The past year’s crisis underscored the need for a more united Europe. We must seize this opportunity to make the Conference on the Future of Europe a true forum with citizens to work together to achieve a more sovereign and democratic Europe, says UEF President and Renew MEP Sandro Gozi.
The European Community project is a successful example of cooperation. More than 60 years ago, the seed was sown for this great idea, this magnificent economic, political, and social tool that turned a continent, disjointed by the war, into a place of peace.
The European Union’s (EU) effective response to the health, economic and social crisis caused by COVID-19 ought to be an accelerator of long overdue reforms of all kinds within the EU’s structure.
The pandemic has made obvious the need to deepen European political integration if we do not want to act ‘ad hoc’ in future crises. Moreover, the lack of Community competences in certain areas is already untenable, as is the lack of the checks and balances that are inherent in any democracy to manage them. If we make progress in competences and division of powers, we will be moving towards a federal Europe. This is something that we have been pursuing since the Treaty of Rome. Among others, the purchase of vaccines, the digital certificate, or NextGenerationEU are the latest steps in this direction that leave no room for doubt.
In that sense, we should understand the Conference on the Future of Europe as a means to an end. The Conference must make clear proposals and translate them into the Treaties. It is up to the European governments, institutions, parties and citizens to take the lead and make it a success.
The issue of what progress should be made in terms of competences, and division of powers arises. Changes must be made in order to bring the federal horizon closer and thus increase the effectiveness of European democracy.
The ideas collected in the Digital Platform and from the Citizens’ Panels cover a broad diversity of issues, but those more endorsed have one thing in common: citizens are asking for a more Democratic and Sovereign Europe. Contributors call for a restructuring of European institutions or even a federalisation of the European Union.
Today, citizens need and want a strong, legitimate, and properly financed political Union that can tackle the great transnational challenges of our time, acting decisively in a wide range of policy areas, from climate change, growing social inequalities, health and migration to foreign affairs and defence. Citizens are calling for stronger pan-European democracy — real European political parties and movements and proper campaigns for European elections, based on the creation of a pan-European constituency and transnational electoral lists headed by the candidates for President of the European Commission.
Europeans claim for a Union that is both a community of destiny and values, and a model for the new world now taking shape – an example of how countries can live in peace together, build cross-border and social solidarity, and protect human rights, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
In this context, reforms are crucial to enhance the democratic dimension of the EU by granting new direct powers to the European Parliament (EP):
- The EP must have fiscal power. As in any democracy, the body representing the citizens should be able to decide on the Union’s fiscal resources, whereas today the EP finds itself in the anomalous situation of representing the citizens but having no power to tax and decide on the Union’s resources. This change is made urgent also by the need to secure the debt of NextGenerationEU through mechanisms that allow the creation of new resources without going through a unanimous decision of the states.
- The EP must have the power to decide on an equal footing with the Council on the coordination of the member states’ economic and employment policies.
- It should have legislative initiative power in addition to the Commission’s power of initiative in cases of Commission inaction.
- Its role must be strengthened in relation to the procedure for revising the Treaties.
The past year’s crisis made obvious the need for a more united Europe. Hence, we must seize this opportunity to make the Conference on the Future of Europe a true forum with citizens to work together to achieve a more sovereign and democratic Europe. These reforms will create the basis for real democratic political life at European level, and at the same time a Europe that is effective in its action. The time to do it is now: now or never. Let us not waste this opportunity.