Imagine Europe

Currently, many debates centre on the need for more national solutions to major challenges in Europe. Let’s just for a few seconds change perspective and take the other route:

Imagine, the EU were one republic, with one government (instead of 28) and one parliament that would take all the important political decisions. What would such a Europe look like?

Share your thoughts with us. The most thought provoking and innovative thoughts will be published on this website. For 2017 it is also envisaged to go for a publication of selected inputs and a symposium.

Your Europe

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Imagine Europe - maps illustrating visions of the FP7 project FLAGSHIP

SHARED THOUGHTS

Towards post-national multilevel governance (P. Ulrich)

In 2012, the Austrian writer Robert Menasse articulated his desire for a re-articulation of a European polity with less intergouvernmentalism and more supraregionalism: He outlines Europe as the first post-national continent in world history that is organized peacefully in free association of self-determined regions, within common - based on human rights - framework conditions that have been developed and guarded by the supranational institutions in Brussels” (See Menasse 2012: 125). Recently, Ulrike Guerot proclaimed the re-construction of a network-like European Republic based on the historical concept of historic Republicanism and based on a common good of the citizens and organized in regions and cities.  The “Network Europe 21” is a network out of European regions and cities under a protective roof of the European Republic where all European citizens are equal regarding their civil and political rights (See Guerot 2016: 82).
I follow that approach that in case of the existence of only one European parliament instead of 28 (or soon 27) parliaments, the regions and their cultural diversity are the cornerstones of a Europe bottom-up. As one parliament cannot consider any regional peculiarities a top-down hierarchy of decisions in certain policy fields like education, culture, health is not recommendable and shall be created bottom-up and negotiated from the regional representatives with delegates of the European parliament.

Also in a European Republic the inevitability of Governance is observable. The supranational level encompasses the parliament directly elected by the citizens of each region and by the government that is built by a coalition of the majority of the European parliament’s seats.

With the abolishment of national governments and national parliaments also the nation-state has been made obsolete. Nation-state competences like tax collection, foreign, security and defense policy have been transferred to the supranational level. Nonetheless, traces of the nation-state remain at the interfaces within the European Republic. These “phantom borders” (See von Hirschhausen et. al 2015) expressed by different socioeconomic, linguistic, cultural and historical settings in the post-national regions will remain and therefore, joint cooperation and governance of these different regions from formerly different nation-states is needed to get them in touch. Cross-border cooperation and identity at former nation-state border, hence, will be still important in the future. So I follow also in the European Republic the post-national notion of multilevel governance (See Hooghe&Marks 2003) with a strengthened supranational and subnational level.

With the elimination of the national layer, the distance between the supranational and subnational level seem to have widened. The European Parliament election every 5 years (or in case of the European Republic every 2 years) is not sufficient and needs to be upgraded by bottom-up initiatives. The European citizen´s initiative (ECI) needs to be reconceptualized - 1.000.000 signatures from a quarter of all European regions instead of member states for a valid legislation proposal.

Subnational citizen participation and forms of regional democracy shall additionally be installed in the regions. Especially, in the fields of Regional Policy that tackles economic, social and territorial development policies the citizens are predestinated to decide on the measures that they are concerned of and may benefit from. Especially in the fields of public service the regions may decide on which policy measures shall be taken in the respective region. The funds are still the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) that are negotiated and bargained with the supranational level including the civil society in the negotiation process. This might lead to a higher input and output legitimacy as it is European Republic governance with the people (input legitimacy) and for the people (output legitimacy).

 

by Peter Ulrich, research associate at the Research Group “Border and Boundary Studies” at the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION in Frankfurt (Oder)/Germany. Since January 2014 he is a PhD Candidate at the Chair for European and International Politics (Prof. Jürgen Neyer) at the European University Viadrina and has been a research associate at the EGTC Center of Excellence.

 
 

New territorial angles on long-term visionary thinking (P. Mehlbye)

Everybody is aware that an EU republic is not around the corner. However, playing with the option and considering possible consequences can foster new momentum in current policy related processes.

Taking up the challenge under the assumption that the political reality, legislative mechanisms and governance structures are in place, this input to Imagine Europe is meant to inspire the coming rethink of EU cohesion policy orientations and implementation mechanisms and thereby the aim of a balanced European territory characterised by economic and social cohesion.

Forming the future is a huge and complex process, however without long-term guiding views and a strategy for shaping the desired future decisions and progress will be less synergetic and risk being counterproductive. This is also true for the development of the European territory and the related policies.

The following imagination of Europe therefore concentrates on the territorial dimension. It builds on actual EU policy priorities of economic growth and jobs, it takes into account of the current profound challenges for future European policy and it forward ideas on how to include the territorial dimension and cohesion the best possible in this context.

The text below deliberately describes a situation 5-10 years or more from now, and by doing so a preferred development during the next decade. Hoping that this might provide input to long-term visionary thinking, and offer new angles and food for thought for the EU policy making process ahead and already in progress.

Following a period of economic and political turmoil in the first decennials of this millennium caused by the financial sector, strong austerity, armed conflicts in the neighbourhood, immigration flows, Brexit, Trump, a wave of nationalism, protectionism and anti-globalisation, etc., as a concerted reaction the EU became a republic with one government. The change of the global political landscape required that EU member states decided a more solidary policy approach that could deliver a stronger united EU and ensure the EU as an important international player in the economic and geopolitical future.

The overall policy responsibility at European level became stronger to ensure the competitiveness of Europe in the world and economic, social and territorial cohesion within the EU.

