On 9 May 1950, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman presented what would become the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community – the Schuman Declaration. The Declaration laid down some important guidelines, but most importantly, it was a way of making sure that there would never be a third World War. The Declaration included words about uniting Europe through the coal and steel production, and through this economic co-operation solidarity between the Member States would have developed. The common market without customs duties would unify Europe and create higher living standards for the people living in the Community. 65 years after the Schuman Declaration, on almost the exact same date, a new declaration was published on 6 May 2015. In ‘Towards a New Schuman Declaration’, the authors explain that the EU needs to do exactly what the title states: to move towards a new Schuman Declaration with new values and new goals. This declaration was presented by Giuliano Amato, Elisabeth Guigou and Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga at the State of the Union conference, which is annually organised by the European University Institute. It was presented at the conference’s fifth edition (held on 6-9 May 2015 in Florence), which focused on the future of the European Union.
The unfortunate development of the EU
The declaration was presented by Giuliano Amato, former Judge of the Constitutional Court of Italy, at present emeritus Professor at the EUI Department of Law and former Vice President of the European Convention on the Future of Europe that drafted the European Constitution; Elisabeth Guigou, a former member of the European Parliament, former French Minister of European Affairs, of Justice and of Employment and Solidarity. She is also a founding chairwoman of Europartenaires, a group linking business interests with the EU; and Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, who is member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and the Former President of the Republic of Latvia. Together, all the authors share an extensive and qualified background not just in the legal sphere, but mainly in the political field. 65 years ago the Europeans were in need of solidarity for a unified Europe. Today, the authors are all of the view that Europeans are once again in need of concrete achievements, not for reaching solidarity but for maintaining it.
The authors explain that the main purpose of unifying Europe was indeed that there should be no more wars in Europe, and that this idea has been far more successful than anyone ever expected. The declaration also explains that the purpose of the Union was not purely economic with the free movements, but there was also a focus on developing the human rights and the principles of law and democracy. But the authors claim that there has been a change in this progress. Europe has turned anxious, anxious of whether the economic state of certain Member States are going to be the end of the EU; anxious about how the Union is going to be able to safeguard both prosperity for all individuals in the EU and still be able to uphold human dignity and social justice for all those individuals; anxious about the issues of energy supply. And finally, European citizens are now anxious about the internal security and external defense of the Union, as conflict is getting closer and closer to the borders of the Member States.
The authors further conclude that many believe that the increasing internal and external immigration has caused a confused cultural and political situation within the Member States. There are also signs that many are starting to lose their faith in the EU institutions, doubting whether they are actually able to fulfill the wishes that the citizens of Europe have. All these issues can according to the authors be solved through a stronger Union leadership which is able to give the answers that the Union citizens so desperately seek.
The ability to change the Union for the better
The authors mention several areas that the Union needs to develop in order to create a more successful EU. First, the EU should set a standard for social and sanitary protection and find a way to intervene when that standard is not met by the Member States. This in order to protect the welfare and jobs that have been injured by the financial crisis. Further, the EU should shift the focus from putting a great deal of its resources into the agricultural sector to creating a ‘Common Urban Policy’ for the people living in the urban areas as they constitute the largest part of the EU population. This shift would give mayors a bigger role, and it would help in the development of employment and climate control. Creating an Energy Union would be the next step to ensure sufficient energy supply for the entire Union. Next, the authors find that a European Defense Union is needed in order to protect the Member States from external threats. The free movement of persons should still be a big part of European citizenship. However, the European citizens also need to gain the sense that they are able to affect what is going on in the EU. The authors therefore suggest a change in the process of EU politics, to give the citizens a bigger influence. Finally, regulations must be made regarding immigration into the Union. The responsibility of dealing with immigrants cannot only lie on the gateway states. The article finds that all of these steps need to be taken in order to revive solidarity in Europe, and to make the Union come alive again.
The authors provided concrete solutions in order to solve the challenges that the EU faces. These were, inter alia, that the EU puts a lot of resources into the agricultural sector and that this focus should shift to the urban sector. However, this might cause a heavier burden on the few farmers that are able to remain within the business and it will in turn cause higher pricing on food-stuffs. It is indeed an issue when most people live in urban areas but are not the focus of EU resources, but the issue still stands that these people are very much dependent on the agricultural sector, and the latter should not be completely forgotten. The discussion about resources could also be connected to the migration issue. As an earlier post of this blog showed, the resources available at the moment are not sufficient to solve all the issues facing the Union. If we put more resources in the urban sector, the agricultural sector suffers. If the Union would have contributed to the migration problem as Italy did, another sector would probably have suffered. It is difficult to find a solution to this problem, since it is a question of values. What do we value the most?
Furthermore, the authors bring up the idea that there needs to be a change in the political process in order to give the European citizens more influence on the decisions that are taken within the Union. However, the authors do not mention exactly how this process should be changed. This is not a small problem, as it is very difficult to change the political process, and since many European citizens do not reflect much over affecting the EU with their vote, there needs to be quite a radical transformation in order to change the view that the citizens have.
When it comes to immigration, it is essential for the demographics of Europe to have a well regulated immigration policy. Free movement makes it necessary for the EU to have an effective regulation concerning immigration. The authors consider that for such a policy to become real, it is essential that Europe should be a home for newcomers but they must in turn make Europe as their home and accept the values of Europe. [See p. 4 of Towards a ‘New Schuman Declaration’]. An important question that arise with this statement is how immigrants can make Europe and its values as their new home, when not even most of the European citizens identify themselves as a European, but rather as a citizen of their Member State?
The proposed suggestions by the authors seem to be good in theory, perhaps there is indeed a need for such fundamental changes within the EU. However, the authors propose a lot of ideas that would require extensive constitutional changes within the EU institutional framework, without providing any further explanations nor details of how these changes are to be achieved. In the 1950 Schuman Declaration, the ideas were rather abstract and one started with a clean sleight. Abstract solutions without any clear explanations of how those solutions are to be carried out might have worked back in 1950, but will probably not be sufficient today with a well-established Union system and its complex institutions. Based on this, is it possible to make a new Schuman Declaration according to the circumstances we have today? However, one must keep in mind that the authors did not aim to solve all issues within Europe, but to steer the minds of Europe towards the idea that there is indeed a need for a new Declaration. The Declaration is probably aimed to provide us, the citizens of Europe, fundamental challenges but also solutions of how these can be tackled in order to restore solidarity within Europe. A way to restore faith in Europe and to keep the vision of “the European dream” alive.
by Sara Carlbom, Emilia Pettersson, Marcus Johansson