Is there a better way for the EU? Break-up or Superstate?

This post was originally written as part of a successful application to attend the 2012 ELDR Liberal Academy in Brussels:

European politics since the Treaty of Rome has been nothing, if not (melo)dramatic. Those who claim otherwise forget De Gaulle and the “Empty-Chair Crisis”, Thatcher and her budget rebate, and most reverently, the breakneck speed at which over a decade of Eurosclerosis and stagflation was finally solved. One could write a political thriller based on the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty, but it might be hard to find a target audience for it. A pity, really.

The fact that the current melodrama bears remarkable similarities to the stagflation of the late 1970s and early 1980s appears lost on many people. In fact, the steps which were taken to prevent the monetary instability of that era in fact laid the foundation stones of the crisis which has been with us for the last five years. Persistent stagflation was solved by creating a single market, which in turn required a single currency to function. Now we’ve learned that currencies are fickle things, which require more than a central bank to make them work. Monetary union requires fiscal union and banking union, and therein lies the next step which we must take on the road to a federal superstate.

However for one reason or another, we have yet to do so, proving that we ignore contemporary history at our peril. We’re doing exactly what Thatcher, Mitterand, Kohl and the other politicians of that day did best: disagree. Yet as they resolved their differences, can’t we too? Well, yes. On the logic that we need the Euro too much to let it fall apart, our leaders should eventually come together, most likely at the 11th hour, and save the currency. A tragic divorce should morph into a glorious honeymoon. As an optimist, I see this scenario as likely.

Yet we, citizens of the EU, deserve better. The fact that only the threat of an imminent currency break-up can solve problems which have been apparent for almost five years, is an astonishing failure of leadership. If the EU is to avoid another crisis on this scale, it must reform. Its institutions must become more powerful, more transparent and more democratic.

We need a Constitution that defines the powers and functions of the EU in a language which is understandable to all citizens. We need a Commission which is not a retirement program for professional politicians, and who’s president is directly elected by us. We need a Parliament which possesses the power to initiate legislation. We need a Central Bank which does not operate at a level of secrecy considered normal within certain covert government agencies. We need a European Council which is not a slave to intergovernmental intransigence.

What we do not need is obfuscation and unaccountability. A lot has been learned from this crisis, and the failed attempts to contain it. These lessons must be applied, so as to not let the extreme financial sacrifices of our citizens go in vain.

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