Federal Europe - Time to Decide
(Congress of the Union of European Federalists)
Andrey Kovatchev 25.03.2011
Thank you Mr. Chairman,
I think I can say friends because I think people who share similar ideas are friends. Sometimes they are more than friends - some of us are even visionaries. I believe here in the Union of European Federalists we are visionaries who share ideas and who look to the European project as a moving target, an evolving project that does not simply follow events or crises, but empowers its citizens and lives up to their challenges.
Now it is time to decide for a number of issues in Europe - the main topics related to Council meeting that ended today are the set up of the Euro financial stability Pact; the more closer and coherent European foreign and security policy. For me is also very important how to explain the benefits of this to our citizens.
The last point is vital for me and for the federal project. We can debate at length consolidate tax base, mechanisms for intervention in the bond market and so on, BUT we know that very few of our fellow-citizens are attracted to go in the deep into these discussions. Europe should not be a top-down project. It is not a project only of politicians. We should work on the bottom-up approach as well in order to engage more our citizens with the vision for a strong Europe.
One way to do it, I am convinced is to bring Europe closer to the young generation - and the best way is through education. By means of introducing civil education on the EU in school curricula we can start fostering the spirit of federalism and common future in the young citizens and voters. This spirit is the building block of Europe regardless of the current political debate, regardless of the current crisis. I work in this direction in my country and I am happy to say that the Commission is starting to take this up as well. In the second part of the year there will be a study on the EU member states' legislations, rules and practices on the way EU is taught at school.
Mentioning the crisis, it comes only to confirm the need of pro-active visionaries in Europe - of course among the decision makers, but also and most importantly, among our citizens. It is sad, but it is self-evident that we missed a lot of time during years of growth for Europe. We established the Euro and, yes, it has been a success for Europe. But the whole thing looks as if we moved into a nice house without a roof. And we moved in during the summer. Now is the winter and it started raining - it rains debt, high interest rates, high deficits and so on.
Well, the Council endorsed yesterday the Euro Plus Pact. For the moment, this is the achieved reality under the Inter-Governmental framework. But allow us not to be satisfied with what we have and ask for more! I think sooner or later we will come to another intergovernmental summit or another convent. Then Europe will have to decide to have the new rules according to the community method. The economic governance we are talking about today needs to be a Federal Economic Government and it needs to be communitarian! Otherwise the roof we are building for our house now will be as if made of cardboard. It will not hold for long like this.
There is the proposal for sanctions, for countries that go beyond the deficit limit and that do not correct macro economic imbalances. Well, it is to be discussed whether fining a country that is already short of money is actually a manageable solution. One is for sure - acquiring new debt should be discouraged! I know this is not in the Treaty but maybe we can think of including the debt-GDP ratio of member states in the formula for the number of Council votes. For sure the weight of votes in the Council could move temporarily in the benefit of member states that follow the agreed rules and decrease the political weight of the defectors. This could be an alternative to the discussed suspension of voting rights. We have to look at all the options and reach a compromise so we can decrease the imbalances in and between our economies.
The decision of the Council is a step this direction. The long-term solution is more Europe and more federated policies of the member states. We have a lot of arguments for this in fields from Education to Economic governance to Foreign Policy.
On foreign policy, I should say that we still look to the External Action Service with hope. In Bulgaria we have this saying: "Hope dies last". Sadly, we missed an opportunity to play a leading role in the Arab Democratic Revolutions. The EU was too hesitant to take the initiative. If we leave it entirely to the member states to shape the EU response to global crises, our foreign policy will be no more than the lowest common denominator.
Another question to raise here is about the capabilities of the Union - both in civilian and military terms. If we have the political will to prevent crisis, to intervene, to participate in enforcing the UN decisions, can we do it? Not for the moment.
As federalists we have to bring to the agenda the question for common European forces - an army if you like it, so we can respond to the transnational threats and decreasing national defence budgets. This of course is not to duplicate or replace NATO, but to strengthen our capacity and effectiveness to react.
Dear Friends, I look to beginning congress as a way to exchange ideas, strengthen our organisation and further steps towards federal Europe. And we have to keep in mind that these steps should be balanced between a top-down and a bottom-up approach.