EU Reform: A Senate for the Regions

25 January 2017 – VoxEurop

We can relaunch a struggling Union by replacing its institutions representing Member States with an assembly that would be closer to the provinces and would complement the European parliament.

Every crisis is unmanageable for the EU machine and there are technical reasons to explain why. Every human creation can be improved, it’s just a question of identifying where and summoning the will to do so.

What isn’t working in the EU machine?

We can appreciate some of the work of the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of justice of the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Investment Bank and the European parliament. But will any of them function well if the European council, the Council of the EU, the Eurogroup and the European commission, the real decision makers in the EU, do not? These four institutions represent the iron cage of the European people.

A machine that helps people do good together would change everything on the continent, both politically and practically.

The Senate of the Regions: a simple solution to a number of problems

Imagine that a Senate of the European Regions were to replace the first three of these failing bodies and were granted codecision with the Parliament, together forming the Government of the EU after each round of European elections. The Union would then become manageable. A legislative body with the initiative to make laws could very quickly turn the ECB’s taps on in the right direction.

By piling on one international treaty after another, the EU has ended up becoming a masochistic confederation that exclusively comes to the aid of multinationals, with 80% of their employees based in Malaysia, China, the Virgin Islands and Singapore.

Our countries have turned the EU into a members’ only mental asylum. We urgently need to replace it with a responsible State. But only a parliamentary regime can credibly represent us, not a presidential one. Europe must have a separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. Only then would the Charter of Fundamental Rights apply universally.

We are being ground down by economic theories, whether on a ‘neutral’ currency, the laws of supply and demand, the self-regulation of globalised markets, wage and tax competition, or divergences in development. The ECB is merely keeping its patient on life support. As a practical and political necessity, we must bring together budgetary, fiscal and monetary competencies under a constitutional State. For we will regulate nothing with a tool for governing designed to regulate nothing.

Political parties on the right relish rivalry. The parties of the left almost united in solidarity into parties of European citizens, but have since sunk into economic liberalism. Xenophobic discourse feeds off the EU’s failures, but contributes nothing to a debate on reforming Europe.

For civil society to feel confident in its powers, we must respect an established and explicit social contract between European citizens and our governing authorities.

In 2016, Yanis Varoufakis created DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe Movement, to unite all European citizens who want to see change come to Brussels. If the federal State has the Senate of the Regions at its heart, who will it serve first of all? Lobbyists and transnationals, or rather local groups and small businesses?

How to make the European Parliament and Senate work?

For Europeans and NATO, the America First strategy of Donald Trump’s administration promises a period of grave uncertainty. Intelligent leadership of the EU in this world is no longer possible.

German federalism works well: legislative elections translate what different Germans think and lead to the formation of a federal government, while banning partisan attempts to overturn it. In France, the institutions of the Fifth Republic have established a presidential regime that is potentially dangerous, but the shuttling of laws between the Senate and the National Assembly works well.

So how can we square the circle? We can find European solutions to combine the need for proportional representation with the stability of a parliamentary regime and effective government.

Why regions and not states in the European Senate?

Laws decided “from above” must be established by what it is actually possible to do “from below”, at the regional level.

A Senate of States would still be formed of competing elites used to sidestepping citizen overview, while regional leaders are more open to accountability by citizens as much as by their local councils.

EU is currently a federation of nation states rather than a federal state built around a constitution. That is why it suffers from stalled progress and a fragile administration.

Can a federal Europe avoid a 1984-style scenario?

Messrs Trump, Putin, Erdogan and Communist China are forcing us to reform the EU. It wouldn’t internationally contentious to start a European New Deal, creating an army, building a large multimodal network for sustainable transport, and supporting technology for the green transition away from the production/consumption model. The federal European budget could be €1,127bn tomorrow even without new taxes, compared to the EU’s current budget of €137bn. A large State, if it handles its external relations well, has no problem about public finances. It can punish speculators betting against temporary weaknesses through banishment.

A federal European state in keeping with our values and interests, that is transparent, legitimate and effective, would have no trouble making itself heard among the other great nation states of the world.

Translated by Simon Pickstone

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