European Movement Italy – It’s time for a political insurrection: peaceful, institutional and constituent

02 May 2024 | Members' Corner

The failure of the European Council of 17 and 18 April 2024 is yet more proof that the European Union and its Member States cannot plan for the future by relying on negotiation between governments that base their orientations only on the defence of apparent national interests.

On the table of the Heads of State and Government were many challenges only partly summarised in the report on the single market that the European Council itself had entrusted to Enrico Letta thirty years after the unfinished goal of 1993, if we think of the non-existent capital union or the permanent obstacles on the free movement of services, not to mention the strong divergences between Member States in the management of internal competitiveness made more fragmented by the continuous violations of the rules on state aid.

Enrico Letta emphasised the twin transitions relating to the environment and the digital society that go hand in hand with the burgeoning urgency of a common defence as an integral part of a true foreign and security policy.

He also put forward proposals on the need to reduce tax fragmentation and harmonise indirect taxation, without which there can be no fair and solidarity-based single market, even though he knew that this issue is a taboo for national governments. He tried to open a debate on new financial instruments that are indispensable to guarantee an adequate level of budget for investments in the environment and digital innovation, launching the idea of a European safe asset, which in our opinion should be associated with real European own resources.

The discussion between the Heads of State and government immediately revealed irremediable disagreements on the realisation of the single market, which nevertheless represents the raison d’être of European integration, just as disagreements are for the moment irremediable on European defence, which is one of the elements of our strategic autonomy in a world shaken by dramatic disorder.

The announcements of the future report entrusted by the European Commission to Mario Draghi on competitiveness within the European Union and externally, contained in part in the written text of the speech delivered at La Hulpe and in part in a couple of phrases that are not to be found in that text (such as the need for a “radical change” in European economic and financial policies and the fact that “we cannot afford the luxury of waiting for the revision of the treaties to proceed on the path of change” favouring enhanced cooperation) did not arouse any particular emotion among the Heads of State and Government, who postponed their reflections on who will govern the European Union after the European elections and on the 2024-2029 strategic agenda to the informal leaders’ meeting on 17 June.

Nothing has emerged, as was known and predictable, on the orientations of the governments regarding the internal reforms necessary to allow the European Union to plan its future, with particular reference to the enlargement of its political borders towards the Balkans and Eastern Europe, knowing that a large majority of the Heads of State and Government (19 out of 27, but each national election increases the number of immobilists) is informally opposed to entering the interinstitutional labyrinth of the Convention envisaged by Article 48 TEU.

One part of the governments is opposed to changes to the treaties and in particular to the abolition of the power of veto or the extension of European competences, while another part of the governments fears the risks of a complicated method that could lead to a public and radical division in the Convention, which requires an agreement between its components according to the principle of consensus.

The Convention method then requires a diplomatic conference destined to close with a unanimous compromise and the unanimity of national ratifications, which will have to take place in thirteen cases by referendums diluted over time on the basis of national debates with no room for the hypothesis of an ‘ever closer’ Union in concentric circles or at multiple speeds.

It is worth recalling the experience of the previous Convention on the Future of Europe, which was entrusted with the task of amending the Treaty of Maastricht and the subsequent Amsterdam and Nice updates through a Constitutional Treaty with a process that began in December 2001 with the Laeken Declaration and concluded eight years later in December 2009 with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (TEU) and the binding character of the Charter of Rights by amending the Treaty establishing the European Community (TFEU).

The criticism of this articulation of the Treaties by the vice-president of the Convention, Giuliano Amato, on their hermaphroditic character because they are endowed in good part with traditional attributes and in part with innovative constitutional ones, is still valid today.

The very long text of proposed changes to the two treaties – approved by a narrow simple majority of the Assembly on 22 November 2023 in a version made complicated by the compromises imposed by the EPP on the S&D, Renew, Greens and Left with solutions that were sometimes contradictory and sometimes conflicting with the political resolution preceding that text – would certainly not facilitate the work of a possible, new Convention if it were to be, by chance, convened by the European Council.

Last but not least, the idea circulating among some parliamentarians in the Constitutional Affairs Commission of an appeal to the European Court in Luxembourg against the European Council for violation of Article 48 (TEU) would subject the European Parliament to a second defeat after the non-convocation of the Convention because that article does not impose a peremptory time limit on the heads of state or government to decide – unlike the European Parliament’s action against the Council for failure to act on transport policy – and the Court’s case law does not help on the interpretation of the Treaty rule on loyal cooperation between institutions.

For all these reasons, we believe that the European Parliament elected from 6 to 9 June should give a mandate to the Committee on Constitutional Affairs to reopen a reflection on the text voted on 22 November 2023 (and on the resolution, adopted by a more comfortable absolute majority on 29 February, on the relationship between enlargement and deepening, also taking into account proposals for internal reforms and EU policies approved on the basis of the work of other parliamentary committees).

This reflection should be submitted to an extraordinary session of the Conference on the Future of Europe, also envisaging the convening of a meeting of the interparliamentary assemblies like those that took place in Rome in November 1990 in such a way as to involve civil society on the one hand and all the national political forces of majority and opposition on the other, inviting representatives of the candidate countries as observers, both in the Conference and in the interparliamentary assemblies.

Faced with the immobility of national governments, it is a matter of launching a “political insurrection after the European elections: peaceful, institutional and constituent” to pave the way for a profound democratic reform of the European Union in order to make it capable of planning its own future and that of its citizens by placing the leadership role of the European Parliament at the centre.

Rome, 23 April 2024

Pier Virgilio Dastoli