THE FUTURE OF EUROPE THE OPINION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION CIVIL COOPERATION COUNCIL’S MEMBER ORGANISATIONSEuCETExcerpt: While the European Economic Community was characterised by successful economic and social development, the European Union was rather home to crises and unsolved problems. Of these problems and signs of crises, we consider the following to be the most substantial.
European Union Civil Cooperation Council
THE FUTURE OF EUROPE
THE OPINION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION CIVIL COOPERATION COUNCIL’S MEMBER ORGANISATIONS
The idea of unifying Europe
The idea to unify Europe is not a new one: the first attempt can be traced back all the way to Charlemagne, though after him the fall of the Frankish empire led to the creation of a number of empires of various sizes. The Holy Roman Empire lasted for about eight hundred years, but there were also other successful regional forms of cooperation, such as the Danish Empire (13th-15th century) in Scandinavia, the Habsburg Monarchy in Central Europe, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in Eastern Europe, the Hanseatic League, and the Kalmar Union. These empires or alliances remained viable for centuries until their central power weakened or the changes in the interests that kept the alliance together caused them to fall apart. The idea to unify Europe again gained traction in the 20th century: in 1929, the Count of Coudenhove-Kalergi established the Paneuropean Union to increase the popularity of the idea of an integrated Europe. However, specific steps were only taken after World War II with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950 at the initiative of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, leading to the foundation of the European Economic Community in 1957 with the signing of the Treaty of Rome by six countries.
From the Treaty of Rome to the Treaty of Lisbon
The European Economic Community (EEC), established with the Treaty of Rome, proved to be quite successful, as it helped heal the wounds of World War II and realise quite dynamic economic growth for two decades. Thoughts on the possibilities for continuing the process of integration were pursued. In the 1970s, three studies were published (by Werner, Marjolin, and MacDougall) that used international examples to examine primarily the budgetary aspects of the possibilities for continued integration and the introduction of a common currency. Based on the examples of functioning federal states such as the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany, they found that one of the fundamental conditions for integration is the creation of a community budget that provides sufficient support to less developed regions. This requires the centralisation of 2-3% of the GDP at lower levels of integration, 5-7% in the case of the introduction of a common currency, and 20-25% for total integration. The Marjolin Report even set additional identity and social conditions, such as requiring the majority of the population to have a sense of belonging to the Union, the broad distribution of the ownership of capital within the union’s regions, and an automatic balancing mechanism for mitigating excessive differences in development.
The Treaty of Rome remained basically unchanged up until 1992, when the Treaty of Maastricht rewrote the previous treaty, centralising a number of competences and requiring the member states, numbering 12 by the time, to meet strict budgetary criteria in the interest of introducing the euro (Maastricht criteria). The euro was introduced without taking into account the recommendations of the studies prepared in the 1970s, the warnings of reputed economists, or applicable economic principles. The result led to the indebtedness of the southern member states, the Union breaking into the categories of debtor and creditor states, and a substantial obstacle to economic growth. However, the problems truly came to a head in the course of the 2008 international financial crisis. Meanwhile, attempts continued to further the integration of the Union. That was the purpose of the European Convention convened in 2002: it produced a constitution for the Union, which ended up being rejected by two founding nations (France and the Netherlands). Despite of the will of the people, after some legal changes the governments of the member states ratified the European constitution as the Treaty of Lisbon, which continued the centralisation of competences.
Signs of crisis in the Union
While the European Economic Community was characterised by successful economic and social development, the European Union was rather home to crises and unsolved problems. Of these problems and signs of crises, we consider the following to be the most substantial.
