Robert Menasse https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/16836/all cached version 19/11/2018 19:15:04 en Europe: the reconstruction of the free world https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ulrike-guerot-robert-menasse/europe-reconstruction-of-free-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>National borders are a reality – and for most people, they are something that is taken for granted and indeed necessary. But are they really the normal state of affairs? A radical futuristic plan for a borderless Europe.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/3074607189_0361d153f5_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/3074607189_0361d153f5_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A sign welcomes visitors to Berlin, Wisconsin - one of many American settlements named after German towns and cities. Flickr/Doug Wallick. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>In political psychology, even schizophrenia is normal. When citizens of any state are at home, they want to know that their state borders are defended and policed as rigorously as possible. But when they travel abroad, they want borders to be as porous as possible, and ideally invisible. </p><p>They don’t want to be held up at borders, but they want others entering their country to be stopped at the border and prevented from entering. At their destination, they want to experience the ‘Other’ as ‘an interesting different culture’, but at home they perceive the ‘Other’ as a threat to ‘our culture’. </p><p>The sudden disappearance of borders can spark euphoria, as we saw with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and indeed of the rest of the Iron Curtain, but citizens want the borders back again when it appears that the people from ‘over there’ want to come over here looking for work. </p><p>They drive ‘over there’ themselves if it’s cheaper to buy stuff there, but they don’t understand it when people want to come ‘over here’ to earn more. When they want to claim their human rights, concerned citizens can quote chapter and verse to prove these are ‘universal’; but in the face of claims by others they want to fence them off as a part only of their own national law.</p><p>This is what passes for ‘normality’ nowadays.</p><p>Historically, however, political borders are anything but normal. On the contrary, the system of political borders, which today are generally regarded as normal and which are once more being constructed and defended, is the historical exception, and in the foreseeable future it will be regarded again as a short and untypical historical interlude.</p><h2><strong>The borders that bind</strong></h2><p>The so-called&nbsp;<em>four freedoms</em>&nbsp;(the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital) are the greatest post-war achievement of the European integration project; however, they are not a new phenomenon in European history, but only a step towards the restitution of historical normality: an absence of borders was the natural state of affairs in Europe from the Middle Ages until well into the 19th century.</p><p>In the Middle Ages, the German&nbsp;<em>Reichstag</em>, or Diet of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, was a peripatetic – a sort of mobile – assembly with no fixed location of the German Prince-electors in different European cities from Luxembourg to Prague, not all of which still lie within the&nbsp;<em>borders</em>&nbsp;of today’s Federal Republic. </p><p>Medieval students followed their teachers from Rotterdam as far as Bologna. Cultural, culinary, linguistic, religious and geographical borders, certainly, but not national ones, were important and palpable in Europe, but these cultural borders did not divide: on the contrary, they bound Europe together. </p><p>Even topographical borders such as rivers or mountains were not able to divide homogenous cultural regions: the Basque people live south and north of the Pyrenees, the Tyroleans south and north of the Brenner. The Rhine, on the other hand, never became the national border of France. And it was possible to travel from the heartlands of the Habsburgs through Bohemia and Moravia to Galicia on tracks which, for hundreds of kilometres, crossed&nbsp;<em>no borders</em>. </p><p>Before 1914 you didn’t need a visa to travel by cab from Paris to Moscow, changing horses in Berlin, as Stefan Zweig described. Nor was it necessary to change money then, neither guilders nor thalers, and nor did one have to leave Europe if one took the coach from Vienna to Lviv and stopped over in Budapest. ‘Before 1914,’ wrote Heinrich Mann, ‘“abroad” was just a figure of speech.’</p><p>Moreover, what we understand today of the term ‘passport’ has only existed since 21st October 1920. That was when the League of Nations defined what should be in a passport and how it should look in order for it to be recognised by the world’s states as a document enabling travel and the crossing of borders. </p><p>The preamble to the League’s definition of an internationally-recognised passport is interesting (but sadly forgotten): namely that the introduction of the passport had only&nbsp;<em>provisional</em>&nbsp;validity until the ‘complete return to pre-war conditions which the conference hopes to see gradually re-established in the near future’.