A Fundamental Law for Europe in a time of crisis ?
Nowadays, the future of the EU is being much discussed. For the ‘Spinelli Group’ a federal EU based on a Fundamental Law is the best answer.
Voices calling for a reform of the institutional framework of the EU can now be heard not only in the Member States but also at EU level. The European Parliament advocated in its Resolution of 13 March 2013 the necessity of convoking a Convention for drafting treaty amendments.
In addition, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso expressed in his State of the Union speech the intention of the Commission “to present, before the European elections, further ideas on the future of our Union. They will set out the principles and orientations that are necessary for a true political union”.
A reaction to shortcomings in the institutional sphere
With regard to these signals indicating Spring 2015 for the possible start of a treaty amendment procedure, the Spinelli group of Members of the European Parliament who, following the thoughts of Altiero Spinelli, are advocating a federalist approach, presented at the beginning of October 2013 a draft of a Lisbon Treaty reform. Taking the German Fundamental Law of 1949 as an example, a new Treaty should replace the current Treaties (TEU, TFEU, Charter of Fundamental Rights, Euratom Treaty) and concentrate all the fundamental provisions for the EU in one single legal document.
The proposal drafted by the Spinelli group responds to the shortcomings of the institutional system of the EU, which became obvious as a result of the recent developments in the field of fiscal policy as the European Council acting ad hoc and without sufficient democratic legitimacy had to adopt measures addressing the financial crisis.
In order to reduce this “deficit of government“ within the EU, the draft emphasises the necessity for uniform economic governance by a strong EU government. Accordingly, the European Commission should be transformed into such a government by reducing the number of its members and extending its executive powers at the expense of the Council.
On the other hand, the “democratic deficit“ of the EU should be diminished by reforming the legislative structure which will consist of a two-chamber system comprising the Council as the representation of the Member States and the Parliament as the representation of the EU citizens. Besides a simplification of the decision-making procedure and granting the Council and the Parliament a limited right to legislative initiative, the “Spinelli draft“ makes another positive contribution by determining a clear separation of powers between the EU institutions, which should restore the deficient accountability for their specific actions as well as bring more transparency into the current system.
Hence, the Spinelli group regards the creation of a federal Union as the way out of the present situation, which, as its representatives stress, “would provide for more unity and cohesion between its member states and more solidarity among its citizens“ while at the same time respecting the subsidiarity principle.
Furthermore, the draft also makes the effort to strengthen the awareness of EU-citizens through measures, such as introduction of an EU-wide referendum as an alternative to State ratification within the treaty amendment procedure or easier access to the European Court of Justice.
Does the draft go too far?
The proposed reform of the treaty amendment procedure may, however, evoke certain doubts. The replacement of the requirement of unanimity by ratification by majority entails the loss of an important safeguard for “smaller“ Member States in the form of a veto right.
For Member States that are not willing to accept the federal structure of the EU, the proposal creates the category of “associate membership“. Hence, each associate State will negotiate its own conditions of membership with the remaining core States. It is, however, questionable whether such a model does not pave the way for the creation of a two-speed Europe and encourage disintegration and instability instead of unity and the search for compromise.
Whether the bold draft presented by the Spinelli group will be accepted at the forthcoming Convention is uncertain. Its contribution to a fruitful discussion on the future of Europe is, however, indisputable.
Book reference: The Spinelli Group (2013), A Fundamental Law of the European Union, Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh.
Translated from the original text in German