Reform and integrate the European Union

The current form of Union is not strong enough to safeguard our interests; it is in our best interest to create the legitimate and effective institutions that will.

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Europe must become a force for good in the world. We must overcome our insecurities and start acting out our principles. We owe this courage to those who came before us and suffered to build the society we have the honor and privilege to live in.

We must go beyond the limits of our idea of Europe, leverage the power of our dynamic cultural landscape and history to build a new world, where Europeans can coexist and be protected from those who aim to threaten us with violence.

Inherit the Past, Overcome the Present, Illuminate the Future.

We walk converging paths

The European Union is the most successful and ambitious political project of human history. The process of European unification brought unprecedented peace, freedom and unity to a continent historically defined by conflict. Under the guise of the European Union, we champion humanitarian aid and civil protection to the most vulnerable groups in the world both materially and in spirit.

European unity is the continuation and natural consequence of the European traditions of Enlightenment, Humanism and Romanticism. The affirmation of our common shared principles is rooted in the sacrality and inviolability of human life. Despite our nuanced cultural differences, Europe remains united as the primary defender of reason, human rights, and freedom in the world today.

Despite its notable achievements, the European Union’s current form has proven itself vulnerable to a number of challenges:

  • Violations of international law and human rights and open defiance against them worldwide
  • Continued interference in European political process by foreign actors
  • Emerging technologies giving rise to a new source of economic competitiveness.
  • Significant loss of global scale and competitiveness for major European companies
  • Foreign powers adopting increasingly aggressive posturing towards Europe and threatening our borders, whether openly or covertly

Yet our political, technological and social achievements have stagnated. Europe needs direction, determination and courage to escape its state of comfort, arrogance and satisfaction. We stopped trying to overcome our limits right when the challenges facing mankind have pushed beyond the envelope of our possibilities. There is a time to show ourselves and the world that despite all the shadows of our past, the greatness of our achievements accompanying our crimes was not a coincidence. That time is now.

Why we must strive to change and overcome our immobilism

Despite EU’s notable achievements, times have changed. The European Union’s current form has struggled to overcome several challenges threatening the values it was founded upon and has proven itself to be ineffective and lost. It is our ambition and duty to improve our institutions because:

  • Globalisation changed everything: challenges have become global. As individual countries – divided – we will stand no chance against autocratic regimes and their continued interference in European politics, their aggressive posturing against the EU, their state-subsidized corporations eroding the competitiveness of European companies in key technological areas. 91% of global emissions are produced outside the EU. Developing countries are pledging allegiance to autocracies because of a lack of alternatives. We will not have the luxury to retreat inside a comfortable shell: 2022’s Russo-Ukrainian war showed us that autocracies are a threat to our peaceful existence and care not about the thriving of mankind or of our planet. We must show our might and nobility to those who understand only the language strength and aim to bully us into silence and inaction. We will not be conquered because of our divisions.
  • EU institutions suffer from a democratic deficit: the European Union institutions have been envisioned to be a place of mediation, not the seat of a common government and decision making. Having grown without a clear path ahead, the treaties and the EU laws are imperfect and permeable to influence of exogenous actors – from multinationals to ONGs, from foreign powers to national political parties – who do not necessarily represent the interest of the people. We believe that only a political, accountable, transparent and democratically elected EU can have the legitimacy to lead us into a brighter future. Despite all its flaws, EU institutions achieved a lot as regulatory trailblazers. Building the better Europe we envision on the foundations of today’s EU will empower Europeans and give its officials the legitimacy needed to fulfil the ambitions of the population.
  • EU institutions are ineffective and inefficient: vetoes, lack of vision, distant bureaucratic institutions created to compromise between national and EU institutions bind both national states and EU officials to a state of powerlessness for reasons of political and moral nature rather than being rational and pragmatic. When everyone decides, no one owns the decision. With more political power in the hands of directly elected EU officials, we would not be bound by complex multilateral decision systems.
  • We have one civilisation, common beliefs and are bound by destiny: our nation states are built on the value of human life. We defied our instincts and limits to create human rights and freedom by rule-of-law as means to protect it and it is our duty to promote them and protect any civilisation based on these principles. We are seeing our achievements being eroded in each of our nations. If we, Europeans, don’t come together to protect them, no one will.

