Year XXXVIII, 1996, Number 2 - Page 76

 

 

The Club of Florence and the Intergovernmental Conference for the Revision of the Maastricht Treaty
 
SERGIO PISTONE
 
 
1. The report which the Club of Florence[1] published shortly before the opening of the intergovernmental conference for the revision of the Maastricht Treaty (IGC-96), which took place in Turin on 29th March 1996, represents one of the most thorough and systematic contributions to the debate on the decisions facing the European integration process in the current phase. All the crucial issues are considered and, by virtue of its thoroughness (even though in my opinion the text contains, alongside some very convincing arguments, also some significant weaknesses), the critical analysis allows us to take stock of European unification and can help to clarify some of its fundamental aspects.
The report’s central thesis is that IGC-96 is now facing challenges to the very existence of Europe: the decisions at IGC-96 will either lead to radical institutional reform in a federal sense or the way will be opened up to the collapse of the European integration process and a return to the hegemonic temptations of the past.
Above all, there exists the challenge of economic and monetary union (EMU). On the one hand, the start of the third phase of EMU, albeit without the participation of all member states at the outset, represents the essential condition for completing the single market (which will remain structurally unstable as long as there are independent national monetary policies) and for guaranteeing economic development which is not polluted by inflation and the degeneration of the welfare state, but founded on a currency that is stable because controlled by an authority independent of the national and European political structures and founded on sound finances. On the other hand, progress towards the single currency must be accompanied (if we seek to avoid its certain failure) by the parallel implementation of some decisive common macroeconomic policies and by a consequent increase in common finances. This is essentially to guarantee more substantial social and economic cohesion between strong and weak countries, so as to avoid that the enormous problem of structural unemployment be dealt with by diverging national employment policies that will have a disruptive effect on economic and monetary integration, and to allow the European Union to guide Europe toward recovery in a world economy which is ever more dynamic and competitive. Therefore the planned transfer of sovereignty at the European level in the monetary field must be accompanied without delay by the overcoming of the unanimity principle in the field of macroeconomic policy (particularly regarding fiscal and budgetary matters).
The EMU issue is closely connected to the issue of internal security. The abolition of all controls at internal borders for goods, capital, services and people renders the achievement of effective co-operation regarding home and justice affairs a necessity which can no longer be delayed; were this not to be implemented, the maintenance and/or re-introduction of controls at internal borders would become inevitable, and would represent a most dangerous setback to the progress so far made in the single market. On the other hand, the Maastricht Treaty’s provisions regarding internal security seem utterly inadequate to the authors of this report, such that the radical revision of these provisions is one of the inescapable conditions if the drives toward re-nationalisation are to be prevented from overwhelming the economic integration process.
Beyond the challenge of implementing EMU, and the related issue of internal security, the European Union currently faces the vital challenge of external security, now particularly topical following the dissolution of the bipolar system. The collapse of the Soviet bloc has brought about the end of the cold war and the related threat of large-scale military aggression, and has opened up great opportunities for the spread of democracy and economic efficiency; yet at the same time it has produced a power vacuum which has permitted ample room for the drives to nationalist disintegration to develop. The Balkanisation phenomena which have occurred in Central and Eastern Europe and in the ex-USSR now threaten the security of the European Union both directly and also, very dangerously, indirectly, due to the disintegrative effects that the transfer from East to West of millions of refugees and immigrants may produce (and, I would add, also the nationalist contagion).
The Club of Florence argues that it is possible to respond to this challenge by operating on two different levels. On the one hand it is necessary to enlarge the European Union quickly to include the countries of Central and Western Europe (in addition to Cyprus and Malta), so as to extend to this area the implications in terms of economic, social, and democratic progress and stability, which the integration process has brought about in Western Europe. Nevertheless, passing from fifteen to around thirty member states would clearly create a totally ungovernable situation under the current institutions; hence, every further enlargement must definitely be preceded by thorough institutional revision. Moreover, it is necessary to achieve a genuine common foreign and security policy, in order to allow the European Union effectively to help prevent and pacify inter-ethnic conflicts and develop and stabilise the region of the ex-USSR.
A genuine common foreign and security policy must be rapidly implemented also because the end of the permanent state of emergency which was the cold war has decided the United States to give priority to their own domestic problems and to reduce drastically their commitment in Europe; this development implies that NATO will have to be reorganised, a change which will hinge on a decisive strengthening of its European component. Furthermore, only a European Union which is able to act effectively at the international level will be able to play its part with regard to threats of global significance, connected to religious fundamentalism, the spread of poverty, demographic trends, migratory pressures, and the crisis of the environmental balance, and therefore give its vital contribution to the diffusion, in an increasingly interdependent world, of those achievements in terms of welfare and peace which have been made possible in Europe by the supernational integration process.
