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Puerta Alonso, European Parliament, Institutional Committee - 21 dicembre 1994
EP 1996: the objectives of the Union


Rapporteur: Mr Alonso Puerta

SUMMARY: Today, it is no longer possible for european governements to make diplomatic deals on the future of Europe among themselves while ignoring european public opinion: at the moment of redefining a new phase of european integration, it is important to recall its objectives - that is to say to prevent any renewal of wars in Europe by placing human and economic ressources under joint control- because they are as valid today as in 1957. But today the question of the democratic legitimacy is posed in a much more complex environment and a new step must be done: a european society exists, but it has to be recognized; the relations between the national and the european level - and the correct application of the principle of subsidiarity - must be clarified; the need of a supranational order has to be reaffirmed and put in a real "constitutional framework", in which the institutions have to be the expression of the willingness of the partners to be a part of a single project. (EP, Brussels, 24 January 1995)


The creation of the EEC in 1957, and its subsequent evolution into the European Union, took place in a political context conditioned by the end of the second world war and the division of Europe into two large ideological and military blocs; of these blocs, that formed by Western Europe constituted the framework for the development of the Community, as well as setting its outer limits.

In the 1980s the process of European integration continued with considerable success: the achievement of various economic, political and institutional objectives was concretized in the Single Act, adopted, despite its insufficiencies, on the basis of a wide-ranging consensus among the twelve Member States. From 1989 on, the political context was transformed, with the end of the 'cold war' and the widening of the Community's political concerns to embrace Eastern and Central Europe.

After the initial burst of hope and optimism, the 1990s ushered in a series of negative phenomena, including a halt to economic growth, increased and persistent unemployment constituting a structural problem, two crises in the European Monetary System and severe internal political problems. To all this must be added the failure of the Community to find a solution to the war in former Yugoslavia.

All the above factors explain the difficulties surrounding the adoption of the Treaty on European Union, signed by the Member State governments in Maastricht in February 1992: Maastricht may be seen as marking the point of exhaustion of the 'functionalist' method which gave rise to the birth of the Community and the various revisions of the Treaties.

Today, it is no longer possible for the governments to make diplomatic deals among themselves while ignoring European public opinion: this was one of the reasons for the wave of opposition to the new Treaty, which, while obviously a further step forward in response to the challenge of European integration, did not provide the necessary instruments for achieving the major objectives defined by the new political context, be it at European or at world level.

At the moment of redefining the goals of this new phase of European integration, it is crucial to recall the ideals and objectives that shaped the birth of the Community.

When, in 1957, the ECSC member states decided to create the European Economic Community, this decision was based on a number of principles. These corresponded to the following goals:

- to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe;

- to ensure economic and social progress by action to eliminate the barriers dividing Europe;

- to affirm as an essential objective the constant improvement of the living and working conditions of the peoples concerned;

- to strengthen the unity of the economies concerned and ensure their harmonious development;

- to confirm the solidarity binding Europe and the overseas countries, in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter;

- to preserve peace and liberty.

These ideals are still valid today, and have been consistently reiterated and renewed in the various revisions of the original treaties. However, if the guiding idea in setting up the Community was to prevent any renewal of internal conflict in Europe by placing human and material resources under joint control, today the need to achieve further progress in European integration - in 1995, with a 15-member Union - may be justified in terms of both the defence of common values and the pragmatic need to resolve concrete problems, both within the Union and in relation to third countries. The efficacy of the decisions taken by a country at a given moment is obviously largely dependent on the international context and on their effects on the policies of that country's close partners.

A balance-sheet must be drawn up listing achievements so far; it must then be established whether this is sufficient for fulfilment of the objectives defined at the time in question. It may thus be established whether the objectives need redefining or, rather, their realization continues to be dependent on the means chosen.

It is clear in this connection that cooperation between Member States has resulted in numerous benefits which are reflected in the daily life of the Union's citizens, and that these benefits have been more effective where cooperation has taken place within a defined institutional framework.

With the Treaty of Maastricht, the Community has acquired more extensive powers. These apply in various areas, including education, vocational training, health, trans-European networks, industrial competitiveness, development cooperation and consumer protection. One should add the areas earlier incorporated by the Single Act, whose fields of application were also extended and reinforced; these areas include economic and social cohesion, the environment and research and technological development.

The most recent manifestation of the single market corresponds to the attribution of a new fundamental task to the Community, namely the implementation of economic and monetary union and the introduction of a single currency. In addition, the system of 'pillars' assigns to the Union the objectives of instituting a common foreign and security policy and developing cooperation in the fields of justice and internal affairs.

It follows that the question of democratic legitimacy is now posed in a wider and more complex context than that applying to the achievement of the goals of the original treaties: as we know, what has been achieved already at European level, in the absence of economic and monetary union, corresponds to the most complicated aspects, or, at least, those with which the average citizen has the most difficulty in identifying.

