Year XLIII, 2001, Number 1, Page 78

 

 

MONETARY UNION
AND EUROPE’S POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE*
 
 
 
We are devoting this issue to the speeches delivered in Turin, on June 20th 1970, by Robert Triffin, professor at Yale University, by Rinaldo Ossola, chairman of the committee of experts of the Group of Ten and deputy director general of the Bank of Italy, and by Mario Albertini. The occasion was the conference entitled “For a European Reserve System”, organised by the Centro di studi e informazioni and based on a document, already familiar to readers of this review, having been published in our second issue of 1969, drawn up by Alfonso Jozzo and Antonio Mosconi, MFE members from the city of Turin.
Our aim is to isolate, and invite discussion of, an element within the political scenario that, once its nature has been fully clarified and providing it is properly exploited, could be extremely significant for European integration and federalism. I am referring to the commitment of governments to achieve, in the space of the next ten years, monetary and economic union. What sets this apart, and makes it stand out, from other features of the current political situation are a) its seriousness and b) its solution (if, indeed, there is a solution).
The governments’ commitment to a Europe that amounts to more than just the sum of the national interests of the various states is not, by definition, a serious one. Fortunately, their commitment to monetary and economic union is driven by the force of circumstances. Now, more than a year on from the meeting in The Hague, monetary and economic union can still be regarded neither as the manifestation of true political will, nor as a realistic and realisable programme. But it is, nevertheless, a problem that, attributable to the degree to which the common market has evolved, must be solved. However until the difficulties generated by the evolution of the Common Market have been overcome, or got rid of through the very elimination of the Common Market, it is one that governments and parties cannot even begin to tackle.
Europe’s governments, parties and centres of information (in short, the ruling class generally) are, with the exception of a handful of worthy individuals, unable to see the crossroads that the process of integration has reached. All the clamour of the governments — their naïve belief that they can create a European currency without first creating a European government — is echoed, in similar terms and without the reticence sometimes necessarily adopted by those called upon to act, in the continent’s leading newspapers. These, with a pragmatism beside which even that of Pompidou pales into insignificance, even go so far as to pass off as sterile theorising the rational realism of those who seek to highlight the link between currency and government.
It must, therefore, be made clear that rejecting what is rational is tantamount to rejecting reality, or to fleeing from the responsibility that goes hand in hand with the need for a rational design; it means taking refuge in the lazy idea of the “benefit of time” (the ultimate political maxim of the late 15th century Italians), leaving to circumstance, that is to say to others (in effect to the Russians and the Americans), the business of planning for and building the future.
Rather, what must be appreciated is that it is a dying Europe that is today making its voice heard, and this just at a time when we could be witnessing the birth of a new Europe. It was the same with the EDC. The idea of the EDC — of a European army without a European state, as though we were stuck in a feudal era of randomly formed armies — was delirium in the consciousness of the ruling class, but not in the hard seed of facts.
Similarly, a European currency in the absence of a European state is madness. But until such time as the governments and parties are called upon to tackle the question, a space remains within which a clear-sighted and courageous minority can act, a minority with the capacity to play the real game, and not the make-believe one that, bearing the hallmark of escapist narcissism every bit as much as that of the pragmatism of the ruling class, now infests European politics. It is crucial to accept the real nature of the question of monetary union, a reality that circumstance has forced upon all of us, and to focus on the issue of European elections as the means of transferring from national to European level the mechanism through which political will is driven and formed.
This does not mean that federalists will be forced to give up their views. The central precept of European federalism, developed in the Resistance, continues to be what it has always been: either Europe enters a global constituent phase, so as to adjust its political and economic institutions to the demands of society, or it will perish.
Federalists realise that this is a design that is not destined ever to be realised by a group of enlightened individuals. They know that it can emerge only as the historical expression of the birth, the affirmation and the life of the European people. To focus on the European election question is to recognise what is at once a simple and a great truth; it is also to acknowledge the role of the only possible actor of this process and at the same time to free it, through European suffrage, from the national political chains that currently make it unable to reach self-awareness, unable to unite and unable to forge its own destiny.
 
Mario Albertini


* This text was published in French in Le Fédéraliste, XIII (1971).

 

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