The radical institutional reforms in a federal sense of the European Union proposed by this report are also considered, finally, as a very urgent response to the crisis of legitimacy that the European unification process has been going through for some years now, the seriousness of which was highlighted in particular by the difficult ratification process of the Maastricht Treaty. Since, as all opinion polls demonstrate, public opinion demands a Europe which is run along more transparent and democratic lines and which is at the same time more effective and receptive to the problems that are held to be priorities, such as unemployment and internal and external security, only steps toward federalisation would seem able to provide a response to these expectations, while conversely the option to favour an intergovernmental system based on the unanimity principle would simply lead to decision-making paralysis and hence to an irremediable split between public opinion and the construction of Europe.
 
2. On the basis of this generally well-founded vision of the decisive challenges that face the European integration process, the Club of Florence proposes specific institutional reforms that are defined by two guiding principles. First, there is the option of an immediate and rather decisive qualitative jump in a federal direction with regard to the community pillar of the Maastricht Treaty and a more cautious and gradual approach concerning instead the overcoming of the purely intergovernmental procedures in the second (common foreign and security policy — CFSP) and third (co-operation in home and justice affairs) pillars. Second, the report stresses that the institutional reforms needed by the European Union must be directed toward greater democracy and greater effectiveness, yet should not conceived of as being designed to create a centralised European super-state. This means reinforcing the dual legitimacy of the Union, that based on the will of the states and that based on supernational democracy. Therefore, though the latter will have to be organised on a federal basis, it must not replicate the legitimacy of the national institutions at the community level and hence a federal Europe must not turn itself into a supernational state, which would inevitably undermine the rationale of the national states and hinder the creation of a pluralist democracy at the European level. On this subject, the report’s authors argue, it is worth noting, that one should not talk of a European constitution, but rather of the "Charter of the European Union", since the idea of a constitution is generally linked to the idea of a state, and hence such a term would add to the worries of those who are already afraid that the European Union will end up supplanting the states which comprise it.
Regarding the specific proposals, I will discuss only those concerning the first and second pillars of the Maastricht Treaty, which seem to me to be the most significant, limiting myself with regard to the third pillar to pointing out that the recommended reform is one of gradual and partial insertion of this pillar into the Community’s institutions.
The reform aspects of the community pillar which are worth highlighting are as follows.
As regards the Council of Ministers, the report proposes the generalisation of majority voting, specifying that the double majority principle (of the states and the people) must be introduced, that the qualified majority must normally be two thirds, and that furthermore there should be provision for a super-qualified majority of three quarters for certain matters such as fiscal issues, the Union’s finances, the nominations that have to be made by the Council or by “common agreement” of the member states (as in the case of the Commission), the admission of new states, and the revision of treaties.
With regard to the European parliament, the main issues are: the full implementation of the co-decision principle with the Council regarding legislation and its relationship with the Commission, the introduction of a standardised electoral procedure, and the setting of an insuperable limit of seven hundred members as concerns the increase of Euro-MPs linked to the forthcoming enlargement of the Union.
Turning to the Commission, the main proposal, both for functional requirements as well as in the perspective of enlargement, is that the number of its members (twelve or fifteen) be related to its responsibilities and not to the number of states, and that therefore the principle that each state must have at least one commissioner be abandoned. This innovation, already planned for the board of governors of the future European central bank (which will have six members in a Community of fifteen member states), should also be applied to the Court of Justice and the Audit Office. Second, the report argues that in spite of the need to strengthen the powers of the European Parliament, the Commission should not become fully responsible to Parliament, since the maintenance of a fairly high degree of autonomy by the executive with regard to the Parliament would seem a more functional institutional balance in a highly decentralised federation that is based on the dual legitimacy of the state and supernational democracy. For this reason, it is recommended that the Commission be politically responsible not only to the Parliament but also to the Council (which, moreover, would make the fact that not all states have their own nationals in the Commission more acceptable) and that, as a result, motions of censure be regulated by procedures similar to those adopted for appointments to the Commission.
Finally, as far as the Community’s administration is concerned, the report argues that this should not be enlarged substantially in order to avoid growing toward a centralised super-state; rather, co-operation between the European administration and the national administrations should be improved, since in the majority of cases the latter have the task of putting into practice the decisions that are taken at the Community level. The basic instrument recommended for improving co-operation between the Community’s administration and the national ones (avoiding that the principle of decentralising to the national administrations be called into question, yet also that their independence does not result in practices that may endanger the single market) is the establishment of specialised Community agencies, on the model of the European Environmental Agency, that will be dedicated to guaranteeing the compatibility of national policies (establishing procedures to inspect and evaluate them) with Community regulations and thereby ensuring their efficacy while avoiding the creation of excessive bureaucratic burdens.
