April 1, 2014
I have made it no secret that I am a true believer in a Federal Europe. My first post on this blog is about my belief that the national state has lived it’s life. And I do have to agree that in Romania, where I live, the federalist momentum has yet to become a reality, for multiple reasons, but I would settle primarily on a historical background (the history of the modern Romanian state is abundant with nationalistic discourse, and the communist period has done nothing but accentuate that with the rise of the national flavor added by Ceaușescu) and a general lack of information regarding federalism. There are also some remnants of fear towards a federalist idea, pertaining to populist discourses in the early 90’s.
As we are closing in to the elections for the EP I have started monitoring the political landscape in Romania to see who has introduced, if any, federalist elements in their public speech. The funny thing is that while we do have a high ranking politician, the current president, who has on a number of occasions talked about the United States of Europe, none of the parties associated with him or the EPP, have talked about a Federal EUrope in any way. ALDE and S&D politicians have also managed to avoid the subject completely, as if it were the plague. The only party that has a stance on Federalism is a rather new addition to the Romanian political landscape, that i have talked about in the past here, Noua Republică ( NR ), literal translation the New Republic, a christian-conservative party, member of the AECR. The stance if of course profoundly negative and they are using it quite often in their political discourse. And no one seems to be willing to contradict them. And in terms of political struggle that is clearly the way to go, as it is clear that denying them this debate point means keeping them where they are, at the edge of political relevance, as they are not credited with too many chances of sending any MEPs to BXL in this upcoming legislature.
But I am not a member of a political party. I am a Federalist, involved with a Federalist NGO and a promoter of this idea. And I believe some things should be answered.
NR publishes a free paper named Stejarul (the oak tree), which in their December 2013 number ( I am not sure what is the frequency of the editions as it is not mentioned, the link is in Romanian, only version available, and this is the last number featured on their website) ran an article titled – “Federalism or National Sovereignty?” to which I have a couple of comments. Since there is no webpage for the publication so I can’t express my views at the source, I’ll do it here.
First off is the question of calling their party and those of the AECR as “euro-realistic” parties. It is a bit curios how this realism seems to be pertaining only to regressing the EUropean project and maintaining a status quo that we have so far been working to change, one that is easier to access on a national frame.
Second off is this idea that a Federal Europe will come to life behind closed doors, that it will be done by politicians, without consulting the people. A fairly simple look into the Federalist scape around the EU would easily prove that while there are many different Federalist initiatives and voices, the one thing they all call for is more democracy, more involvement from the people. No true federalist will ever support a Federal Europe created and brought to live behind closed doors. But it is easier I guess to portray this idea a conspiracy rather than a true project for the future.
Third off the author of the article, a VP of NR, says that NR is calling the people to opt for sovereignty and a national state as central pillars for the continuity and progress of the nation in the XXIst century [in RO – propune poporului român să nu renunțe la suveranitate și la statul național ca piloni centrali pentru dăinuirea și propășirea noastră în secolul al XXI-lea]. Now, this might be my own personal thing, but I think this is a speech more worthy of the early XXth century rather than the XXIst century. But going past this choice of language, and I am somewhat sorry I can’t really convey the somewhat archaic language used in Romanian, it is interesting to notice how a party that wants to be member to the EP, is member of a European political family, denies this linkage between the future of this national group and the the whole of the EU construct, as if the whole idea is to destroy the Romanian nation. It’s a dull twist of ideals, particularly so in an Union bound together under the motto of “unity in diversity”. Moreover it is implied that EU values are dissonant with Romanian values which I find odd, since no one can claim to have the supreme rule on the values of people, and moreover, those values are at heart profoundly democratic. So if those democratic values are a problem for NR’s concept of Romanian Nationality than the problem might lie somewhere else and not with the idea of a Federal Europe.
The article goes on to claim that a Federal EUrope is a “form without substance” and that the institutions corresponding to a Federalized EU would be centralized and lacking historical substance. Now, last I checked, there was no project for a centralized Federal EU – there are multiple voices and possible projects, all subject to public debate. Nobody is imposing anything, and I believe most of these federal ideas rely on a very democratic multi-level governance and not at all on a centralized archaic construction typical of a national state. I would go on to say that what they claim as the fault of the Federal idea is actually the fault of the current centralized nation state. Good try, but it doesn’t really hold water does it? Then, on the issue of historical substance I have to wonder whether this is a relevant topic if we consider the christian side of the ideology of the NR – sort of creationism vs evolution. Because moving onto a Federal EU would be an evolution, as we move forward from nation state entities to one EUropean entity. Also I would think that the people of the Federal Republic of Germany would somewhat disagree with the whole lack of historical substance. As for the rest of us non federal nation states lack of historical substance is true in terms of previously inexistent experience, but progress and moving forward are also part of history, otherwise we would be still trying to build a fire and all these issues would have never come to our minds.
The next point on the writers agenda is the EURO crisis. That Europe is slowly but surely recovering from, with lessons learned for the future and with steps takes to prevent them from happening again. And as this is a European topic there are multiple points of view being discussed all over the Union, whether this or that measure was good or not. But this too is something new. And it is not as the author would have us believe, maybe, a closed experiment within a lab – the Euro zone exists in the real world, subject to pressure and influence from global markets, affected by international crisis and so on. It might no be perfect, true, but that does not make it wrong. And as Mr. Barroso has outlined in a multitude of public speeches so far – EU is part of the solution, and not the problem. But it has always been a good selling point to draw a “mental map” of EUrope, and label everything outside this or that national border “there be dragons”.
The “phantom” of a Federal Europe, as outlined in the final paragraph or the article, seems to be a chief concern for the NR. And I would really welcome a debate if that is what this article wanted to start. But it seems to me it is merely a bashing of the Federal idea aimed at reinforcing a ‘national pride’ sentiment for purely electoral gains. And it’s sad. It’s sad because this is not actually an effort to push things forward through debate and exchange of ideas, but merely a lame attempt to scare the electorate into voting for their agenda, by pushing peoples buttons in terms of the nation, “patriotism” and tradition. And to all these contenders of a Federal Europe I would very much like to convey that the Federal EUrope project is quite old, dating back to the days of Winston Churchill. We have history behind us gentlemen, one that has endured this kind of criticism for more than half a century. And while I do remember hearing contenders claim that others have hinted at a Federal construct of Europe (Napoleon, the Third Reich) or that a Federal EU is a “soviet” prospect, I would like to remind you that this united EUrope, in the past, today and tomorrow, will always be something created through peace and debate, by putting people together with the scope of a better future. That is our unity, that is what we strive for! Not political position and power, but a more democratic union, where the voices of the people matter, and where values are upheld not by centralized government but by panning our levels of leadership closer to the people.