The “democratic deficit”
The Treaty of Rome established a commercial cooperation (the European Economic Community) where the various states retained their decision-making abilities and sovereignty in the majority of non-commerce related issues. However, the Treaty of Maastricht subjected an increased number of areas to the decisions of the central budget and replaced unanimous decisions with majority decisions. This led to member states often being forced to implement tasks that are not in their interest and are in fact detrimental to them. This was accompanied by an ideological transformation of large Western European parties that forced unrealistic political or economic requirements on the various member states. As a result, decisions that have a strong effect on the various states (e.g. immigration, climate policy) are made by bodies (European Parliament, European Commission) that cannot be held democratically responsible for the ability to execute or for the consequences of their decisions in the manner of democratically elected nation state governments. In political debates, it is this absence of responsibility for decisions and of accountability that has been named the “democratic deficit”.
The slowing of economic growth and the indebtedness of Southern European countries
The fact that the economic growth of more developed nations tends to slow is a generally accepted rule in economics. However, an annual growth rate of 2-3% should be potentially attainable at the European Union’s average level of development, though the rate of growth was only 1.6% p.a. in the last ten years (2010-2019). The reason for this low growth rate is that the majority of countries is obligated to apply austerity policies in the interest of meeting the Maastricht criteria, which holds economic growth back. Moreover, the introduction of the euro and the liberalisation of capital transactions has led to the indebtedness of southern countries, checking their economic development.
The population of the European Union’s current member states grew by 0.5-1.0% up until the 1960s. However, dramatic changes took place starting from the 1960s that led to a drop from 2.6 to 1.5 in average fertility rates within three decades, where it has remained ever since. The drop in average fertility rate is a global phenomenon. However, despite of significant drops, the rate has remained well above the 2.1 level necessary for maintaining population levels in developing countries, the rate of 1.5 seen in developed countries, and especially the EU27, is insufficient for replenishing the population. The leadership of the EU is attempting to solve this demographic crisis through the use of immigration. However, the masses of immigrants arriving to Europe hail from Muslim nations and, due to their significantly higher fertility rates, are forcing Western Europe to face the fact that by mid-century, Europe will have a Muslim population of 70-80 million, leading to the development of parallel societies caused by the social tension stemming from substantial cultural differences.
An absence of a “common voice” in the Union’s foreign policy
A recurring problem is the fact that the Union’s nations are unable to agree and to use a “common voice” in affairs of foreign policy. Articles 2, 21, and 23 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) lay down the principles of the EU’s foreign policy. According to the referenced Articles, the Union’s presence on the international scene is determined by the principles that inspired its own establishment, development, and expansion, and which it intends to promote in the world at large. These include, among others, the principles of democracy, the rule of law, human dignity, equality, and solidarity. With these provisions, the EU practically authorises itself to intervene in the internal affairs of any third country, especially as the specific contents of these principles are intangible and can be arbitrarily applied. Where and when such intervention should take place depends on the foreign policy-related interests of the various countries, and these can differ greatly, such as in the case of Poland, Germany, France, or Spain, just to name the largest countries. That is why, despite all such endeavours, the Union is unable to attain the goal of speaking with one voice in foreign policy-related issues.
Alternative scenarios regarding the future of Europe
On the one hand, the above indications of crises reduce the effectiveness of the Union and, on the other, they lead to contractor tension between its various member states. That is why the topic of reforming, or continuing the development of, the system of cooperation between EU member states comes up again and again. In 2017, the European Commission issued a white paper on the future of Europe, in which it outlined five scenarios with different transitions between the current level of cooperation and the development of a federal state. In reality, the current European leadership is not thinking in terms of any alternatives: its sole purpose is the creation of a federal state. However, neither the social nor the economic conditions for a federation are met.
Missing conditions for the realisation of a federation (United States of Europe)
If we examine existing federal states such as the United States of America, Canada, Argentina, or India, we find they are characterised by features that are missing from the European Union. The most important of these:
The absence of a common language
All federal states have an official language understood by all. However, the Union has almost as many languages as member states. As a result, the average European citizen is simply unable to participate in a pan-European communication forum, is unfamiliar with the activities and political views of leading politicians, and is unfamiliar with and does not understand the problems and thinking of other countries, and the Union’s common affairs cannot be discussed at the level of its citizens. That is why the absence of a common language is one of the biggest obstacles to creating a democratic, federal state.