Turning to CFSP, the Club of Florence’s most significant proposal is to create a special commissioner responsible for these matters, to be nominated by the European Council in agreement with the Parliament and the president of the Commission. This commissioner would be a full member of the Commission, yet personally answerable to the European Council and not subject to the collective discipline of the Commission, so that the commissioner may enjoy a completely free hand in relationships with the national capitals. This proposal is an integral part of four further innovations, which are: the introduction of a majority decision-making system, accompanied by an opt-out clause; the establishment of an analysis and planning body under the joint authority of the Commission and Council; the introduction of the principle according to which the representation of the political aspects of foreign relationships are the preserve of the president of the Council, who, however, will be backed up by the European commissioner responsible for CFSP, so as to offer foreign representatives the stable point of reference which is currently lacking; the reform of the Council’s current six-month rotating presidency, by introducing a collective presidency of four countries per annum and organising the annual groups of the presidency in such a way to ensure a balance between large, medium and small states.
The discussion of CFSP is rounded off by some suggestions of considerable interest on the matter of defence. Here, the argument starts from the correct observation that European defence can not in the current phase be constructed within the framework of the WEU, which has favoured enlargement to deepening, and not even within the framework of the European Union itself, since many member states are presently unwilling to grant the Union powers in the field of defence. As a result, the only way that can lead to real progress is held to be that of co-operation on specific practical issues, including the use of ad hoc treaties and agreements, among those countries that are willing to proceed effectively to construct the European pillar of NATO. In substance, this involves taking the experience of relations between the OEEC and EEC in the 1950s as a model. When it was decided to move on from a proclamation (through the creation of the OEEC) of principles regarding the need for economic integration, to concrete action, the result was the creation of the EEC, which, starting from an initial group of six members, has progressively been extended to the majority of European countries.
The fundamental practical initiative directed to constructing gradually but effectively a European defence is identified in the creation, on the basis of a specific treaty among the countries that are willing, of a European armaments agency, which would be responsible for organising the production of material, excluding nuclear arms, for equipping the armies of participating countries. This body should be provided with a common budget and be endowed, through a three-stage development plan, with structures similar to those provided in the Maastricht Treaty for EMU. Alongside the formation of the armaments agency, the creation of integrated military structures should be carried forward, by developing initiatives such as the founding of the Euro-corp (which already brings together troops from France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain), the decision by France, Italy, Spain and Portugal to create multinational forces, the co-operation in the fields of training, operations, communications, intelligence, and so on. The final outcome of these initiatives and developments should be at a certain stage the creation of a political structure that is able to decide on the employment of the integrated forces and the arms which have been produced in common. However, the report’s authors consider it presently premature to make precise predictions about the structures and characteristics that this body should have and argue that, given that the achievement of common defence is still far off, it makes sense to confine ourselves to identifying the first steps to be taken, which nevertheless should be put into effect without delay. Moreover, if we link the affirmation, expressed in this context, according to which defence is one of the cornerstones of the very concept of the state with the argument that the construction of European unity is not destined to give rise to a supernational state, it can be inferred that the report’s authors do not foresee, even in the final stage of a common European defence structure, a real transfer of sovereignty similar to that provided for in the economic and monetary sectors.
 
3. With regard to the institutional reforms (whose most significant aspects have been examined above) proposed by the Club of Florence and in particular the guiding principle behind them, I would express a generally positive judgement yet with some reservations. I fully agree with the distinction made between the radical federalist reform applied to the Community pillar and the more cautious and gradual approach proposed for the second and third pillars. In fact, in the field of EMU, that is, the completion of economic integration, it is not only necessary, but also politically feasible, to achieve a qualitative leap in a federal sense in the near future. What specifically is at stake here is the definitive implementation of the single market (with the formidable interests that are by now involved), which absolutely requires not only the federal management of a single currency, but also federal and democratic decision-making mechanisms in the field of macroeconomic policy. As a result, the suitable strategy must be to concentrate energies on this objective and avoid excessive commitments on fronts that are at present secondary and which will only serve to weaken the force of the main offensive.
Certainly, for the reasons highlighted in the report, some more limited but effective achievements also in the sectors of CFSP and internal security are now indispensable. Yet in these cases we do not face turning points that are so pressing and tangible as to offer real opportunities (unless sudden qualitative changes in the present situation arise) to overcome the resistance to an effective transfer of sovereignty. If therefore a more cautious attitude in these sectors is more advisable for the moment, in order not to reduce the pressure on the decisive front, on the other hand it would seem evident that the realisation of a real transfer of sovereignty in the economic and monetary field (difficult but possible in the near future, provided there is an adequate commitment) would bring about the irreversibility of European unification and so would open up the way to a transfer of sovereignty in the immediately following phase also in the sectors covered by the second and third pillars.
Hence, also in the case of defence, which is a fundamental of foreign and security policy, there would end up being a transfer of sovereignty, even though the Club of Florence seems to exclude it. In a situation in which there existed on the one hand a single currency managed by a supernational authority and a system of European economic government able, among other things, to decide the size of the budget by majority vote (albeit and rightly a super-qualified one) and, on the other hand, a common defence with common armaments and integrated troops, yet with each government having the right of veto over the use of its own troops, would become rapidly unsustainable. The equality of rights and responsibilities, and the solidarity expressed in the economic and monetary fields would not be compatible with the inequality of rights and responsibilities and the lack of solidarity in the military field. It will only be possible to escape from this contradictory situation (in which the countries engaged in military actions would inevitably demand economic compensation from the militarily uncommitted countries, creating obvious potential for argument and disunity) by returning to intergovernmental practices in the economic and monetary fields, or by extending federalism also to defence (including obviously nuclear armaments, to the extent to which they will continue to play a role in military defence). That the second hypothesis seems definitely the more likely, depends not only on the fact that the creation of EMU will enormously strengthen the interests in favour of furthering integration, but also on the introduction, if the institutional reforms supported by the report are put into practice, of a system of treaty revision based on majority voting (albeit super-qualified) and no longer based on unanimity.
