Over the past 10 years, the European project has been attacked from many sides, and its viability seems to be compromised. The population perceives the European Union as a liberal, elitist institution, and this undermines the integration of the continent. We partially share this vision and support a profound reform of European institutions. The goal of this article is to explain why, nevertheless, European integration is the only way forward. Many people support the idea that it is not realistic to think of reaching a European Federal state in a short period of time. We believe the contrary; that it is unrealistic to think that we can survive and thrive without a European Federal State.
This article analyses the political, social and economic reasons which make European integration a priority for all European citizens. The reader can skip to the section(s) they are most interested in.
Political reasons for European integration
Individual countries are too small to deal with today's political challenges. In today’s globalised world, the capacity of a single state to provide an adequate answer to the problems we are facing is extremely reduced. We are dealing with global phenomena which require European (and even global) governance. A Federal European state could have a much more positive impact. In detail, some of these challenges are:
The Environmental Crisis. It is the first and most important of the problems that we are going to face in the next few years. Almost everyone now recognises climate change as a reality. Our future and the future of the next generations depend on our ability to deal with this problem. It is clear that the impact that a single country can have on one issue, even one this crucial, is minimal. We need to implement changes at the European level. Furthermore, a European federation could have the authority and power to push for the implementation of such policies at the global level. Finally, when we think, for example, about renewable energies, the EU could organise and coordinate projects in every nation in order to make most economies carbon-free within the coming few years. One concrete example of a project already managed at European level is that of the wind farms built in the European North Sea. Another example of a project which could have been revolutionary was Desertec. Experts estimate that the single plan of installing solar panels in the desert (on the right scale) could provide 4 times the amount of energy that the world currently uses every year. The project is still progressing but at a worryingly slow rate. In any case, future similar initiatives coordinated at the European level could be fundamental.
Political crises. In the past 20 years, the political challenges faced by European states have increased due to a more chaotic international political scene. Three of the most important crises of the past 10 years demonstrate the lack of coordination and weakness of the EU as a political agent. These are:
Ukraine: Europe was not able to play a central role in the crisis, and this was despite the fact that the crisis was taking place in Europe! The initiative was left to single countries like Germany and France, which tried to mediate between the US and Russia. This is paradoxical: there is a crisis in Europe and the two main actors discussing the crisis are the US and Russia.
ISIS: Another moment when the European Union showed a lack of unity. It can even be said that the police departments in Brussels itself were scarcely collaborating. Many people committing terrorist attacks were identified as a potentially dangerous in one country, but this was not communicated to other countries. This is unacceptable. The need for coordinated European intelligence is necessary and a delay would be unforgivable.
China Vs US: This is the most recent and is likely to be the most significant conflict for the next few years. Europe seems incapable of detailing with determination its own position and vision as an independent power rather than siding with one or the other.
Health crises such as coronavirus. We have already talked about the chaotic answer European nations gave to the Covid-19 outbreak. Generally speaking, health challenges clearly go beyond national borders and require coordination, at least at the European level. A European Health protocol and a common European strategy are necessary to prevent the spread of new pandemic diseases.
Political rights guaranteed by the EU. Furthermore, a European state does not only provide better guarantees for the problems mentioned above, but it also provides a series of concrete guarantees to its citizens. First of all, because of the supranational agreements, democracy is more stable in a Federal Union. This is demonstrated historically by the experience, for example, of the United States, and more recently, by the success of the EU in promoting democratic transitions in Southern Europe (Greece 1973, Portugal and Spain in 1974/1975) and in developing and safeguarding democratic regimes in Eastern Europe. Now, not one of these experiences perfect, and deep reform and more democratisation are needed both in the US and in the EU, with special attention needed for the problematic situation in Eastern Europe (in Hungary and Poland in particular). Overall, however, we can see how integration at the federal level has served as a guarantee of respect for democratic rights in all these countries and has led and guaranteed democratic regimes across the Union as a whole. Furthermore, the EU has also brought peace and cooperation in Europe in an unprecedented way. Although the period of the World Wars seems like an age ago, only 75 years have passed. The EU has contributed to making a European war seem unimaginable, and while attention should not be lowered, we now live in a much safer continent than that of our grandparents.
Social reasons for the European Integration
Social progress can also be spearheaded by a genuinely federal European state. The EU is the only political institution through which we can deal with today's inequality for a series of reasons:
Redistribution of income at the European level. In every European country, inequality has grown significantly since the 1980s as demonstrated by a wide variety of literature, including, most famously, by Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st century. This inequality has grown, not only between regions, but also within the same country. It is enough to think that the top 10% pre-tax income share in Germany was 28% in 1980 and rose to 35% in 2017. At the same time we need to underline that income disparities increased less in Europe than in the US thanks to redistribution and pre-distribution policies. A federal European government could impose a shared budget to redistribute European wealth and create more opportunities for countries and regions which are suffering.