The absence of a common history
A common history and the outcome thereof, a common historical memory, plays a definitive role in the cohesion of a federated or a unified state. According to the German historian Jörn Rüsen, if the current integration process were carried out without historical consciousness, that would lead to an extremely artificial, soulless Europe. At the same time, the feeling of having a shared European past cannot be dictated from above and any attempts to do so are doomed to fail if they have no foundation in the emotional lives of the general public. This is proven by a Eurobarometer poll taken in the spring of 2018, according to which 90% of the European Union’s population feels only or primarily like a citizen of only his/her own nation, only 2% consider themselves European only, and an additional 6% consider themselves European first and foremost and a citizen of their nation second.
The absence of a common foreign policy and geopolitical interests
Although the foreign and defence policy of a federal state may undergo slight changes over time, its relation to other states and who to consider a friend or a potential enemy is primarily determined by its historical past, geographical location, and geopolitical ambitions and roles. The countries of the European Union are bordered to the west by the Atlantic region, by Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union to the east, by North Africa to the south, and to the countries of the Middle East in the southeast. Where each country is located within this region determines its foreign policy obligation and defence interests. For example, Poland has an entirely different approach to relations with Russia than Germany or Greece, while the situation in Northern Africa or the Middle East primarily affects the countries in southern Europe. Roles played outside this region (e.g. in the Pacific region) divide countries even further, as not all nations have geopolitical ambitions. It is thus no surprise that no “common voice” has developed in foreign and defence policy.
The absence of a common budget
The findings of the reports on federal states mentioned above and prepared in the 1970s determined that a significant portion of the GDP is redistributed in federal states: as a result and due to common administration and defence expended, at least 20-25% of the GDP is centralised. Using this as their basis, they imagined integration by centralising an increasing part of revenue in tandem with the centralisation of decision-making. For example, they ordered the centralisation of 5-7% of the GDP for the introduction of the euro in order to use revenue redistribution to compensate the countries negatively affected by the adoption of the common currency. However, what we see in practice is that only one percent of the GDP is centralised, and the net paying countries consider even that to be excessive. And not only did they not provide assistance to the countries negatively impacted by the introduction by the euro, the creditor banks of the developed countries basically plundered them with exorbitant interest rate differentials.
In light of the above, the implementation of a federal state is not a realistic alternative. Continuing to force federalisation will lead the number to become increasingly like an empire that serves not the interests of the Union’s citizens but the interests and political and geopolitical ambitions of a small layer of political and economic elite. Based on the above, the organisations of the EuCET reject the endeavours to create a federal state.
What are the realistic alternatives?
Recent years have seen a number of recommendations that attempted to provide alternatives for European cooperation based on realistic grounds. In many cases, these were similar and showed many overlaps, with three typical alternatives worthy of mention.
Europe as a free trade area
A free trade area is a form of commercial integration where the member countries do not apply customs fees or commercial restrictions against each other. There are a number of free trade areas all across the world, such as the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). The UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) was the main proponent of transforming the European Union into a free trade area, and it managed to have Great Britain nation leave the Union. A number of experts, such Paul de Grauwe, Professor of Economics at the University of Leuven and a renowned expert in international financial affairs, believes that, due to the problems encountered with the euro, the only realistic alternative is the creation of one large free trade area.
Flexible cooperation means that in addition to a common minimum applicable to all, the various member states will cooperate only in the areas in which they have interests. In this scenario, the cooperation of the European nations would take the form of a flexible, variable structure in which the various nations can participate to varying degrees, in line with their respective interests. Even the Treaty of Lisbon provides a possibility for such a flexible form of cooperation (enhanced cooperation under Section 20 of the TEU). The difference is that while the aim of flexible cooperation is not to continue integration, the provisions pertaining to enhanced cooperation expressly state that enhanced cooperation shall aim to reinforce its integration process.