While, with this clarification, it seems to me possible to agree with the reform strategy proposed by the Club of Florence, it seems to me equally possible to agree with the option in favour of a highly decentralised federalism founded on the principle of subsidiarity. This option, as seen above, is expressed in particular by the preference for a lean supernational administration and, consequently, a limited budget, in the very important role ascribed to qualified and super-qualified majorities, and in the principle of the dual responsibility of the Commission with respect both to the Parliament and the Council.
The refusal to prescribe a dominating role for the European Parliament in the Union, which is expressed in this latter suggestion as well as in others, corresponds to the just requirement to avoid that the present situation of imbalance in favour of the body which represents the interests of the individual states (a situation which has negative implications for efficiency and democracy) is replaced by an imbalance in favour of the organ called on to pursue the interests of the whole — which would lead to serious centralising dangers. Above and beyond this specific aspect, the anti-centralising concerns of the Club of Florence seem in general fully justified, considering that if the integration process is not halted and hence will gradually extend to the borders of the CIS, it is destined to result in a federation of more than half a billion inhabitants (600 million, if Turkey is also included). In such a broad community with such profound internal differences (also in cultural terms) a centralised form of federalism, along the lines of existing federations, would prove a clearly inadequate system of government and would end up fatally producing reactions toward disintegration.
That said, it seems to me on the other hand that the rejection of an overly centralised European Union is off the mark when it goes as far as to deny that the institutional reforms proposed in the report have as their ultimate objective the creation of a supernational state. In fact, the Club of Florence is proposing a European Union which is endowed with a centralised monetary policy, government powers in the strategic sectors of economic policy, and the responsibility of guaranteeing a common defence which, in spite of being initially based on a confederal mechanism, is destined for the reasons mentioned above to develop into a fully federal system. In other words, it is proposing that the European Union inherit the fundamental tasks which were previously the exclusive competence of the national states, which, nevertheless, should not disappear but rather continue to carry out important functions, albeit more limited ones, in the context of the new order.
Yet this means precisely creating a European federal-style state, that is, according to a fundamental and ever valid precept of federalist doctrine, a state of states. The affirmation that we must consolidate the dual legitimacy of the state and democracy and not construct a supernational state is therefore entirely unconvincing and may even introduce dangerous ambiguities, to the extent to which, taken literally, it seems to make a distinction between the state and democracy, while these two concepts are held to be strictly inseparable by western liberal and democratic thought.[2]
If it is necessary to stress that the federal reform of the European Union means progressing in the direction of a federal European state, it is also necessary, returning to consider again the valid aspect of the Club of Florence’s anti-centralising concerns, to point out that the creation in Europe of a new type of federal state, one that is markedly more decentralised and "lean" than the federal models realised up until now, is not only a requirement but also a practical possibility, since there exist particularly favourable conditions.
First, it is important to bear in mind that in a post-industrial and increasingly globally interdependent world, two fundamental factors that have historically decisively encouraged the development of centralised states, and which have involved also federal states, are generally tending to become less important. On the one hand, the development of the post-industrial society tends to undermine the relevance of the class struggle, which encouraged centralism, both because by making a sense of belonging to a social class prevail over all other forms of social solidarity industrial societies hindered the establishment of strong bonds of solidarity in regional and local communities, and because the policies of social reallocation (implying, among other things, a major increase in state budgets) induced the strengthening of the central power. On the other hand, growing global interdependence, which is connected to advances in science, technology and communications, tends to weaken the centralising drives deriving from raison d’état, intended as the primacy accorded to the requirement of external security with respect to every other objective pursued by the state. It is true that the policy of external security has constantly favoured state centralisation (and its particular development in countries whose strategic situation is least favourable), in as much as it is an essential instrument of defence in an anarchic international system in which conflicts among states are settled in the final instance by resort to force. Yet it appears equally clear that national external security policies now historically face the vital need to overcome violence in international relations and to deepen international co-operation in qualitatively new terms on a global scale, so as to face up to challenges which are endangering the very survival of the human race. In other words, we are witness to the historical tendency of different raisons d’état to converge, which, while it encourages the processes of regional integration, starts to pose the problem of supernational integration on a world scale (regarding which the end of the cold war has eliminated a fundamental obstacle), and as a result is mitigating, as stated above, the drive to centralisation arising from the policy of external security.[3]
The European integration process needs therefore to be analysed within this general context, yet it is equally necessary to stress how the more general anti-centralising factors result, in the European case, in specific favourable conditions. In particular, it should be pointed out that a state has yet to be created at the European level and therefore there is no need to overcome the inertia of a consolidated state tradition, as well as the equally important fact that there exists a national, cultural and social pluralism in Europe which has no equal elsewhere. For these reasons, there exist here certain premises that are much more positive than is the case for example in the US, to construct a strongly decentralised federal model. Once again, Europe, if it is capable of resolutely pursuing the path toward its own unification, will be able to act as a path-breaker for the rest of the world.[4]
 
4. The Club of Florence does not limit itself to proposing a qualitative leap in the institutional structure of the European Union, but is equally aware that this requires, in turn, a qualitative change in the method of institutional reform. Also in this case, in my opinion, the report’s specific proposals contain, alongside certain convincing features, some striking inconsistencies.