To strive for such a change, we must establish a credible and trustworthy institution in which we can all believe in.

Europe requires a new model of unity, one focused on transforming Europe into a political entity which can be competitive on the world stage. To achieve that goal, however, Europe will first need to address its deepest, most fundamental flaw: its blissful, egoistic introversion.

What we mean by building a better Europe

Our history as Europeans has been complicated, just as the prospect of achieving victory over the challenges our future: solving climate change, improving our living standards, leading ourselves and the world on a path to prosperity, freedom and security looks like an impossible and everlasting journey. It will be full of stumbles, successes, mistakes, surprises, like our past was. Yet, we believe that mistakes are an inevitable part of any achievement. How we learn and change because of them is what defines us. This is why we believe that there is value in everything we built so far. Nevertheless, we believe in a Union that can improve upon that:

  • We believe in a Union that values our strengths and alleviates our weaknesses: our cultures are diverse and we often think differently. This is what makes Europe strong: when one of us falters, the others must stand up for them. The growth models, the cultures and the values of each of our nations are the result of thousand-year struggles and are such for a reason. We must compromise, but at the same time build upon our strengths respecting our differences. In our vision, each nation state will continue to nourish, grow and own its culture and the legislation to preserve it.
  • We believe in a Union that answers to the Peoples of Europe and to them only: the seats of power held by representatives of the European Union exist as a concession of the individual sovereignty of each European. Trust in the institutions must be adamant and ensuring it through action must be the highest duty of each representative. At the same time, the representatives must be held to the highest moral standards: they owe no less to the Europeans for the honour of representing them.
  • We believe in a Union able to adapt, evolve and overcome any challenge: we live in a changing world, and the pace of change is only amping up. Our Union will not only be a feat never attempted before, but it will be an arduous challenge in the most fateful times in history. Kafkian bureaucracy is useful to maintain the rule-of-law, but the sacrality of our Treaties held as biblical texts is counterproductive. We can neither be afraid of admitting past mistakes or evolving. Our Treaties are just ink on paper, our lives and our will are what we should hold as sacred.

Our Vision: the process of further integration

The achievement we chose to put ahead of our path will be arduous. That said, the Treaties on which the European Union is based on already give us all the tools needed to reach our goal. While our reforms are ambitious, with ingenuity and pragmatism we can achieve the easily. What we lack is the political will to reform it. We lack it because when transferring political power to the EU we are transferring all the struggles our ancestors suffered for the sovereignty that we are forgoing. We need not bring our sovereignty to the EU; we must bring the EU closer to the heart of its power: its citizens. To do so, we can only envision a process that will unfold:

  • Incrementally: when pioneering this new form of international governance, we shall test it and understand it while we go. We shall have a plan but no dogma.
  • Transparently: every step of the journey we’ll undertake will be laid down in advance. Every reform and discussion must happen in the open and not be subject to political games. When writing the rules of the game, everyone must be in the condition to understand and participate.
  • Rationally: we must act in such way that the transition process will not harm the rule-of-law, the effectiveness of action of the current institutions and our fundamental values
  • Democratically: no parliament or restricted group of individual, despite any level of skill and competence they may have, will ever be a perfect interpreter of the will of the people. We will build and expand the digital infrastructure already being developed by the EU that will allow every European to participate in the discussion regarding further integration. When in doubt, the Peoples of Europe’ Will shall be our guiding light.

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union already has an article (art.20) that allow for further integration projects among member states even when there is no unanimity. That article will be the keystone of our project.

The current institutional framework of the EU, where it is lacking, why and how it can be changed

The institutions of the European Union are built on the proposition that the EU should be a place of mediation and diplomacy, independent from both the national governments, represented by the Council, and the citizens of Europe, represented by the European Parliament (EP).

However, all the powers that in our nation states are divided across various institutions are held by the same entity, the European Commission (EC). The EC is an independent institution that has legislative power, executive power and acts as the guardian of the Treaties – which is the role that in most European countries is held by the President or the Monarch. Such framework makes sense when an impartial arbiter is needed to oversee national entities each haggling for their own particular interest.

