Year LIX, 2017, Single Issue, Page 121
MONETARY UNION, POLITICAL UNION
AND EUROPEAN SOVEREIGNTY
The ongoing debate on the future of Europe is highlighting, increasingly clearly, the opposing positions of those who believe that EU reform is possible only within the wider (27-member) framework and those who instead maintain that it will take a vanguard of eurozone countries pressing ahead in the direction of political union. The latter envisage the creation of a two-tier Europe, one tier comprising the states choosing to participate solely in the single market, and the other those that are willing to surrender their sovereignty in order to create a federal core. This difference of outlook became particularly apparent following the outbreak of the global economic and financial crisis that, exposing the limitations of the current EU mechanisms, made it clear that the monetary union cannot survive unless responsibility for economic and budgetary policy is transferred to supranational level. In short, it put the issue of the transfer of sovereignty from national to European level firmly on the table. Until recent years, to openly support the process of European integration, one could simply advocate advancing by small steps, and the policy of strengthening the powers of the EU institutions through the instruments of the so-called Community method. Today, however, wanting more Europe clearly means something quite different: it means realising and accepting that only some of Europe’s member states have agreed (by surrendering their monetary sovereignty) to share a common destiny, and that Europe will have no future at all unless at least some of them decide to unite in a political union, refusing to be held back by those countries that are not yet ready to take this step. It should also be understood that rejection of any solution that implies differentiation between the member states actually conceals a desire to remain anchored to the system of national sovereignties.
The people of Europe have a choice: they can accept the current situation, in which, due to the paralysis of the European institutions, it is increasingly often the member states that are making the key decisions for the future of our continent (through intergovernmental mechanisms that effectively institutionalise the dominance of the stronger and more powerful states over the weaker ones), or they can take on board the urgent need for a change of pace, and therefore a break with the existing balance, to allow the creation of a political core that is no longer underpinned by the current mechanisms, but instead has a federal character.
It is a difficult choice, because the inertia of the EU’s current mechanisms and institutions is profound, and also because it is hard to accept that the gradual process that has made the European Union the most advanced international organisation in the world, and given the European people peace and prosperity, has run its course, and must now make way for a re-founding of the Union, based on a strong political will to break the existing mould.
The awareness that it would one day be necessary to make this choice was actually already present in federalist thought from the very birth of the Economic and Monetary Union, when, faced with the prospect of a European currency being put into circulation without the backing of a European political power, every effort was made to highlight the true role of a currency (as an instrument for exercising sovereignty) and to explain that the single currency would be unable to survive in the absence of a European government. It was stressed that the future eurozone states, or at least some of them, would need to take the lead in creating a federal core.
As a contribution to today’s debate, we have decided to republish two of the numerous articles related to this topic that were originally published in our review in the 1990s and around the time of the launch of the Economic and Monetary Union. Both papers clearly set out the key aspects of today’s debate, and thus highlight the link between currency and sovereignty, the inadequacy of the Community method, and the need for a break with the past to allow the creation of a federal core. They clearly explain the reasons for the EU’s weakness and the path to follow in order to make Europe’s citizens able, once again, to make the choices that will shape their destiny.