The fundamental defect of the procedure for the revision of treaties set down in article N of the Maastricht Treaty (previously article 236 of the EEC Treaty), which has until now always been observed, is correctly identified in the principle of unanimity. This procedure, which obliges the pursuit of compromises based on the lowest common denominator, has not so far prevented significant steps from being achieved in the process of European integration. The report maintains, however, that faced with the need to achieve a qualitative leap in the institutional sphere, so as to avoid the European Union’s disintegration, the unanimity principle can not but lead to disastrous results. This prediction, above and beyond any theoretical arguments supporting it, has a very solid basis in the implications which emerge from the positions that the various European governments have adopted with regard to IGC-96. These confirm the existence of basic differences among the Fifteen regarding the very concept of the Europe to be constructed and, in particular, the fundamental split with the British government which is opposed to any kind of reform in a federal sense. In this light, the Club of Florence argues the issue is to overcome the unanimity principle not only in the re-vamped institutions which should emerge out of IGC-96 (and which should also provide for decision-making by super-qualified majority as regards institutional reform), but already in the conference itself, by establishing (unanimously, of course, as is prescribed by article N) the adoption of a method which will prevent individual states from hindering those states willing to do so from making substantial progress and which at the same time will not oblige reluctant states to follow the decisions of the majority.
In practical terms, this means above all that if the fifteen member states do not agree on the institutional reforms that are effectively suited to the tasks to be faced, it will be necessary to apply the differentiation method much more widely than has so far been the case, creating (within the European Union, which would continue to exist among all the Fifteen and any future members) a vanguard group which will lay the foundations of a real political community. Such a community could be established even by a minority of states in the European Union and would be open to future entry by states that are presently unwilling to join. The political community should be founded by those states which accept the institutional reforms that are indispensable for effectively pursuing the three priorities identified by the Maastricht Treaty: economic and monetary union, which implies the close co-ordination of fiscal and budgetary policies (and, therefore, a strong supernational economic power to balance the European central bank in the monetary field); a common foreign and security policy, to be rounded off in future by an integrated defence system; and the strengthening of co-operation regarding internal security matters.
As regards specifically EMU, the report specifies that the states wanting to take part in the final stage, but which are unable to do so at the outset since as yet unable to meet the economic and financial convergence criteria, should be at once closely associated to the functioning of the political community, by asking them to undertake a dual commitment: that of submitting themselves to the common discipline as soon as they are able to satisfy the pre-set conditions, and that of adopting without delay the measures necessary to join the vanguard as rapidly as possible. Those states which, on the other hand, though possessing the right qualifications, do not desire to take the qualitative leap foreseen by the Maastricht Treaty will be given the possibility to join the political community as and when they wish to do so, provided that they accept the rules of the game and the further achievements made up until that time. In the meantime, it is possible to foresee forms of co-operation limited to certain sectors, such as in the case of the armaments agency, which may be of interest to Great Britain.
Concerning the institutions proposed for the functioning of the political community, the solution presented by the Club of Florence is based on the model of EMU in its final stage, which essentially provides for the participation of all the states of the European Union at the consultative and examination levels, yet avoiding the possibility to block the wishes of those states which will take part in monetary union and, consequently, in the federal mechanism of the European central bank and the European system of central banks. In short, the result should be a single institutional system, yet one of variable geometry, which will link all the states of the Union to the activities of the political community, while avoiding however that the directly interested countries run the risk of having their rules of behaviour dictated to them by the others. The essential points are as follows: the Court of Justice and the Commission will operate both at the levels of the Union and the political community without differences in the internal decision-making procedures, but the rule will have to be introduced by which the Commission, with regard to the political community, will have a non-exclusive right of initiative and the Council will not need to be unanimous in order to modify the Commission’s proposals; as regards the Council, every time that the competences of the political community are called into question, there will be an exchange of opinions among the representatives of all the member states, but the right to vote will be restricted to those states that are members of the political community, in similar fashion to what is already foreseen for monetary union; in Parliament, the measures relating to the most integrated core will be discussed in plenary session, with the possibility of adopting a consultative opinion, while, on the contrary, in the final vote, only the votes of parliamentarians elected in the member states of the political community will count.
