July 24, 2015
The most interesting thing to come out of an interesting month was President Hollande’s 19th of July letter published in the Journal du Dimanche. It called for a “vanguard” of European states, comprising of (at least) the founders of the ECSC, to form a government to manage the Eurozone. This new formation, according to the EU Observer, should have “its own government, a “specific budget” and its own parliament.”
That would be monumental if it were ever implemented: something on which I have my doubts. This week, I want to explore the implications of this statement.
Firstly, none of these are new to the EU. Government and (ironically) “specific budget” are vague enough statements that could mean anything. What is rather interesting is the inclusion of the term parliament because in all modern incarnations of parliaments is the key aspect of popular representation. I don’t know if Hollande is suggesting that the original ECSC6 citizens should elect another, arguably parallel, layer of government or if there is some more practical implementation in his mind, such as having the current sitting members of the European Parliament act as dual representatives to, what I am currently dubbing, Eurozone Union.
From the context of his letter, it would seem that this parliament would be a significant challenge to the primacy of those nation-states and represent a real political union. Households may make budgets but this “specific budget” seems to be a fiscal union with as many words. In Hollande’s proposed vision, we already see a elected body that gives French voters direct influence over German or Italian “domestic” fiscal policy, and vice versa. This new parliament would gain control of the national purse-strings of one of the richest regions in the world and would end national independence, more surely than if this parliament was suggested to govern the ECSC6’s militaries.
We also see Hollande’s awareness of the state of the Pan-European disaffection with the current system. This parliament seems to be, in his eyes, a solution to the ennui. He lays out no concrete considerations in this direction, so speculation seems pointless to elaborate at this moment. He did says that we should await proposals to come in the coming weeks and not the coming months.
I wouldn’t get hopes up for a European Federation springing up over night though. The Greek Crisis had looked to be the engine of change in the past, but these initiatives which are on everyone’s lips have vanished to be swept under the rug with little fanfare in the past; maybe I’m wrong and the glacial speed of European level action simply appears to be inaction from the outside.
Whatever the case, the French are supposed to put forward practical proposals in the near future. We will see then what sort of plans Hollande has for Europe and if he’s actually seized of the need for meaningful engagement of the European public.C. Shannon