Thomas Piketty talking about the increase of inequality since the 1980s
Creation of a European welfare system. States are too small, and if they impose welfare measures the capital can just fly away. We have seen this phenomenon during the last 30 years of globalisation. Many companies (and entire industries) delocalised to evade taxes. Multinationals can escape national regulations.The EU, on the other hand, is a big market which can exercise capital control and impose rules on capital.
European citizenship. Another advantage will be that European citizenship will finally be comprehensive. Every European citizen will be granted, as a European, full rights in every member country. In our vision, such rights include the right to a fair standard of living, the right to participate in political life and the right to equal treatment without any distinction from one country to the other. Full European citizenship would be the best way to incarnate all those rights expressed in the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. It would also solve the problem of individual countries not guaranteeing rights. The most recent example, that we havealready discussed recently, was the Polish withdrawal from the Istanbul convention, which would have been impossible under a European Federal State.
Export of a Social Model. A European Federal Union would be the only state big enough to export a social model which is both democratic and redistributive. Its influence could be an alternative to American ultra-capitalism and the Chinese lack of political freedom.
Economic reasons for European Integration
Finally, from an economic point of view, and despite the pervasiveness of anti-European propaganda, European integration will be fundamental to protect European interests. Let’s start with one consideration. OECD forecasts show that by 2025 the only European country which will be among the 8 biggest economies in the world (G8) will be Germany, which will be thefifth (see the table underneath). France will be at the 11th place, Italy at the 14th. Of course, the size of an economy is not everything. Still, in terms of global geopolitical and macroeconomic importance, it is clear that new and important economic actors will emerge. India will overcome the US by 2037, and the US itself and China will be on a completely different level from European countries. If we take Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, its GDP will be 3 times smaller than India’s, 5 times smaller than the US GDP, and almost 8 times smaller than that of China. To compete with these economic powerhouses, we need a European federal country and cooperation between European nations, as opposed to internal competition. Coordination and collaboration among member states are key to economic expansion. https://oembed.kyso.io/KyleOS/economy/oembed Projected GDP top 19 economies in the world. Data from OECD, interactive table designed by KYSO.
European Taxation system. A European federal state could also guarantee more fair taxation at the European level, avoiding the creation of tax-havens such as Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Republic of Ireland. This, in turn, would benefit the entire Union because it would allow a better competition (or collaboration) between the different companies and a fairer salary system Europewide. The final result would be to promote consumption, thus developing further the European common market.
European Fiscal and Banking system. A Federal Union will finally be able to impose a common European budget and the creation of a European banking system. This will allow better control over the economy, control which cannot be exercised at the national level because the economies are too small due to the current austerity measures and, in the case of the euro-area, because each country cannot print its own currency. With a fiscal budget and Eurobondson the model of the recovery fund, Europe will be able to adopt measures of economic stimulus when needed. Finally, for EU citizens, it will be possible to withdraw money across the entire European territory with no added costs.
European Job market. Another benefit which goes hand-in-hand with European citizenship. A European nation would create a truly European job market. While there are already many European citizens working in different European countries, these are often highly skilled workers. Furthermore, moving from a country to another to work often implies a series of bureaucratic and practical issues to deal with. In a European Federal Union, all citizens could gain access to skilled and unskilled positions across all of Europe and have the freedom to relocate to work across the entire European territory with no obstacles. Moreover, a European system of labour exchange could be implemented to fight unemployment and a European training programs to help the citizens to find the job they are looking for could also be introduced. This could be fundamental in fighting youth unemployment, which is a serious concern within the Union.
The power of an idea
In conclusion, European integration is not only necessary but also urgent. That is not to say that there are no concrete issues we need to face before proceeding with European integration. There are many problems such as the lack of a common language, the lack of a European legal system and the inhomogeneous state of economic and social development of different European regions. These problems need to be taken into serious account, and Arbury Road will dedicate articles to these topics in the near future. However, despite these challenges, the consequences of not moving forward with a federalist agenda would be disastrous. People often say that a European state is wishful thinking. We say instead that preserving the status quo is precisely that.
The creation of the European Union marked the first time in history that countries voluntarily joined a supranational union. Of course, they joined because it was economically convenient, but also because they believed in a project which promoted the advancement of society as a whole. They joined because they thought that our differences should be exalted rather than blamed. They joined because they thought that we should focus on our common European heritage, and to our shared history rather than on our differences. We believe that, nowadays, the European project needs deep, urgent reform to survive. At the same time, we believe that its survival is fundamental for the future of all of us.