This system however is not at all fit to be a trusted entity by which most Europeans feel represented as it does not have a direct accountability to them. Every attempt to transfer more power to the European Institution is felt as illegitimate because it is an act of relinquishing of one’s abstract dignity from an institution in which one identifies – the nation – into one in which that is perceived as too distant and uncaring. It is a common belief however that a higher degree of accountability should accompany any increment of agency of any actor in a democracy.

To do so, we want to address a specific list of imbalances which will need a solution as a prerequisite to any European Government to have legitimacy. This issues can be summarised in thee core concepts:

  • Balanced Autonomy
  • Advancing Democracy
  • Political Empowerment

Balanced Autonomy

Protection of the self-determination of the Nation State on the areas of education and culture

Many member states would gladly band together in the management of policy portfolios. The policy areas of culture and education are however a vital element of the society in ways that go beyond the state: they are the foundation of norms that regulate the behavior of society at large. Without our nuanced cultures and identities, such complex and natural system of societal government would be either lost or in the hands of a government that might not be rooted in the same culture and values.

We also recognize that it is paramount for the freedom of movement of labour to avoid frictions due to lack of standardization of qualification in critical fields (ex. doctors, surgeons, judges etc). We therefore believe that the mediated process among nation states should be promoted anyway, though the right to self-determination of national culture shall be protected in the Treaties.

Subsidiarity and proportionality reasoned opinions expressed by member states’ Parliaments should be formally binding

The Subsidiarity and Proportionality principles regulate the legitimacy of the competence of an EU law to the EU rather than the member states. Subsidiarity is the principle whereby the EU does not take action unless it is more effective than action taken at the national, regional or local level. The principle of Proportionality seeks to set actions taken by European Union (EU) institutions within specified bounds of the Treaties.

The principles apply to all the policy areas where the member states conferred to the EU shared competence in the Treaties. The protocol regulating the application of these principles does not state that those reasoned opinions are formally binding to the Commission. We see this as a vulnerability as the EC could theoretically amend the proposed legislation and push it forward without considering the will of the member states parliaments.

We believe that when a substantial share of the national parliaments convenes on such opinion, it is the will of the peoples of Europe that such matter should not be regulated by the EU. This measure ensures that a future political EC will not circumvent member states.

There should be clear rules on the division of competences between member states and the EU in order avoid disputes

The Treaties have a clear division of competences – EU exclusive, shared competences and member state exclusive competences – which assure that the EU policy making powers do not overlap member states’ ones.

Going forward, if we want a leaner and more decisive EU, the policy overlap is going to be inevitable. We will need to have a clearer rules to define how and why the EU can initiate legislation, by setting standards and making a clear division of responsibility for implementation.

Advancing Democracy

The citizens of Europe should be able to propose legislation via their directly elected representatives

As of today, only the EU Commission – whose members are vicariously appointed by the Council as the body who represents nation state governments – can initiate legislation. The European Parliament, which is the only EU institution whose members we elect directly with our votes during European elections, on the other hand cannot.

We understand that the EU is evolving from a bureaucratic and diplomatic international body to a political international government institution. The creation of this new form of government cannot erode the sovereignty and right to representation that citizens have in their nation states.

The power to initiate legislation should always be available to the peoples of Europe, not exclusive to their national governments who represent only the ruling national coalitions instead of the entirety of the population.

The Council is too powerful and not directly elected

The Council of the European Union is composed of the member states elected governments in charge. It has the power to set the EC agenda, to redact the budget and it proposes change to EC legislation. Its functioning is highly bureaucratic, with permanent committees preparing the drafts and mediating among member state governments.

Forward Europe is adamant in the belief that the Council is the institution whose work is the source of distrust, ineffectiveness and lack of transparency projected to the EU. The unanimity vote in certain policy areas, among other murky decision-making process, incentivizes multilateral agreements and collusion among national governments. We believe in a European Union based on the democracy of the Peoples of Europe, not on a democracy of national governments: the layered principal-agent problem that arises from this institution erodes representation of the will of the people.

