And it is as much about where Europe is not heading as where it is.
If you ever want to increase your general euroscepticism, spend a few days hanging around EU institutions. The sheer complexity of getting anything done, in a union of 27 countries with competing political systems, national prejudices and hangups is nothing as compared to a certain type of EU official you meet for whom the answer to ever problem is…go on, guess.
Let me be very clear: I’m a European federalist. I believe in a United States of Europe. But that does not mean that I think that every solution involves Brussels. Indeed, I could even be convinced that maybe some existing powers should be returned to the member states.
I believe in the EU as our best hope of dealing with those huge problems facing our (tiny) countries, but at the same time I despair. There’s currently a Conference of the Future of Europe going on, spending millions trying to get European citizens involved in a debate about, well, guess what.
I’ll be shocked if more than 1% of Europeans have heard of it. Not because it is a white wash, or a plot by the elite, but because Europeans simply don’t think at that level yet. They do on some issues, like security and defence and immigration, but mostly, people see Europe through their countries and we need to recognise that.
Rather than have yet another tome come out of Brussels, I’d like to see a simple declaration from Europe’s leaders outlining clearly what we see the EU existing for. I’ve had a stab at it below. Many of the things outlined are already in the treaties, and would, I feel, benefit from a more succinct public airing as opposed to being buried in the treaties.
We, the democratically elected leaders of the 27 member states of the European Union, declare the following:
- The European Union is, and shall remain, a union of sovereign democratic nations. There shall be no attempt to abolish the nation states.
- The European Union and its institutions are subordinate to the member states, and exist at the pleasure of the member states. The union and its institutions exist to enhance the sovereignty and capabilities of the member states.
- No proposal of the European Union shall be accepted without the support of 55% of the member states with a combined population exceeding 65% of the population of the EU.
- The Presidents of the European Commission and Council shall only hold office with the consent of the national governments. A public shortlist of candidates for both offices shall be published by the Council not less than one week before the vacancy is to be filled. The candidates must be selected from this list.
- No European Army shall replace the national armies of the member states. A European Defence Force may exist in parallel to national forces.
- The recruitment and conscription of national citizens to serve in a military capacity in Europe remains the sole right of the national governments. The EU may not introduce conscription.
- Europe recognises that there are issues, from the security of our Eastern borders to controlling who shall enter our continent, to climate change to fighting terrorism, which cannot be solved by any single European nation but require a common European approach and solution.
- Europe shall have the right to determine who shall enter and may live in Europe, and require of those individuals to respect and live by the culture and values of the European nations they live in, and by the common values of Europe.
- Europe reserves the right to act outside its borders in defence of itself and the values of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- A third of member states may act in enhanced cooperation to create further integration provided the proposal is not in breach of EU law and shall be open to other member states who may wish to join later.
- A third of national parliaments may request that the European Commission revise a draft proposal on the grounds of subsidiarity.
- No new country shall join the European Union without the consent of all the existing member states. Every member state has the right to put accession of a member state to a referendum of its people in accordance with its national constitution.
- The union recognises the right of any member state to leave the union peacefully. Every member state recognizes that the remaining member states shall act in common protection of their interests in such an event.