A directly elected European Commission president, more powerful foreign affairs chief, and new rules making it easier to adopt treaty changes are among the radical ideas put forward by 11 European Union foreign ministers.
The EU has reached a "decisive juncture", according to the final report
of the 'Future of Europe group', which comprised the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg. With the economic crisis and globalisation presenting an "unprecedented dual challenge", they said action had to be taken to "restore confidence in our joint project".
Their long-term vision includes suggestions – backed by only some of the foreign ministers – for a directly elected commission president who appoints members of a European government, and a European Parliament that has the power to initiate legislation. Some proposed that the role of commission president, held by JosÚ Manuel Barroso, should be combined with that of European Council president Herman Van Rompuy.
The number of European commissioners – currently there is one for each of the 27 member states – should be "addressed", the report says, with one possibility being to divide them into 'senior' and 'junior' positions. The paper also calls for greater cooperation between national parliaments and the EU assembly.
Meanwhile, claiming that "member states should not be restrained from further advancing in integration due to either lack of political will or to significant delays in the ratification process", the foreign ministers raised the prospect of allowing EU treaty amendments to be adopted by a super-qualified majority rather than requiring unanimity – though the changes would be binding only on those countries that agreed to them.
On foreign policy, the group – which was created earlier this year by Germany's Guido Westerwelle – said European countries could "uphold their values and pursue their interests successfully only if we stand united". They backed hte idea of a strengthened External Action Service – currently led by High Representative Catherine Ashton – with wider responsibilities in the areas of neighbourhood and international development.
The ideas paper added that a single member state should not be able to block shared European foreign policy initiatives. On defence, the EU's ambitions should "go beyond" pooling and sharing and include "joint efforts regarding the defence industry", such as a single market for armament projects and – according to some members of the group – a single European army.
The foreign ministers also touched on other policy areas. To protect the Schengen area's external borders, a European border police should be created, they said, while also advocating a sustainable internal energy market with European infrastructure and common external energy relations.
More immediately, defining the euro as "the most powerful symbol of European integration", they advocated a reinforced economic governance framework and more binding economic policy coordination between member states, while also backing proposals for a eurozone banking union. They suggested that MEPs from euro area countries and EU member states that plan to join the euro should be involved in decision-making.
But the report also acknowledges that integration does "not mean that all economic policy measures should be decided at European level" and the "right mix" of coordination and competition had to be found.
Writing in the New York Times
yesterday, Westerwelle and his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski said it would take "much to motivate citizens to implement these reforms" but a "perspective, a vision" would help them. They said they were "confident that if it ever came to choosing" the people "would not let the union unravel".
The publication drew condemnation from the British Conservative MEP Charles Tannock, who said it played "into the hands of the hardline eurosceptics who have been predicting this type of move for years. There is no evidence that this is something the people of Europe desire."
He added: "Those who want to suck all sovereign power to the centre of a federalist Europe dream equally of a global status for their superstate. They fantasise a United States of Europe, bestriding the international stage and wielding diplomatic influence and military might.áThe truth is that under the Lisbon treaty we already have an External Action Service led by Baroness Ashton which should be there to represent the EU's interests abroad. Its scope and its responsibilities – not to mention its cost to the taxpayer – are quite enough already.
The Conservatives role is to stall progress as much as possible. From delaying the end of slavery to forbidding same sex marriage, they are recorded in history as those who think things should just stay as they are or be as they were before rather than evolve into something better. They're mostly second and third generation people who still live in "old times" and want things to regress back to "how it was back then".
Just by looking at history it becomes obvious the United States of Europe will happen because it simply makes sense. Just like single atoms join naturally to create molecules who act as one, countries join to create "united states" and act as one. Mainly now in internet age with low cost travel bringing everyone closer, now more than ever we need a unification of laws, elimination of borders, single currency.
It is not because of what person A or B thinks, it is a fact that having a unified system benefits 99 per cent of the people. And I mean a unified system done properly, not one made to fail. We already have an excellent example of how different states can join into a single nation USA so if USA did it, why can't Europe do it too? Or should USA go back in time and turn each state into a separate country with their own currency own army etc?
It is far more efficient to have one single army, one common law, one common currency, one common language and so on.
Why fight the unavoidable? It will happen, history proves it. Villages become cities, cities become countries, countries become "united states" and eventually the whole world will be unified. We, the citizens of Planet Earth. It just takes time but it will happen.