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Luiss Guido Carli

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An uncoupling of politics and economics for a new Europe

The new book by Professor Fabbrini proposes an alternative model of unification

Sergio Fabbrini LUISS

Just a few days before the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, Laterza has published a new book from Sergio Fabbrini, director of the LUISS School of Government and professor of Political Science.  Entitled Sdoppiamento: una prospettiva nuova per l'Europa, the text proposes a reformulation of the EU, in which it is smaller but with more political might.

“The Treaty of Rome was signed on March 25, 1957,” explains Professor Fabbrini. “The European Union was an enormous success: it brought peace, stability and economic development to a continent that had been through dramatic and disastrous wars, democratic crises and social injustice. Despite this historical success, the EU over the last few years had entered into stagnation, if not outright implosion. After 60 years, Brexit has brought us to discuss disintegration. Why? My answer is because we have tried to use a single model of integration for countries that continue to have their own perspectives. The difficulty of handling the post-2008 crises incentivized the rise of anti-European movements. The result is that we have brought into discussion the narrative of an EU made up of states that share the same goals, while in reality those states continue to pursue different objectives. More than a Europe of different speeds, we have a Europe of different goals.”

Sdoppiamento Fabbrini LUISS

In addition to citing criteria that led to both the successes and crises of the EU, the book proposes a way out of the crisis. Fabbrini’s proposal is based on the idea of a federal union. “The distinction within the EU of states who want only a single market and those who also share the ideal of a single currency or advanced integration program is not easily reconciled with the treaty that we are currently celebrating. We must think towards institutional reform that lets this pluralism emerge: a common market shared by all 27 states (and possibly others such as Norway and Switzerland, as well as the possible reentry of the United Kingdom) and a federal union between Eurozone countries. The federal union must be based on a fundamental precondition: the establishment of (limited) policies that must be managed by the union, with its resources and its authorities, leaving the rest to national democracies.”

According to the SoG director, a federal union is the exact opposite of what has occured over the years: “We have witnessed a progressive emptying of national democracies without a cooresponding strengthening of supranational democracy. It has been quite the contrary. Look at the Eurozone. We have create a highly centralized regulatory system devoid of democratic legitimization. The EU and the Eurozone are almost like NAFTA or the WTO: international organizations run by experts that decide upon policies based on the effectiveness of the results they aim to achieve. The EU cannot limit itself to this, and not only because it risks creating a tense and divisive relationship with European citizens that truly risks to implode.”

The formula to lead us out of this stalemate can be found right in the book’s title: Sdoppiamento (uncoupling). “Faced with rhetoric of differentiation, of a Europe à la carte and with variable geometries, uncoupling establishes a very different objective to the ambiguous formula of Angela Merkel’s Europe of different speeds. A decoupling, that is, the distinction between a market area and a smaller but more cohesive area (based on political pacts) allows us to build two distinct organizations with different end goals. The first, based on the single market, must guarantee free circulation of people, goods, capital and services. The second, must instead promote common policies regarding security, monetary stability, social inclusion, development and infrastructure. The policies are few, but with no opting out for participating countries. Member states that do not adhere to this political pact will be a part of the single market. It should be in our common interest to avoid paralysis between those who want to remain the same (or go backwards) and those who want to move forwards. For this reason, it does not make sense to return to the constitutional convention method in which all states participate with the same old game of vetos and extortions that we all know so well. We must find more flexible solutions to declare a commitment to moving towards a federal union.”

In a complex political context full of tensions such as the one we currently find ourselves in, it is difficult to single out a figure or a single country that can lead a change of scenario. “As Max Weber has taught us, politics needs leaders, individuals that have the strength to put their fingers in the gears of history and make them turn towards rational change. Leadership is not about following moods, but challenging them. Facing anti-European waves, we must have the courage to put strength into the integration project by renewing it, and not simply celebrating it. We must have the courage to open ourselves to dialog with those who propagate doubt in Europe or those who go so far as to propose going back to the national borders of our past. Such tragedies they have caused our continent.”

One of the ways to pursue this objective is also part of the history and political thought of our country, leading Professor Fabbrini to dedicate the final chapter of his book to the Ventotene Manifesto. “Starting again from Ventotene means having the courage and the strength to rethink Europe from a strategic point of view in a moment of great difficulty. It means getting out of the short circuit, from the limited viewpoint of our daily lives,  to a larger perspective that first gave us the manifesto in 1941, when prisoners were able to imagine what the future of Europe could be. Italy helped launch the integration project and now has the intellectual obligation to relaunch it. To put it frankly, if Germany has the economic strength and France it’s political strength, Italy must not give up the strength of its culture and ideals.”