Federalists want ‘people agora’ to decide EU future

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Participants in a 'shadow summit' hosted yesterday (8 December) by the federalist Spinelli Group said they were "fed up" with the secretive political deals of EU leaders and called for a convention to map out a new vision for Europe.

The shadow summit denounced the Franco-German ‘directoire’ and the two nation's initiative to cobble together a European treaty outside the EU framework.

Instead, it advocated a convention of representatives from the European and national parliaments, the Commission, civic organisations and heads of state.

The federalist meeting was attended by the European Parliament's liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt, co-chair of the Green group Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and former Greek Prime Minister Konstantinos Simitis.

The group adopted a statement which appears as a wish-list of economic measures and initiatives to strengthen democracy in the European Union.

In the economic field, the group calls for the creation of a European Monetary Fund, the introduction of eurobonds and for extending the powers of the European Central Bank.

Speaking before the announcement that the eurozone countries would establish a treaty outside the EU framework, Verhofstadt warned that this was "not a way forward".

"People are fed up with political leaders, but they still believe in Europe. What we need is an ‘agora’ where citizens have their say," Verhofstadt said.

Some of the statements made at the shadow summit may now sound naïve in light of the latest developments.

Andrew Duff, a prominent British MEP and spokesman on constitutional affairs for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), said that UK Prime Minister David Cameron was going to be "constructive" and not seek specific British opt-outs during the leadership summit.

In fact, eurozone countries embarked last night (8 December) on the less enviable option of a treaty among the 17 eurozone countries, open to others, after Cameron made "unacceptable demands" to exempt Britain from financial regulations, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

The first Shadow European Council was launched by the Spinelli Group, which was launched by prominent MEPs on 15 September 2010.

The network aims to overcome nationalism and promote 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 the European Parliament, appears to be the group's frontman, alongside Greens 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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