According to the Club of Florence, in addition to the large-scale application of the differentiation method (which has nothing to do with the British option of a “Europe à la carte” since it is founded on the creation of a magnetic core with federal aspects), the unanimity principle must be superseded also concerning the ratification of the results of IGC-96. Taking inspiration from article 82 of the draft treaty of European Union, approved in 1984 by the European Parliament on Spinelli’s initiative, it is proposed that ratification be provided for by a superqualified majority, comprising four fifths of the entire population (Spinelli’s draft treaty provided for an absolute majority of states and a two thirds majority of the Union’s population), and the right of non ratifying states to withdraw from the Union and become associated states, on the model of the European Economic Space.
The other fundamental defect of the procedure contained in article N is identified by the Club of Florence (and also in this case absolutely correctly) in its limitation to a diplomatic negotiation, which excludes the systematic involvement of public opinion and, therefore, of the parties and the organised manifestations of civil society in the drawing up of the plans to revise the treaties, and instead puts forward to the (parliamentary or referendum-based) procedures of national ratification pre-packaged results, which must either be accepted or rejected en bloc. If we consider the experience of the difficult ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, the legitimacy deficit which besets the European integration process, and the fact that what is at stake is a qualitative leap at the institutional level, then the application of the traditional diplomatic procedure to IGC-96 means the planning of its failure.
In order to avoid this outcome, the report suggests, in similar fashion to what is foreseen for the unanimity principle, to anticipate at least partially in the current phase of institutional revision those principles of democracy and transparency which will have to become the norm for the institutions that will be created by IGC-96. In practical terms this means: inviting a delegation of the European Parliament to attend the meetings of IGC-96 at the ministerial level, so that it can express its opinion promptly on the different reform projects; keeping the national parliaments constantly informed as to the progress of the intergovernmental negotiations, so that they can use their opinion to influence the evolution of the negotiations themselves; summoning the European inter-parliamentary "Assizes", that is, the joint meeting of the representatives of the national and European parliaments, along the lines of the meeting that took place in November 1990 in Rome, shortly before the start of the two intergovernmental conferences that drew up the Maastricht Treaty.
 
5. These proposals, which aim to overcome the fundamental defects of the procedure provided for in article N, are headed in the right direction yet, in my opinion, do not go far enough.
Starting from the overcoming of the unanimity principle, I am absolutely convinced that the variable geometry institutional system which is proposed harbours very serious problems as concerns implementation due to its complexity; moreover, this would further reduce the transparency of the Union’s activities, a situation which already seriously weakens the current institutional framework.[5] Such a solution would be difficult to manage and highly unstable, and therefore bound to evolve rapidly either toward a system of Europe à la carte along purely intergovernmental lines, or toward the adhesion by all the states to the political community with federal aspects, or else toward the creation of two concentric circles, that of the political community and that of the associated states, without common institutions. The ideas of the Club of Florence relating to variable geometry can therefore be appreciated essentially in terms of an attempt to explore all avenues before breaking with the British government, an outcome which the British government itself would be definitively responsible for.
That said, the fundamental weak point of the discussion as concerns the superseding of the principle of unanimous reform is to be identified in the assumption that the governments opposed to reforms in a federal sense will be willing, despite the fact that article N recognises their right of veto, to accept the creation of a federal core within a Union that would essentially preserve its current institutional nature, and even to accept the principle of ratification by majority voting together with the automatic withdrawal from the Union of those states which do not ratify. If we take into consideration the unambiguous policy declarations of the British government (which moreover serve as a convenient alibi for other less explicit governments), the expectation that there will be a unanimous decision to renounce unanimity has in fact no realistic basis; it is instead decidedly more likely that there will be agreement on very weak compromises that will be absolutely unsuited to preventing the danger that the dynamic of European integration be brought to a grinding halt. There will be real opportunities to avoid this outcome only if the governments belonging to the vanguard group persuade themselves to pursue the overcoming of the unanimity principle to its full conclusion. In essence, they must prepare themselves to summon (once the lack of a unanimous consensus on decisive institutional reforms or on a system of institutional variable geometry in the above-indicated sense, is unambiguously clear in IGC-96) a separate conference with the purpose of adopting a new founding treaty for the political community which will succeed the European Union, while the states that do not participate in the elaboration of the new treaty or do not ratify it will be able to choose to become associated states, on the model of the European Economic Space.[6] If this policy is pursued without hesitation, it is very likely that the Euro-sceptic governments, unable to resort to the right of veto, will end up accepting substantial reforms in order not to be left on the fringes of the integration process. Of course, it can not be excluded that they will opt not to participate, at least initially, in a European Union with federal features, yet, in this case, they will not be able to block the indispensable qualitative leap in integration and it is reasonable to expect that before much time has passed they will have second thoughts.
