“Europe and Nation States: Friends or Foes?” Conference – The Spinelli Group delves into the crisis of the european project
February 20, 2017
Photo [Flickr/Spinelli Group]
The following article was selected among the best from Christophe Leclercq’s seminar “EU Reporting on Expert Debates”, which he teaches at ULB together with Director of theInstitute for European Studies Ramona Coman. The course is part of the The Executive Master in European Union Studies (MEUS).
Last 28th October, the yearly conference of the pro-federalist Spinelli Group, gathered stakeholders at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, to discuss about the refugee crisis, the future of the euro, EU sovereignty, Brexit and CETA. In this challenging context, politicians, experts and academics seconded by of one the Spinelli Group’s founders, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, preached a more united, powerful and simplified EU.
The current crisis is not only humanitarian, but also a question concerning refugee and security policy, agreed all speakers. Former MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit proposed the creation of an agency that would collaborate with regions and cities to reallocate migrants. “This is something the EU has failed to do”, said Philippe Hensmans from Amnesty International. Greens MEPs Florent Marcellesi and Hensmans stressed that the EU-Turkey deal had not been debated at the European Parliament (EP). “it was just a press release”, stated Hensmans.
Both Elmar Brook, from the Commission on Foreign Affairs of the EP, and Ms. Marcellesi pointed out the need to address the root of the problem: climate change and third countries development. They also stressed the importance of solidarity towards poor countries.
Petros Fassoulas from European Movement International (EMI), highlighted that Member States need to collaborate with the EU “as they cannot face the crisis by themselves”.
According to Fassoulas, but also to other speakers, the bottom line is that migration is seen as a problem instead of as an opportunity to, for instance, solve the EU’s current aging population problem.
The future of the euro
Lázsló Andor, former Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, said that the single currency is one of the pillars of the EU and that it should be used as an instrument of cohesion. The panel also spoke on the need to put an end to tax havens. “The EU has been too tolerant with tax havens, and they sabotage our societies”, stated Paul Jorion, financial columnist and professor at the Université Catholique de Lille. Jorion proposed to establish a solidary system where stronger EU economies would pay higher interests and buy other EU states’ debt once a year. He also supported Pierre Moscovici’s proposal of establishing a united fiscal system.
The European Semester was also discussed by ULB professor Ramona Coman. She proposed to increase its transparency and confer more political legitimacy to euro governance by debating the Semester recommendations at the European Parliament.
EU sovereignty, Brexit and CETA
“The EU has made the mistake to create a tailor-made or ‘à la carte’ Europe [Ed. in the words of Cohn Bendit] where the UK only joined the single market”. He proposed to simplify EU membership: free movement, one currency and one market. Countries refusing to accept these pillars would become privileged partners.
Brexit and CETA put EU’s sovereignty in the spotlight, according to Ulrike Guérot from the European School of Governance. “There is no clear division of powers and nobody knows who decides”, she stated. She then proposed to implement a transnational voting system in the light of Brexit’s impact on all Member States.
On CETA, Cohn-Bendit proposed to reform the voting system applied when mixed agreements are being finalized. “Veto should be removed because it tackles democracy”, he explained. Instead, he proposed to implement the ECB’s voting system based on a majority vote. Guérot contested this point and proposed to create a second chamber of regions in order to prevent minorities from deciding for the majority. Cohn-Bendit replied back “Walloons should be able to defend themselves if they are under a threat such as Canadian and American companies”.
The conference ended on the note that the European project is undergoing a crucial moment in its history. “There is an increasing gap between citizens and the EU”, ULB academic Amandine Crespy explained. “The EU should adopt much more progressive policies and to integrate a much more social project”, she added.
The Spinelli Group is an initiative launched in September 2010, led by Guy Verhofstadt, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Sylvie Goulard and Isabelle Durant. Andrew Duff and Jo Leinen followed as co-chairmen of the MEP-Spinelli Group. The Group wants to inject a federalist momentum into the political decisions and policies of the European Union and develop a network of actors who choose European interest above national interest.
Today the Spinelli Group is a network of citizens, politicians, academics and writers. It gathers more than 110 MEPs, 44 Active members, EU experts, NGOs and Think-tank representatives supporting this initiative.
Sonia López Villar