After Corona: We need a more powerful Europe

Posted on Apr 18, 2020 in Allgemein
Foto: European Parliament

European solidarity during the Corona crisis does exist: intensive care patients are distributed to hospitals all over Europe, medical protective equipment is ordered together, the lifting of measures aiming to contain the spread of the virus is coordinated at a European level.

But still European cooperation and solidarity leaves much to be desired. Some Member States are still blocking a strong, solidarity-based response to the coming economic crisis. They reject corona bonds, thereby repeating mistakes that have already made the Euro crisis unnecessarily long and painful. This has given rise to populism and euro critics. In Italy, the number of euro-sceptics rose by 20 percent with the onset of the current crisis. It is the immediate result of a a feeling of being left alone.

In the coming months we will have to ask ourselves one question: Has Europe found the right answers to this crisis?

We need – now more than ever – a debate on the future of the EU. We need to analyse why, as the first reflex to the crisis, national rather than European responses were the most popular. And we must finally translate existing European solidarity and the desire of the citizens for more Europe into political processes. 

The Conference on the Future of the EU is the ideal forum for this debate.

Conference to start as soon as possible 

The European Parliament has already taken the necessary steps for this to happen. On Friday, the Parliament in its Corona Resolution also called for the Conference to start as soon as possible. Already in January a strong position was adopted, which now has to be negotiated with the Commission and the Council. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel also made references to the conference in their speeches in the Parliament on Thursday. Michel called on the EU to talk to its citizens about more solidarity and unity. Ursula von der Leyen quoted from the Ventotene Manifesto, the ‘founding document’ of the European federalists: “The moment has arrived in which we must know how to discard old burdens, how to be ready for the new world that is coming,that will be so different from what we have imagined.”

Initiative of the Federalists

I totally agree with them. For this reason I wrote a letter to the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, on Friday, together with Guy Verhofstadt and Members of all pro-European groups in the European Parliament. We call for the Conference to start immediately after travel restrictions in Europe have been lifted. We should then not only discuss Corona and our health systems, as proposed this week by the responsible Commissioner Dubravka Suica. We need a fundamental response to the democratic, economic, social and climate challenges of our time. It is time to start a broad European debate on this – together with the European citizens. 

Background – 1 European Parliament position on the Future of the EU conference

The resolution adopted today by the European Parliament:

The European Parliament…

55. Stresses that the Union must be prepared to start an in-depth reflection on how to become more effective and democratic and that the current crisis only adds to the urgency of it; believe that the planned Conference on the Future of Europe is the appropriate forum for this; is therefore of the opinion that the Conference needs to start at the first opportunity and that it has to come forward with clear proposals, including by engaging directly with citizens, to profoundly reform the European Union, making it more effective, united, democratic, sovereign and resilient;

Die Position des Europaparlaments zur Konferenz vom 15 Januar: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0010_DE.pdf 

Background – 2 Commissioner Dubravka Suica interviewed by the Financial Times

https://www.ft.com/content/b7fd7f3c-e97b-4d96-870e-907cef8985d1

Background – 3 Letter of the pro-Europeans in the European Parliament to David Sassoli

Dear President,

During the last weeks, our fight against the impact of the COVID-19 has rightly taken our attention away from the planned Conference on the Future of Europe. However, the crisis also shows that the Conference is now more necessary than ever. This was also alluded to by Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen in yesterday’s plenary debate. With a global recession on the horizon, Europe is at a turning point. The crisis demonstrates again, that many challenges require a European response and we need an ambitious dialogue with citizens about our future.

Today’s COVID-19 resolution makes clear references to the need of such a process of reflection and the need to engage directly with the EU’s citizens. Parliament’s position, adopted on 15 January, stressed that high-level patronage from the Presidents of the European Parliament, of the European Council and of the European Commission is needed. As Members of the former Working Group on the Conference we feel deeply dedicated to this initiate and therefore  would like to propose that you – together with the two other presidents – reflect on a possible joint action on or around 9 May – the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. 

This symbolic day might be the right moment to publicly relaunch a new perspective when the Conference could start. Even if a slight delay in the timeline is inevitable, the three institutions should pledge to start the Conference at a commonly agreed date in the very near future. 

For such commitment to be made on the 9 May, it is crucial that the Council adopts its position on the Conference as soon as possible. We are convinced that it would be very helpful if you could reach out to the Croatian Presidency and reiterate, as you have already done in the past, that the Parliament would like to start the negotiations among the three institutions. A joint position before the summer is crucial so that logistical arrangements can be made for the conference and citizens agoras to start in late 2020 or early 2021. The slight delay should be used to ensure that this innovative and ambitious endeavour is properly prepared.

We remain at your disposal for any support or feedback you might need.

Sincerely yours,

Paulo Rangel

Gabriele Bischoff

Guy Verhofstadt

Daniel Freund

Helmut Scholz