Certainly, the vanguard group will require an strong political will in order not to shy away from the prospect of a split with the British and other Euro-sceptic governments; I imagine that the Club of Florence has numerous doubts in this regard and precisely for this reason proposes a more cautious strategy concerning the overcoming of the unanimity principle. However, two observations seem pertinent here. First, it should be recalled that the political will to proceed without Great Britain has a precedent in the launch of the Community itself, when the more pro-European governments faced a decisive challenge to the existence of the European project by abandoning reform within the juridical framework of the Council of Europe and giving life to a new treaty. Why should a similar will not arise again today in light of the extremely serious danger that the Community’s integration will be compromised?[7] Secondly, if we start, as the Club of Florence rightly does from the assumption that the most pro-European governments can be persuaded, precisely in light of this danger, to found a more integrated political community comprising even a minority of the current European Union’s member states, it is not clear why they can not be persuaded to choose the objectively necessary method (the complete of the unanimity principle) in order to fulfil this objective.
While it is necessary, therefore, in my opinion, to be more coherent (also in order to be more persuasive in an undertaking the difficulty of which can hardly be denied) in rejecting the principle of the unanimous revision of the treaties, the same logic can be applied to the need to overcome the purely diplomatic nature of the procedure set down in article N. Also in this case, if the aim is fully to involve public opinion and the political, economic and social forces in the constituent debate and avoid a yes/no choice about pre-packaged outcomes, information procedures based on the European and national parliaments are not enough. Instead, it is necessary to achieve a form of co-decision between the European Parliament and the national governments similar to that which the Maastricht Treaty introduced for parts of the Community’s legislation (and which should be extended following the revision to be undertaken by IGC-96). In essence, the European Parliament (which has every interest to establish in this matter a close co-operative relationship with the national parliaments) should be given the right to amend the proposals drawn up by the governments’ plenipotentiaries, and a conciliation committee between the European Parliament and the intergovernmental conference should draw up a joint document which should then be approved by a qualified majority of the two bodies, to be submitted finally to national ratification. It is necessary to stress once again that an effectively democratic procedure for the revision of the Maastricht Treaty would seem indispensable, aside from obvious reasons of principle (what is involved is the establishment of a constitution), not least because it is clearly difficult to take such a radical decision, such as that to proceed even without the British and other Euro-sceptic governments, without clear democratic legitimisation in all the phases of the constituent procedure.
In this analysis of the Club of Florence’s report, I have tried to highlight how, in my opinion, it contains alongside some very convincing observations and proposals, certain inconsistencies of no small account: above all, the idea that Europe’s institutions should be federal in nature yet not those of a state (and the maintenance, even in the final stage, of the national right of veto in the military sphere), and the half-way house nature of the proposals designed to overcome the unanimity principle and absence of democracy in the procedure for revising the Maastricht Treaty. I ought to specify that it is highly likely that what appear to me as inconsistencies represent in reality a conscious decision by the report’s authors to leave concealed the ultimate consequences of the gradual and partial evolution which is being proposed, so as to let sleeping dogs lie and render more easy the overcoming of opposition to the transfers of sovereignty to federal institutions. What this seems to amount to, then, is a typical feature of the functionalist approach to European integration, which is characterised, aside from gradualism, by an attitude which can be defined, let us say, as one of freemasonry.
If this is the case, I would conclude my analysis by asking whether such an attitude, which has undoubtedly made its contribution to the advance of European integration, remains feasible in the current phase of the process. To be honest, I feel that, while gradualism (not demanding everything, all at once) may still have a certain role to play, the freemasonry mentality (not stating things openly and explicitly) is no longer adequate now that a qualitative leap in a federal sense can no longer be delayed. The members of the Club of Florence are right to state that European integration is a “tranquil revolution”, from which all forms of compulsion are absent, yet which aims to introduce radical changes. Nevertheless, if the European integration process is in this sense a revolutionary process, then the principle that truth is a fundamental revolutionary force holds ultimately also in the case of European integration. In other words, never before has it been so important to indicate with utmost clarity not only the great values which are at stake in the European integration process, but also its final outcomes in the institutional sphere, and the dramatic decisions which we must find the courage to take, since only in this way can we hope to mobilise completely the indispensable energies for overcoming the opposition to the qualitative leap toward federation. Without a high and widespread degree of awareness, the expectation of revolutionary changes will remain nothing other than an illusion.


