THE UEF ESTABLISHES THE PRE-CONGRESS DEBATE
by Max Malcovati
The Federalist Debate VII N.2, 1994
Geneva, 30th April - 1st May: meeting of the Federal Committee
The demonstration in Strasbourg on the occasion of the sitting of the new European Parliament is fixed for the late afternoon of 18th July
The Federal Committee of the UEF met at Geneva on 30th April and 1st May in the EFTA offices. The session of 30th April, chaired by Caterina Chizzola, vice-president of the UEF, opened with a report by the Secretary-General, Gerard Wissels, on the activity of the UEF in the last few months, both as regards the Brussels centre, and as regards the developments of the Campaign for European Democracy. In particular, Wissels dwelt on the proposals for improving the organisation of the Brussels secretariat discussed by the Executive Bureau and on the prospects for increasing the European Centre of the UEF's capacity for action in the immediate future. He emphasised how the financial circumstances of the organisation, while having improved - thanks to the increase in the Commission's contribution which he had succeeded in obtaining, to some donations and to the 250 ECU action (which, however, had given a lower return than expected) - represent the factor limiting the European "presence" of the organisation. In this
context Wissels suggested that it was opportune to reflect seriously on the role of the UEF, which, in his opinion, in the new European situation, must be above all that of representing awareness of the federal approach to European unification, leaving the role of lobby to the organisations and forces which in the course of the years have organised themselves around the European institutions. The Congress of Bocholt next autumn could provide the occasion for such reflection. Wissels concluded by emphasising that the time which he actually dedicated to the UEF was much greater than had been foreseen when he had accepted the office, and that it was necessary to begin seriously considering who was to take over from him.
The political report was presented by the President of the UEF, Francesco Rossolillo. He began with a brief analysis of the new Italian situation, noting that the presence in the new government of fascist ministers and of a Foreign Minister close to the Bruges Group, together with very worrying statements of opinion, such as that of the President of the Chamber of Deputies on the fascist period, and with the claims advanced by the extreme right on the borders with Yugoslavia, indicate the risk that Italy might put itself into a marginal position in European politics. Such a prospect, Rossolillo emphasised, would objectively represent a weakening of the entire European framework, already undermined by the fact that fascist-type, nationalist and anti-European tendencies are also present in other countries of the Union.
On the other hand, the evolution of the Italian position in the next few months will be influenced by the European context: if there are precise and strong initiatives in this context, the Italian government cannot but take them into account.
But what prospects present themselves to the European context? In the light of the considerations made by Rossolillo in the initial part of his report, if the framework should not hold firm, the situation would become very worrying. The central problem is that of enlargement, which presents two facets.
On the one hand, it is desirable, not only as a sign of the vitality of the process of unification, but also, particularly regarding its extension to the countries of central Europe, as an indispensable instrument for the consolidation of their democratic life.
On the other hand, it is inevitable and represents the coherent conclusion of the decisions taken at the Lisbon summit in 1989. Prior to that, the problem of deepening was the priority; after the decisions taken on that occasion, it became secondary to enlargement. The current European institutions are not capable of guaranteeing the government of the Union to 16 and the compromise of Ioannina made them even more difficult to manage. In the absence of strong institutional change, the Union will inevitably slide into becoming an area of free trade without government.
How can we get out of this impasse? Enlargement is by now a fact of life; we must therefore seriously consider the problem of deepening, and the Italian case is a signal of its urgency. According to Rossolillo, it is reasonable to state that an advance in the federal direction is impossible not only in the context of the 16, but also in that of the 12. If this is how things stand, then we must fight for a smaller "hard core". It is a question of maintaining the Treaty of Maastricht, but allowing the establishment of closer ties between states which want to go ahead, while remaining part of the Union. This prospect of a Europe of "concentric circles" is the only one capable of rendering thinkable, within a short time, the coexistence of enlargement and deepening. But does the political will to advance this project exist, Rossolillo asked. The current European context does not hold out much hope, but, the President stressed, if a strong signal in this direction is not given as soon as possible, the risk of a r
apid break-up of Europe becomes increasingly concrete. It is up to the UEF to take brave, and even unpopular initiatives, knowing that in reality the problem has been raised by many parties and it can therefore be hoped that, if the federalists are capable of expressing themselves clearly, they will find the necessary allies to bring the project to maturity. Rossolillo concluded by presenting, in the name of the Executive, two motions, one of general policy and one on the situation in Italy, and proposing, following a suggestion of the Executive, that the debate should be structured in two parts, one on the first and one on the second motion. In fact, this rather artificial division was not respected in the development of the debate, in which the following people spoke: Glockner, Schoning, Dohrmann, Wistrich, Peters, Peus, Pistone, Gordiani, Montaut, Malcovati, Giesel, Rossolillo, Eigil Hodne, Rastrelli, Putz, Parry, Ferruta, Ambuhl, Wissels, Cwik, von Cetto, Moro, Montani, van Rhijn, Frank, De Groote and Le
At the conclusion of the debate, John Pinder presented a document, drawn up in the English European Movement and revised in the light of various observations made by the Executive Bureau of the UEF, containing a series of proposals to submit to the intergovernmental conference in 1996. This document is intended by its proponents to be the object of a broad debate among the membership of the UEF and to be adopted, after appropriate modifications (suggestions should be sent to John Pinder by 15th August), by the Congress at Bocholt.
The day closed with the approval of the final balance for 1993 and the budget for 1994. The treasurer, Theo van Rhijn, stressed that the outstanding accounts which had remained unpaid for some time with some national sections had been settled, and how, for the first time in many years, 1993 had been closed with a slight profit, to be attributed to the increase in the contribution of the Commission, to certain donations, and to the proceeds on the 250 ECU action.
The second day of the proceedings, chaired by Max Ambuhl, opened with the approval of the motions (one vote against, two abstensions for the general policy motion, and one vote against and three abstensions for that on the Italian situation).
The meeting then went on to discuss preparations for the Congress, which will be held from 21st to 23rd October at Bocholt in Germany, and will include, in addition to the plenary sessions, work in groups, whose themes will be decided by the Executive Bureau.
The final part of the proceedings was dedicated to discussion of the lines of action for the next few months. Various speakers underlined the importance of intensifying the Campaign for European Democracy during the electoral campaign, exploiting all powers and instruments (such as asking candidates to commit themselves to the prompt approval of the draft constitution, collecting citizens' signatures on the petition to the European Parliament, organising debates with the political forces, press releases, and setting up Committees for the defence of the democratic rights of the European citizens). The proposal, put forward by Pascal Hureau on behalf of the MFE-France, to organise a demonstration at Strasbourg on the occasion of the sitting of the new parliament was discussed and approved: representatives from the different political forces will be invited to the demonstration, which will take place in the late afternoon of Monday 18th July - the day before the opening of parliamentary business - probably insi
de the Parliament building. All speakers in the debate emphasised the need to begin mobilisation preparatory to this date immediately, especially in consideration of the particularly unfavourable date on which it falls.