Spinelli Group preaches federalism to parliaments, media

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A recently-established federalist body, the Spinelli Group, invited all its members to the European Parliament for the first time yesterday (12 January) for a debate on how to bring forward greater unity between Europeans.

The debate, organised as a discussion between Joschka Fischer – a former German foreign minister – and French philosopher Jean-Mark Ferry, did not end up with clear conclusions, but a number of messages were clearly voiced.

The first one concerns the EU's different parliaments, local and national, which were called upon to establish much stronger links than at present, becoming a "network" in which the European parliament would be "the keystone" ("la clé de voûte"), as Ferry called it.

The bottom line, according to Ferry, but also other speakers, is that at present, European citizens do not feel that they are represented in the European institutions.

The second message was about the need to establish a "European common space" by engaging EU countries' mainstream media, which at present do not seem very interested in the internal developments of the European Union.

National media should be encouraged to be more open to European issues and could even organise themselves to cover the same subjects from different national perspectives simultaneously, Ferry argued.

The philosopher said that after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the legitimacy of the claim that the EU was set up to avoid the spectre of another war in Europe had died. Consequently, he advocated a new 'raison d'être' for the EU, based on a transnational civil society.

But a lot must still be done if this is to be achieved, Ferry said. There is no real freedom of movement in the EU except for businesses, he claimed, citing as an example retirement rights, which he described as a handicap for millions of people who have worked in different countries during their career.

He also spoke of the need to establish "real European parties" and to conduct "homogeneous" campaigns and elections.

There is a lot of rejection of Europe, Fischer said, challenging the audience to imagine what would happen if a majority of people in their countries were in favour of leaving the Union.

The most important message which Fischer reiterated many times during the debate was the need for eurozone countries to move towards coordinated and strong economic governance. He said the question for Europeans was simple: what will happen to the euro, what will happen to my job? As of today, he said, politicians were unable to answer those questions, and perhaps a more important one: where are we going?

Ferry largely concurred, bringing to the discussion the idea of making Europeans better aware of what economic governance means, by setting up a common compulsory minimum income for the citizens of the euro zone.

Prominent MEPs launched on 15 September 2010 the Spinelli Group, a network aimed at overcoming nationalism and promoting federalism across Europe. They invited citizens to join the circle, making clear it was not a political party.

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group in Parliament, appears as the group's frontman, alongside Green/EFA group co-chair Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

The group, which at the initial stage is composed of 33 personalities, was founded by European Union supporters such as former Commission President Jacques Delors, former European Parliament President Pat Cox, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and current Parliament Vice-President Isabelle Durant (Greens/EFA; Belgium).

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