Year XXXV, 1993, Number 3 - Page 177

 

 

 

Which Constitution for Europe?
 
ANTONIO PADOA-SCHIOPPA
 
 
1. Seen from an Italian viewpoint (during the most dramatic period our country has experienced since the immediate aftermath of the war) the Community ideal presently assumes particular significance. The destiny of our country is more than ever bound up with its relationship to Europe. Simultaneously, the future evolution of the Community and its transition towards Union (an objective which, even though formally achieved by the Treaty of Maastricht, still seems distant) are also linked to events in Italy much more than is sometimes held to be the case, since our country has till now represented a vital pillar of the EEC – both as a large market, whose recession can determine economic recession in Germany and France, and as the driving force behind a significant number of evolutionary features in the Community’s construction.
Yet, setting aside the issue of Italy itself, let us consider the European situation. An observer who simply goes by press reports and the opinions of the great majority of economic and political experts can not avoid the conclusion that Maastricht’s ratification represents a Pyrrhic victory. This is because certain countries have opted out of the most important objectives of the treaty; because the convergence criteria for monetary union which the treaty demands seem remote for certain countries (starting with our own); because the automatic timetable established for monetary union has been called into question and indeed in part contradicted by the German Parliament and Karlsruhe Court; because the most serious economic crisis since the establishment of the common market is encouraging protectionist tendencies, and causing reactions at the national level rather than generating answers at the European level (demonstrated by the lack of success so far of Jacques Delors’ proposals for job creation programmes); because the inter-state cooperation which had ensured the success of the European Monetary System (EMS) for fifteen years is now, after the crisis of recent months, only a memory; and because one looks in vain to national politicians, business leaders and public opinion itself for that creative spirit, moral tension and desire to break with a tragic past, without which the Community adventure would never have got off the ground.
A pessimistic attitude, then, has been prevalent for several months, and not without good reason, as outlined above. Yet such an attitude, while not helping to overcome the crisis of the Community’s institutions underway since 2nd June 1992, is not a rational assessment of the situation either. Incorrectly, realism is considered a characteristic of only pessimistic analyses about Europe. On a number of occasions in the past, predictions of the failure of Community projects have been shown to be baseless, and hence pessimists have become, with hindsight, upside down idealists, reverse utopians. Recently, once more, those who predicted that Maastricht would never be passed into law were wrong, and those who foresaw ratification were right. The same erroneous foresight now tells many that Maastricht, although ratified, is stillborn. On the contrary, the treaty’s potential is still all there to be developed, and doing so will depend mainly op the political and operational dynamism of the Community’s institutions – as was the case with the 1986 Single Act. A new white paper (or rather, a series of white papers) could serve to establish the route that will lead to the fulfilment of the treaty’s objectives on the variety of fronts which have been opened up: from cohesion to trans-national networks, the environment to scientific research, foreign policy to security issues, domestic affairs to judicial ones (leaving aside monetary policy whose stages were defined with unusual precision).
Yet it is clear that even this is not enough. Maastricht notwithstanding, the blueprint which lies at the heart of European construction remains incomplete.
 
