by Franck Biancheri
The Euro is coming, gradually shaking up the habits inherited from 50 years of European integration from which the peoples have been excluded: out of necessity at the beginning, then out of habit.
No currency without a country – No Euroland without democracy
And these habits are being brutally challenged by multiple changes in our societies, which in Europe the Euro will brutally catalyze at the beginning of 2002. “There is no currency without a country”, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt recently said. That’s true. And we can add that in Europe today, there can no longer be any country without democracy.
The single currency will therefore precipitate (in the chemical sense of the term) the emergence of a new country, Euroland; and this country will have the immediate task (it has begun) of inventing its democratic form, its “common democracy”, because it cannot exist in this 21st century Europe and cannot be rejected by citizens of all tendencies, including pro-European ones.
But citizenship and democracy are not just a succession of rights for the citizen. Contrary to what the dominant European discourse suggests, the democratisation of the EU would only be a huge doorway to the aspirations of the people, to the goodwill of the citizens…. necessarily irresponsible (while our European elites, from Yugoslavia to Mad Cow, have shown such great responsibility!)! Moreover, look, as soon as they are given the opportunity, citizens spend their time playing “European pigeon shooting” and slaughter the Euro (Denmark) or enlargement (Ireland).
However, the democratisation of the EU is also the only way to empower Euro-citizens, to actively raise awareness of the EU’s constraints and duties, and of themselves within it. Of course, this process cannot emerge in the “old nation countries”, it needs to develop in the new “Euroland country” to be in line with the European reality of our time, and the current challenges.
No responsibility without taxes – No Euro-taxes without political responsibility of citizens
In this case, the Euro-citizen will then have virtues that our dear elites so tired do not imagine today: he will be ready to assume his duties… because he will have understood them and will have appropriated them as part of the “European democratic contract”.
Anisi, the old political adage, no responsibility without taxes, will naturally apply and European decision-makers will easily be able to argue that the counterpart of this democratisation of the EU is in particular a direct involvement of the citizen in the financing of the EU itself. Opacity today already begins at the level of EU resources; the transparency necessary for democratisation requires fiscal transparency on the one hand; and a citizen-centred approach to the Community effort on the other.
There is no reason to fear a negative reaction from public opinion on the question of a European tax… provided that we leave the current Community system based on the absence of liability… with taxes (mediatized by the Member States).
In any case, whether in terms of geographical and social cohesion or enlargement (an enlarged version of cohesion), the Community bill will increase significantly in the coming years (if not to pay for cohesion funds, it will be to pay the intra-European police forces who will be obliged to maintain the EU’s cohesion by force). 2%, 3% or even 5% of GDP? who knows where we will be by 2010 following the opening of Pandora’s political box called the Euro. What is certain is that other taxes will have to be reduced, particularly at the national level.
One thing is certain: the heads of government of the contributing countries know that they will ultimately have to announce to their voters that the European bill will increase over the next decade… so they will be strongly tempted to make the political weight of this politically difficult to “sell” news directly to the EU, by creating a European tax.
This will work… provided that the “democratic” side of the Euro is not forgotten in the process.