The first is that “the markets” are imposing choices to democratic institutions, which are not able to answer to them and could soon be overwhelmed. A few and evil men closed in a dark room manipulate markets and put people in misery. The second is that there is nothing to be done if not closing ourselves each in our safe borders; the third is, as John Palmer mentions, “that European democratic accountability is something which can only be exercised through national Parliaments and governments”, either because the EU institutions are the instrument of the above mentioned ill forces of the markets or because they are obviously not able to solve any of the problems Europe is facing today, so better not to give them any more powers.
It seems to me that today what the “markets” need to be “reassured” is somewhat the same of what we want to see: not cuts on public spending, but a coherent and integrated European political and economic union able to give some chances of welfare and sustainable economic activity to its citizens. Of course, most actors in the financial markets do not give any attention to jobs and social policies; they just care about the return of their investments. But it turns out that these elements are much more linked to each other than most people even in the progressive front wish to see. The simple truth is that in Europe today, even the financial stability depends less from the “golden rule” than from the perspective of a sustainable economic development, new and long-term job creation, a better redistribution of benefits. We all know by now that the current deep crisis and unemployment are indeed due to the inevitable failure of an economic system based on unsustainable pattern of “precarisation” of work forces and progressive separation between the real economic activity and its mirror reflection in the financial Luna Park. The toy broke down, let us go back to reality.
And reality tells us if there is not a “driver” in the EU seat, nothing will save the euro and thus the EU. So what is missing in Europe is politics and a clear and irreversible demonstration that we are not on the brink of coming back to borders or national currencies and that the EU is here to stay.
Having said that, not any “driver” will get us out of trouble, of course. Even if I am convinced that in the very short term the ball is in the camp of the ECB and of those very same national governments and EU institutions which brought us in this disaster, -which clearly is not reassuring-, we have to actively prepare a real alternative; we should aim at completely reversing the policies of the EU and of most EU member states.
I fully agree with John Palmer when he says that we need to create a “genuine supranational European democratic politics” and EU parties have a role to play there. But we need to create the framework to be able to have enough power to play a role and quickly agree about what to do: thus we have to reform the way the EU operates (meaning the Treaties) and at the same time change its policies. I am convinced that unless we get parties, associations, trade unions, citizens and groups to understand that their fight to change their own governments and policies must have a European counterpart, we will not manage to get the necessary strength to ensure that the “deeper” political integration that many people are now talking about is something radically different than the Troika (ECB, Commission and IMF) putting its liberist nose in national budget laws: we need a “democratic front” able to unite on a few strong proposals to take “another road for Europe”. In other words, we need to orientate some of the energy of the civil society movements and some of the best politicians towards the fight for a better EU. We have not only to replace Merkel, Rajoy, Monti or encourage Hollande. We have to get rid of Barroso and Van Rompuy as well.
Indeed, it must be very clear that “democracy” at EU level will not fall from the sky and that today “the will of the majority” is not always going in the direction we want. We need to build a proposal in which a deep, democratic reform of the EU goes hand in hand with policy changes; and of course we have to get the necessary consensus to actually make them real. Otherwise, we can “democratically” get in the next few months a nice group of governments in the EU Council even more heavily influenced by parties like the True Finns, the Lega, Fidezs or the Dutch Party for Freedom and in 2014 a majority of euro-sceptics in the EP: which, combined to the current procedures which leave most powers on economic and monetary policies in the hands of national governments deciding unanimously, could prove more devastating a situation than the breaking up of the euro.
There are a few very concrete and useful steps that we could envisage taking in the next months. First, there is a large consciousness that the EU of the imposed austerity in taking us to disaster. But what to do instead? Many parties, movements, intellectuals, citizens are actively working on this issue all over the EU. There are hundreds of debates, documents, papers and appeals produced. But little is done to put all this in a (relatively) common basket; we need to give to all these ideas and faces behind the ideas the visibility of a “European” campaign carried by a large number of people (and voters). We as European Greens are very interested in the building of a large alliance around three simple titles: regulate and shrink the finance; green new deal, that is to say invest in the ecological reconversion of economy and society; political integration of the EU towards an open, democratic federal system (which has nothing to do with a burocratic super-state). We have to pursue and deepen the work we started with the Forum in Brussels on June the 28th “ another road for Europe” and try to build a large European debate about what are the concrete proposals to govern the EU by linking them to the worries of the people at national or local levels.
At the same time, we have to take in our hands the initiative on the “constitution” of Europe. The June European Council Conclusions say that member states governments are the “owners” of the treaties. They entrusted Van Rompuy, Barroso, Draghi, Juncker, four conservative men, to come up in the autumn with proposals of changes in the economic governance of the EU, leaving completely out the European Parliament, national parliaments and civil society. We already know what they will come up with: too little, too late and wrong. We should enter into this process. The European Parliament has the powers according to the Treaty of Lisbon to come up with proposals to reform the EU, but it seems to lack courage and vision. We have to push it to wake up and act, opening its doors to the ideas and initiatives of the organised civil society and to work as the defender of the interest of the Europeans. The proposal to create transnational lists for the next EP elections lies forgotten in a drawer waiting for better times. We have to encourage MEPs to adopt a new electoral procedure making it possible to create a real “European” constituency soon: otherwise the calls for “European democratic politics” will remain empty words. 2014 is getting nearer and we have to make of the next European election campaign not a boring mega-pool on the level of consensus of each national party or an open field for euro-sceptic forces, but an occasion to confront competing options for Europe and to mobilize voters on choices that will directly touch their everyday life.
We have to open a debate about the need of a new Convention or a Constituent assembly as the right way to reform the EU, taking away from governments acting behind closed doors the “ownership” of the European project. It will not be easy to convince many parties and organisations to start acting as if taking fortress Europe would be a much more important challenge than winning national elections. But it is the only chance we have to save the EU, the euro…and the Europeans.
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