</p><p>To think of today’s borderless ‘Schengen Area’ as a unique historical phenomenon, an absolutely revolutionary achievement of the recent European history of integration, is therefore misleading. On the contrary, it is important to remind people that a borderless Europe was, for hundreds of years, accepted as the normal state of affairs, simply so that we can talk about what this&nbsp;<em>European area</em>&nbsp;should be&nbsp;<em>today</em>&nbsp;– namely, what it always was: a palimpsest of borders, which actually aren’t borders at all, but which instead merely defined the cultural regions that have always created out of the cultural diversity of Europe<em>&nbsp;the single European space</em>.</p><p>To remind ourselves of this is also important so that we can discuss how the European region can and should manage the refugee crisis.</p><h2><strong>European history and today's reality</strong></h2><p>If Europeans understood European history, rather than simply believing that what they now know as normality, then it goes without saying that they would wish to&nbsp;<em>re-establish</em>&nbsp;the historically&nbsp;<em>normal state of&nbsp;</em><em>borderlessness</em>&nbsp;in Europe that endured for hundreds of years and which was only brutally and bloodily destroyed in the 20th century by the two world wars – by Europe’s ‘second Thirty Years’ War’. </p><p>But the EU today is distancing itself at great speed from precisely that option, and not just since the so-called refugee crisis, which is being exploited as an opportunity to link back to the darkest chapter of modern European history, with border controls and border fortifications, with even the construction of fences and walls within Europe. In fact, in the European discourse, to see the EU as a project whose founding purpose was to Europeanise Europe again and to overcome the nation-states, is an ambition that was already abandoned some time ago. </p><p>There are many reasons for this: the contemporary political elites are too young to have understood at the time the founding purpose of the European project, but they are too old to be able to imagine anything other than what they are used to – the national system in which they have made their careers. And what they know for certain is that they are only elected in national elections, which is why they must maintain the fiction of national interests in order to rally the support of their electorates for their offices, though not for the European project.</p><p>The refugees are now intensifying this regression at the European and the national level. If a European solution to the refugee issue is not in sight – neither with regard to the repartition of refugees within Europe, nor, as a minimum, to common defence of the external borders, as is now often being called for – and if in addition a common and coherent European foreign policy has yet to be realised, then all that remains is the&nbsp;<em>flight</em>&nbsp;to&nbsp;<em>national withdrawal</em>; which, however, is available in practice only to those European states without an external EU border, for example Germany or Denmark. </p><p>But Greece or Italy, or the countries on the Balkan route – whether EU members or not – have no choice: they will be overrun by refugees whatever they do to prevent it. Because as long as the EU doesn’t decide to lay barbed wire across Mediterranean beaches, or to turn back refugee boats with armed force, the sea border of the EU to the south cannot be ‘defended’: the EU cannot cut itself off from the Mediterranean – which, it is worth remembering, is in cultural historical terms, as the&nbsp;<em>Mare&nbsp;</em><em>Nostrum</em>, the quintessential European sea – and from whose trade routes the EU most certainly does not want to cut itself off.</p><p>The question today is therefore how it will be possible in future on an organisational level to deal with the fact that Europe wants and needs open borders for trade, but not for people. The fact that the border closures that have already taken place and those that are to be expected within the EU may affect (and threaten) lorry traffic – and thus business, production, trade and consumption, and ultimately our living standards – and that closed borders mean quantifiable bottom-line costs; that just-in-time management and efficient customer inventory management are only possible if lorries are not wasting time held up at borders; all of this is now beginning to dawn on the economic ministers of the member states.&nbsp; </p><p>But a border that is open to lorries and at the same time closed to refugees is not possible. The only realistic option that remains for the EU is to open up – it will have to share its space and its place with the ‘others’: with the people who want to come to Europe.