“The European Union must reconnect with its origins and assume its political diversity”

FIGAROVOX / TRIBUNE – On May 9, 2021, the Conference on the Future of Europe was launched, a major consultation exercise for European citizens. For Rodrigo Ballester, the European Union will only have a future if it returns to its founding principles and renounces its federalist projects.

Rodrigo Ballester is director of the Center for European Studies at Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Budapest, former European civil servant and member of cabinet at the European Commission.


Pragmatic or messianic? Europe at the crossroads of its own contradictions.

May 9, 2021, Europe Day, President Macron launches with virtual fanfare the Conference on the Future of the Union, the umpteenth European high mass supposed to reconcile it once and for all with its citizens and which will give birth to ambitious solutions that the latter are calling for without really asking for it. This time, the conferences of diplomats and officials will be preceded by a broad citizen consultation. From the four corners of Europe, Europeans will send their grievances to Brussels via the internet and Brussels, magnanimously, will make reform proposals. Who says better?

Only this time, the majority of capitals are the first to think that this conference is useless, even totally counterproductive. In a Europe bloodless after ten years of crisis and facing an economic slump, this initiative is inappropriate. First of all, let’s be honest, because it hardly interests anyone and will go largely unnoticed by the overwhelming majority of Europeans. Second, because this lack of general interest is inversely proportional to the appetite of the Brussels bubble to want to reinvent the wheel of Europe as soon as the opportunity arises.

Today’s Europe sees itself more as a moral and messianic authority than as a political and technical entity.

Rodrigo Ballester

To get where? While Europeans are above all concerned about their jobs, their purchasing power and their security, the European bubble fueled by a civil society that is just as out of the ground risks giving rise to presumably legitimate proposals when they will only be the fruit of the usual inter-self. It’s a safe bet that the response to geostrategic challenges and the economic crisis is a federalist headlong rush, the usual Pavlov reflex which calls for “more Europe” whatever the problem addressed.

And yet, there is no need for citizen consultations, reforms or high masses to find concrete answers to the European malaise. It would suffice for Europe to return to its origins and forget its federalist ulterior motives which since Maastricht (1993) have distanced it from the peoples and has been built on a triple denial: that of its own origins, of some of its principles. cardinals and its political diversity.

Denial of its origins

Today’s Europe sees itself more as a moral and messianic authority than as a political and technical entity. What change ! Because in the beginning was … the most prudent of pragmatisms. The Schuman Declaration of May 9, 1951 is a monument to common sense and political realism: a policy of small steps, consideration of national interests, mutual trust in order to lay the foundations for a political construction based on the political and cultural diversity of his members. Seventy years later, we are far removed from this approach and pre-Maastricht Europe has disappeared from historical radar when it was the golden age of European construction. Before reinventing a necessarily federal Europe, we might as well look in the rearview mirror and draw inspiration from the recipes that made the European Community a historic success.

Denial of Principles

In its messianic impetus, the Union neglects some of its cornerstones. Subsidiarity in particular which requires it to take decisions at the level as close as possible to the citizen and to intervene if, and only if, it is better placed than the States to do so. Ditto for the principle of attribution of competences according to which “the Union acts only within the limits of the powers that the Member States have assigned to it in the Treaties […]“. A crucial rule which is not always respected, in particular by the European Court of Justice. Its case law is riddled with rulings in which the “point of attachment” with European law has been blithely interpreted to tip the scales in favor of the Union’s competences … without anyone having attributed them to it and sometimes even to contempt. of the letter of the Treaty. But the best example of this voracity remains the famous Article 7, a real hold-up because it applies to all national competences! This is not the least of the paradoxes for an article supposed to protect the rule of law.

Denial of political diversity

The almost religious fervor with which the Union promotes its “common values” both inside and outside its borders is accompanied by a glaring lack of political diversity. Paradoxically, the more Europe has grown, the more its ideological base has shrunk to the point of falling into the caricature of simplistic and binary visions. To question the direction it is taking would be to attack the very idea of ​​cooperation between European countries. The EU would be take it or leave it. Federalist, liberal and multicultural or she will not be. From there to asserting that any dissenting opinion is contrary to these values ​​there is only one step to take. Hence the well-founded fear that they will become an ideological corset to narrow the circle of legitimate opinions and drown the debate. The more certain elites put forward diversity and inclusion, the less they implement it at the political and intellectual level.

The European Union is compromising its own future by moving away from its two main sources of legitimacy (states and citizens) and by dreaming of itself

Rodrigo Ballester

In the end, today’s Europe is more dogmatic and providential than ever. It denies its origins, neglects some of its fundamental principles and focuses on “common values” which undermine its political and cultural diversity and stifle internal debate. Thus, it compromises its own future by moving away from its two main sources of legitimacy (states and citizens) and by dreaming of itself without even considering that its strength depends on that of these member states.

Like the frog in the fable, the EU, swollen with pride, risks breaking up by trying to ape what it will never be: the United States. Only a Europe based on strong internal cohesion, pragmatic, fully assuming its political diversity and the importance of States is able to meet its main existential challenge: that of its sovereignty.

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