2. Those who reflect on what the Community will comprise of, if one accepts the achievement in the not-too-distant future of the aims set out in the treaty on political union, can not avoid dealing with some basic problems. These problems concern the constitutional outline of tomorrow’s Europe.
The Community was brought into being by an international process, in the form of a treaty which other countries have gradually adhered to. The different treaties aimed to attain objectives of a primarily economic and political nature. Nevertheless, from the outset the tools provided for achieving the aims of the single market (hence the free circulation of goods, people, services and capital) have had the character of permanent institutions, devised in a very different way from the norm adopted for achieving specific results of inter-state political economy, however significant. A consideration of the outlines of the structure envisaged by Jean Monnet for France and Germany to share the management of coal and steel can only conclude that the plan has the nature of a constitutional project, even though it deals with a limited sector. The Assembly, the Commission, the Court of Justice and the Council are all present. Hence, since 1950 there has existed in the form of a treaty an international organisation which displays certain constitutional characteristics. Thus it can, and moreover must be, measured also according to a constitutional benchmark. The subsequent treaties, up to and including Maastricht, have followed the same pattern. But the international law approach and the over-emphasis on politico-economic goals compared to the tools employed to achieve them (two features moreover explicable by the Community enterprise) have caused the constitutional structures inherent in the options adopted to be undervalued. It is now time to subject such frameworks to debate by experts, political forces and the general public, because the composition and the outcome itself of tomorrow’s European Union depends essentially on the choices which will be made in this field. It is surprising to notice the enormous imbalance which exists between the employment of intellectual energy on analyses of the existing body of Community legislation and on analyses dedicated to constitutional problems, which are nevertheless held to be serious and pressing.
These constitutional problems are set in the perspective of the institutional revision set for 1996 under the Maastricht Treaty: this is no longer far away. Moreover, the even closer deadline of the European elections in June 1994 will ensure specific proposals are brought onto the political stage; the various European political forces will have to express an opinion on them during the electoral campaign. I will restrict myself here to highlighting briefly certain significant points.
The debate between the supporters of rapidly widening the European Union (it is useful to start using the new name, official since 1st November1993, which is not simply a matter of presentation) to Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden and the champions of a prior “deepening” of European integration mechanisms between current members is clear evidence of the existence of two different conceptions of Europe’s future. On the one hand the vision of a large free-trade area, which is already now the largest market on the planet, but which should not impair the sovereignty of the European states. On the other, the creation of a federal union, in which certain powers are pooled and conferred on the union, while others remain the competence of the states, and yet others are entrusted to the regions, on the basis of the fundamental criterion of subsidiarity, which is one of federalism’s cornerstones. At least two arguments, which even those who support the former thesis can not ignore, serve to strengthen substantially the rationale of the latter (leaving aside the historic and idealistic reasons which can make the positions different). First, the renunciation of the full sovereignty of states is already present and operative in the Treaties in force, and to a notable extent. Second, without a reform of certain institutional norms, a future Europe of sixteen (and even more a Europe extended to the previously Communist countries of the East) will not be able to operate effectively, not even solely as a free-trade zone. The decisions of the Council will be slow or even paralysed, the Commission over-sized, the European Parliament overwhelmed by simple opinions on questions of detail, popular support for important decisions absent or half-hearted, and the vital link between voters and political representation almost non-existent.
As for monetary union, it in turn conditions the single market itself, since the autonomy of individual political national currencies is incompatible with the stability of exchange rates in a regime which allows the free circulation of goods, services and capital – as the crisis in the EMS clearly demonstrated. Without exchange-rate stability the single market will be unable to function; yet exchange-rate stability will be impossible as long as the national political currencies continue to be autonomous. The convergence method agreed on in the Maastricht Treaty (limits for inflation rates, budget deficits, and national debt) represents the condition Germany demanded and won for her backing for a single currency. Such a fundamental objective is in Germany’s national and economic interest (as the more far-sighted observers, including German ones, have recognised for some time now), yet the abandonment of the Mark provokes understandable resistance and widespread fear – this can not, and should not, be ignored. In principle, it would clearly have been simpler, more logical and quicker to follow a reverse order from Maastricht’s, creating a single currency immediately and then resolving the problems of transition with the tools of political economy – just as Germany has done with its unification. This has not been possible, and there is nothing to do except take this fact onboard. The aim of a European Germany, which lies at the root of the initiative to unify our continent, is too important and too vulnerable to be abandoned. The real risk for the European Union (and for Europe and Germany itself) is that Germany will loosen its ties with the Community under the illusion it could do better on its own. For this reason the Maastricht route to monetary union, which Germany proposed, should be accepted and followed without second thoughts.
Yet both convergence and the single currency lead to upheaval and sacrifice for less well-equipped countries, among which is our own. Herein lies the current urgency for, and future importance of, a Community cohesion policy, which presupposes in its turn an appreciable increase in the Community’s own resources. The structural increase of the Community budget is even more necessary and urgent in a period of serious recession, such as the current one which is affecting all EEC countries. Jacques Delors has for some time lucidly stressed the importance of moving in this direction. But so far the governments have been unable to respond positively, victims of a short-sighted interpretation of the relationships between the Community and national states. This is the latest symptom, and clearly of prime importance, of the structural difficulties which hamper the functioning of the Communities’ bodies.
 