In conducting its new role and deliver on these policy ambitions, the EU government have articulated itself strongly in relation to the EU territory (1) To ensure the EU territory is designed and set-up for future world competition and trade, (2) to modernise and integrate regional and urban policy dedicated to contribute to overall growth, inclusion and sustainability, and (3) to target structural investments much closer to the diverse potentials and challenges of different places in the effort to counteract regional imbalances.

Politically, the EU government devoted special attention to repair the revived gap and divide between the urban and rural areas that in fact triggered the now reversed nationalistic and protectionist political wave, also in the EU. More emphasis is today put on calibrating imbalances in living conditions between the urban and rural population and create mutual acceptance of life style differences of the European citizens in urban metropolises and in rural countryside.

This has made inner peripheries a clear new priority for territorial policy at all levels. To unite the urban and rural population, to ensure a reasonable balance of living conditions, to stimulate job creation and develop skills, to repair the divide in labour and property markets, and to integrate the rural population closer in society by giving easy-access to public services, also through extended use of new IT technological solutions, are among the measures taken in concrete actions. This together with gradual diminishing of the overall economic regional imbalances, between north and south, east and west, has led to a political trend towards valuing solidarity and openness higher than before.

The EU government decided to think long-term and in respect with the principle of subsidiarity to formulate an Economic and Territorial Strategy for the EU territory. This strategy closely couple economic and territorial policy aims and act as an overall reference framework for decisions with territorial impact as a kind of long-term vision of the desired future.

The overall strategic objectives are (1) to prepare the territory for increased economic world integration and trade, (2) to promote growth and job creation correlated to potentials of places, (3) improve economic and social cohesion and the well-being of citizens, and (4) to gradually diminish regional imbalances through a strong economic/territorial approach. In this context, new priorities and measures combining economic and territorial ambitions have been set compared to EU structural policy of the past.

The EU Economic and Territorial Strategy explicitly includes a vision for a balanced and polycentric EU territory where the many different places each perform on the potentials and play their positive role to the overall EU development. The vicinity of places in the settlement structure of Europe, with a powerful second and third tier of cities and towns, are recognised as a competitive advantage for the EU in relation to other world players.

In the elaboration process policy makers clearly rejected a territorial EU future concentrating activities and investments in the central parts and the largest urban centres as politically viable for a united EU. At that moment policy makers very influenced by the geographical footprint of US President election in 2016 which clearly showed a political divide between large urban agglomerations and rural territories.

Instead, policy makers expressed a clear priority for polycentric development meaning opting for a balanced development pattern where all parts of the EU and every large, medium and small city and rural territory has a specific role to fill.

The EU Economic and Territorial Strategy addresses overall EU territorial structures, and provide commitment and financial support to the development and exploration of the uniqueness of regions, urban and rural spaces. It promotes concrete, tailormade investment that fit the best to potentials existing in the place concerned. To understand these opportunities the EU territorial evidence base that had been developed over the years to inform the decision-making process plays an important role and have become obligatory to explore for getting EU funds.

The EU Economic and Territorial Strategy goes deep based on evidence into detailing the development potentials and comparative advantages of different parts of the EU, different types of regions and cities, their economic base and geographical context. It also highlights specific challenges that needs attention and action. It clearly requires national, regional and local stakeholders to cooperate as partners, be evidence-based and committed in supporting tailormade innovation and solutions that can unleash the place-based development and growth. The former era of a few general priority themes guiding structural policy intervention is now a thing of the past.

The strategy addresses world integration of the EU through a clear vision on where international links and connections will support the EU competitiveness the best, including exchange hubs for goods and people and trade routes of imports and exports and for efficient distribution networks within Europe.

The international nodes and links and the outward access and connectivity are closely coordinated with inward priorities for a sustainable transport infrastructure connecting urban nodes in the settlement structure and providing flexible, on demand transport services for rural population. For sure, there is a hierarchy of corridors and transport modes and not all places have the same service level of access, but connecting places in a well-functioning, multi-modal and efficient and environmental friendly network is a key priority for the EU government.  

IT development is foreseen to continue revolutionising key mechanisms of society and offer new opportunities for all territories, and of special importance for less urbanised and more remote places.  The territorial benefits of this opportunity have already been promoted at EU level to harvest and integrate technological advances in policies for social inclusion of citizens in less favourable places, both rural and urban. Dedicated research efforts are in motion to innovate the use of IT solutions related to the EU Economic and Territorial Strategy.

The environment has since long been and continues to be taken well into account by the EU. Networks of nature areas and parks, protection of biodiversity, sustainable use of eco-system services are among the assets which have added to the image of a green EU, attractive for foreign investments and visitors.

The territorial consequences of the ongoing climate change are taken very serious, where the negative impacts differ widely between parts of Europe and across regions. The national and regional capacity to deal with these impacts are still different. And opting for a balanced territory with good living conditions everywhere, the EU Economic and Territorial Strategy calibrates measures for climate change adaptation according to the expected impact and adaptive capacity of different places. A positive story is that the impact of change in temperature have triggered innovation and new development. Today, high quality wine is produced and of growing importance for the agricultural economy in regions where the climate 20 years ago did not allow for such production. 

The policy process leading to the EU Economic and Territorial Strategy involved substantial dialogue and was carefully designed to give room, responsibility and flexibility to EU sectors and to national, regional and local authorities to develop their territories. EU regulation fully respect subsidiarity corresponding to interest at the different administrative levels. However, the strategy does include long-term strategic investment projects of overall EU importance in line with the policy ambitions for the EU.

The EU Economic and Territorial Strategy shares ownership with sector policy partners and key private and public decision makers at EU level and around EU member States. This is also the result of a thorough process of dialogue that created a common platform for sector policy interventions with territorial impact.