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/IMG_1977.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/IMG_1977.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2><strong>Merging asylum rights and civil rights</strong></h2><p>There are, at this moment, 60 million people fleeing war, hunger and destitution around the world. The USA, Australia and Canada, each of which only grants asylum to around 10,000 refugees each year, have effectively withdrawn from the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, which stipulates that the community of nations has a shared responsibility towards refugees, and that every refugee is entitled to asylum. </p><p>Social welfare entitlements for state citizens arise out of civil rights; basic human rights to shelter and to welfare provision arise out of the right to asylum, independent of citizenship, and both are increasingly merging into one. Everyone has a right to a homeland and to security. In times when many are forced to become nomads in search of a new home, the decisive question becomes: how can this process be organised without conflict and in a way that is humane for all?</p><p>The Belgian author and psychoanalyst&nbsp;<em>Luce</em>&nbsp;<em>Irigaray</em>&nbsp;coined the expression ‘sharing the world’ as a modern extension of Kant’s ‘right to universal hospitality’, which assumes that all people are born equal and therefore have an equal right in principle to live anywhere in the world. </p><p>Given this human right, states cannot define a territorial right of abode for people. In the future, the challenge must therefore be to organise extra-territorial democracy and to realise the promise contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: that the recognition of human rights should be independent of any specific ‘state citizenship’.</p><p>The coming climate catastrophe, with all the consequences of the global reduction in fertile soils it will bring about, will put nation-states under even greater pressure: they will be unable to maintain their insistence on territorially-based statehood as a privilege which enables them to reserve land within their state borders for&nbsp;<em>their own</em>&nbsp;citizens (and for millionaires who buy their way in). This applies to the European area as well. So it’s about the global<em>right to a homeland</em>; about&nbsp;<em>universal access</em>&nbsp;to the global commons beyond the nation state; about providing a homeland for all in times of permanent migration.</p><p>In the future, everyone must have the right to cross national borders and to settle where they want, especially since,&nbsp;<em>for everything else except people</em>, the globalised world is already one single system of networks, of permeability and of borderlessness: from pipelines to broadband to the high speed trading of the financial markets and product supply chains, everything has in practice functioned for a long time already unhindered by national borders. </p><p>The challenge now is to reflect this fact in a new political institutional system. What is needed is to develop a&nbsp;<em>political</em>&nbsp;form of the diverse and many-layered global network, instead of delimiting national&nbsp;<em>enclaves</em>&nbsp;which cannot be justified in Kantian terms. What is needed is for&nbsp;<em>homelands</em>&nbsp;to be&nbsp;<em>bound together</em>: this must include bonds in both the legal and normative senses. The legal bonds tie everyone to one constitution; the normative bonds enable the participation of all in whatever affects all. </p><p>Everyone has a stake in the system, and everyone contributes to it. What is needed is the free organisation of ‘<em>Otherness’</em>&nbsp;in a legal system of obligations, in the words of&nbsp;<em>Luce</em>&nbsp;<em>Irigaray</em>; that is, a novel form of direct&nbsp;<em>connection</em>&nbsp;between the&nbsp;<em>local/regional</em>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<em>global</em>beyond the state, and thus a merging of asylum rights and human rights. </p><p>This leads to the creation of an unlimited transit area. In future, it would no longer be the salvation of ethno-cultural homogeneity by homogenous populations which would count as ‘European’, but the dissolution of borders as limits to homogeneity. This creates a gigantic space of potential for real life plans and modes of living<em>&nbsp;existing alongside each other</em>. </p><p>Sociology teaches us that segregation is also a form of tolerance. Against this background, the question arises of whether the current EU refugee policy is the correct one, focused as it is on integration, which carries with it the risk of large-scale social unrest.</p><h2><strong>Giving space to the 'others': cities for migrants?</strong></h2><p>Let us look back into recent history to seek inspiration from solutions that have already proved to be sustainable: what did the European migrants do who emigrated to the New World in their masses during the famines and political crises of the 18th and 19th centuries – the Irish, the Italians, the Balts, the Germans…? They built&nbsp;<em>their cities</em>&nbsp;there again.