The European Federalist Party will run in seven EU member states in the EU elections. Candidate Pietro De Matteis urges to put a federal Europe up to a vote, as “national parties no longer have the tools to do what they promise to the people”.
Many of your list members are young people. Is that your core voting base?
Well, you would think so. But when we’re, for instance, campaigning in Belgium to talk about our project of a federal Europe, these young Europeans often don’t vote here; they vote in their own country.
We are pushing for a political tool that allows Europeans working or studying in a different member state to participate and exercise their voting right. The European electoral system doesn’t allow them to express themselves.
The treaties of the European Union already discuss this issue. They mention a true European electoral system but, so far, it didn’t materialise.
A lot of citizens have issues understanding their relation to the pan-European parties. The average Frenchman would understand what the French PS is, but not what the European PES is. How can they relate to your party?
The basic problem today with Europe is that citizens don’t know who does what. Some things are done at a regional level, others at a national. And at the European level, people don’t know what is happening.
At the same time, it is also a fact that national parties no longer have the tools to do what they promise to the people. If the French ruling party wants to increase taxes in France, people move to Belgium – as we’ve seen in the past. Or if a big company decides to shut down a national operation in France or the Netherlands, politicians are powerless.
National political parties can’t deliver on saving the environment, saving the economy, creating jobs or boosting innovation. And that is why people get less interested and stop voting.
Our approach is: some issues need a local response, others need a European response. If the latter is the case, we should be clear that it cannot be done at national level, and then citizens should be able to decide what to do. Currently they don’t: all debates are national debates. And decisions during the eurozone crisis were taken at the European Council level, where there is an imbalance between big and small countries.
Your party puts forward stronger institutions, but the discussion on solving the eurozone crisis has not been one on ‘more or less Europe’. Rather, it's been one for which policy approaches were needed – or ‘what Europe’. Where do you stand on that?
We have a programme that includes all policy areas. One is the single market, which today isn’t a fully-fledged single market. One element would be to fully integrate this market. There is no single market for energy, for example. Or no single market for transport. At the same time we realise that the single market doesn’t work because as Europeans, we’re mainly consumers.
Also, if we want freedom of movement, we can’t have national welfare systems. What you see now is that there are countries – like the United Kingdom – welcome people from other countries to take on jobs and then complain if these people don’t manage to get them.
For us, it is not about immigration, it is about mobility. UK politicians complain it is a cost they shouldn’t bear. And so the answer is to create a welfare safety net across Europe, for instance by implementing a European minimum revenue.
What if you lose countries on the way towards integration? The UK is surely not going to go along with a federal Europe.
What is clear is that we need a federal structure, certainly for the eurozone. Asymmetric shocks are all around and some eurozone countries are burdened with policies that are not complemented with investments.
In that case, countries like the UK will not go along with it and so we need to differentiate between a strong, federal core and a broader union focused on the single market.
How do you define yourself in terms of political ideology?
I think this distinction on European level doesn’t really make sense. Right-wing parties in the UK, Italy or France are very different. De facto, you get the groups in the EU Parliament whose programme is very vague.
Still, the European Federalist Party defends some key principles, like the protection of the environment or the creation of a true ‘social Europe’, which isn’t in place at this moment. Also, the support for young people is one of our principles. Or access to the single market for small and medium companies.
If you would have an elected member after 25 May, which group would he or she join, then?
Basically, our sections would decide for themselves Basically, our sections would decide for themselves but we would try to push for the creation of a truly federalist group within the European Parliament. The current extra-parliamentary Spinelli Group does not suffice to push forward federalist legislation.
In these elections, some are running on their own, but three sections are also running jointly with the party linked to [the liberal] ALDE, which is the most federalist. In Belgium, we’re running with a movement called ‘Stand Up for Europe’, based on a joint programme that we endorsed.
How easy is it to get attention for your campaign?
It is not easy. We’re getting some attention from some media. But we don’t have the high visibility that the big European parties have. What’s more, because we have a European project, people don’t always seem aware of the importance it can have for them.
What are your expectations for May?
Well, most of all we want to raise the debate on a federal Europe. We should be more ambitious and we want to put this urgency on the map. I’m running in Belgium, though it will be a challenge to get elected.