3. It is time then to think about institutional remedies. These are few, simple, and were formulated some time ago, but so far have been rejected by the governments when reforming the Treaties.
Unanimous decision-making in the Council of Ministers must be overcome. While the Treaty of Rome already established majority decision-making for certain categories of decisions, and while the Single Act achieved significant steps forward in this respect, Maastricht has not marked up any real progress. A unanimous decision by ministers is still required for the most important categories of decisions, relating to over forty topics foreseen by the Treaty. The slowness and hesitancy of Community decisions in, for example, fiscal matters is due to the unanimity constraint, which is in opposition to any rational principle since it substitutes for the will of the majority the veto power of even a single state, even when there is a widely-held belief that it is in the common interest to take a decision.
While majority decision-making is needed in all new areas of Community competence, it is clearly justified that a qualified majority should be prescribed for the most important decisions. The weighted-voting criterion is correct, given such large population differences among the member states. A certain over-representation of the smaller states is justified, as established in the treaties. It may be opportune, also, to adopt the currently-circulating idea (already contained in the 1984 European Parliament Treaty project, the Spinelli plan, misunderstood source of all subsequent Community institutional reform projects, none of which moreover has approached it in quality) to couple the weighted voting of ministers with a calculation based on the number of people a minister represents, such that a decision requiring a qualified majority will be carried only if states (through their presence in the Council) equal to four fifths of the Community’s population approve it. In itself, such an integrated requirement would be unnecessary if there were weighted voting. Yet it can serve to clarify to the public and politicians in general the principle by which the peoples of the various nations form a single people for the range of decisions under European competence.
This is a fundamental principle, the affirmation of which will contribute to the achievement also (and in fact primarily) of the constitutional concept of European citizenship. This is a concept which the Court of Justice will most probably develop in its judgements, and which is destined to evolve in the European Union well beyond the still-restricted limits set down in the Maastricht Treaty, which nevertheless has the merit of having introduced it for the first time.
The second category of institutional reforms to deal with involves the drawing up of Community legislation. The co-decision procedure introduced by the Maastricht Treaty (which adds to, without replacing, the four previously-existing procedures: consultation, conformity vote, cooperation, and approval of the budget) clearly increases the role of the European Parliament in the specified sectors. But its drawbacks and limitations are many and serious. On the one hand, the procedure is so complex (no less than eight stages are foreseen) as to make the passage of legislation barely feasible. On the other hand, the absolute majority requirement for amendments by the European Parliament makes reaching the threshold extremely difficult in practice. No national parliament demands this for its own normal legislative activity, since it would rapidly lead to paralysis.
Third, and most significantly, co-decision is limited to a few areas, which are not critical, and is excluded from all matters of greater import within the Community’s competence. The coherence of such an arrangement escapes any objective observer: if the European Parliament is held to have a role to carry out, such a role will not be situated elsewhere than in the field of legislation. The only solution to adopt, then, is that of attributing legislative co-decision powers to the European Parliament in all matters, finally ending the consultative role, which is meaningless when conferred on a body elected by universal suffrage and hence endowed with a maximum amount of legitimacy. Thus, the co-decision procedure should be reformed and simplified, and made operational with decisions taken by simple or qualified majority (the latter to be required when a qualified majority is required in the Council of Ministers); but above all it should be made general practice for specifically legislative decisions.