Implementation mechanisms at EU level are designed to cross and use economic and territorial policy measures and are closely coupling national, regional and local public investments with European funds. Project selection focus is on harvesting economic, social and environmental progress based on what the territory, region, urban or rural area have as development assets and is good at.

In capturing development opportunities in the larger context, territorial cooperation arrangements are widely accepted and used as an important mean to gain added value collectedly from developing together across borders. Here examples are clusters of neighbouring cities, functional regions including urban and rural areas, cross-border/transnational areas and EU macro regions embarking in exploring comparative advantages and shape common strategies for developing their joint territory. A particular positive factor is the interest from the private sector actors in the cooperation.

The European level has become immanent for the further development of the EU in the changing world. At the same time, national, regional and local authorities need to have extended freedom to create tailor made strategies and take policy decisions fitting the wishes of the citizens and business community.

The obligatory requirement of thorough ex-ante analyses for achieving EU funds by using the existing, comparable territorial evidence adding information on the larger context is widely recognised as an advantage for spending tax-payers money and resources the best possible. Policy and project decisions are today clearly evidence based and monitoring of progress corresponding to the policy/project orientations made a management obligation.

The EU Economic and Territorial Strategy is showing that a clear long-term strategy helps policy makers from different policy areas by giving direction on what will happen where within the EU. It has added to investment security for both public and private bodies, and offered the private sector and EU citizens transparent information on what to expect. This has widely accepted that a balanced, efficient and inclusive territory and the development of attractive spaces for new activities and investments in countries, regions and local is to opt for.

The push by public authorities at all levels to promote qualities for all and attractiveness of places have also been recognised as a significant support to the attraction and competitiveness of the EU.

Sector responsible authorities are tuning their sector planning with the territorial strategy following the introduction of a territorial dimension in sector laws and promotion of a mindset seeing new opportunities for sector planning and decisions in an economic/territorial perspective.

The private sector, still operating within the logic of the market, have welcomed the clear policy directions of a long-term European Economic and Territorial Strategy. Being the biggest investor in society affecting territories, it is essential to create mutual support and win-win situations.

The EU Economic and Territorial Strategy has committed the EU to pursue stronger the aim of territorial cohesion. All levels of government, e.g. European, national, regional and local, have strategic roles and responsibility in gradually ensuring higher levels of territorial cohesion and balance in terms of economic development, and better social and environmental conditions.

Cooperation, public and public-private alliances driven by exploring comparative advantages and joining forces is flourishing. The public opinion is taken serious in the cooperation efforts to avoid a setback in the achieved political balance between urban and rural citizens.

The international ever changing political, economic and social prospects have convinced the EU citizens to keep the EU united and join forces to remain an important political and economic factor in the world of tomorrow, able of offering a high standard of living conditions for all EU citizens.

The remedy is strategic and includes territorial cohesion as a key policy arena for a balanced, competitive, inclusive and sustainable development path. The EU government is therefore fully committed to implementing the policy and has set up a coordination committee chaired by the Minister President involving all relevant ministers. The committee monitors policy implementation and suggest adjustments of the EU Economic and Territorial Strategy when needed. Nobody would 10 years ago have imagined that such a change could become reality.

by Peter Mehbye, former director of ESPON, now freelance consultant.
 
 

More sustainable and closer to the citizens (M. Erman)

... it would like a new US but with hopefully better ideas on sustainability and human rights! Such a Europe also would try hard to overcome all the inner problems and polarization forms such as urban-rural, center-periphery, poor-rich etc. It would be a place for a good life based on a long march away from historical conflicts and misunderstandings ... and the new Europe would be much closer to citizens' daily live and needs! 

by Michael Erman, spatial planner with German roots working since a long time in Stockholm, Sweden. Currently as regional planner at the Stockholm County Council.
 
 

Europe is not meant to be a nation in itself (M. Dragulin)

I think such a "nation Europe" would certainly be a more powerful military and economic force in the world, but some of the characteristics we value today may be difficult to maintain.

First, its "unity in diversity" slogan may be much more difficult to sustain. European countries always had problems integrating minorities, and this is seen now especially with the recent arrival of refugees. A "national Europe" could mean a more segregated Europe: some large ethnic minorities in certain countries that belong to other Member States (e.g. Hungarians in Romania) may find it easier and more convenient to move out, while economic migrants (e.g. Eastern Europeans in Western Europe, economic migrants in Luxembourg or the UK, etc) will have more incentives to return to their own countries if tax or pay discrepancies are cancelled. While a "nation Europe" might cancel current tensions such as in the Basque country, Catalonia or Scotland, it could lead, over time, to more homogeneous populations since the same rules/taxes/benefits/pensions/wages may hinder mobility.

Second, its democratic principles that we value today, despite their flaws, might be more in danger in a "nation Europe". Currently, the EU actively aims to positively discriminate minorities (e.g. by awarding smaller countries more seats in the EU Parliament, by targeting policies to protect certain groups like the Roma, etc), and this could often results in a tyranny of the minority scenario: one small country vetoing the agreement reached by the other 27. A "nation Europe" may lead to the opposite: a tyranny of the majority. For instance, a "nation Europe" could not operate, in the long run, in 24 or more languages, and therefore the current protection that minority languages (e.g. Maltese, Irish) benefit from might be reduced. For efficiency purposes, smaller languages might disappear.

Overall, I think Europe is not meant to be a nation in itself, given our past experiences, especially with the protection of minorities.

 
by Marius Dragulin, consultant evaluating EU policies through impact assessments, cost-benefit analyses or ex-ante/post evaluations, with 1.5 years of experience in the regional development sector, and for almost a year in broader single market policies. Originally he is from Romania, but lived in Italy, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the UK for the past 10 years. 
 