</p><p>Across America we find cities with names such as New Hannover, New Hampshire, New Hamburg, and so on. In Little Italy in New York, the Italians occupied an entire district. It didn’t occur to anyone then to divide families, or to place them in separate accommodation, or to haggle over family reunification. </p><p>Nobody was given asylum-seeker status, or received state money, or had to commit to language courses or even to a ‘<em>Leitkultur</em>’, a dominant national culture. The European refugees simply arrived in a&nbsp;<em>new</em>homeland and reconstructed their&nbsp;<em>old</em>&nbsp;homeland there. We can learn from that.</p><p>What if refugees in Europe were to be allocated building land neighbouring the European cities, but at a sufficient distance to maintain ‘<em>otherness’</em>? That would create a space of potential for real life plans and modes of living existing alongside each other.</p><p> In this way, New Damascus and New Aleppo, New Madaya and so on could arise in the middle of Europe. Or New Diyarbakir or New Erbil and New Dohuk for the Kurdish refugees. Perhaps also New Kandahar or New Kunduz for the Afghan refugees, or New Enugu or New Ondo for the Nigerian refugees. Europe is large (and will soon be empty) enough to build a dozen or more cities for new arrivals. </p><p>Then we don’t need to stress over integration. We don’t need to cram the refugees into our – sometimes dilapidated – suburbs or into the – sometimes sprawling and desolate – no man’s landscapes in the countryside between them. We don’t have to concentrate them in refugee homes to be burnt down to warm the hearts of patriotic nationalists. </p><p>We don’t have to play off their rights to housing and work in their new homeland against housing and jobs for the lowest quartile of our own society. We don’t need to rub up against each other and rub each other up the wrong way. In short: we don’t need&nbsp;<em>integration</em>. We respect ‘<em>otherness’</em>&nbsp;– and we let the new arrivals be in their ‘otherness’.</p><p>The new arrivals then look after themselves, in accordance with their culture, cuisine, music and social structures. They recreate their cities in Europe, their squares, their schools, their theatres, their hospitals, their radio stations and their newspapers. And EU law applies to everyone. And that is important:<em>Aequum</em>&nbsp;<em>ius</em>, equality before the law – for old EU citizens as well as for the new arrivals. Instead of ‘Leitkultur’,&nbsp;<em>civic rights</em>&nbsp;for all.</p><p>Europe gives building land as support to get started – improved land, that is, land already connected up to infrastructural services such as energy, ICT and transport, but otherwise free for development by the new arrivals. All the money that we now give out for integration and language courses, for fences and border protection, for security and policing, can be given by Europe to the refugees to help them make a start. </p><p>As urban construction is not a quick process, Europe, with the support of the UNHCR, can help to begin with by providing temporary dwellings – that is, exactly the kind of container dwelling that is provided now. Town planners who are involved with refugee camps and who have researched them report that&nbsp;<em>refugee camps</em>&nbsp;soon turn into<em>towns</em>, as long as the refugees are left in peace. Building towns seems to be human nature. </p><p>In Lebanon, the carefully positioned and rigidly aligned UNHCR containers were moved around and re-positioned after only a few weeks. Big thoroughfares and small side streets emerged – for example, the main street in one Lebanese refugee camp was christened the&nbsp;<em>Champs&nbsp;</em><em>Elysée</em><em>.</em>&nbsp;Out of nothing, trade began to take place, and little boutiques sprang up; street-smart handymen and amateur mechanics built mopeds out of scrap; suddenly there were little theatres and dance festivals. Experts say that in less than six months a refugee camp turns into a town.</p><h2><strong>Imagining new worlds</strong></h2><p>In short: what is needed is a multi-coloured Europe, proximity with respect,&nbsp;<em>an alliance of alterity</em>&nbsp;under the same European law, a creative network of diversity.</p><p>Over time, the residents of the different towns would mix together quite naturally. The new arrivals would make their way to the nearby ‘European’ towns to work. Or they would open their boutiques there, sell what they produce there. Nobody would need asylum-seeker’s support. The residents of the older indigenous towns become curious. </p><p>The new arrivals have different and interesting food, and an unknown spice or two. Artists come to look, to paint and to write poetry. Hipster cafés spring up.