Curing the fear of federalism


The peoples of Europe must achieve a consensus on what kind of community they truly wish to be. I believe that a further strengthening and enlargement of the European Union is inevitable, but as the famous American Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, “the mode by which the inevitable comes to pass is effort.” To date, progress has been in fits and starts, marked by the failure of the Lisbon Agenda and the rejection of the proposed constitution by Dutch and French referenda.

Use of the word “federal” seems an anathema for many Europeans who should be reminded that with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, inspired by Jean Monnet, the French Government declared that it “would provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the Federation of Europe”.

Achieving the goals of the Lisbon Agenda or of its successor, the European 2020 strategy, will require some form of federal structure

Europe requires visionary leadership of the kind furnished by Jean Monnet and others such as Chancellor Adenauer, Ernest Bevin, Georges Augustin Bidault and Robert Schuman that led Europe out of the devastation and chaos of World War II. It is not to be found today.

Crises have a history of bringing strong creative leadership to the fore, and it is possible that the challenges of Greece will awaken Europeans to the need for a strong central government accompanied by robust protection for each individual nation’s precious linguistic and cultural identities.

Federalism has proven to be a very flexible instrument in many countries over many years, and it should be the way ahead for Europeans provided they are able to reconcile the 3Ms, namely, minimise frictions; maximise synergies and maintain sovereignty. However, the latter must be diminished in numerous areas in order to strengthen the centre.

Achieving the goals of the Lisbon Agenda or of its successor, the European 2020 strategy, with its five ambitious objectives related to employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy will require some form of federal structure beyond the loosely knit current model.

Such an achievement would not only be important for the peoples of Europe, but for the global community as a whole where a strong and unified Europe would make a major contribution to global prosperity and peace. European leaders must now make the effort and not relegate the task of achieving those important objectives to the whims of public referenda.

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