The occurrence of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome offers the opportunity to both celebrate the successes reached so far and reflect on the future of the European project. As a result of the vision of the European Community’s founders, today Europe is a more prosperous and peaceful continent.
While taking pride in these conquests, there is no space for complacency: the future of the European project is at risk. From an American administration not supportive of the European Union to the threat posed by terrorism, external challenges abound. These problems are compounded by a generalised loss of confidence in conventional forms of politics and the European project, which feed populism and narrow nationalism across the continent.
As young European progressives, we believe that it is not possible to stand by while sixty years of European integration are put under discussion. Bold action and reforms are needed. Institutions more responsive to the people of Europe, new opportunities to rejoice in our shared identity and the forging of a more just, sustainable and secure Europe all go in the direction of a stronger European Union, a Europe that can look at the future with confidence.
Part A: European Institutions
A number of European institutions whose actions are often not felt by Europeans, as well as increased bureaucracy, have resulted in widening the gap between citizens and the decision makers. We want to target this institutional crisis by:
- Reforming the EU so as to increase its efficiency and credibility. It must be closer to its citizens, in order to improve transparency. A multispeed EU can permit the integration of some member states without affecting others. This can increase public support, as the EU will be seen as an opportunity rather than an imposing actor.
- Decentralizing some of the decision making that is currently conducted in Brussels and giving more credit to the member states and subnational entities, which are closer to the everyday life of people. The EU should always respect the result of democratic elections and give elected leaders the room to pursue their own policies, also at the national and subnational level. Simultaneously, this places responsibility on these entities: their failure is to blame on themselves only, not on the EU.
Part B: European Citizenship
Solid foundations for the future of the European Union are not only the result of better institutions but depend on a shared European identity. With the aim of furthering the understanding among European peoples and of better appreciating our shared history and values, we propose:
- Actively promoting the core European values through Member States’ educational systems. These include, but are not limited to, Openness, Inclusivity, Diversity, Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights. Should the EU wish to remain the most ambitious project of integration between peoples, it should promote the creation of physical spaces to stimulate dialogue between people.
- Increasing spending on higher education and lifelong learning -especially focused on the acquisition of languages, IT and technical skills. So far much has been said about Europe as a ‘knowledge economy’, but too little has been done to achieve this. Technology changes fast and the skills of people cannot stay behind. EU social funds need to be used to help entrepreneurs starting a business. The corporate sector is welcome to contribute as part of their CSR initiatives.
- Expanding the Erasmus + studies program to 16-year-old students and providing guidance to the relevant actors on how to get all the grants and programs they can currently benefit from.
Part C: Building a safe Europe
In an era of several diplomatic cases of abuse where authoritarianism is thriving in neighbouring states, the safety and unity of the European community heavily depend on its capacity to collectively defend its borders by:
- Acting as a proud and united global actor. This includes strengthening the EU military, cooperation on cyber security and terrorism prevention, and closer region-to-region partnerships with the African Union. Also, the EU must revise the modes of integration with third countries, in order to increase partnerships with mutual benefits and reduce the insider-outsider duopoly.
Part D: A sustainable Europe for future citizens
Europe’s security and future highly depend on how it deals with climate change. Given the current American administration’s lack of willingness to face off this great challenge, it is time for Europe to take a lead and set the path towards a more sustainable future. With this in mind, we propose:
- Taking back our role as the global leader in the fight against climate change and in the implementation of the COP21 agreement. In doing so, the EU needs to phase out lignite and coal burning, abandon nuclear energy and diesel, while investing in renewables. The green and the circular economy will create many new jobs that can replace those lost by ceasing polluting activities.
- Adopting an ambitious EU infrastructure investment policy. We believe that policies in this domain should be more focused on the long-term objective of creating a sustainable, green and inclusive Europe. Thus, we call for EU investments to integrate and modernize the European railway network, because this upgrades the cleanest mode of transport, improves connectivity, creates jobs and stimulates the economy.
Part E: Society
Even though the survival of the EU should be the priority, it makes little sense to keep the project alive while not ensuring harmonic, progressive and prosperous societies, aiming at the welfare of their citizens. Bearing that in mind, we propose:
- Supporting the institution of a real European Social Pillar. The EU policy has been guided by macroeconomics and lost sight of the social component for too long. All policies should be tested on their social impact, and aim to create jobs and reduce poverty. The Fund to the European Aid of the Most Deprived (FEAD) must be used more to compensate those who have economically suffered from Globalization.
- Being a cohesion actor so as to maintain European unity and peace. EU membership must bring more benefits than disadvantages to all concerned parties. Concrete policies to benefit all might include a compensation scheme for countries that have been struck by brain drain or extending 4G internet coverage to all citizens of the EU, including those who reside in the most disadvantaged or remote areas.
- Discouraging unpaid internships to the youth. Europe is a rich and progressive continent, where systematic exploitation should not be tolerated. Labour needs to be rewarded even if it is done by young or inexperienced people.
- Establishing directives for the progressive increase of the budget for Research and Development among all member countries.
Part F: Economic Policy
Economic policy should be a means to the end of a more cohesive European Union, where there is solidarity among countries, generations and social groups. The European project shall be a source of prosperity for everyone. To this end, we propose:
- The cooperation of European countries so as to avoid tax competition and establish high taxation standards. Tax havens for big companies should no longer exist in the EU and no cooperation shall be entertained between the EU and tax heavens. An increase in transparency and taxation of profits in the countries where they are made will contribute to a more just Europe. Finally, a minor EU tax for companies acting within the single market could be established, and create the basis for a European fiscal revenue.
- A reform of the Euro Area would bring the members of the common currency area back to the ideals of shared prosperity and solidarity underlying the Treaty of Rome. This would be to everyone’s interest, not just of those countries that are still suffering from the dramatic social consequences of the 2009 Euro crisis: a more prosperous Europe is going to be a more harmonious Union. The institutions of the Eurozone have to change, starting from the ECB’s mandate so that in its monetary policy takes into account not only stable inflation but also full employment. In the presence of a common monetary policy, there is also the need for some forms of fiscal policy.
- Making the EU trade policy more transparent and aimed at enhancing EU standards globally.