The New Deal 4 Europe ECI is constructed around two frameworks: around the development of political institutions in Europe and around current economic structures. In principal, as we all know by now, the Lisbon Treaty contributes to giving an opportunity for European Citizens to propose legislation to the European Commission on matters where the EU has competence to legislate (Article 11.4, TEU).
This step towards allowing a real participative democracy to play a role is part of an attempt to meet the expectations and wishes of European citizens concerning the functioning of the European institutions; the European Parliament occupies at least formally already a central role as the guardian and the heart of European values. Moreover, from an institutional point of view, the ECI could reinforce the Commissions presence in the minds of citizens as well as its representation within regional and local communities.
However, recent experiences on collecting the 1 million European citizens’ signatures required to accompany a proposition have brought to light some deficiencies in the current form of the Regulation, which are particularly regrettable for the New Deal 4 Europe Initiative due to the dual role (political and economic) within the European political debate that it hopes to bring forward through its Manifesto. In fact, in these times of a strong populist invasion all over Europe, a powerful debate is needed to overcome the risk of continuous degradation of the democratic functioning of Europe. According to recent studies on the efficiency of the ECI system as it functions now, there seem to be deficiencies (too short period of collecting the signatures, lack of financial support, absence of “binding the Commission to offer a clear legislative proposal to successful ECIs” (Sandrine Belier, Green European Journal, Sept.2014) which somehow indicate that the Commission is not yet fully conscious about the importance of participative democracy and of the ECI as a potential link between EU institutions and European citizens.
The New Deal 4 Europe ECI : A Marshall Plan for the 21st century?
The New Deal 4 Europe ECI started as an initiative by European Senior Citizens (in 2011) and members of the Union of European Federalists (UEF), especially of its Italian branch, Movimento Federalista Europeo. The trigger for action was due to the real life experience of the upcoming economic crisis since 2008 and its ongoing painful consequences in the lives of European citizens, particularly in the south of Europe. Since the beginning several economists, politicians, and MEPs have signed the Manifesto as well as several dozens NGOs and associations who are working on the collecting of the signatures (9 national committees). Whatever we think of the reasons for the unfortunate rise of the crisis, at least today one interpretation can be put forward:the one that emphasises the inappropriate measures of the austerity policy led by the Troïka – today admitted at least from the side of the EU Parliament as an illegal instance in terms of the policies it has conducted; “it has been the pyromaniac and the fireman at the same time” (J.Delors, cf. GEF Seminar in 2014 – D.Kempf on “EP Troïka Investigation”, 2014: “calls for audit of TroÏka on previous actions”).
This demonstrates how the original plan for the functioning of the EU’s instances have ended in an embezzlement. The high degree of unemployment,the growing risk of recession, the massive abstention during the last European elections that we are facing show that neither decision-makers nor citizens have wholly grasped the scope of these phenomena and here’s where the lack of a real Federal Europe through at least a common Treasury has become a real obstacle. Moreover, there is also a problem of insufficient information on the functioning of the EU institutions in the media (which is more due to the politicians and the governments than to the journalists), which leads to blaming EU for all unhappy dilemmas without no real ground; the worst consequence of all this has been the huge soaring of the populist parties. But from an institutional point of view the political landscape has suffered as much as the economic one through the hold-ups by the banks and multinationals that began in the 1970s when the economies were abandoned to the financial institutions:
« Europe, which, until a few years ago, was living in a context of general welfare, with a social model that guaranteed protection against the major risks for life, is unable to deal with the crisis and globalization challenges. The political project of the Founding Fathers of the EU which aimed to create, for the first time in history, democracy also at the supranational level, remained unfinished. The process of federal unification, after important successes such as the creation of a supranational parliament, a European common market, a single currency, a Court of Justice, a Charter of Fundamental Rights, has jammed. » (The Federalist Debate, 2014, n° 2, July, G.Borgna, ed. Lucio Levi).
What’s at stake: A Green New Deal ?