It is vital to appreciate the political and constitutional implications of this extension of co-decision powers to the European Parliament. When the Community’s democratic deficit is discussed, it is necessary to keep two aspects distinct in our minds. The first is that which underlines the necessary connection between popular sovereignty and the exercise of governmental authority. The arguments against Eurocrats, not infrequently stirred up on purpose, have in this respect some basis in reality. Or rather, they had a basis in reality, since the Maastricht Treaty has made considerable progress specifically in this regard, introducing the principle of a Parliamentary vote for the nomination of the Commission President. This link is needed, since only in this way will it be possible to translate the results of popular elections to the management of the Community government’s programmes, which is concentrated in the Commission. The only coherent alternative to a European Parliament vote of confidence in the Commission and its programme is the direct election of the Commission President himself. But that presents obvious problems, not only for linguistic reasons.
The second aspect of the democratic deficit concerns the Community’s legislative powers. That the member states have a role to carry out here is fully in accordance with the constitutional profile. The Council will be able to continue to guarantee this role, which in practice establishes the Council as the House of Community States – naturally, with decisions always taken by simple or qualified majority voting. But it is indispensable that the organ which represents the direct expression of popular sovereignty at the European level has in turn a legislative role specifically the power of co-decision. The crucial link between popular will, elections, the legislative programme, the enactment of such a programme and then renewed elections, will only be realised in this way; and not before. This is one of the indispensable foundations of modem democracies. It is almost impossible that democratic states among the world’s most advanced, have been able to ignore this basic constitutional right of their peoples – who constitute, for the matters entrusted to the Community level, a single people with a single Parliament.
While co-decision for the European Parliament is the solution for legislation we could define as “high” in 18th century terms, for lesser legislation of a regulatory nature, it is instead necessary to confer more powers on the Commission, so as not to burden the European Parliament with many technical and executive decisions, unsuited (and moreover dangerous: the risk from lobbying is not to be underestimated) for a directly-elected body. The revision of the legislative hierarchy, set in the Maastricht Treaty for 1996, should provide the opportunity for such an important innovation.
More generally, the Commission must prepare itself to accept the European Union’s governmental functions. The principle of the balance of powers, one of the key features of modern constitutionalism, requires that art. 145 of the Treaty of Rome be modified to reduce the current duplication of functions between the Council and Commission.
Naturally, these are not the only institutional reforms one can think of. In practice, many others have been written and talked about on many occasions: from different periods for the rotating Presidency of the Community to reducing the number of Commission members, from increased powers for the Commission President to the attribution of powers of constitutional control to the Court of Justice, from publicising the debates which are held in the Council to a new European role for the regions, and so on. However the two above-mentioned vital reforms (spreading the majority principle in the Council and the power of co-decision for the Parliament) are necessary and sufficient on their own to bridge the divide which still separates the European Community from the Union.
Furthermore it should be foreseen that in the new areas which distinguish the Union from the Community (foreign policy, security issues, justice, internal affairs), there will become established over time a duly planned institutional transition, similar to that launched in the fields of economic and monetary union, which proceeds gradually from intergovernmental cooperation to Community procedure. The logic of integration is in fact exactly the same: establish joint provisions at the European level for those (and only those) issues which are better resolved together at the European level than separately at the national level. It is the concept of subsidiarity, also introduced for the first time explicitly in the Maastricht Treaty, which sets out the long and arduous route to take.
 