 

A European Community of Union and diversity (A. Gramillano)

1) Political and security level:

  • Elected president (for no longer than eight years)  and elected parliament
  • Integrated internal and external security (Army and border controls)
  • Local councils and direct consultation tools for citizens, provided that local councils also refer to the areas of the current cross-border regions

2) Cultural level:

  • One language in Europe. This is a necessary condition to create a community of citizens and an effective democracy. Increased investments to promote cultural diversity and immigrants inclusion.

3) Education and research:

  • European degree and a compulsory year through Erasmus (or similar) programme (from the secondary school to high school).
  • Unique system for research across Europe to ensure appropriate exchange of human resources and knowledge

4) Rights:

  • Same civil (e.g. citizenship, etc…), health rights and social benefits (minimum wage, unemployment benefits, parental leave…) across the borders

5) Economic and financial regulation:

  • Increased central financial regulations on the financial markets,
  • Harmonized taxation,
  • Common debt,
  • Public investment bank ensuring appropriate policy responses to crisis (in the lagging behind regions) or in alternative a monetary and financial system with regional flexibility

6) Diversity:

  • Europe should be perceived as the common reference.
  • Diversity should be the main asset / “atout” of the new Europe since the long and rich history and its own human, physical and social resources.
 
by Andrea Gramillano, consultant in programme evaluation, partner at t33 and professor at the University of Macerata in project cycle management.
 

About legitimacy and effectiveness (M. Marjanovic)

Usually, a more centralized political systems happen to be more effective in imposing political obligations than decentralized political formations. Therefore, having in mind numerous challenges Europe faces today, establishing the EU as a more centralized decision-making political entity with one government and one parliament would undoubtedly reflect its intention to achieve greater effectiveness in dealing with those issues, however, at the cost of reducing its political legitimacy.

It is hard to imagine that such initiative would come from the ground level, i.e. from Member States, but instead, one would assume that the Commission, which has the strongest right of initiative among all EU bodies, would exercise its political power in order to establish a more effective decision-making system. However, the legitimacy is not a stake the Commission would likely use to bargain with. Why? Well, if nothing else, the EU experience so far shows that Member States are not yet ready to completely accept imposed obligations with acquiescence, regardless of their justifiability. This is especially true for these troubled times the Europe of today faces, when its political legitimacy is questioned more often than ever. In that sense, one should understand that only a legitimate political power can be successfully exercised, i.e. if the imposing authority, the EU in this case, does not have enough legitimacy, even justified decisions cannot be taken as genuine political obligations, and thus, will not be obeyed. Therefore, it is far more likely that the EU will take the opposite course of action and focus on decisions that will aim to improve its tarnished legitimacy.

This legitimacy comes from the ground level, i.e. it is not inherent to the formal structure of the EU as Europe’s main political formation, but it is generated by the will of the European people to contribute to the idea of Europe. In that sense, nowadays it becomes more and more evident that Europe needs more Europeanization than EUropeanization. This means that the EU should not impose more hard rules and other formal institutional arrangements (e.g. creation of a single European state) in order for people to “think European”, but it should undertake softer actions that instigate learning process and development of common European values in order for Europeans to contribute to the idea of Europe – by legitimising the actions of the EU. In other words, giving sense to thought and action should be its only approach for achieving more legitimacy.  People often say “where there is a will, there’s a way” and that is exactly the rationale the EU should base its actions on.

To conclude, everything the EU is and what will be, depends on what people want it to be. Therefore, establishing the EU as a single republic will be deemed to failure as long as there is not enough political will among Europeans to support this action.

by Marjan Marjanovic, MSc in Spatial Planning & MSc Candidate PLANET Europe (Radboud University & Blekinge Institute of Technology).

Dream a little dream of Europe (M. Toptsidou)

from Europe daily, 25 March 2057

As “the beginning of a new era in modern European history” characterised the new European Union cabinet the formulation of the European Union Republic. Hundred years after the ratification of the Rome Treaty and almost fourty years after the beginning of the efforts, the European Union turns the most important page in its history. Thousands of Europeans gathered today in Brussels to welcome the first European government and applause the new parliamentarians. “The citizens that are here today deserve all the credits for this historic step”, continued the new European Union Prime Minister. Indeed, the initiative to form the European Union Republic derived bottom up, from all European citizens who went on the streets asking for more integration, asked for a pan-European referendum and voted for more democracy, more solidarity and more union, persuading their national politicians that the time for a change has come. It all started some decades ago, when EU was at the edge of its collapse struggling with several parallel crises. It was that time when the foundations and the core ideas of the EU were questioned. Financial and social crisis, the refugee crisis and the dominance of national solutions to European challenges.

Europe made today the world talking about this new development and question remains how other countries will react. Although some discussions on the necessary changes in the former Union were initiated already after 2020, it was not until thirty years later that the European citizens and political powers felt ready for such a shaking of the status quo. In the next days the composition of the new Parliament will be formed and the new ministers will be announced. The ministries will cover all European policies and be mandated to the politicians from all regions, which have been directly elected by the Europeans. The tasks of the new government for the next years are all but easy; negotiating about its former Member States’ debts, starting the discussions for B-REnter, developing the first common European history curriculum, establish student and professional exchanges, work on a better asylum policy and develop further the European defense policy.

To conclude, we quote the last words of the Prime Minister’s speech, who seems optimistic: “Today we did the first enormous step in our common European history. A step that takes the ideas of the European Union, which its founding fathers have dreamt, to a new level. We embraced our diversity. We respected our differences. We made mistakes, but we acknoledged them and took our lesson. But most important: We listened to our people. And our people showed us the way to go forward. This is just our first page to write. There are definitely more pages and chapters to write; together. Because only together, we stand. Thank you."

by Maria Toptsidou, member of the Spatial Foresight team.
 