Progress and greater efficiency have been achieved as regards a decision-making system which, for all its defects, has been able to bring into being the economic area known as the internal market. However, one of the problems confronting us is lack of awareness, on the part of citizens and their political representatives, concerning both principles and system. This means that the future revision of the Treaty must be based not only on efficiency but also on clarification and democratization of the institutions.

Given the conviction that we must make further progress in European integration, one should ask whether, in fact, the wishes, declarations and principles confirmed over time by the Member States remain valid today, and to what extent they are actually respected.

As has been said, the present situation in Europe and the world is not the same as that prevailing at the time of the earlier reforms; history seems today to be evolving so fast that it is difficult to assimilate the changes taking place in the geopolitical, economic and social spheres.

The definition of the objectives of reform must therefore take note of this new situation; it will be necessary to redefine the framework for the management of the basic interests of the Member States and the various social forces.

It is essential to define the Union in itself, in both social and institutional terms, as well as its place on the international plane, especially in the light of the recent events in Europe and other processes of regional integration. The first step is to determine the extent of social and cultural integration within the Union.

Clearly, if there is no recognition of the existence of a 'European society' based on the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, solidarity and freedom, promoting such values as equality and social justice and committed to the improvement of living and working conditions, it will be impossible to respond in such a way as to justify a qualitative leap forward in the institutional framework with which that same European society can identify.

It follows that any analysis of the proposed actions must begin from the sole possible starting point, namely the profound conviction of the reality of the values and principles that unite the peoples of Europe.

The aim is not to create a 'European society', but to achieve the recognition of that society. As the Maastricht debate showed, this means that any attempt to move forward on the basis of the present institutional framework without simultaneously recognizing the actual diversity and specific characteristics of that European society will not obtain support from within it. The political framework on which the Union's future must be based should therefore be constituted by respect for the principles and commitments which the Member States have defined and have taken on themselves. We must also stop clinging obsessively to an excessively rigid model which is only liable to impede progress towards further integration in the Community.

We must also examine the application of the principle of subsidiarity, conceived in terms of the relations between public authorities at various levels and between such public authorities and civil society, as well as the relations of Union citizens and residents with the public authorities in the Union, in the context of their political, economic and social rights.

It is vital today that certain aspects of social and economic policy should find their full expression in constitutional terms. This will entail a fundamental transformation of the structural context (monetary union).

One must also take account of the various proposals currently being put forward with a view to dealing with the problem of Member States' willingness or otherwise to take part in the realization of particular objectives ('variable geometry') as well as the risk of a lowering of the present level of integration. These considerations point to the need for a unitary institutional system in all circumstances.

The institutional question thus lies at the heart of the reform. The aim is to achieve a new definition of a single and coherent system, while avoiding what has come to be known as 'flexibility' (as in the case of the 'social protocol'), given that this is not in keeping with the nature of the institutions and results in an excessive differentiation of cooperation within the Union.

It is a straightforward matter to propose that our agenda should continue to encompass such objectives as peace, economic and social progress, cultural development, an economic and social single market and respect for fundamental rights. However, the moment has surely come for us to define the Union as a political entity which, differentiated from the Member States but working alongside them, has as its basic political objective the development and management of society.

At the moment of renewing the fundamental objectives, we may all support the creation of a European political union on the basis of supranational democratic institutions and the overcoming of the democratic deficit - a Europe of states, but also of peoples and citizens, with genuine equality between men and women and free of discrimination against immigrants resident in the Community, and a Europe which recognizes the personality of regions and local authorities in their sphere of competence. Such a political union would, through common economic policies, be committed to full employment and the development of a philosophy of sustainable growth on the basis of equalizing the standard and quality of life of the citizens of the various regions of Europe.

This would be a European Union open to cooperation with other countries and groups of countries at world level, thus helping progress towards a new democratic world order based on the values of peace and solidarity on a planet offering a full life to all. This would entail a genuinely European foreign and security policy, capable of bringing about the full institutionalization of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

On the basis of a commitment by the Member States, the need arises to simplify and clarify the responsibilities and competences pertaining to the various organizational levels of this political body; the specific elements of the intended final model should, of course, be determined before the objectives are fixed.

If a list of specific objectives, on the lines of the existing Article B of the Treaty, is to be drawn up, this should not merely entail a particular form of Community cooperation, rather than the necessary creation of a political entity. The approach of defining objectives in detail could, ultimately, conceal the need to define the areas of competence conferred on the Union by the Member States, thus serving to negate its character as such a political entity.

As things stand, the citizens of Europe are still not fully aware of the functionings of the institutions, and are critical of the essentially economic perception of the European social reality implied in the Treaty. At the same time, their expectation is that the political importance of Europe will outweigh the purely commercial dimension, and that the Union of the future will offer a more convincing response to the hopes of justice, freedom and progress which they have placed in it, on the basis of the fullest respect for that cultural diversity on which the Union's identity and richness are based. For us as Members of the European Parliament, it is both our duty and our challenge to propose institutions corresponding to the desires and interests of our citizens.

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