&nbsp; Students seeking cheap accommodation rent flats to share in New Damascus. Then come the first love stories, and then the first children. Then the first visits from parents. </p><p>Three generations later – that’s how long it usually takes – the children of the children of the first generation of new arrivals have learned the language of the new homeland – simply because it’s more practical. Another hundred years later, it will probably only be the town’s name – like New Hannover, or Paris, Texas, or Vienna, Virginia in the USA today – that reminds people that its founders came from a different world.</p><p><em>This article was <a href="http://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/7947-2/">originally published</a> on Green European Journal.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/albena-azmanova/there-is-no-refugee-crisis-in-europe">There is no refugee crisis in Europe </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/etienne-balibar/borderland-europe-and-challenge-of-migration">Borderland Europe and the challenge of migration</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Germany Robert Menasse Ulrike Guerot European republic Mon, 21 Mar 2016 20:30:43 +0000 Ulrike Guerot and Robert Menasse 100793 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Europe’s unfinished democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ulrike-guerot-robert-menasse/europe%E2%80%99s-unfinished-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Old Europe is disaggregating. The <em>new</em> Europe, which has long been a reality in the mind of many European citizens, is waiting for its constitution, one that will effectively take us into the future.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/545816/3689882886_cc8d606b20_c_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/545816/3689882886_cc8d606b20_c_0.jpg" alt="Flickr/Oscar Rasson. Some rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr/Oscar Rasson. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span>European integration is yesterday’s word; European democracy tomorrow's. The problem is not ‘more or less’ European integration, as most of the current EP-campaign rhetoric between the defenders of Europe and the ‘populist’ makes believe. The problem is that Europe, the Eurozone, is monetarily fully and economically deeply integrated, but has no democracy. For the euro is an orphan currency, a transnational currency without transnational democracy. That is what hurts Europe today.</span></p> <p>To be sure: the European Union is legitimate in a legal sense; all the treaties and contracts which constitute the institutional fabrics of European governance have been passed by votes and referenda at some moment or another. But European citizens don’t perceive them as intuitively democratic, because the so-called <em>sui generis</em> structure of the EU’s triangular setup - where most political energy is spent in institutional fights between the EP, the Council and the Commission - barely allows political opposition, let allow the reversibility of policy choices. You can vote all you want; you’ll get the same Europe!</p> <p>There is no discursive space for those who want Europe, but different policies. Who wants a political turn-around, needs to be against the system. This is, in essence, what fuels the current success of the populists – left and right – because politics is about options, not rubber stamping. T.I.N.A. (there is no alternative) sucks – but whereas the mainstream features Tina, the populists pose the right questions... and provide the wrong answers.</p> <p>At conferences about Europe, again and again you hear that Europe is caught in a catch-22: the EU system is untenable but cannot be reformed. Where a political solution is unachievable, the technocratic structures prevail, and the discontent not only of the citizens but also of the officials in Brussels grows. The latter now openly say that the EU does not work any more – or won’t for much longer - and that Europe has been creeping for some time towards disintegration.</p> <h2><strong>A Europe for all</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></h2> <p>"We thought democracy is about participation but actually it is about equality", Pierre Rosanvallon writes. Form follows function: where the EU offers formal democracy, EU citizens request democratic content - a social Europe. Where functional democracy is hollowed out by formal principles, the populist vengeance is just around the corner. For democracy is seen not merely in the formal functioning of its institutions, but also as about the organization of cultural and socio-economic bodies, which form deeply enrooted fabrics of societal living. </p> <p><span>The debate should be about whether (and how) a post-national, democratic Europe could be a defendable aim for political voluntarism: politically, economically and culturally. The question is whether reconstituting Europe, the Eurozone, differently, could be the solution to the global threats to democracy that one can observe these days.