A lecture by Tommaso Padoa Schioppa

Europe’s Shortcomings

Europe in need of a federal model

, by Fedra Negri

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English] [français] [italiano]

Europe's Shortcomings

“It’s a great honour to be here at this Study Centre; a centre that dedicates to research and debate about federalism with passion and both at supra- and intranational levels. And it’s an honour that this lesson is named after Altiero Spinelli and takes place in the year in which we celebrate the centenary of his birth. Everyone who is devoted to Europe and has made of its political union a guideline of his own life as a citizen owes a lot to Altiero Spinelli.”

These are the words with which the Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, with its “casual air”, had opened the second “Lecture Altiero Spinelli” entitled “Shortcomings of Europe”. The main thesis of the Minister finds its own expression in an acute pun: “Europe’s shortcomings have their main cause in the lack of Europe. The difficulties that torment our society are not caused by Europe, but from lack of it, which that sharps them and makes them insurmountable: the cause is not the Union, with a capital letter, but rather the lack of union, with a lower-case letter.

A strong euro-scepticism dominates in the mass media: the European Union crisis is clinched so much to confirm the fallacy and the futility of the Unitarian project, the negative results of the referenda in France and Nederland have been considered announcements of the final defeat. According to Mr. Padoa Schioppa the main challenge is: “How to separate the real lacks that plague the EU from the imaginary ones?”.

The difficulties that torment our society are not caused by Europe, but from lack of it...

In his dryness of a technocrat the Minister suggests not to trust the catastrophes that are regularly announced as consequences of European projects, the misdeeds, in other words the systematic attribution of the fault of the troubles that plague our society, and finally of the excess of bureaucracy and the technocracy of Brussels. The tendency to catalogue and summarize characterizes the whole relation: even the lacks of Europe can be catalogued. Among these the excesses of the Union, in other words the tendency to rule insignificant details that do not need Brussels regulation, breaking the subsidiarity principle, the lacked performance of its duties: the never implemented reform of the Communitarian Agricultural Policy and the wrong application of the Stability and Growth Pact, and the disappointment of citizens’ expectations, that derives from the general inefficiency of the communitarian power.

The demonstration of his thesis passes through the argument of three different issues: globalization, energy and finance. But the main aim that presses the Minister is to demonstrate how the common cause of the three shortcomings is the double incapacity of Europe to decide and put decisions into practice: the voting arrangements and resources.

The recognition of the mutual dependence among the members of a certain group pushes these to associate, to unite. In such cases, decisions will be the outcome of compromises and often an expression of the power of majority over minority, which is the essence, however cruel it might sound, of democracy. The res publica is thus configured as an objective condition of the member’s reciprocal dependence, in agreement as well as in disagreement. To conciliate union and diversity, common action necessity and presence of different opinions, history could suggest only one method: the majority one. Europe lacks own budgetary resources, power of dispositions, administrative and judicial apparatuses, diplomatic delegations, security services and armed forces, in short, the means to act and operate.

In absence of resources, as the Minister says, the union is purely "virtual."

Diagnosis established, what about the cure?

To overcome Europe’s lacks, sanction the majority system and guarantee the Union the means it needs to act there is only one solution: federalism. The federal model is the only model that gives real decision power and power to act at a level higher than that of the States for the subjects that can no longer be addressed at the national level. This choice implies a discontinuity in the constitutional order; it’s a basic choice to be taken before the determination of the specific forms that could assume the federal model in a Europe still to be built.

To valorise and spread the concept of federal citizenship, of belongings to the Union, and to the national, regional, municipal communities, must guide the political action in the consciousness that it contains the ultimate sense of the European construction. Padoa Schioppa concludes by quoting Altiero Spinelli: “The idea that the instauration of a Federation means the creation of a federal citizenship must be the compass we have to use to orientate ourselves to accept, whatever the name used to be introduced, the vital solutions and reject those solutions that, even under prestigious appearances, would be definitely incapable to develop in the wished sense”. The same compass that shows us the path towards a United Europe, says the Minister.

This article was translated by Michele Gruberio, member of JEF-Italy and proof-read by Peter Matjašič, Editor-in-Chief of thenewfederalist.eu. The original document is the article previously published on the Italian version of our webzine on January 21st.


- Posters demanding a federal Europe, source: Flickr

Further reading:

- the original document of Mr. Padoa-Schioppa’s intervention at the 2nd Lecture Altiero Spinelli organised by the Centre for Studies on Federalism

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