The lack of transparency also allows the ruling parties of a national government to shift the blame of policy-making to the EU for their political games, neglecting the fact that they participated and approved the laws proposed. When everyone decides, no one own the decision.

Every institution must be transparent, accountable and directly elected if it needs to have more power (both legislative, representative and executive)

Political Empowerment

The EU must transition from an arena of mediation to an institution of decision making

EU’s history was built on the need for mutual trust among former enemies. As in any other context, trust and respect are built slowly and with great struggles. We understand the premises that lead to the current institutional framework and we are adamant in our recognition of its unprecedented success.

It is now time to move forward: the mission of the EU must be shifted from the mediation and promotion of cooperation to one of government and action to be effective.

The Treaties are too hard to change and no institution has sufficient power and legitimacy from the electorate to reform them

The Treaties on which the EU is built upon consist in a complex and well-thought set of rules that all members agreed upon. Their solidity can also become one of its shortcomings: in a changing world, whenever an unforeseen challenge that needs an emendation of the Treaties arises, all member states must come together and fully agree in a very lengthy and strenuous process.

We believe that the EU institutions should be leaner and more reactive for the benefit of its participants. As of today however, there is no institution that has the legitimacy given by direct representation to enact swift action that can later be ratified by all member states.

Once our reforms create such institution – accountable to the electorate, transparent in its decision-making process and kept in check by reasonable checks and balances – we can finally have an efficient policy maker at the standards that Europe deserves.

Europe needs to be governed by an elected government, not by diplomats

The executive role cannot be covered by an independent institution such as the EC. It is unacceptable that the role of Commissioner is proposed by ruling parties alone, each with their own interests. Eurobarometer shows clearly that European value democracy, yet EU elections are considered less important. The reason does not lay in European citizens disinterest EU politics: we have one of the most educated populations in the world. Citizens are smart enough to realize that their MEP have little influence, and the Commission does not represent them. We want to make the European executive accountable in the best way possible in a democracy: elections.

Forward Europe will work towards reform in that direction using the already available legislative tools in the Treaties.

Our Plan: the detailed roll-out of our reform

According to our principles, we decided to promote and achieve further integration in three stages. This will allow, in accordance with the spirit of the Treaties, all member states to participate to the construction of a new Europe, rooted in the EU and extending its branches firmly in uncharted territory.

The main goal of the aforementioned stages is to create a deeper level of cooperation, transparency and accountability in EU institutions to lay the foundations of trust needed to then rise tall, culminating with the ambitious democratic achievement of the drafting of a Constitution with which every European can identify.

Step 1 – Reform current institutions to make for easier further integration

The first phase of reforms has the goal of preparing the ground by making existing institutions more efficient and democratic.

At the same time, we aim not to disrupt the function and essence of the EU as an institution of intergovernmental mediation. That can only happen once legislative power is given to the people, member states can protect their national identity, primacy of EU law is politically acknowledged and the institutions are made efficient and effective.

European Parliament to propose legislation

In order for the EU to be more democratic, citizen must be able to propose legislation through their directly elected representatives. Legislative power will therefore be shared with the Commission

All member states sign a Treaty formally establishing primacy of EU law over national law

Primacy means that laws approved by all member states in the context of the EU cannot be overridden by national law: everyone must respect the rules of the game. As of today, the concept of primacy of European Law over national law has been defined by practice by the Court of Justice of the European Union. This is an original sin of the EU: such foundational concept cannot be left for the Courts to decide, it must be a joint political statement by all the nations of Europe. We do not believe in a Europe where a member state can strategically question primacy when it’s useful: the Union we envision is one based on mutual trust, respect and presumption of good faith.

Willing members amend the Treaties in order to make vetoes obsolete

To prevent the whole of Europe to be hostage of a single nation’s particular interests and to make the decision making process in the Council more credible, unanimity should be abolished in policy decisions concerning:

  • Taxation
  • Social security/social protection
  • Common Foreign and Security and Defense Policy
  • Operational police cooperation between member states

If a nation does not feel ready to join this leaner, integration-oriented decision-making, then it will be able to join later the other members. In this way, the veto will not stop the willing members who want reform, giving everyone else a de-facto opt out.