Need for a fundamentally reformed EU (B. Lindström)

EU developments during the last 10 years have become increasingly crisis prone: Financial crisis, Euro crisis, geopolitical stress (Russia), Brexit, statehood demands from the Union’s stateless nations and peoples (e.g. Scotland, Catalonia) and the seemingly unsolvable refugee crisis. EU's inability to manage these crises has highlighted the urgent need for a fundamental reform of the Union’s political structure. The root of the problem is that EU lacks the necessary political competence, resources and democratic legitimacy to solve Europe-wide crises which can only be tackled at the trans-national level. The result is a disturbing inability to act effectively on major political issues in combination with an ever growing (top-down) regulation of the legislation governing the Europeans’ daily lives.

The cause of this failure is the political structure of the Union. The Member States (MS) have retained sovereignty over most of the major social, economic and geopolitical issues whose solution requires concerted European actions. Moreover, they refuse to abandon their rights to promote their national interests when it comes to the big political issues. European cooperation has therefore, by and large, been confined to the citizens’ “everyday issues” - the policy area that is least suited for large-scale European solutions.

The inability to cope with major European crises and growing popular discontent with the detailed EU-regulation of local and everyday issues, have highlighted the dysfunctional division of powers between the Union’s various decision levels. The combination of jealousy guarded MS sovereignty and EU-power over a growing number of “low policy” areas has created a complex structure of checks and balances which are profoundly unbalanced. Despite the fact that the MS have ceded parts of their sovereignty to the EU, the balance is still very much in favour of the MS.

The ability to handle today's big European, indeed global, challenges has not been improved by the fact that the EU is a union of sovereign states whose "territorial integrity" is firmly located outside of the Union's policy-making power. Several MS contains territorial minorities, autonomous regions and stateless nations which are excluded from the EU's main decision-making bodies. Instead, they are (indirectly) represented by MS that they do not feel at home in, and therefore not always accept as their representatives in the EU. Since these groups generally are in favour of a politically stronger EU, the Union loses important political support. Even worse, this also contributes to increased political tensions and fragmentation within the European territory. The lack of available political options at the European level encourages growing separatist movements among Europe's territorial minorities and stateless peoples.

The EU and, what is worse, policies aiming at a politically and socially more integrated Europe are increasingly questioned. The Union faces growing democratic legitimacy problems and a populist EU-scepticism that has led to the British withdrawal from the Union. The current crisis, however, can also become a catalyst for structural changes that are necessary in order to secure a politically sustainable future European Union. We need a fundamentally reformed EU that has the political legitimacy and decision-making powers to successfully tackle those major political, social and economic problems that require common European solutions. We need not, however, a Union where EU-regulations penetrate the everyday lives of citizens and their businesses in a way which is not properly adapted to national and local conditions. What we need is a Union that expands its ability to solve today's and tomorrow's major European challenges, while scaling down its regulation of the citizens' everyday life and, not least, strengthens the political voices of the Union's many territorial minorities and stateless people

by Bjarne Lindström, independent consultant. He has held the position as senior consultant at Sweco Society Ltd, Stockholm. During his professional career, he has been working as a regional planner, lecturer, researcher and policy advisor. He has been the director of Statistics and Research Åland, assistant professor at the Department of Regional Planning, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm and the director of the Nordic Institute of Regional Research in Stockholm/Copenhagen.
 

Europe as voluntary macro-regional body (M. Prezioso)

The EU needs a new flexible cohesive organisation in order to re-launch its competitive role in the global context. The geo-economic and geopolitical discourse highlights, both in theory and in practice, macro-region exercises as a high and free democratic cooperation voluntary exercise towards this goal, able to sustain polycentrism and integration forms between cities and place. This type of region is developing close complementary relations within flexible boundaries, as well as rigid roles in managing consensus. Anyway, it is not a static body, but a dynamic system using cross capability to make innovative political synergy respecting single territorial identities.

A macro-region as voluntary body is resilient facing the crisis, stressing Cohesion Policy and shared balanced sustainable projects (i.e. by high capacity building, integrated spatial planning, multilevel governance, etc.) adopting common tools, instruments and processes (TIA, social inclusion, digital, migration, climate change, infrastructure, accessibility, etc.). It plays a game as a whole at EU political level to catch funds and investments.

Indicators and indices cover the measure of macro-regional territorial dimension as complex body: cohesion, sustainability, competitiveness, resilience, metropolitanisation, urban-rural, etc.; making macro-region a support for an integrated regional perspective in Europe (Paneuropean and new regionalism vision). The large number of European macro-regions seems to confirm this thesis, in Italy too within the Structural reforms framework.

In a post 2020 scenario, the macro-regional lesson is developing as a tentative test for making Europe as a whole of political (new regionalised) flexible units, stressing the importance of territorial integration and boundary adaptability. Place-based solutions at metropolitan and urban-rural level sustain this hypothesis at level by STeMA TIA application, which include impacts on Cohesion Policy and funds, and their relations with the Reforms. The result reduces the number of regions and metropolitan cities compared with the government political proposal.

New lexicon and contents emerge with regards to the geographical concept of region in Europe. It should weight on the European Financial Policy making more significant anti-austerity measures (i.e. the 2014 Junker Investiment Plan and 2015-2016 Mario Draghi’s Quantitative Easing policy). In macro-region light, territorial investments are able to play a major role in combating the economic crisis and, at the same time, paving the way for a stable and balanced development.

by Maria Prezioso, Full Professor of Economic and Political Geography and Economics and Territorial planning with more than 30 years of experience in theory and practice.
 

