LibLink: Guy Verhofstadt MEP – Crisis shows why EU must renew its vows

Writing in the Financial Times, liberal leader in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt and his colleague and fellow contributor to this new book Daniel Cohn-Bendit (leader of the Greens) set out their vision for the future of the EU after the Eurozone crisis:

The crisis has shown up the key weaknesses in economic governance at EU level where a monetary policy was introduced without a parallel fiscal policy. Unlike other global currencies such as the dollar or yen, the euro depends on 17 different economic strategies and bond markets, no common treasury, no common debt issuance and no common banking supervisor. This explains, to a large extent, why the bond markets extort higher interest rates from eurozone countries than from the US or Japan despite lower levels of public debt. Some of these lacunae are being addressed but progress is slow and consensus on a common vision remains elusive.

This vision should be based on a federal structure, defined and agreed in a new, concise constitutional document to be drawn up by the next European parliament in conjunction with the European Council of Ministers and submitted to a referendum across the EU. The “f” word has been much maligned, yet many member states are federal structures. It is perfectly possible, for example, to be Flemish, Belgian and European all at the same time. In an increasingly post-national world, where the global economy is driven by big trading blocs and emerging markets, the European nation states of the 19th century lack economic and political clout. The make-up of the G8 in 2030 will probably look different from today. Sovereignty is better pooled at European level than lost at the global level.

However, the EU struggles to win the hearts and minds of the public. Although the European parliament has legitimacy through direct elections, it still lacks credibility with many voters who do not feel motivated to vote for their MEPs. The five-yearly European elections are treated largely as national referendums on the government in office rather than a chance to debate the political choices to deal with transnational issues such as climate change or immigration. National governments have a predilection for blaming Brussels for everything that goes wrong while claiming credit for everything that goes right. There needs to be a sea change at all levels of public consciousness: European parties must make a greater effort to mount EU-wide campaigns and address the challenges we face as a union of 500m citizens rather than as just 27 separate national entities.

The next European parliament, to be elected in June 2014, should become a constituent assembly whose chief responsibility would be to draw up a draft constitution, in agreement with the council of ministers. The text should be short and concise (unlike the last attempt) and confine itself to constitutional aspects of EU governance. It should be submitted to a referendum simultaneously across all countries of the union. Individual states could then also determine if they wish to be part of it. That is not only democratic but would force all countries to confront the issue of Europe head on and no longer hide in the shadows. The current state of muddling along is only creating friction and failing to deal with pressing policy matters.

You can read the authors’ full piece here.

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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3 Comments

  • You write : “Sovereignty is better pooled at European level than lost at the global level.”
    My understanding of the definition of Sovereignty is : Supreme dominance, power or rule through legal authority.
    Why then, do LibDems create such a ballyhoo about an elected House of Lords, when sovereignty at European level would (by definition!), render both the Commons and the House of Lords as little more than powerless talking shops anyway?
    Also, I cannot grasp where, how, why, we have lost sovereignty at global level. The fact is, if we [UK], as a nation can build (it) or provide (it), and the world wants (it), they will buy (it). We simply, don’t need a bloated EU middleman getting fat on his 10% for doing nothing.
    There is an oft quoted remark that 40% of our trade is to the Eurozone. Have you noticed that whenever Cameron travels to the wider world outside of Europe, that he takes a platoon of businessmen/women, with him to put business boots on the ground. He even mentioned it in his conference speech. He (or more likely his adviser), is clearly, not relying on the EU coming out of Intensive Care, anytime soon, and is actively building contacts, and contracts, without Mr EU 10%, who frankly just extorts more money each year (via EU budget), to bloat his EU pension.
    You further write, with regard to a draft constitution on EU governance,
    ” Individual states could then also determine if they wish to be part of it.”
    Which is exactly what is being asked for by UKIP, and is exactly why they are in the ascendant, and LibDems are falling like a stone.
    A referendum WILL come, despite ALL political leaders best attempts, to block, obfuscate, stall and deny the electorate their democratic right of self determination.

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