4. It is natural to ask at this point what is preventing the adoption of institutional measures, such as those suggested immediately above, which are certainly not novel. The answer is not difficult: the resistance of certain governments, sections of the national political classes, parts of public opinion egged on by the media, and some vested interests.
Together, these forces represent a formidable coalition. If the resistance of the governments to the prospect of renouncing another portion of their prerogatives is, so to speak, physiological, certain governments (there is no point specifying which) are basically hostile towards federal developments (which the two above-mentioned reforms in effect are), cloaking this attitude in some serious, and some not so serious, arguments. Less serious is the pretence that the national parliaments are still totally sovereign (and oppose on this basis co-decision for the European Parliament), or the argument that governments can not for reasons of principle renounce the right of veto, when on the contrary adhesion to the Treaties has meant for some time now that all (Great Britain included) have recognised supernational authority over a significant range of issues connected with the economy, social law, competition rules, and so on. Neither the parliaments nor the governments nor the national courts of justice are full-sovereignty titleholders any longer.
More serious is the argument of the unacceptability of a European superstate which eliminates national peculiarities. But the concept of federation, precisely intended, excludes this danger. And it is clear that Europe, for the diversity and extraordinary richness of its ancient and modern history, should not eliminate its differences but rather foster them. The uniforming tendencies of some federal states, starting with the US, should and can be avoided. The introduction of the subsidiarity principle also has this objective. One of the aims of federal power is that of helping the member states to guarantee their own specificity better than would occur in a co-habitation arrangement between independent and seemingly sovereign states, where often the supremacy of the strongest ends up imposing itself on the weakest – in politics, the economy, currency matters, custom, scientific research, and even in artistic and literary culture.
My insistence on this point is due to the fact that it is central to the foreseeable constitutional pattern of the future Europe. The different levels of autonomy (municipal, regional, national and European levels) should be catered for in context, without any of these being sacrificed or, alternatively, raised up at the expense of others. It is right and necessary to think of a Europe of the regions; but also the independence of local government on the one hand, and national identities on the other, should be preserved. Identifying with greater precision the various competences of the four levels, from the commune to Europe (not forgetting the fifth level, the planetary one, symbolised by the UN), and regulating their cohabitation, represents one of the central tasks of constitutional doctrine. Furthermore, it will be necessary to establish at the European level a legal and constitutional framework for protecting linguistic and ethnic minorities which will enable the overcoming of the false dilemma between subordination to a central power and sovereignty. The incorrect definition of the problem in an authentically federal sense has provoked the useless and dangerous multiplication of new states in Central and Eastern Europe, when not actually the horrors of ethnic cleansing. A genuinely federal constitution should (will have to) guarantee that different cultures can flourish in harmony within the same structure, in a “horizontal” form of federalism which operates alongside that of the various territorial levels.
But returning to the evolution of the Community towards federal Union, a core of states would like to conduct this to conclusion while other states are (or at least seem) to be opposed. The principle to affirm is that while no state should be obliged to accede to the federation against its will, no state can impede others from doing so.
This is a fundamental point, which concerns the future prospects of European construction. When Britain, after a waiting period lasting several years, entered into the EEC, it accepted the Treaty of Rome in its entirety. Subsequently, it accepted the election of European parliamentarians by universal suffrage but it remained outside the EMS. It accepted the 1986 Single Act because this facilitated the realisation of the single market objective which it held dear, and to which specifically a Briton, Lord Cockfield, had contributed fundamental ideas and practical plans. Britain ultimately accepted the Maastricht Treaty, but arranged with the other member states to apply only parts of it, remaining outside monetary union and the social charter. Denmark acted similarly (with even more significant exceptions, but without modifications to the Treaty) prior to her second referendum. This situation could be defined as “agreeing to disagree” and may be used again in future. It is foreseeable for monetary union, in a scenario where an initial core of states meets the conditions to proceed more rapidly, and decides to do so rather than wait for the others.
However, when a new Treaty provides for new institutional rules (which those outlined above are, and whose adoption could and should occur in 1996), the lack of adherence to such rules by certain member states raises problems that are anything but simple. The same decision can not in practice be taken by the same institution using two different procedures. In such an instance it will be necessary to provide a mechanism of variable geometry, which would introduce the new procedure and make it binding only for those member states who had approved it in the new Treaty; while for the others only decisions taken under the old procedure would continue to apply. On principle, this is possible. It is worth recalling that in November 1987 there was a meeting in this same University of Milan between professors of Community law, whose theme was precisely this: “Community and European union: two incompatible institutional frameworks?” The answer, albeit formulated in various ways and requiring further study, was that compatibility was not legally impossible, even on the basis of art. 41 of the Vienna Convention. It can be predicted that the same Community bodies will operate with partly different procedures, according to the situation, as organs of the Community and as organs of the federal Union.
In the meantime the Union Treaty has crossed the finishing line, ratified by all member states following the well-known events. But the issue is destined to be re-opened: the real knot of the alternative between Community and federal Union was not dealt with at Maastricht, since it is a problem of a constitutional nature. It will be resolved only when the two above-mentioned reforms (co-decision and the principle of majority voting) are confronted. And then it will be necessary to choose between three different paths: adoption of the two principles by all the member states (the federal union path); institutional status quo (the maintenance of current Community procedure for everyone); and dividing the states on the basis of their federal vocation or lack of one.
It is clear from the above that the first path should be chosen, and if this proves unachievable, the third. This is with the hope and prospect that, either immediately or after a while, such a federal Union will be joined by all the member states, to whom moreover the door must always remain open without conditions.
 
