having a totally different discussion and that would not be my option. But, I think the only party who is honest about that in the Netherlands on the other side is the PVV. They say ‘We want to get out of the Euro’. I don’t agree, but it’s another story. So either you go in, so that means fundamental integration or you don’t go with the Euro. But ‘in-between’ solutions in the end will not survive. And then of course if you have an economic union you have to also democratically arrange it and that means more democratic control at the European level. Which means that the European Parliament needs to change as well, needs to develop as well, needs to strengthen as well. All of these kind of issues, those are now the key questions that need to be addressed pretty soon I would say. In order to prevent another crisis in five years. At the same time, you have others who say the freedom of movement is the most important thing which we have achieved in the European Union. So it might be possible, should be in fact possible to have debate about this without saying “Our country is going to leave the European Union”. So these are a number of issues, let’s say the environmental cleavage, the identity and border cleavage, the security versus personal freedom cleavage, where real, true debates should happen at the EU level. And we should try to instigate them. To ask politicians “Where do you stand on this? Are you standing here, or here?” — At the EU arena. And if we make this visible to citizens, I think then the interest will come more naturally. The best ways for EU citizens to get involved are to be aware of what is going on at the European Union level, stay informed, and find constructive ways that can help shape the European Union, an ongoing process of integration, into a system of common interests that also reflects and represents the will of its people. By being more aware and involved, we will be able to help form a Union with which we can identify and feel a part of.