National parliaments will never surrender to an EU federation
by our secret columnist in Brussels
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has again this week raised the prospect of an 'EU federation of nation states', but pragmatic national governments know it is a pipe dream and simply stick to the supremacy of their parliaments, which will never be surrendered. Our secret columnist Schadenfreude explores the issue further
The European Union's financial architecture is suddenly taking shape. There is the stability mechanism. We have European Central Bank bond-buying. The banking union is coming closer with the prospect of relieving national treasuries of 'moral' responsibility for saving ailing banks. So ECB supranational supervision of banks is on the horizon, except north of the English Channel. Meanwhile, the Netherlands not bowing out of the euro and the Greeks are probably getting the next instalment of aid. Finally, Spain will perhaps ask for support but plead that it cannot afford more austerity.
But there is a side-effect. The greater involvement of collective institutions has inspired some to look forward to more centralisation. One of those encouraged by progress but pushing for more of the same is Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission. He has chosen a seemingly favourable moment to come out with the long-standing – but not moving - proposal of the fédérastes; a European federation wrapped round a fiscal union. His strategy appears to be a case of the tail wagging the dog – budgets today, politics tomorrow.
In doing so, the president has highlighted a contradiction in the different circles of political forward thinking. Tighter control of national budgets, yes. Social and economic policy decided centrally, not yet. Add in the fact that there is no consensus on what a federation is for. Thinkers on these matters, predominantly American, say that local authorities are not subordinate to the centre. The different power bases, all representing the same community, are 'co-ordinate'. Others take fright at full blown central power and talk breezily of a confederation, which seems to have a federal structure without federal powers
The only certainty in this tangled tale, of which we will hear more, is that no member state of the EU - despite some fine oratory - would contemplate a federal government in which being 'co-ordinate' meant that national sovereignty would be substantially diminished. This is what the German Constitutional Court keeps saying and what the French political community has consistently declared since the Charles De Gaulle era. The pragmatic British know it is a pipe dream and simply stick to the supremacy of their parliament, which will never be surrendered. The Conservative part of the serving British government is set on moving the other way, towards disengagement. Meanwhile, out in the sticks, decentralisation is strong - as much in Scotland and in Catalonia as it is in Quebec.
The federalist case for a financial EU constitution
The Union of European Federalists wants a redefinition of the objectives and the structures of EU institutions in the form of a convention following the upcoming European elections in 2014 – writes Till Burckhardt