The uprising of participative democracy within the European Institutional framework thanks to the Lisbon Treaty and the invention of the ECI couldn’t be more praised. The implementing of this principle by the ECI New Deal Europe 4 was accepted by the Commission in March 2014 – that’s when the collecting of the signatures began. This means that the legal side was correctly constructed and the Commission fitted into its role– this ECI got the green light. Regarding the proposition in the form of a Manifesto, it contains mainly guidelines to measures bringing forward ways out of the crisis and especially propositions for the creation of jobs:
- Creating a Special European Investment Fund through two types of taxes: the Financial Transactions Tax(FTT) and the Carbon Tax as well as through euro-projects-bonds. These measures would bring in €30 bn per year for the FTT and €50 bn per year for the carbon tax of the €400 bn needed for a 3 year cycle (the rest could be reached through euro-project-bonds).
- The investments are intended for the following fields: renewable energies and organic agriculture, protection of European cultural heritage and territories, research and development in infrastructures and high technology, vocational training, continuing formation and Points of Excellence for University Research Centers and a special point of creating jobs for the young.
Another function is raising awareness about the needs of preserving the welfare state through investing in common assets and about the dangers of careless liberal-productivist politics and its consequences on the environment. In the current situation, investments are in some cases inserted to serve property developers or private financial organisations – an example: in Italy and in France the need for investing in the prevention of landslides in the mountainous areas is more important than creating new high-speed train railways which destroy the landscape and increase landslides. Of course, going into details of this type is not the purpose of the ECI NewDeal4europe, but we cannot avoid the presence of strong regional and local requirements from the side of the European people as we have seen recently in the cases of Scotland and Catalonia; this means that drafting for a European model also includes drafting for regional and local actions and reflecting upon how much decision-making should be awarded to each level (cf. «Gli Europei alla resa dei conti e il molo de MFE », « The results of European actions and the propositions of the MFE », F. Spoltore, 2014, www.mfe.it).
In any case it is important to underline that all these measures and goals are finally also intended to draw a plan of how to rescue the European welfare state. The economic advantages would be considerable as they would allow the states to reduce their debts through common European taxes and therefore ultimately contribute to saving the European social security system. The EIB would be involved as a monitoring instance as well as through its own funds. Finally, very important from the ecological point of view : the proposition will enable reducing the CO2 emissions and increasing clean energy sources as well as enhancing the independence of Europe when it comes to own energy sources instead of being dependant of imports. From this point of view, it is indeed very close to a Green New Deal!
To conclude, the « theoretical » framework of the New Deal 4 Europe could go under the title of Social Europe.
“Spiegami bene il concetto secondo cui un immigrato in Italia « ruba il lavoro » ma un Italiano all’estero « lotto per il proprio futuro” (SEL – Sinistra Ecologia Libertà/Italian party). [How can you maintain that a foreigner coming to Italy “steals a job” but an Italian in a foreign country is just fighting for his/her future.]
It is also the moment to spell out the grief of the missing Federal Europe.This quotation expresses something of the overall situation and atmosphere on our beloved European continent when it comes to a real feeling of « togetherness » (because it goes for all nationalities): as long as we use the term ‘foreigner ‘to describe our European compatriots, we shall perceive each other as « outsiders » of our homecountry. Actually, the New Deal 4 Europe, if it manages to give guidelines on how to organise the economy in the future Europe, if it led to a real NEW European regional and local institutional architecture, the European Treasury or Tax System proposed would just be the first step. It’s never enough just to throw money on the table, even if the proposition looks great on paper. Whatever the result of this ECI, a real European debate is urgently needed and on the table of negotiations many topics would have to be looked into through new glasses because a Federal Treasury would allow a better distribution system of the different envelopes. But a better understanding of each other’s mentalities could be brought out if at least the different actors – economists, politicians, university researchers would collaborate more – participative democracy is supposed to give place to the voice of the people, i.e. civil society representatives as well as to the elected politicians.