Fondazione De Gasperi - EU Foundations: "International Round Table Adenauer, De Gasperi, Schuman"


"More Europe! Yes, but how? Current Challenges in Germany and the EU for the Consolidation of European Cooperation": that's the title of the International Round Table organized at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Berlin, June 12th, 2012

Speech delivered by Hon. Franco Frattini

The global crisis, whose contagion has spread progressively from finance to sovereign debt, and therefore to states, with a particularly virulent effect on the euro-zone, is obviously not a subject of study and work exclusively for economists.

We are, in fact, dealing with of a political crisis – i.e., the capacity of government, and policies to which states in Europe and beyond, along with their respective ruling classes, have dedicated themselves in recent years.

It is a crisis that challenges the role of Europe in the world and its ability to defend the extraordinary results achieved during the decades-long integration process.

And yet, if the lack of effective supranational governance capable of immediate response in the face of events is one of the major weaknesses at issue, then equally serious, and thus far less elaborated, is the lack of a plan coming from political families in Western democracies that could contribute to change.

Furthermore, a crisis of public confidence has blown. This crisis is evident from all the latest surveys, in the economy, in the future, in the benefits of EU integration, in EU membership, even in the euro and in the free market.

People are very worried about joblessness, inflation and public debt, and their fears are fuelling much of the uncertainty and negativity.

In the first place, this crisis should impose (or rather, should have already imposed) an adjustment of recipes that the preponderant ongoing change has rendered obsolete.
The recipes inspired by liberalism, or by pre-globalization liberism, no longer work. The crisis will not be short, nor will its effects disappear soon after a return to normality.

In 2008, the “orthodox” wing of the US Republican party strongly opposed a government rescue after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and reacted negatively when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, with the clear support of President Bush – as well as the support of the Democratic opposition – decided to seek an emergency bailout fund to keep the contagion from affecting the liquidity of small and medium – sized businesses and millions of American citizens.

Similarly in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party is experiencing a tough debate over the possibility and usefulness of going beyond “the German path” of rigor and accountability “at all costs” and ensuring the survival of the euro-zone, in a context of stronger European governance, with financial measures and stimulus packages aiming at promoting growth.

So today EU democracies are dealing with the problem of not “whether” to save Europe, but “how” to save it – by first reducing the deficit, or by dismantling an ideological barrier, which had marked the red line of “no public spending”, without considering how these days, even given the necessary rigor, the market is no longer able to regulate itself.

Indeed, markets without rules (or with the rules of international speculation) often point at the heart of states, their debt, and therefore at the euro (and beyond).

The Greek and French elections’ results show on one hand that blind austerity policies with no attention to growth are unacceptable, and on the other that reactions of voters tend to go beyond traditional political families and to support extremist, anti State and anti Europe parties (GREECE).

I am convinced that a reasonable political “exchange” shared by a large part of public opinion may consist in accepting a “transfer of national sovereignty”, even in crucial areas such as economic governance, thereby gaining a guarantee of “protection” from the crisis and its long-term effects, which would mean for families and businesses the opportunity to return to planning for the future.
At the bottom of this crisis, there are also elements to consider beyond the typical dynamics of speculation now known to the wider public.

The West, for example, has lost the undisputed “technological superiority” that for decades it has used to maintain its position.

Today, knowledge – and therefore the dissemination and sharing of technologies – travels around the world instantaneously.

New competitive players have emerged. The West has lost the traditional advantage of “first comer”.

Even the dynamics of the labour market at a global level have changed radically.

It is now a reality that highly skilled workers are much less expensive outside of Western countries. And this, again, implies the significant loss of the West’s advantageous position, at the expense of workers – especially young people, and trained professionals in such countries, such as Italy, that have contributed to the process of European integration. If we want to listen to people, rather just to elites, we need to consider how this rampant global change has contributed to a different interpretation of the very concept of popular support, which is the basis for any representative democracy.

Consensus, which is the source of legitimacy has more and more frequently become the goal of political and institutional actions.

The race to gain segments of electorate, however, often involves the danger of caving in on issues of principle. Already during the post-war period the warning of Alcide De Gasperi, a founding father of Europe, was emblematic in this regard: “A politician looks at the next election. A statesman looks to the next generation.”

And so, too often the political families and parties who support governments have created public debt to obtain the consensus of voters. In doing so, however, the price of today’s electoral support will have to be paid by the generations of tomorrow!

