Strauss-Kahn report: new mobilising ‘myth’ or omnibus of old stories?

An increase in the EU’s budget, a European tax and a minimum income are some of the most striking ideas proposed in a report written for the Commission by former French finance minister Strauss-Kahn.

The report pretends to be a tentative answer to the
“triple crisis” (institutions, project, territory)
of the European Union. As a remedy it proposed the creation of a
“political Europe” which would surpass the
“technical project” the EU has been in the past.

Mr Strauss-Kahn starts from the observation that
there is a
“European model of society” based on four
essential values: the inviolable nature of human rights, culture as
a means of emancipation, a model of sustainable development and a
vision of the world order based on multilateralism. This European
model is in crisis, says the report. It is undermined from within
by the lack of adaptation to economic change, the absence of
response to new social expectations, the challenge of ageing, the
ecological challenge and democratic distrust. It is also threatened
from without by globalisation and the risk of powerlessness after
11 September 2001.

The EU should have
a new “myth”, a new “project”, says the report. It
should change “the current logic of reparation with a new logic of
opportunities”. It proposes to “build a new model of justice
founded on opportunities” and sees the need to create “fully
political institutions”, develop a “European public life” and bring
about “the feeling of belonging to the Union”. In fifty proposals,
the Strauss-Kahn report summarises its recommendations to build a
political Europe. A summary of the most striking proposals:

  • invest in knowledge: research to be the EU’s
    budgetary priority; create a European Agency for Science and
    Research; tax credits for private firms investing in research and
    development;
  • develop a
    European industrial policy: modify competition
    policy to allow “European champions”; banish disloyal fiscal
    regimes;
  • make the
    Single Market dynamic: facilitate entry of new
    firms; build a single labour market; develop European transport
    infrastructures;
  • reform the EU’s
    macro-economic governance: reform of the Stability
    and Growth Pact; institutionalise the Euro-group;
  • integrate a
    “preventive ecological principle” in the European
    model
  • environmental policy: develop a programme of “ecological
    convergence”; create a sustainable development Council;
  • social protection: a European minimum income; a
    fund for support to employees affected by restructuring; social
    security the first European social right;
  • fiscal federalism: abolish ceiling of own
    resources and increase community budget; a European tax in the form
    of a supplementary levy on company taxation;
  • a
    European democratic space: a European public
    broadcasting channel; portion of the seats in European elections
    for pan-European lists; a European observatory for democracy;
  • sense of
    belonging to the Union: mobility between public
    administrations; course on European history in schools; a Museum
    for Europe
  • define
    Europe’s territories: hold out the prospect of
    accession for Turkey.

 

After the 2001 Gothenburg Summit, Commission President Romano
Prodi installed a sustainable development Round Table of
independent experts under the chairmanship of former French finance
minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The group consisted of very
diverse personalities such as former Polish foreign minister
Bronislaw Geremek, former Belgian environment minister Magda
Aelvoet, Portuguese Literature Nobel Prize winner José Saramago,
German former governor of the Bundesbank Hans Tietmeyer and former
BP chairman Lord Simon of Highbury. The group met seven times
between January 2003 and April 2004. It was supposed to give an
answer to the question: what can be the next "mobilising myth" for
Europe?

The Strauss-Kahn report was presented to the
Commission on 18 May 2004. It seems significant that the Commission
itself did not want to give high visibility to the report. No press
release was published on the RAPID website. There also seems to
have been considerable disagreement in the experts' group itself on
the final result of its meetings.

 

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