Europe at the Crossroads Justice & Peace Europe’s Concerted Action 2017
Ever since the result of the British referendum to leave the EU, increasingly urgent questions have been circulating on the future of European integration. Last September, the Heads of State and Government of the EU27 adopted the Bratislava Declaration. This was the first stage of a top-level process of reflection on the future of Europe that is expected to end with a summit meeting in Rome marking the Treaty of Rome’s 60th anniversary. Right now however, Europe is treading water, as was clearly seen at the informal EU Summit on 3 February in Valletta, Malta. According to the official agenda, the European Council was supposed to have had detailed discussions on fundamental aspects of European integration. Yet again however, the meeting was high-jacked by the issue of migrants and international relations.
This is a real pity. It seems that “official Europe” will not budge an inch while waiting for the results of this year’s national elections. In the meantime however, European “civil society” shows a greater willingness to take the lead. We should bear this in mind when examining the initiatives of the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Committee of the Regions. The latter has just launched an enormous consultation process asking citizens for their views on Europe. This is also the context for the theme “Europe at the Crossroads” selected by Justice & Peace Europe for its annual “Concerted Action”. Agreed at Justice & Peace Europe’s general assembly, Concerted Actions are strategies to be implemented by the network’s thirty national commissions.
The basic document setting out the “Europe at the Crossroads” Concerted Action will be officially launched on Ash Wednesday, and shall be published in a number of European languages.
To continue the process of European integration, it is essential to get as many EU citizens on board as possible. Part 1 of the document will therefore present an analysis of the current state of affairs and call for the EU to implement concrete measures to restore confidence among EU citizens and reinforce their sense of belonging in the Union.
Part 2 will outline ten key measures which will form the basis of debates national commissions will be organising in their home territories, and which the network will also be conducting at European level. These key measures include the following:
Reforming the European asylum system - In order to maintain the universal right of asylum, the common European asylum system urgently needs to be reformed. Member States’ obligations in relation to collective supervision of their common external border should always respect the need to protect asylum rights.
- Promoting the European Pillar of Social Rights - This policy priority proposed by the Commission in 2016 would act as an overarching social protection framework for all EU citizens.
- Negotiating fairer international trade agreements - Free trade agreements, especially those with developing nations, should entail acceptance of EU social and environmental standards by the non-EU parties.
- Reflecting on the digital revolution - Given the impact of digital technology on employment opportunities, the European Commission should consider organising a major European conference on this theme with its social-sector partners.
- Introducing Euro 2.0 - Among Eurozone countries a Euro 2.0 must be negotiated with the inclusion of political, economic and tax criteria to be met before its entry into force.
- Harmonising tax - Within the Single Market there should be harmonisation on a single set of rules for corporate taxation, and remedial action should be taken to correct VAT collection where found necessary.
- Reforming the Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme – Measures should be taken to reduce emissions in economic sectors not covered by this scheme and to promote the circular principle in the manufacture, consumption and recycling of goods in order to help Europe to make a credible contribution towards combating climate change.
- Greater solidarity with poorer Member States - The European External Investment Plan should be increased to support the countries in deepest poverty.
- Promoting peace - The EU needs to reinforce its common security and defence policy as well as its soft policies to promote peace with a view to disarmament and an effective control of arms exports.
- Strengthening democracy - One idea worth consideration is the strengthening of democratic legitimacy by electing at least 10% of the members of the European Parliament from transnational party lists.
Pope Francis has encouraged Europeans to reflect upon the spirit of European civilisation, which he has defined as its capacity “to integrate, to dialogue and to generate.” Justice & Peace Europe views its initiative as a practical implementation of this invitation from the Pope.
Translated from the original text in French
The document “Europe at the Crossroads” will be available for download from http://www.juspax-eu.org/en/
EN The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Social Centre.