By those who recommend it, localisation is generally used to mean that whatever can, should be produced locally with suitable economic conditions. Localisation generally means the alteration of the distribution of power and the transfer of decision-making competences from non-elected transnational companies and international organisations to democratically elected local communities. Depending on the specific issue, “local” may mean the nation state, a part of the nation state, or a region of geographically connected nation states. The economics of localisation is based on the statistically proven fact that the majority of human needs can be economically satisfied locally (as referred to above), with long-distance commerce necessary mainly due to geographical features and to expand offers.
The EuCET proposal: An alliance of sovereign nation states (confederation)
A confederation of nation states is basically a French idea raised by De Gaulle in the beginning of the 1960s. De Gaulle’s ideas were written down by Christian Fouchet, the French ambassador to Denmark. This was later referred to as the Fouchet Plan. Under the Fouchet Plan, the Union would have four institutions: the Council, consisting of the heads of state; the Council of Ministers, consisting of ministers; the Political Commission, consisting of delegates of the Member States; and the European Parliament, which would have an advisory capacity. The Political Commission would be responsible for preparing and executing decisions, and the decision itself would be made in the Council, where unanimity would be required. If any country is not present at the making of a decision or abstains, the decision would not pertain to the given country; however, it may decide to join at any time, in which case the decision will be binding on it. In this form of cooperation, the member states would retain their sovereignty and would participate in only those common projects in which they have a vested interest, and nothing could be forced upon any member state. According to a survey conducted by the EuCET, the vast majority of the Hungarian population would prefer such a cooperation between nation states; other polls have also shown that this alternative is supported by the vast majority in other Union member states as well.
The emotional and identity basis of a confederation would be the cultural heritage shared by Europe, which starts with Greek culture, continues with Roman state administration and law, the Christian artistic creations of the Middle Ages, enormous cathedrals, and culminates in European scientific results. If we build upon a shared cultural heritage that everyone considers positive and that sets Europeans apart from the other continents, we can indeed find a shared basis that can be used as the basis for closer cooperation.
To protect the interests of Europe’s cultural values, the EuCET’s organisations are opposing the ideologies that are attempting to do away to Europe’s cultural heritage, thus especially cultural Marxism, the teachings of the Frankfurt School, and the idea of an open society.
The EuCET wishes to solve the demographic crisis affecting Europe not with immigration but by improving the fertility rate of its own people. It supports a policy that provides special support to families and the raising of children, which places at the centre of social policy.
In the interest of solving the Union’s economic problems, the role of the euro, introduced with political intentions, has to be reviewed and redesigned to take on a flexible system that would allow the various countries to follow a monetary policy that is in line with their respective situations.
Finally, our opinion regarding the international position and foreign policy of the Union, the foundations should be laid on reality, i.e. geopolitical restructuring, and the different geopolitical interests of the Union’s member states. Taking these into account, we believe that the Union’s foreign policy should be developed according to the five principles applied by the formerly uncommitted nations for living in peace side-by-side. These are the following: (1) mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, (2) mutually refraining from attacking each other, (3) mutually refraining from intervening in each other’s internal affairs, (4) equality and mutual advantages, and (5) living in peace next to each other.
With the catching up of the third world, thus especially China and India, and the strengthening of Russia, the world has come to have multiple poles, with the former advantage of the Euro-Atlantic world decreasing, which is a natural phenomenon that is based on changes in the economic power of nations and cannot be stopped. We are not in favour of a new Cold War. The European Union has to be economically strong and it has to be able to defend its interests, but it does not have to take on a geopolitical role. If it wants to play a part in resolving international conflicts, it should do so within the confines of the UN.
Why does Europe need sovereign nation states?
Questioning the existence of nation states by leading politicians and opinion-leaders is a decades-long process. For example, in 1996, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl emphasised that “the nation state […] cannot solve the great problems of the 21st century,” and that “the policy of European integration is a matter of war and peace.” Jürgen Habermas (1988) laid down a systematic critique of traditions, in which he questioned the relevance of past values, considering terms such as “nation” and people” dangerous and a form of fantasy that undermines variety. The EU elite and post-national commentators not only question, but attribute a negative legitimacy to nation states, nationalism, traditions based on nation continuity, and identity based on national culture, as these are what they consider to be the causes of violence in Europe’s history. Instead of reinforcing traditions, the EU has rather embraced transnational cosmopolitanism and identity politics, which leaves no place for nation states, national culture, or national identity.