3 Spanish reflections (J. Molina)

1)

La diversidad ideológica en los estados de la UE viene generando una absoluta falta de pluralidad y una discriminación hacia los sectores políticos no gobernantes. Esto hace que se produzca que los grupos no pertenecientes al partido en el poder sufran durante largos periodos legislativos el rechazo de la administración del estado en deterioro de sus derechos a la igualdad de oportunidades.

Se hace cada vez más necesario que las directrices de la UE y de la Comisión Europea sean de obligado cumplimiento por los estados miembros y sean respetados los derechos de igualdad de oportunidades de todos los ciudadanos europeos. Se ha de acabar con el proteccionismo partidista.

2)

La UE nunca podrá consolidarse hasta tanto en cuanto los fondos para  los proyectos de interés general no sean canalizados como fondos finalistas a cada proyecto y no de forma global a los estados miembros. Gobiernos como el español vienen mostrando un absoluto desprecio hacia aquellos proyectos que no emanen desde sus entorno ideológico. De esta forma, proyectos que podrían ayudar  en la construcción de una verdadera Europa unida duermen el sueño eterno en los archivos de cada estado.

3)

Necesitamos con toda urgencia una Constitución para todos, un solo gobierno, una sola defensa y un poder ejecutivo cuyas leyes y normas sean de obligado cumplimiento para todos los paises miembros.

by Jenaro Molina, President of the European Confederation of Municipalities and Regions COFEMR, for more than 20 years.
 

Focus on common European values (A. Montán)

In this republic, the political debate would focus first of all on European issues. All the social, economical and political issues would be judged against the common values of the EU. And therefore, if there was some challenge not correctly managed by the European government according to those values, the media, the citizens and the opposition at the EP would make pressure to make the government change the position.

We would also have great charismatic European politicians that represent the political trends of the Europeans and that animate the political debate (including suggesting European solutions for the EU-wide challenges). There may be some nationalist, too, but the majority would focus on political positions, not territorial ones.

The institutional system would be adapted to that reality and make it possible for European politics to work effectively. However, the starting point should not be the system, but the existence of European leaders that would take forward the political debate and help shape the common European values.

by Amparo Montán, senior consultant at Spatial Foresight, specialised on capacity building. Previously, she had been working for Interreg and Interact programmes for 12 years and involved in European issues since her studies.
 

Decentralised powers to turn diversity into an opportunity (S. Reinhart)

The key asset of the EU is its diversity. It needs to be turned into an opportunity. Decentralised powers and decision making remain an important factor and should be strengthened as a counterpart to increasing centralised competences.

by Simone Reinhart, geographer, urban planner, policy advisor
 

Solidarity, Subsidiarity and Plurality in a Federal Europe of the Future (C. Walsh)

The financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath exposed severe structural inequities within the European Union and revealed the very low level of solidarity among Member States at a governmental level. In particular, it is evident that wealthier Member States such as Germany have benefited from the financial crisis and existing patterns of uneven regional economic development in Europe. For countries and societies at the western, southern and eastern peripheries of Europe it has become evident that the priorities of ‘Europe’ lie in maintaining investor confidence, balancing the books and a speedy return to business as usual and positive GDP growth rates, with scant regard for the costs to society. A progressive federal Europe must be built on principles of solidarity, cohesion and subsidiarity in decision-making. This implies a fundamental recognition of democratic values and the assertion of a European Social Model beyond the borders of nation-states.

The more recent migration crisis and associated shift towards right-wing politics across Europe has compounded the conviction of limited solidarity among nation-states and the perception that national interests take precedence. However, the migration crisis also challenges some of the key concepts at the core of the European project, including the notions of European integration, European identity and European values. A progressive federal Europe requires an articulation of solidarity that is non-exclusive and does not stop at the political borders of Europe, an understanding of European identity that is dynamic, flexible and open and a non-essentialist discourse on European values which is inherently pluralist and respects the values held by societies and cultures outside the boundaries of Europe. Imagining a progressive Europe of the future is about much more than political structures of governance. It requires an intensification of dialogue both within and beyond the borders of Europe and substantive debate on the governance of space and place in an interconnected post-national world.

by Cormac Walsh, researcher and lecturer at Hamburg University, Institute for Geography with research interests in spatial planning, coastal and environmental management, territorial cohesion and cross-border cooperation.
 

A United Europe would back winners (C. Hague)

The new United Europe (including Turkey) would be an attempt to regroup at a spatial scale beyond the one at which the old EU and its member states had failed economically. Successive enlargements had sought to retain the Union’s share of global population and economic development in the face of the international competition, particularly from the USA and Asia. While countries remained fixed in space, finance became ever more mobile, aided first by deregulation and opening of markets, followed by the end of the Cold War, and then by the technological changes of the past 25 years. It was not the “Super State” aspirations of the EU that weakened the old nation states and their parliaments, but the global power of capital. United Europe would be the only way to restore global competitiveness.  

Europe as a single territory would seek to be “competitive”, “open for business”, and “business friendly”,  euphemisms that are already familiar and underpin EU negotiation of treaties such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. Similarly, the Stability and Growth Pact puts financial orthodoxy and risk reduction for banks above territorial cohesion and Keynesian economic options. This would be the trajectory for the new Europe.

So a United Europe would back winners. It would invest in infrastructure to ensure the connectivity of its major urban areas. With the UK now an offshore competitor and tax haven, investment would be poured in to Paris or Frankfurt. Together with “light regulation” and risk reducing guarantees to banks headquartering there, the aim would be to grow the European financial hub, complete with its own ever-expanding number of airports and ring roads.