5. Solving the compatibility of Community and federal Union, while not impossible, as outlined above, is however much more difficult following the entrance into effect of the Maastricht Treaty, in as much as the new competences of the Union have been accepted, with some significant exceptions, by all twelve states. Clearly the compatibility of the Community and the federal Union will become increasingly difficult to manage as the competences become more entangled. And hence the knot will probably have to be cut and not untied.
Maurice Duverger in a notable article in 1991 has already argued for contrasting the Union with the Community, asserting that with the Union Treaty the states in reality intended to create a new pact, clearly distinct in conceptual terms from that which gave birth to the Community. Hence the new Treaty should have been drawn up as such, and not as a revision of the previous Treaties along the lines of art. 236 of the Treaty of Rome. Such an argument is certainly bold, although it clearly contains political and juridical worth.
This issue can not fail to be re-opened during the reforms set for 1996. The need for unanimity when revising the Treaties, defined in art. 236, is a formidable and perhaps fatal obstacle to the continued construction of Europe. It is sufficient to consider the immense damage (probably even quantifiable: consider the monetary crisis) caused to the economies of all the Community’s states by the delay brought about by the two Danish referendums. It now seems indispensable to modify art. 236 along such lines that revision treaties in future enter into effect when they have been ratified by a certain number of member states whose population is, for example, four-fifths of the Community total. It is worth noting that without such a rule, perhaps the US itself would never have been born. For the future Europe, should such a choice be considered too bold, the validity of a new treaty could be restricted only to those states which ratify it, exempting non-ratifiers.
The same basic problem is posed for this reform that has already been referred to in connection with institutional reforms. What happens when unanimity is not reached in an intergovernmental conference on a majority-voting reform of art. 236, or some states fail to ratify this? It is this prospect which has led some to say that the knot should be cut and not untied. Sooner or later, on this point as on others (and probably sooner than on others), the states which have decided to complete European construction will have to demonstrate unequivocally that they will not be blocked by states who are against proceeding; even at the price of extreme measures, such as denouncing the existing treaties in order to conclude a new and more advanced one, valid only for those who adhere. It is to be hoped (and likely) that this measure will not be necessary, but it should be seriously considered from now on.
This raises the issue of what procedure to follow in order to conduct institutional reform to a satisfactory conclusion. The intergovernmental conference method has so far been the rule, and it is highly likely that this will be adopted also in the future, perhaps with a prior investigation entrusted to a commission of experts chosen by the heads of state and government of the European Council. But experience has shown that this procedure has certain limitations: a procedure which does not leave the guiding of reform only to ministers is needed, especially when redistributing powers and competences between Council, Parliament and Commission is required. To hope that the Council of Ministers will proceed on its own to sanction the re-balancing of its powers with respect to those of the Commission and the Parliament is really to hope too much. A solution which seems more just and effective is to attribute a constituent co-decision role to the European Parliament.
The reform project must certainly be debated and approved by the European Council; and in this context the attitude of France will be of central importance, since without her support and agreement all progress is impossible – but so far she has shown little enthusiasm for institutional reforms. Following this, the project must be debated in and possibly amended by the Strasbourg Parliament, and sent to the national parliaments for ratification. It would be ideal if a fruitful period of work developed forms of collaboration between the national and European parliaments through the mechanism of the Assizes, successfully launched in recent years. It is right that on the subject of European constitutional reform the national parliaments should have a voice in the process. And it is fair above all that the body which represents the political will of all European electors should be involved in this project. Indeed, in Italy, the 1989 referendum on the constituent powers to confer to the European Parliament had such a resounding success (88% of votes in favour) that each reform scenario which ignores a contribution for the European Parliament should be rejected by our country.
In effect, the role of the European Parliament must, and can be, much more incisive in the future. Future historians will ask for what reasons this body, despite being endowed with immense potential even in the sense of a political force, has, following Altiero Spinelli’s death, not acted more resolutely and decisively to push the Community on towards the goal of federal union – especially these last two years. The campaign for the 1994 European elections which is now close at hand will represent an opportunity for a commitment from which the future parliamentarians will be unable to extract themselves. It should not be forgotten that the enlargement of the Union/Community to new countries, following Maastricht, now requires the approval of the European Parliament. Hence, the Parliament can, in return for its agreement, set the condition of adopting institutional reforms, so as to avoid the otherwise considerable risk of paralysis or dilution of the Community into a mere free-trade zone. The current weakness of the European Parliament induces the belief that only the effective mobilisation of significant sections of public opinion will succeed in generating decisive momentum in the direction outlined here.
 