However, every poll on the subject indicates that the vast majority of European citizens adhere to their own nations and that democracy, so favoured by the Union, is viable only within the confines of nation states. There is therefore a need to relearn just how important the values of the past are for today’s man and to support national feelings and traditions. The EU has to recognise national cultures and sovereign nation states as the backbone of Europe, and it has to let go of the notion of transnational idealism. The strength of Europe lies in the differences of its member states and not in forced similarities.
An important contribution to the rehabilitation of nations was Sir Roger Scruton’s book “The Need for Nations” (2004), which reminds us of what we have forgotten and explains where the followers of supranational institutions and transnationalism are wrong, why patriotism is a positive aspect, and why loyalty to the nation is a necessary condition for the functioning of democracy.
The EuCET renounces endeavours to do away with nation states and the schools of thought that support such attempts (Frankfurt School, open society) and stands behind the political and intellectual movements supporting the preservation of nation states.
Development of the EuCET network
The European Union Civil Cooperation Council was established to take part in and organise the civil movements, institutions, and individuals that see the future of Europe as based on its three thousand year cultural and historical traditions and the cooperation of European nation states. Europe should be proud of its history, of Greek philosophy, of Roman state administration, of the gothic monuments to Christian faith, and of the results achieved in science and technological advancement. Europe speaks almost as many languages as there are countries, with each language representative of the thousand year old or even older history of its nations, preserving its culture and forming the basis of national identity. For the purposes of preserving the cultural heritage of Europe, we consider it essential to preserve national identities and national cultures, and that is the only foundation on which we can imagine building European cooperation.
To preserve Europe’s cultural history, the EuCET wishes to involve a wide spectrum of civil society organisations, Christian, national, and conservative trade unions, workers’ councils, and various knowledge bases and social researchers who are likeminded thinkers.
It is our position that the citizens who qualify as civilians also perform interest representation activities at their workplaces, around the clock. The age of traditional trade union movements based on class wars is over. The appearance of party political interests has divided society and weakens the validation of targeted professional and existential interests in regard to both the institutions and companies of the public and private sectors.
The priority of economic affairs in the work of trade unions is undisputable. The interest of the state and company owners is the most efficient business possible, which cannot be independent of management and the performance of employees. As they are all in the same boat, conciliating the interests of the three actors in a company assumes the priority of professional principles.
We consider it important to develop a family atmosphere in operations, which is why the added values of the owners, the management, and employees has to be evaluated objectively. Job creation and preservation over the long term requires owners and investors to assume risks and employees to be aware of market relations and to perform exemplary work. The result of activities performed in a good atmosphere in the interest of a common goal provides possibilities for new investment projects that can be broken down according to investments made while also ensuring the long term sustainability of individual and family interests.
The EuCET intends to broaden the role that civil society plays in interest representation and to bolster the manifestation of civilian courage in the future by forming partnership with Christian, national, conservative trade unions.
We believe that the variety of participants provides a possibility for our ideas to reach an increasingly broad spectrum of society and gives hope to those who think the way we do but are afraid to openly represent their opinions in an increasingly hostile European environment.
In line with the above, thanks to the help of our partner of 11 years, the Hungarian Munkástanácsok Országos Szövetsége [National Federation of Workers’ Councils], we are proud to welcome the Italian trade union UGL amongst our ranks. We hope that with the help of our civil partners who are participating in the 3rd congress, the EuCET will be able to continue its expansion.
In the discussion regarding the future of Europe and at all times in the future, the EuCET will continue to bravely and openly stand up for the protection of Europe’s cultural history and nation states.
The EuCET community