A United Europe, with its seat on the Security Council, and self-image as a global leader, would be unable to resist the allure of becoming a major military power. This would provide a large home market for armaments and military equipment, including naval vessels to patrol the extensive seas. These industries are likely to be highly automated but still provide some high skill jobs, and probably build on traditional centres of expertise in these fields.

One issue the new Europe would confront would be energy policy. I would expect the construction of a truly European grid; the market opportunities it would create would be sold off to Chinese investors, thus providing a quick boost to Paris or Frankfurt in their competition with London. Would renewables be a key part of the energy mix? That might depend on the global oil price, and concerns for energy security. In losing the UK, some of the best areas for on- and off-shore wind go too, and so do areas with great potential for tidal energy. If there were any prospect of stability in North Africa, it might be cheaper to import cheap solar energy from there.

The drain of people, and especially the young and educated from the countryside would continue. Agricultural policy would continue to fund major landowners and particularly benefit some of the richer regions. Peripheral and remote regions would become increasingly depopulated; shrinking cities would continue to shrink, housing those without the language skills to move to jobs elsewhere.

Migrants from outside Europe would be a way of holding down labour costs and thus increasing competitiveness. There would be some “first destination dispersal” policy if it was seen as politically necessary, but the rights to free movement would automatically follow after a period of residence. However, with the whole migration process would be planned and demonstrably “under control”, with designated entry points at borders with non-EU countries (maybe Calais for migrants from the UK, for example).

There would be some devolution of budgets to the old member states, to allow them to run services like social welfare, health and education, provided these were purchased from private providers.

by Cliff Hague, former UK ESPON Contact Point, Professor Emeritus in Spatial Development and Planning, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Chartered Town Planner, and Fellow of the Academy of Social Science.
 

7 key points for one Europe (A. Valenza)

1) One single European army and national civil defense corps (like US).
2) One single foreign policy.
3) One compulsory year of military or civil service. It will be done in an other country and it provides 'priority' to access jobs at European Institutions and Agencies. it will also count as bonus for acessing university in an other European country.
4) European minimum / citizenship wage.
5) European single fiscal threshold for multinational.
6) EBRD became the EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT BANK and manage part of the cohesion policy.
7) Erasmus for local politicians.


by Alessadnro Valenza, senior expert in European studies and evaluation, with a strong background in regional policies and a solid experience in leading studies covering EU-28. Currently team leader of a European team providing technical assistance to the fi-compass platform. Partner of t33, he founded the company in 2007 and covered the position of director until 2014.

 

A supranational Europe organised on a federal basis (M. Ciavavrini Azzi)

A supranational Europe, organised on a federal basis where limited competences would be dealt only at a supranational level, with supranational institutions. These competencies should be: Foreign and security policy; Defence policy (with a European army); Economic and Monetary policy. Shared competences between the EU and the Member States (MS), and competences at the MS level, following the principle of subsidiarity.

One supranational government with decision-making capacity, and one parliament with two chambers: the representatives of the citizens (elected through a European vote and transnational lists) and the representatives of the MS. 

A European space with freedom of circulation, one tax system for all Europe, one passport, one European insurance scheme, one European citizenship with similar rights for everybody, one car plate, one tax circulation, .....

By Michele Ciavavrini Azzi, Legal Officer at the European Commission.
 

Europe Reason - Europe Emotion - Utopia of Europe (P. Sousa)

The challenge is thriving, will certainly leave important marks and tracks for the evaluation of the pro-European thinking trend. Whenever I reflect on the space and the peoples of Europe, I see three distinct realities, as challenging as seductive:
Europe Reason
Europe Emotion
The Utopia of Europe

The trend is towards a deep skin Europe run, more emotional than rational, creating a deepening division between peoples, regions, countries. Not Even Europe's Utopia so propor of the new generations seem to hold up in the whirlwind created by the lack of political vision that would be expected of someone who knows well the effects of the absence of strong leadership.

Take for good, the hypothesis raised: one of the pillars underpinning the construction of a Europe - a government - one parliament - is a consequence of what we can do in the first place to create three statutes: the European citizen, the cohesion and integrated regional vision and the internal and external affirmation of European policy. I do not think it is easy to reach a territorial unit or that there is motivation to fight for a prestigious status of European citizens and not this or that country, nor the construction policy able to aim a supranational recognition status to eliminate or minimize the adverse impacts of national sovereignties.

On the contrary, shattered the prospects of statements pillars, and a European model with a tendency to disintegrate, Europe will tend to be in the future and in a first phase, such as Northern Europe, Southern Europe and Central Europe, adding each of the parts, a negotiation and conciliation management model, giving a weakness to each of the spaces. In a second time, it will be clear the preponderance for a stimulus to the fragmentation of each of the blocks, the result of a trend that already now is manifested in various regions of Europe that claim their autonomy and independence. Europe has been the privileged space of the regions and will return to be. The unification of the territory and the sovereignty of states always forgot the universal pillar of the rights of people made over the centuries and this contributed to the not forgotten.

If we think of the existence of a single government and a single parliament, as suggested in the study hypothesis, and without that, we watch the stated breakdown, Europe may have hybrid base type of government; ie, it is expected that one of the next revolutions still in Technological limbo- be able to harness the interests of artificial intelligence, giving it a place and a status in terms of their increasing autonomy. It means, essentially, to understand the technological processes as suitable to contribute to the decisions that affect the economic daily management, and social policy of the European area. Recognize, accept and work together will be the key words of this process. This hybrid management space, if became recognized, will be one of the most powerful tools for the future of Europe, combining the legitimacy of the popular vote with the increasing globalization of Artificial Intelligence and its presence in the daily life of each. Surely we walked to the institutionalization of technological processes, so it is legitimate to argue that only a part of the power of the future government and the European Parliament will be human. Nothing that should scare, but it must integrate the future vision and the mechanisms that will endure it.

