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The Spinelli phenomenon

Altiero Spinelli was the heavyweight of the European federalist movement, first as activist, then as a very hardworking MEP. What does classic federalism want? In a nutshell it’s autonomy of the member states, under a common judicial and legislational authority, and the citizens’ democratic rights are provided by the Union. As decades went by federalism has changed. From the 80’s on the ideology has turned from the hierarchy of institutions to the cooperation of supranational level and member states.

There are many federalist ideas that should be thought over, such as voting for European parties, direct elections of the main European office holders (like the president of the Commission), but two things will still be missing to be able to build a federal Europe. First is legitimacy, second is the absence of member states.

Now there are some topicalities too.

“Prominent MEPs launched on 15 September 2010 the Spinelli Group, a network aimed at overcoming nationalism and promoting federalism across Europe”- says EurActiv.com informing us of the newest action of the (neo)federalist group of intellectuals.

Economic union

“I am still optimistic however, that the crisis will lead Europe to establish an economic union. I see no alternative” – said Joschka Fischer, member of the Spinelli Group.

The idea of the economic union is based on the Treaty of Maastricht (without a concrete deadline), but there’s a problem with some of its aspects. There are voices in the European press and political sphere that the Union is off the right track with the economic governance (which has become the backbone of the economic union). The budgetary restrictions layed down in the Stability and Growth Pact slow down the economic growth in the member states, which makes the countries even more difficult to carry out the exit strategy and makes citizens even harder to make ends meet. It’s not the way to gain legitimacy for the EU.

On the other hand, the institutions of economic surveillance are based in the center of international financial life (Frankfurt, London, Paris). According to many, independence is doubtful there (my opinion is that it would be doubtful anywhere), so who guarantees that these offices will supervise the world and not the other way round, making the whole surveillance useless?

This union is an advantage, but the construction is what matters. Right now we can feel a need for a cooperation, even for a deep cooperation, but it’s not like, say, the willing of taking financial care of the problematic members of the economic union.  Mr Spinelli would possibly be proud of the achievements of the past, because these more or less meet the claim of federalism, but it’s doubtfully operating. Let me refer to the Slovakian PM, Iveta Radicova’s latest thoughts on the euro.

Sovereignty

The economic union raises questions of economic sovereignty too.

“Every day we are losing part of our sovereignty to the emerging powers. Yet we still wonder if we should abandon our sovereignty (in favour of the EU) or not. We are losing that sovereignty anyway! It’s just that it is going to non-European powers in the East (like China)” – Mr Fischer added.

China doesn’t grow at the expense of the Union. It only spreads its sphere of economic interest, where Europe wants to be, but the state of our financial system doesn’t allow us to carry out an economic expansion. The Chinese foreign-currency reserves are estimated the highest on Earth, what’s more, banks are Chinese (article is in Hungarian). The vein of the European banking system is constructed in a different way, with much less regulation. This question leads us to an other, very sensitiv issue: the European economic governance is useless if Europe is not able to supersede the economic pattern, which collapsed in 2008-2009.

A federal mind would likely say that member states can be blamed for not being ready to handle the crisis. But no-one guarantees that a federal Union could better foresee a coming strike. (Both the USA and Germany are federal states, still, both of them were hit to the ground.)

Crisis management doesn’t depend on federalism, but on good solutions.

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