To access further integration, other member states will have to agree to the whole bundle of art. 20 Treaties, as they will be collected in a single Treaty.

Member states to obtain exclusive powers of the policy areas of culture, education and other sensible areas

To prevent EU from having too much power, the Treaties should be amended to define exclusive powers of the member States on the Policy areas of culture, education and other sensible areas. One of the reasons the integration process at European level has slowed down – pushing hard on the brakes with the halting of 2005 EU Constitution – resides in the fact that national identities are something each and everyone of us holds dear.

This does not preclude all of us to identify as Europeans too, but we do not believe in a Europe where we lose all the history, culture and struggles of our past: they shaped us for what we are today. Protecting education and culture we protect our traditions, our food, our families, our histories and our unique visions of the world.

Step 2 – Establish a European Commission with executive powers

The second step of our reforms is the coming of age of our European Union as a political entity, as it will step up its accountability to the electorate and acquire a more political drive while still maintaining the role of mediator.

Once trust is established with the first set of reforms, it will be time to change European elections and institutions to transfer some power from governments and the bureaucracy into the hands of an EU executive directly accountable to European citizens. Once we will have succeeded in this, Europe will have an executive subjected to the will of the people.

European Commission President to be directly elected in European elections

The President of the Commission, as well as the rest of the Commission, is proposed and agreed upon by the Council and then confirmed in the EP. Such figure should represent in action and be accountable to every citizen and all of its member states through their vote. In any perfect democracy, the voters hold the power and the governments should be enactors of their will.

The European Commission will therefore hold the same role inside the EU, but having no need for unanimity in matters not concerning member state exclusive policies for countries adhering to further integration, it will be more efficient in its dealings with the Council.

Subsidiarity and proportionality opinions by member states to become binding

To balance for the loss of power of national governments by the abolition of unanimity in the Council, standing by our ideal of balanced autonomy, we preserve and strengthen the right for the member states to object to an EU if a sufficient number of them thinks it is better managed at the national level or goes beyond the scope of the Treaties. Since we made the national governments less impactful, we’ll make the national parliaments voice more authoritative.

Step 3 – EU Constitution and institutional overhaul

The third and final step of our plan is the biggest and bravest leap forward: it’s goal is to create something bigger than a nation or a federation, a democratic experiment that aims to achieve what has never been even dreamed of yet – a Union of different cultures coexisting and cooperating at an unprecedented level of trust towards common goal.

Identity has layers. The heart of Europeans is big enough to fit in love for Europe alongside the one for their nation. In our first phase we built trust, in the second we create the will to action, in the third we bound our identities and destinies.

In detail, this phase will see drafting of a European Constitution, the abolition of the Council, the distribution of its powers and some of the powers of held by the Commission – which would otherwise be unchecked after the abolition of the Council –  to a new figure, the President of The European Union.

At the same time, we will have the member states’ Parliaments in the heart of the legislative process to balance the centralisation of powers.

Drafting of a European Constitution

Article 20 to be triggered by members adhering to further integration to launch the election of a Constitutional Assembly to draft a European Constitution which will have the Treaties at its core

Creation and election of the President of the European Union

The Council will be replaced by an elected European President who will have the powers of guardian of the Constitution (from the Commission), power to appoint and remove non-elective members (from the Council), representative and ceremonial powers, veto power on legislation that violates the Constitution, counselled by the guardians of national Constitutions/heads of States

National Parliaments interact with each other to propose amendments for EU law

Member states to elect an entity (parliamentary house) which will discuss in real time with all other member state houses in videoconference laws proposed by the EU Parliament, propose amendments to EU Parliament before their vote, expresses binding subsidiarity reasoned opinion

Proportionality principle abolished

The proportionality principle at last, becomes obsolete: the new constraints, checks and balances of the European Union will be in its constitution which will have primacy on member state’s law.

The end of the reforms though will not be the end of the journey, but merely the first step. The drafting of a Constitution in which every European, independently from his birthplace, will feel represented will open a new season of evolving institutions invigorated by a newly discovered democratic spirit. We will not have gone gently into that good night, but we’ll have lit a candle whose flame will grow into a bright dancing star.

Per Aspera ad Astra

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