By Paulo Sousa, currently work in integrated management systems in public sector company in the city of Braga, Portugal, working also as a researcher in the development of associated concepts will intelligent management of cities (not to be confused with smart cities) and preparation currently a course on Integrated Risk vision in the University of Minho business school aimed at employees of small and medium-sized enterprises region.
 

A sovereign European federation (D. Rossetti di Valdalbero)

A sovereign European federation

Download article here. 

By Domenico Rossetti di Valdalbero, Secretary General of the Belgian section of the Union of European Federalists.
 

A post-nationalistic cosmopolitan Europe of communities (A. Ulied)

I imagine the Europe of Zweig, Kundera, or Magris. A Cosmopolitan Europe in which communities that consider themselves a nation do not need to be unified in a single or different state to protect their cultural identity,  and already existing states do no need to become a single nation, culturally uniform. The identification of nation and state was a European modern invention, fully developed in the firsts decades of the 20th Century - a social engineering project possible because of radio and new mass communication and official propaganda, mandatory public education and military service imposed to youngsters. Two major wars in 1914 and 1940 destroyed most of Europe but helped very much to reinforce nationalism, paradoxically. A Cosmopolitan Europe is one in which internal political borders are mostly instrumental at all levels (state, regional, municipal) and can easily be modified to improve the efficiency of public administrations (increasingly linked to networked cooperation). The fragmentation of Europe in old political borders resulting from peace agreements made many decades ago by our grandfathers, has enormous costs, and reduce the wellbeing of our children. The result of the UK referendum, were large majority of youngsters and most urban population voted "Remain" - but they lost, clearly illustrates the debate where we are today in Europe. Europe - a post-nationalistic, cosmopolitan Europe, remains as our ultimate utopia. Is not inevitable, however, and will not likely happen by itself gradually driven by elites. Needs a popular movement - today very much unlikely, in favour.

By Andreu Ulied, Dr Eng and Partner-Director MCRIT.
 

Need to think outside the box of democratic institutions (A. Faludi)

Taken literally, one European republic with one government and one parliament taking all important decisions would be unreal. A fraction of the size and complexity of the EU, its largest member Germany is not of this kind. It is a federation, and so are others. Even a unitary republic like France features partly overlapping political, administrative and functional administrations. In fact, if not always in theory, decisions are shared horizontally and vertically, and some functional administrations even reach across borders. The picture that emerges is one of a cloud of overlapping institutions, including in the French case cross-border cooperation under European territorial cooperation between French Guyana and Brazil. The Grand Region around Luxembourg serves as another illustration.

Decision-making in the one European republic would be equally diffuse. Soit would be difficult to identify the important political decisions that need to be taken by its one government and one parliament. Federal constitutions attempt to do divide competences according to their presumed importance, but reality is more complex, leading to cooperative forms of federalism attempting to deal with complex, interdependent issues. But where levels of government can hold each other to ransom, there can also be stalemate.

Would it be at all feasible, therefore, for one European Parliament – surely not as presently constituted, but that’s not the issue – to take all important decisions on behalf of the European republic? No! All experience points to decision-making having to be shared. It would have to be shared with entrenched territorial administrations like member states and maybe some new territorial configurations. But, even more so than is the case now, this Europe would also feature functional administrations, some with a reach, as at present some have already, beyond the European republic’s borders.

Digressing for a moment, spatial planning in the European republic would have to be cooperative, too, transgressing, as spatial relations do, internal as well as external borders. Borders would have to be even less restrictive than now, and territorial governance would have to be tailor-made, and thus complex. There would be much to do for planners, but they should abjure the idea of one overall plan articulating one neat, overall spatial order for the space of the one European republic with clearly marked borders separating the inside as the one to be planned from the outside to be left to its own devices.

To return to the one government and the one parliament taking between them all the important political decisions on behalf of the one European republic, given all the above, in fact both would have to work closely with other governments and parliaments and also with non-territorial institutions. These comprise civic groups, functional representations, international non-governmental organisations, not only within the EU’s borders, but where relevant also outside. But how about the accountability of the one government and one parliament of the European  republic to its voters?

Here comes the gist of my view of such a future republic, in fact all republics. The basic idea of a republic is that executives and representatives should be accountable to their voters. The outside is seen as an anarchic field, in any case not as relevant to the production of democratic legitimacy. This no longer fits an interdependent Europe in an interdependent world. So we have to think outside the box of democratic institutions tailor-made for a neatly partitioned world. At peril of re-kindling nationalism, and also inter-state conflict in its wake, we should devote our energies to rethinking democratic legitimacy in a world, not without borders, but with many overlapping borders marking many overlapping territories.

By Andreas Faludi, professor of planning, the grand old man of European planning.
 

A single democratically representative and locally present parliament (T. Wills)

Why is there a greater focus on national solutions? Presumably because the current set up with the European Commission and European Parliament is not relevant to most everyday lives. If it is, then people do not understand the connection.

A single parliament would have to be democratically representative and far more 'locally present' to be accepted. Any disconnect would lead to resentment of 'faceless bureaucrats' and fears of a big brother society.

Traditional political parties may not predominate, but rather loose alliances of more independent members would be based on individual issues.

The legislative process would be incredibly complex as would ensuring the resources to have well-informed debates without relying on special interest groups that could easily distort the discussion.

It is time for greater involvement, so well done for starting the discussion.

By Tim Wills, freelance, editing and training for the fi-compass project, encouraging better use of EU taxpayers' money through financial instruments. Multilingual, multicultural immigrant, father of triplets, avid motorcyclist, Economist addict and occasional blogger.

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