For a modern democracy in the West, therefore, it will be wise in reviewing the ideological rigidities of some socio-economic recipes to return to the principles that the social market economy indicates not only for the established democracies, but also for those that are still evolving.

Vision, reforms, fiscal rigor, on the mid/long term perspective are the key, above all, because European constraints and a sense of responsibility will not allow for a repeat of the vicious circle of spending and tax increases that have already led Italy to accumulate the third highest public debt in the world along with intolerable levels of taxation.

The GOLDEN RULE zero deficit for the national budget has been, for instance, already introduced into the Italian Constitution. This rule should become a clear guideline everywhere, even though in Italy a large majority is wondering whether anticipating zero deficit principle from 2014 to 2013 ð more than what the other M.S. have done so far – has been a decision that could be mitigated or compensated by some measures of flexibility on calculation on the deficit of percentage of sectors of investments spendings.

Development and growth are in fact urgent and necessary as the wealth-creating engine restarts with strategies that are not only of an emergency nature, but intended to increase production and support business, which would result in higher employment.

Innovation, research, investment on youth and in education are further elements that moderate and pro-European political families should consider a top priority.  

The role of SME should also be emphasized by guaranteeing a positive environment for investments, low taxation, flexible labour market, use of banking liquidity, liberalisation and countering protectionism.

EUROBONDS and PROJECT BONDS are necessary to promote investments. In the light of the FRENCH elections, an Italian bridging role on reconciling austerity and growth, and proposing innovative ideas is more than ever needed.

All these proposals can be translated into united EU decisions only if political governance and action, at EU level, will replace bureaucratic analysis or initiatives coming from non-
elected leaders.  I hope EU leaders will take decisive steps in that direction already at next EU Council.

I mean, 20 years and more after Maastricht, a political union is badly needed. One, with the strength coming form hundreds of thousands of voters, electing not only members of the European Parliament but maybe also the President of the EU Commission, and thus legitimizing the executive EU body like a “true” governing entity.

Would this step be enough or the dream of United States of Europe should become soon a reality?
My opinion is that either we go ahead with strong and visionary projects, or we fail to respond to the growing disaffection from the public opinion towards politics and EU institutions. But one thing is clear. Europeans cannot wait for growth proposals until treaties will be amended.

We have to act now on concrete measures!

Since globalization has deeply marked the cultural and ethnical barriers that have existed until a few years ago, a deep reflection on the concept of identity, our own and others, in the multicultural world is also indispensable and urgent.

Also here more Europe is needed!!

For a modern EU democracy, in particular, this means using every tool for dialogue with others, but at the same time affirming rigor and firmness in the defense of essential and no-negotiable values and principles.

The human person above all else: human dignity and human rights.

And religious freedom, protection of minorities from abuse and discrimination – which , for example, has seen millions of Christians forced to flee the regions and countries where they grew up.

An open immigration policy for the effective integration in the economic and social fabric of our countries, based on respect for the laws, but also on the value that should be attributed to each person, especially the poor and the weak.

The economic crisis is showing that risks but also opportunities are interconnected.

Thus, this condition should lead to find common interests pursuing them together and joining forces beyond the old concept of security.

Hence, the EURO-ATLANTIC SPACE should be built and consolidated also to explore the common opportunities brought by the crisis.

It may be useful in this context to compare our weight and that of China, India, and the others emerging powers currently and in the next 20 years.

Instead of speculating about G2 US - CHINA, we should try to better synchronize EU (included Russia) - US perspectives.

Statements from President Obama on EU/US cooperation to face the crisis, and frequent consultations between the two shores of Atlantic show that awareness to broaden the scope of our historical ties is there.

This coordination would integrate and strengthen a broad concept of security in the globalised world.

Security means thinking global and pooling resources or leading processes instead of reaching to wake-up calls coming from the emerging world.

The challenge is important everywhere and by no means easy. We all need not only foresight and vision, but also the passion of ideas that guided the founding fathers of Europe, which today, in the political atmosphere of confrontation and mutual delegitimization, is at risk of vanishing. 

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Pubblicato da Franco Frattini il giorno 14.6.12. per la sezione , , , . Puoi essere aggiornato sui post, i commenti degli utenti e le risposte utilizzando il servizio di RSS 2.0. Scrivi un commento e partecipa anche tu alla discussione su questo tema.

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