[1] The report has been published by Il Mulino, Bologna, 1996, under the title Europe: the impossible status quo, with an introduction by Jacques Delors; it has been translated into English, French and German. The members of the Club of Florence, which was founded in autumn 1993, are: Enrique Baron Crespo (Spanish), Euro-MP, ex-minister, ex-president of the European Parliament; Cristoph Bertram (German), ex-director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, currently diplomatic correspondent of the German weekly, Die Zeit; Stanley Crossick (British), president of the Belmont European Policy Center and vice-president of the Committee for European Affairs of the American Chamber of Commerce in Brussels; Renaud Dehousse (Belgian), professor at the European University Institute at Florence; René Foch (French), director general of the Commission of the European Communities, currently general secretary of the Action Committee for Europe; Franz Froschmaier (German), ex-director general of information, research and culture of the Commission of the European Communities, ex-minister of economic affairs of Schleswig-Holstein (Germany); Max Kohnstamm (Dutch), ex-secretary of the High Authority of the ECSC, ex-vice-president of the Action Committee for the United States of Europe, created by Jean Monnet, and ex-president of the European University Institute at Florence; François Lamoureux (French), ex-director of industrial policy of the Commission of the European Communities, ex-deputy director of Edith Cresson’s departmental staff in Matignon, currently director of her departmental staff at the Commission; Emile Noël (French), ex-general secretary of the Commission of the European Communities and ex-president of the European University Institute at Florence; Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa (Italian), ex-director general of economic and financial affairs of the Commission of the European Communities, supporter of the Delors Committee for Economic and Monetary Union, currently vice-director general of the Bank of Italy. Kohnstamm is the president of the Club of Florence. The report was written by Dehousse in collaboration with Kohnstamm and Noël.
[2] Francesco Rossolillo clarifies very well why the theory of dual legitimacy is a wholly unconvincing way to describe conceptually the current phase of the Community’s transition (which is unfinished and could even be interrupted) from a situation which remains overwhelmingly confederal to one of a federal nature. See in particular, "Considerations on the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference and the Passage to the Third Phase of Monetary Union", in The Federalist, XXXVII (1995), pp. 62-74, and "Popular Sovereignty and the World Federal People as its Subject", in The Federalist, XXXVII (1995), pp. 150-190.
[3] On this subject, see in particular Mario Albertini, Il federalismo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1993. Among other things, he argues that the full realisation of a federal system, which up until now has always been polluted in its practical manifestations by strong centralising tendencies, will be possible only within the framework of world unification, which will represent the radical suppression of power politics.
[4] On this subject, I refer back to Sergio Pistone, "The Security Policy of the European Union", in The Federalist, XXXIV (1992), pp. 97-112.
[5] On this subject, see Pour une Union européenne efficace et démocratique, Report of the reflection group of the international European Movement presented in March 1995.
[6] This is the line suggested by both the European Union of Federalists (see "European Union Reform and Constitution", in The Federalist, XXXVII (1995), pp. 50-61), and the international European Movement (see the document of the Initiative Committee with a view to the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference — whose president is Jean-Victor Louis — entitled "The scenarios of the IGC" and published in Crocodile, 1996, 1-2). See also Antonio Padoa-Schioppa, "Towards a European Constitution", in The Federalist, XXXVII (1995), pp. 8-25.
[7] Certainly, the initiative to achieve a qualitative leap in a federal sense, and consequently to persuade the more pro-European governments not to hesitate to split with the British government appears very difficult, if we consider that France (without which it is obvious that the vanguard core can not be created) is favourable to a federal system in the monetary field, but expresses strong doubts, under Chirac’s presidency, regarding a further strengthening in a federal sense of the European Union’s institutions. At the same time it needs to be stressed that the great majority of the French political class, both in office and opposition, strongly desires the furthering of European integration (in addition to the rapid implementation of EMU also through the creation of a European defence), because it is French raison d’état itself which obliges making integration with Germany irreversible as soon as possible and excludes any alternative, other than those leading to disaster. France therefore finds itself on a downward-sloping path (it is being pushed toward the objective of irreversible integration with Germany, but is recalcitrant regarding the unavoidable means to achieve it), which by no means guarantees the successful outcome of the battle to overcome French resistance to the qualitative leap in a federal sense, but offers real opportunities for success.
It also needs to be appreciated that the great majority of the German political class strongly desires rapid European unification on a federal basis and through the strategy of the magnetic core (the highest degree of awareness in this regard represented by Karl Lamers), because it is well aware of the danger that the catastrophic hegemonic tendencies of the past re-surface in the re-unified Germany. This will also has a highly practical foundation in the fact that the German Constitutional Court’s sentence of October 1993, which recognised the constitutionality of the Maastricht Treaty, clearly expressed its negative judgement on the creation of a monetary union which did not provide for the democratic strengthening of the European Union’s institutions (see on this subject, F. Rossolillo, "Can We Delegate the Founding of the European Federation?", in The Federalist, XXXVI, (1994), pp. 29-32).
In this context, it must finally be remembered that the Italian government can play a decisive role. In fact, the history of European integration shows how Franco-German initiatives have always had a leading role, yet equally how Italy has been able to strengthen these initiatives in a supernational sense every time it has committed itself seriously to this end. Today, this means both carrying on with the strategy outlined here regards institutional reforms and the method for achieving them, and working without hesitation for the balancing of the budget, in order to be able to participate fully in the vanguard group and thereby to reinforce decisively the credibility and effectiveness of the Italian proposals within IGC-96. The weakening of the Euro-sceptical forces present in Italy, which the results of the national elections of 21st April 1996 clearly demonstrated, undoubtedly opens up more favourable prospects in this direction.

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