by Eric Rosenzweig
Since its formation after WWII, the Union of European Federalists has been a front-line advocacy group for European cooperation and unity. Its 70-year history includes successful campaigns for the European Community, which ultimately led to the European Union (EU).
This year, it is focusing on the recent European Parliament (EP) elections and released a manifesto outlining proposals for “European Refoundation” in 2019. The goals represent efforts to strengthen the EU as an institution and realign European interests in order to stem the tide of “growing nationalist, and anti-democratic forces and other illiberal forces” which seek to weaken or dismantle European structures.
The manifesto is broken into themes of financial integration and economic stabilization, defense and security, managing immigration, and combating climate change.
The EU, which started as a “coal and steel community” and developed a series of economic policies which eventually led to the Eurozone, continues to require further evolution of its economic cooperation arrangements. The manifesto states that while the nations’ markets have integrated, this has yet to be followed through with a convergence of its economies, which would demonstrate true integration and cooperation.
The manifesto calls for the completion of the Banking Union and the establishment of a formal Eurozone Budget and Treasury funded by taxes on trans-border activities, carbon taxes, and other areas in which taxes could be levied fairly and equitably. The budget would be controlled by the European Commission and the European Parliament and used to fund other initiatives proposed in the manifesto.
Further, the manifesto calls for funding mechanisms for economic stabilization, such as a European Deposit Fund, an Unemployment Insurance Scheme, and coordinated policies to “prevent overspending in boom times.” These steps would help create more durable continent-wide growth with the aim of promoting the Eurozone as a stable and democratic global economic power.
Similarly, the manifesto calls for creation of a “European Bank for Climate” as a branchof the already established European Investment Bank. As the name implies, the bank would invest and guide Eurozone’s “ecological transition”: phasing out fossil fuels and moving toward a green economy. Proposed methods range from the aforementioned carbon tax, to stopping fossil industry subsides and increasing investments in renewable energy, creating binding emission reduction targets, and measures to minimize plastic waste.
The budget would also be called upon to fund investment in European technological and defense industries. Procuring defense products locally is part of the manifesto’s broader theme of coalescing Eurozone defense and security policy into a unified European Defense and Security Union. Evolving out of the 2018 Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the manifesto outlines a structure for democratic involvement in a continent-wide defense policy, governed by an elected Commissioner, co-legislated by the EP and a Council of Defence ministers. The manifesto suggests an EU policy of “civilian conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict stabilization”, with a view also toward EC engagement on civil protection and responses to natural disasters.
Lastly, the manifesto calls for a unified European policy for immigration. Notwithstanding the humanitarian imperatives, the issue of immigration has long been a universal, if not always unifying, issue for EU member states. This is partly due to the uneven nature of the Eurozone economy alluded to in the manifesto. Therefore, it calls for “the establishment of legal channels for economic migration” and reform of the EU Visa policy. Regarding humanitarian asylum, the manifesto calls for replacing the current 2013 Dublin III Regulation with a European Asylum System that includes a “refugee status” and a “humanitarian visa.” Overall, it calls for greater respect for human rights and shared responsibilities when setting a unified response to economic and humanitarian migration.
Elections for the EP were held at the end of May this year, with a turnout of more than 50% of voters (up from 42% in the 2014 election). While tracking polls predicted a rise in far-right Eurosceptic (anti-EU) seats in the parliament, the impact was not nearly as large as forecasted. Center-left and center-right parties lost the most , with more radical candidates on both sides of the political spectrum picking up seats. Far-right majorities in France, Italy, Hungary, the UK, and Austria* (*until ousted the next day by scandal) were offset by gains made by the Greens. The one-third Eurosceptic block may prove an obstacle for the UEF’s ambitious agenda, but at the same time, the EU seems likely to be free from internal dismantling in the upcoming parliamentary cycle.