</span></p> <p>To be sure: the actual threats to representative democracy today take many forms and are not just a problem for Europe. There are at least four of these, the first being the paradigm shift from democracy to efficiency. The subordination of politics to the demands of efficient capital exploitation and the maximisation of profit, even when this destroys human livelihoods, by definition systematically sucks out any meaning from democracy, even more so when such politics are organised so as to still provide democratic legitimacy for this exploitation.</p> <p>The second threat involves the social question. Democracy is not guaranteed by the abstract right of political participation but by equal opportunities, which make participation possible. Sociologists have long known that sections of the middle class are fearful of social relegation, that their votes in elections are intended to show their anger and deliver a warning, and that this can end up in them voting against their objective interests. Also long known is that the poor don’t go to the polls any more because the bottom fifth in society have ceased to believe that their vote has any influence on politics.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The third threat lies in the political economy of the internet, including the effects of its perverted use by the NSA (National Security Agency) and its <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/didier-bigo-sergio-carrera-nicholas-hernanz-julien-jeandesboz-joanna-parkin-franc">counterparts elsewhere</a>, the ramifications of which regarding representative democracy have yet to be fully understood.</p> <p>The last point concerns something demographically determined, namely the political disempowerment of European youth, whose role in the formation of a European future is slipping from our fingers. Their futures are being betrayed. The proportion of young voters (18-25) supporting Europe's populist parties is high, for Orban and Le Pen, Lucke and Wilders offer an 'alternative'. This fiction, in the desolate institutional maze of European crisis management, seeks to find its way into a disillusioned public sphere. To believe that the votes for Marine Le Pen will again quickly drop from 25 to only 6 or 8 percent simply because at some point the French GDP will grow by 1 percent is naïve. And as Thomas Piketty tells us, growth is no longer with us anyway.</p> <h2><strong>European demo<em>I</em>cracy</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></h2> <p>“More Europe" is a hackneyed phrase, and “better communication” a useless concept if the political elites are not ready to say what “more Europe” means, but are instead fearful of convincingly pleading the case for an innovative, consequential and post-national political concept – for a democratic Europe.</p> <p>This Europe would need to be about inventing European <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoicracy">demoIcracy</a>&nbsp;- with a capital 'I'. It would be about organising a European civil society and giving it a voice in the European system. It would be about de-homogenising national discourse and the creation of a space for transnational discussion and policy-making. When it concerns the euro crisis, energy policy or crime, focusing on German, French, Finnish or Portuguese opinion is hardly relevant – and (wrongly) presupposes national homogeneity.<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>The insistence on this fiction of national interests within post-national development produces an unproductive contradiction, which cannot lead to any reasonable synthesis. The voice of civil society and the interests of citizens usually lose out. Multinational companies use this in that they exploit the advantages of the single market and at the same time seek to duck paying tax by playing national governments against each other to the detriment of European citizens, who are held captive in the narrow prison-cells of national identity and a social-political straitjacket. </p><p>They are thus unable to defend themselves from the costs of this game, against which they rebel rightly but with no prospect of success, being disenfranchised. At the same time rich French people change their citizenship and become Belgians in order to evade the wealth tax in their own country. It would be hard to find a more vivid example of how the concept of nation can be perverted.</p> <p>It is essential to recognise that in this way national democracy cannot function any longer, but that European democracy cannot function <em>yet</em>. Everything hinges on the one important question for the year 2014, which must be put to all European citizens, not to the nation states: are we ready and willing, on the basis of equal EU citizenship, to develop a truly democratic, that is, a consistently post-national Europe? Are we ready, for example, to seriously discuss – for the Eurozone first - a European unemployment insurance system? Or universally-applicable European industrial relations that match the way the European supply chain works? Are we ready to talk about a common tax system, and harmonise our socio-economic perameters?