Since 2003, Europe 2020 has considered as highly probable the appearance of a European crisis resulting from the failure of the Constitution’s ratification process. For this reason, Europe 2020 has been thinking for a long time already about possible alternatives to the Constitution. This reflection took shape along the various internal discussions, interviews with EU political and administrative officials, and debates with the European civil society; and also included elements drawn from the public debates that developed around the ratification processes.
This first anticipation paper of the series « Possible alternatives after the ratification’s failure » will be concerned with the now inevitable process of differentiation between the Euro zone (Euroland) and the European Union, in the short and medium term, as concerns the B plan that must be designed to prevent the entire European process to enter a major crisis in terms of democratic legitimacy and of operational coherence that could be fatal.
The Euro introduced logics that are specific to the countries of the Euro zone, characterised by a significant increase of citizen awareness of the importance of European issues. This increase did not take place, or only marginally, in the countries outside the Euro zone. Moreover this increased awareness has mostly taken a negative form except among two categories: the seniors who see in the Euro the completion of 50 years of peace-effort, and the wealthy classes who find in the Euro a facilitator to their trans-European activities (professional and recreational). For this reason, in its October 2004 strategic note to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Europe 2020 warned against a « Yes » communication based on a merely positive vision of the EU, likely to be ineffective especially on the 25/45 age category.
A very strong differentiation between citizen expectations in the Euro zone and in the rest of the EU
Regarding this part of the population of the Euro zone – which can be extended to the 18/50 age categories if we consider referenda statistics – they present other specificities when compared to the same age category in the rest of the EU: most of the Euro zone countries entered the EU at least one generation ago, in fact two generations ago in the case of the 6 founding member states; the 18/50 years-old age category in the Euro zone is therefore made up of the first two generations “born in Europe”. Outside the Euro zone, most member states either joined the European process only very recently or never fully accepted being part of it (UK and Denmark). Seen from this angle, it is quite normal that the level of Euro-citizen maturity is very different from one zone to the other. This paper does not intend to enter the detail of the difference between the two groups mentioned. It is enough for now to acknowledge that expectations in the Euro zone have something to do with a longing for some democratic control of the EU process due to the influence Europe has taken in people’s lives, people who otherwise together feel “naturally” European. These characteristics are to oppose to the extremely diversified expectations outside the Euro zone ranging from a desire to keep some distance with the level of European integration induced by the Euro zone, to the will of joining this level of integration without having the capacity yet to do it, nor a precise idea of the political implications.
In other words politically speaking, on the one hand we have a rather homogeneous population, « naturally » European and bearer of a democratic demand in relation to the European project; while on the other hand, we have some rather heterogeneous populations as regards their expectations and their knowledge/experience of the European project.
Combined with this political differentiation, there is also of course a social and economical differentiation. The requirements entailed by the Euro in the economic and social fields are now obvious for the inhabitants of Euroland. Apart from a demand for greater democratic control on the European process, these populations are looking forward to see the implementation of the economic, fiscal, social measures required to compensate the side effects induced by a simply monetary governance of the zone as it is the case today. Of course populations outside the Euro zone are not submitted to such effects and have no such expectations. Moreover, a new parameter is to be taken into consideration: the enlargement has significantly increased the number of non-Euro countries in the EU (13 instead of 3 before 2004), therefore people inside the Euro zone find it more and more difficult to understand that EU mechanisms and institutions continue to play a significant role in the management of Euroland.
The failure of the Constitution was partly written in this differentiation which resulted from two quasi-simultaneous events: the Euro-related increased level of integration, and the enlargement-related extension of pre-Euro EU. In order to avoid a new series of misfortunes which in this case could be really dangerous for the European project (the Constitution’s failure won’t if lessons are taught rapidly), Europe 2020 advises the European Council to preside over a double process.
Euro Zone: Towards a European Political Community (EPC)
As regards the Euro zone, it has become essential and urgent to build the instruments of political and economic governance vis-à-vis the Central Bank. In order to respond to the democratic expectations, these instruments cannot be simply executive; they will have to include a legislative component. In order to comply with the requirements of growth and competition of the Euro zone, decisions in the matter must be made by the beginning of 2006, thus cutting short feelings that there would be a “durable crisis” of the European project.In order to be credible and entail public support (1), these new institutions should be located outside the EU institutional triangle (Brussels-Strasbourg-Luxembourg), following the example of the ECB’s strategic location in Frankfurt. The re-launch of the European project via the Euro zone is not one option along other, it is a necessity; it won’t work if it is limited to few institutional patches (such as the recent minor developments at Ecofin and Eurogroup these months) but requires an extensive and innovating action-plan. A « European Political Community » Treaty establishing the economic, social and democratic dimensions expected by Euro zone citizens, could be a means, if it were drafted by the sole Euro zone member states and submitted to one referendum held on the same day all over the 12 countries.
As regards the EU: Launch of trans-European political parties
For the EU, there is no real alternative or B Plan to be expected from the institutions. In fact, the EU as such can only patch up the Treaty of Nice with some elements drawn from the Constitution (Presidency, Minister of Foreign Affairs, vote-weight). The heterogeneity of the zone, economically and socially as well as in terms of political expectations, prevents any new initiative to be launched on the scale of the entire EU, given the failure of the constitutional project. The two future-bearer paths relate on the one hand to socio-economic developments that should bring an increasing number of countries to consider joining the Euro zone (under its new ECP form) by 2010/14, progressively building convergence between the two zone ; and on the other hand to the emergence of trans-European political parties presenting lists in the 2009 and 2014 (2) elections, to accelerate the convergence of European public opinion and the democratisation of the EU (main political challenge of the zone as shown by the current crisis initiated in two founding countries « with a referendum »).
Those conclusions may seem audacious and ambitious. Let’s keep in mind that the current crisis is a historic one and therefore requires from the Europeans as much boldness and ambition as show by the post-War generation of the Founding-Fathers. Europe 2020 would like to remind that there are only nine months between the failure of EDC in 1954 and the Messine Conference which cast the bases of the European Economic Community launched two years after. What is required to succeed in this new project, is that our European leaders define together an ambitious project capable of gathering together a large majority of the population which was divided over the Constitution by lack of vision and democratisation (Yes voters and half of No voters are in fact in favour of “more Europe”). Europe 2020 thinks it is inside the Euro zone only that the conditions are gathered for a political jump to take place as an answer to the central demand for democratisation expressed by the citizens.
(1) We remind that along both French and Dutch referenda, the European Commission appeared clearly as the institution most strongly rejected by the public opinion ; meanwhile the European Parliament is seen as a politically neglectable quantity (if we compare participation to the European elections and to the referenda just a year after, the conclusion is clear). Though a regrettable fact, Brussels and Strasbourg now convey negative feelings unlikely to serve as a basis to mobilise citizens around a European project. A future Paper of the present series shall detail this issue.
(2) Europe 2020 will bring entire support, both intellectual and operational, to all the initiatives heading towards the creation of trans-European political parties. This support will be granted under the strict condition that those parties are trans-European from the start; indeed Europe 2020 believes it is impossible to create such parties by federating national parties such as those which have occupied the European Parliament in the last decades.