This week Britain faces a defining choice about our relationship with the EU. The hope, imagination and compassion we so desperately needed have been drowned out by fear, xenophobia and racism. The EU referendum gave Britain the chance to have a more hopeful and ambitious discussion about the Europe we really want: one that is much more equal, sustainable and democratic – a good Europe. While the mainstream debates squandered this precious opportunity, the report ‘Building a Good Europe’ draws together positive, imaginative perspectives. It explores visions for a good Europe, radical yet feasible policies and how we make change happen.
Whether Britain votes to remain or leave, the issue of what sort of Europe we want will not go away. We will all still face issues of mass migration, climate change and European and global financial crises. Britain in Europe will always be a geographic and cultural reality.
At every crisis the mood music of the European establishment feels as if it simply wants to return to the certainty of the past, to manage the fallout – not transform the system to shift to a new Europe of the 21st century. There is no normal to be returned to. The EU of today is a halfway house, trapped between a past it cannot leave behind and a future it refuses to grasp.
This cannot be just a project of the European Union but must be the Project of Europe. Not a bureaucratic construct, administration, commission, council or parliament – but a continent-wide expression of what it means to be human in the 21st century.
Radical, feasible policies
We need transformative policy ideas that could lead to a fundamental transformation of the EU in the 21st century.
Democracy is the biggest weakness of the European project, yet also its potential deliverer. The EU must deepen democratic practices – and fast. We should insist that democratic legitimacy is the axis on which the EU turns. A good Europe must adopt democracy as its founding value – and be open to a number of key changes this will bring. The EU must become more transparent; European Parliament, EU Council and other meetings should be live recorded and all treaty documents should be made public. We need to move beyond representation to direct participation. A Constitutional Assembly drawing citizens from across the continent should consider all the options for democracy in the EU and make recommendations or decisions.
The European project embodies the flourishing of potential that can be achieved when a commitment to the free movement of people across national borders is implemented. Yet misguided policies and a lack of coordination at the European level have led to many problems. We must have renewed coordination and solidarity between the member states and with migrant populations, to find policies which are more sustainable and lead to better outcomes for all. We should look at issues at all levels, starting with creating conditions where people don’t feel they have to leave their country to have a good life, for example, a universal income for all in Europe. We should implement a rights-based refugee response, and create a social rights pillar to improve national employment and social policies. Throughout all discussions on migration we must face up to, and tackle, issues including othering, racism and Islamophobia.
Europe works on a scale that provides a stepping stone between the national and the global – a vital role for the environment and sustainability. Europe must work harder to be more sustainable. The EU has influence at many levels, from consumer behaviour change and corporate social responsibility (CSR) for real to Green Quantitative Easing (GQE) which channels money directly into the green and low-carbon sector of the real economy.
Few people believe that Europe is safe from any future financial crisis, or that the EU’s economy is performing as well as it could be. However, the EU can deliver reforms that would not be possible for individual countries such as promoting a more diverse eco-system of bank business models in Europe and establishing a Europe-wide authority to regulate financial transactions, developing a more networked approach.
Making change happen
When dreaming of our new vision for a Good Europe and fleshing out the policies that will help us get there we must consider how change happens. Making change happen is never simple or easy but when dealing with a set of transnational institutions it becomes very complex. We cannot simply look to one tactic, institution, party or ‘silver bullet’ policy.
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Sovereignty has long escaped national borders and is never coming back. Power and politics have been separated. As tough as it is, we have to create transnational democratic, political and economic platforms if we are to take back any control over our lives, societies and planet. Ensuring that the public benefits from platforms such as Google, YouTube and Facebook is particularly pertinent. The issue is how to take back control: bilaterally or multilaterally? Europe was the crucible of modern democracy and the nation state. It must again become a laboratory of democratic experiment fit for these new times of networks and globalisation.
It is time to start shaping a different Europe: a good Europe. On 24 June, whatever the result, we must rise to that challenge.
Read and share the full report: ‘Building a Good Europe’
Posted also at Open Democracy