6. Which constitution for Europe? The above considerations may have furnished some elements of a reply to this question, which is crucial for the future of our countries, and indeed not only for them. In fact, non-European peoples and states, from China to Central America, Africa to the countries of the ex-Soviet Union themselves are watching with considerable, and growing, attention the Community and its development. This Europe is a potentially highly influential constitutional laboratory. And it is not unreasonable to envisage that, just as the national state model has influenced, with its positive and with its destructive and tragic aspects, the political evolution of other continents, so the federalist hope which lies at the heart of the Community adventure can, if conducted to its natural conclusion, inspire the political and constitutional evolution of other states and continents that are currently prey to anarchy.
For this to happen, the genuinely constitutional nature of the choices to be made in the European sphere must at last emerge with clarity. Principles such as popular sovereignty, the balance of powers, subsidiarity, fiscal federalism, local autonomy, protection for minorities, and the international authority of the UN should be openly discussed as regards their practical implications at the Community level. At the correct moment, citizens will be directly involved and consulted, as long as individual constitutional systems provide for and allow it. They will be asked the fundamental questions, the only ones a referendum should pose: for example, “Are you in favour of the gradual evolution of the European Community towards democratic and federal Union, while fully respecting national and regional characteristics?” If the question is clear, so will the answer be: clear and constructive, as opinion polls have for many years now confirmed.
After four decades of a so-called implicit constitution, which emerged from the Treaties but was never organically structured; after a creation such as the single market, which has helped Europeans reach unprecedented standards of living; after an evolution crowned by such successes as to make people sometimes forget the real roots of the continental unification initiative (which are idealistic roots, the rejection of fratricidal wars between our nations; see the splendid pages in Jean Monnet’s autobiography), the time has come to trace the guidelines for the future Europe’s constitution. May the celebration of the first 50 years of this noble Movement, founded by Altiero Spinelli and now led by Mario Albertini, which has from its birth struggled for European Federation, offer material for reflection and provide worthy ideas for action – now for ourselves, and in the future for those who will come after us.

 

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