</p> <h2><strong>Unproductive contradiction</strong></h2> <p>At present Europe is forced into economic, country-to-country comparisons. On the question of a transfer union a distinction is made, often with chauvinistic overtones, between donor and recipient, or northern and southern countries. And yet not all of Germany is rich, and not all of Greece or Italy is poor. If we could only learn to understand Euroland as an aggregated economy, which it has always been anyway, it would then be possible to consider transfer systems which would establish a fiscal equalisation scheme from one (always privileged) centre to an economic (always disadvantaged) periphery, or (transnationally) from urban to rural regions, afflicted as these are with infrastructural problems throughout Europe.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The whole concept of import and export within the Eurozone is also misleading - but it nevertheless affects current discussions about trade imbalance. We don't really weigh up and compare exports between the German Länder of Hessen and Brandenburg for example – why should we, say, look at exchanges between Germany and Spain this way? All statistics, always, have shown that Europe is but one giant market, and that borders are superbly ignored by economic ties. But this has yet to evolve into a political macro-economy with collaborative control and taxation. There is indeed a legal single currency in 18 countries, but it coexists with national account systems and national budgets that are subject to the sovereignty of the national parliaments. This is a sterile contradiction which can produce only one thing: crisis!<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Euroland has been a single market for a long time now, but this reality is not reflected in the socio-political sphere of national parliaments and national public spending. A Europe-wide unemployment insurance would be a solution matching the way things are developing: underlying this is the idea of an indirect, brokered financial transfer not based on borders; this would, besides, have the effect of creating a sense of identity.</p> <p>In the present structure of European governance – held back by the nation-state approach – the national economies of the Eurozone must compete against each other with an eye on, for example, productivity, exports or growth. The flaw in the structure of European governance up till now has been that individual countries are supposed to comply with detailed macro-economic goals, with relative freedom as to how to reach these goals. But in the absence of a properly regulated, even playing-field on tax or socio-political regulations (for example) in the Eurozone, this system cannot work.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><strong>Democratic governance is key</strong></h2> <p>Where European democracy is emasculated, the populists triumph. The predicted surge in Eurosceptic MEPs after the 22-25 May Euro elections – along with an increase in the number of parties represented in the European parliament - could lead to nearly Weimar conditions and inefficiency in the EP. This will give grist to the mill of those who say that the EP is not a proper parliament. “Let’s abolish the EP” is not only the call of British diplomats, whose role and power is already a thorn in the side of the EP. Germans jurists also frowned upon the EP during recent deliberations at the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe: it was seriously proposed that the Deutsche Bundestag could mutate into the ‘Congress’ for the entire Eurozone. The scandalous aspect of this proposal will be even more obvious to non-Germans.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Drawing from the latest Franco-German suggestions of <a href="http://www.glienickergruppe.eu/english.html">Glienicker</a> and the <a href="http://www.groupe-eiffel.eu/">Eiffel group</a>, together with the convincing <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/02/manifesto-europe-radical-financial-democratic">memorandum</a> for a political union by the French economist, Thomas Piketty, here is a concept for a viable European future. It starts with the Eurozone, but other EU member states could join in stages. </p><p>A common fiscal policy is introduced in the Eurozone, with a Eurozone budget (ca. 3-7 percent of the Eurozone GDP) that goes well beyond the present one, which is extracted from the infrastructural and cohesion fund of the EU in transfer payments. Fiscal redistribution is launched alongside the European unemployment insurance, which acts as an automatic stabiliser. The shell construction of a European executive authority would be placed opposite a strong European legislative body. </p><p>The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) could become the embryo of a European Finance Ministry and a Eurozone parliament would get the legislative right to take initiatives and oversee the budget. The “permanent President of the Eurogroup” evoked in <a href="http://www.deutschland-frankreich.diplo.de/30-05-2013-Bundeskanzlerin-Merkel,8723.html">this</a> Franco-German paper, could be seen as a future European Treasurer, or European Finance Minister, who would manage the Eurozone budget. Thus European democracy would finally exist horizontally (a European legislative body vs. a European executive body) and no longer vertically: nation state vs. Europe.