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Bonino for EAST: Europe needs a federal solution

“Europe: rediscovering federalist origins to avoid decline”, is the title of an article by Minister for Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino for the latest issue of the magazine “East-European Crossroads”, directed by Flavio Fusi. An article in which the minister analyses the limitations and virtues of a Europe that, 60 years on, “allows its inhabitants to live in relative peace, freedom and prosperity”, and where today “no single Member State alone would, however, have sufficient means to offer its citizens that same level of well being, security and stability”. A Europe that certainly needs perfecting, and that is low on appeal these days but that, the minister urges, still has the chance to go the federalist route in order to avoid that of decline.

“Europe the way it is now loses appeal even for a convinced supporter like me”

“Europe the way it is now loses its appeal even for a convinced supporter like me. If Europe had paid more attention to the warnings and suggestions coming from all sides over recent years, we would not have found ourselves in the current context of anti-Europe tendencies and forms of populism that are threatening our profound sense of integration and co-existence”, begins the article by Minister Emma Bonino, according to whom “there continues to be a pressing demand for ‘more Europe’ in the world”. Every day we have concrete proof of how the Union is still able to act as a powerful catalyst, first and foremost with its attraction of our eastern and southern neighbours with the prospect of future integration”. But it is with regard to its own citizens that Europe has lost its appeal, seeming to be “excessively reticent as the world gallops forward”, and that is increasingly “associated with the obligations of an austerity that, if not accompanied by appropriate economic policies aimed at stimulating growth, will only lead to recession, unemployment and social tension”, the minister writes. While not failing to point out the major objectives achieved by Brussels in the areas of fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and the security necessary for trade, development and investment, she remarks on the EU’s need to “respond, in our vital interests”, to the current tendencies.

Federal solution based on accurate cost/benefit analyses

“And in order to defend the European construction, and our fundamental values, we must rediscover the original meaning of the European project, updating it to the new challenges of the 21st century”, keeping in mind that “no solution, however, will be credible without a political framework fully inclusive of the entire European architecture. What we need is a federal solution”. Emma Bonino’s “support for a United States of Europe is not based on ideology but on accurate cost/benefit analyses. A couple of years ago I proposed what I called a “light” form of federalism, an institutional model that would be capable of financing essential functions of government such as foreign and security policies, scientific research and large-scale infrastructure projects, but that would absorb no more than 5% of European GDP. Unfortunately, the majority of European governments are reluctant to embrace such a project, and the negative consequences of this indecision are there for all to see: European initiatives remain fragmentary and ineffective, resources are wasted and Europe’s relevance is increasingly at risk”.

Italy can make its voice heard in a new European phase of recovery, growth and democratic legitimacy

It is not too late to reverse the trend, however. “If we adopted a new vision that included the full involvement of our citizens and governments, we could begin a new phase in the European construction’s recovery, growth and democratic legitimacy, and the Union’s role as a global actor”, the minister writes, concluding her article with an observation on her own country: “as EU duty presidency in the second half of 2014, Italy will have an opportunity to make its voice heard, and to once again assume a full-fledged role in the process of European integration”.