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Debate: EU federalism

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Is EU federalization a good idea? Should the EU become the United States of Europe?

Background and context

EU is currently about to ratify the Lisbon Treaty - a treaty usually perceived as a first step to the federalization of Europe. The question is, whether the European Union should implement a system involving the loss of national vetoes, while considerably strengthening the powers of the EU Commission, introduce direct Europe-wide elections for an EU Federal Government with a President like the U.S. model. And if so, would that benefit ordinary citizens? Would that benefit Europe as a whole?

Contents

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Is it justifiable to give away the national sovereignty of the European states?

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Pro

  • National sovereignty is a relic. At the time of globalization, at the time when international relations are becoming more and more complicated, the view of state sovereignty - the supremacy of political power a nation has over its own actions - is eroding as our elected leaders are giving away their nations' sovereignty by placing more and more authority in supranational organizations like the UN which are not accountable to voters. New international actors have risen as a result of improved communications and transportation. Multiple channels of communications, which involve numerous transnational alliances, are making the essential borders of sovereignty obsolete.
  • International cooperation is sometimes of greater importance. There indeed are some burning issues and problems that can´t be tackled without international cooperation (such as global warming, spread of diseases...). International cooperation effectively means giving authority and power to a legislative body, a council, or an organization - which means that the concept of national state is watered down.
  • Enlargement is too far already. Some claim that the EU has reached the effective extent of its capability to enlarge - with most Eastern European states outside the EU being entirely, mostly or partially Russian-oriented in their policy (Belarus, Ukraine...), or considered (by some) un-European, such as Turkey, Israel and the Caucus or Balkan nations. The only way to for the EU to develop would be to deepen.


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Con

  • National sovereignty is not obsolete. National sovereignty is essential for one's self-determination, it is an inseparable component of a nation's culture, a value of great importance for individuals.
  • National governments are more effective. The more authority international governing bodies, organizations and institutions have, the less can they afford to "bother" with local problems and thus the less effective problem-solving procedure is applied. Not fully understanding local tensions, burning issues in one particular area can in the long term bring great harm to the citizens of the whole federation as one spark can set ablaze a much larger fire than a federal government can possibly imagine.
  • Europe should be wider, not deeper in its political development. Peace and prosperity can be most successfully enhanced by the accession of all European states to the EU. Given the former-communist, Soviet-dominated past of many of these states, it seems unlikely they would once again give their independence away. Enlargement has already been greatly delayed by the EU’s focus upon the creation of a single currency in the 1990s, it may be lost altogether if deeper integration becomes the new priority.


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Is the federalization of Europe going to benefit Europe economically?

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Pro

  • "Taming" multinationals In a globalised economy, there is a need to tame multinational corporations, which would be otherwise capable of playing national governments off against each other in search for low wages, social costs and state protection. A federal Europe would be powerful enough to demand high standards of behaviour from such companies, because only a powerful and economically significant player can dictate restricting conditions. This would ensure fair wages, safe working conditions and - additionally - Europe would be able to force the multinational companies to implement correct and holistic policies regarding the environment and thus make a greater difference on environmental issues such as global warming.
  • A unified European market has trade benefits The EU Single Market has brought major benefits to businesses, consumers and employees alike. Border controls have been abolished, cutting costs to business and speeding up the physical movement of goods and people across the Union. Standards have been harmonised for hundreds of products, producing a level playing field for manufacturers across the EU, regardless of where they are based. And “mutual recognition” of goods produced in one member of the Single Market by all the others means that if a product is good enough to be sold in one country, it cannot be excluded from sale in another. The overall effect has been to turn the EU into a “domestic” market for all citizens. Federalization can help increase progress in all these areas, bringing benefits and opportunities to consumers and businesses.


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Con

  • Blind decisions There is a possibility that once a federation, Europe will adopt certain policies that might be harmful for a minority of the member states. In consequence, any economic downturn in those states could manifest itself on a larger scale in the United States of Europe as economies of the member states rely (more than ever) on each other.
  • Decentralization decreases economic progress "Centralised states bad for economy" Free Europe. Tuesday, 19 May 2009 European countries where regions have more powers and responsibilities in terms of taxation, legislation and education policies tend to do better economically than centralised ones. Centralism hammers development of countries at the cost of its citizens.
  • Different states may not contribute equally States, because inducements to cooperate or threats to punish may be low, fail to provide for the collective benefit, therefore essentially "passing the buck" to other states, and most frequently to the most economically powerful participants. Citizens of large states like France, Great Britain, and Germany frequently complain that smaller states are not paying their "fair share" of the costs of the European Union. Meanwhile, smaller states may complain that they are overlooked or even disregarded because of their economically weaker status. These issues will be exacerbated in a European federation.


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Is the federalization of Europe going to benefit Europe politically?

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Pro

  • Greater influence. Once unified, Europe will become an (even more) important negotiating and trading partner; among the biggest economies in the world. It will have a population of 450 million – more than the United States and Russia combined. It will be the world’s biggest trader and generate one quarter of global wealth. It presently gives more aid to poor countries than any other donor. Its currency, the euro, comes second only to the US dollar in international financial markets. France, Germany, Poland - these countries can hardly ever negotiate something with giants such as the US or China. Europe as one country stands a better chance of putting its message across effectively.
  • European Institutions will be strengthened Europe has a common civil service (the European Commission), a single High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, a common European Security and Defence Policy, a supreme court (European Court of Justice — but only in matters of European Union law), a peacekeeping force (Eurofor), and an intergovernmental research organisation (the EIROforum with members like CERN). Political unification will make these institutions more powerful, relevant, effective and meaningful.


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Con

  • Potential political problems of integration Beyond economics, political integration might give rise to a whole new set of problems, including determining a method of resolving political problems and/or crises; the form, control, and oversight of some form of regional managing board and/or political apparatus; immigration management; border crossing, policing, and national defense coordination. Political integration is more problematic than economic integration, as it necessitates some form of coordination and uniformitization/standardization among states with disparate cultures and languages.
  • No political will or support for the federation Euroscepticism is highest in Latvia, the United Kingdom, and Hungary, with only 25%–32% viewing membership as a good thing. Belief that the citizen's country has benefited from EU membership is lowest (below 50%) in the UK, Hungary, Latvia, Italy, Austria, Sweden and Bulgaria. A significant minority (36%) do not tend to trust the European Parliament. The European Parliament does not command the same sense of respect as national Parliaments, nor the connection with ordinary people. Eurobarometer Survey 2009.
  • Loss of UN Seats. If the EU did indeed become one country, then a major democratic, liberal voting block in international institutions such as the UN would be lost, in return for one vote (for an incredibly powerful state). Due to the UK and France, both EU members and also UN Security Council permanent members (UNSC P5 - along with the US, China and Russia), and with Germany (G4 - along with India, Japan and Brazil) hopeful to gain a seat in the future, removal of these nations from the UNSC would leave it open to greater sway by American, Russian or Chinese influence. As it is, the UK and France provide a powerful voting bloc in the SC. (Italy has offered the plan of a revolving seat for EU member states.)


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Realistic: Is the "USE" a realistic concept?

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Pro

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Con

See also

External links and resources

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