</p> <p>The Eurozone could act as a powerful magnet for other EU countries and these could in time join this new Euro-democracy. The democratic system of the Eurozone would move in the direction of a division of powers à la Montesquieu. Whoever thinks this is building castles in the air should look at the September 2012 <a href="http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Europa/Aktuell/120918-Zukunftsgruppe_Warschau_node.html">Westerwelle Report</a> on the future of Europe.</p> <p>The Commission would have to be developed into a future Euro-government, as described already in 1994 in the <a href="https://www.cducsu.de/upload/schaeublelamers94.pdf">Schäuble-Lamers</a> document. At the same time, its (neutral) functions regarding economic competition in the EU would have to be separated from its political functions. The Commission would be divided up into single Ministries (and simultaneously reduced in size), which can arise from the present Directorates-General: a Ministry for Foreign Affairs (the current EEAD), a Trade Ministry, a Ministry for Development, a Ministry for Agriculture, a Ministry for Energy, a Ministry for Cyber Communications etc.</p> <p>Only in this way can political decisions be clearly assigned. The individual Ministries could represent the ruling coalition of the European Parliament, and political lines of demarcation would become visible. Today, Commissioners are perceived as mere national representatives, who in addition to their own perimeter get involved in matters that are in direct contradiction to the “national interests” of their country. This is the reason why most of the proposals coming from the Commission feel undemocratic.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>History happens largely by default and not as a result of ‘grand bargains’. But it is high time to think about which way we want the European idea to develop in the twenty-first century. We must dare to make a new European beginning, as the current system is running out of steam. We must set our hopes on a new European Constitutional Convention - or, better, a constituent assembly - in which European citizens, over and above the heads of their national delegates, can directly participate via an elaborate system of representation. The formation of a <a href="http://diepresse.com/home/presseamsonntag/1379843/Manifest-fur-die-Begrundung-einer-Europaeischen-Republik">European <em>res publica</em></a> must come from civil society.</p> <p>In this century, we will hopefully be spared the ‘big crash’, which again and again in history has marked a break between epochs. But there is no doubt that the creeping disintegration of old Europe has already been under way for some time. The <em>new</em> Europe, which has long been a reality in the consciousness of many European citizens, is waiting for its constitution, one that will effectively take it into the future.</p><p><em>This is an excerpt from an essay entitled "Europe's choice" by Ulrike Guérot and Robert Menasse. It is available <a href="http://pdfcast.org/download/europe-s-choice.pdf">here</a>.</em></p><p><em><strong><em>Read more from our European elections coverage&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/europe">here</a>.</em></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/etienne-balibar/useless-european-elections">Useless European elections?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/stephan-scheel/those-who-vote-%E2%80%98eurosceptic%E2%80%99-and-citizens-of-europe-to-come">Those who vote ‘euro-sceptic’ and the citizens of the Europe to come</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/francesc-badia-i-dalmases-oleguer-sarsanedas/rationale-for-europe-start-with-sout">A rationale for Europe: start with the south</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/jacopo-barbati/last-chance-to-create-united-europe">The last chance to create a united Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/euro-elections-you-tell-us/lotta-tenhunen-adri%C3%A0-rodriguez/european-elections-european-democracy-part-i">European elections, European democracy? 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EU Robert Menasse Ulrike Guerot Europe 2.0 Euro elections 2014 Mon, 19 May 2014 07:42:56 +0000 Ulrike Guerot and Robert Menasse 82918 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Robert Menasse https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/robert-menasse <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Robert Menasse </div> </div> </div> <p>Robert Menasse is an award-winning Austrian writer and essayist. He lives in Vienna and Brussels, and is currently a Fellow at the Stiftung Mercator.</p> Robert Menasse Sun, 18 May 2014 15:40:43 +0000 Robert Menasse 82919 at https://www.opendemocracy.net