Starting With Why

The global challenges and concerns we face today are well known: the peaceful coexistence of states and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the climate change and the need for sustainable development, the threats to financial stability, the tragic inequalities across the planet in wealth and democracy.

We need to do something. And, first of all, we need to reflect on what to do.

To face such challenges and to guarantee global public goods, the international community has created after world war II a number of international organizations responsible for the pursuit of specific goals, which have been given more or less adequate competences and tools.

Are these organizations democratic? Are they efficient? if the answer is no (or not enough) how could they be improved?

This is the topic to be explored here.

Answers will be offered, comments and contributions will be welcome. The aim is starting a fruitful dialogue because – as history teaches us – democracy is the result of a social pact: we are all involved.

Democracy nowadays cannot just be national as problems and challenges are getting more and more global.  It’s globalization, baby.

To try to respond to the challenge, I decided to focus on what are (at least for me!) the three key ingredients of a modern democracy: legitimacy, accountability, inclusiveness. I built on them a paradigm for democracy in international organisations which I called democratic experimentation.

As individuals are an essential ingredient of democracy, I think that democratic international organization should be supranational, or move towards more advanced forms of supranationality. But how individuals can interact on a global stage, legitimize global institutions, hold them accountable? It’s not that easy.

They may interact as civil society or just as informed public opinion. Internet plays a major role in allowing them to become global citizens, if (and where) internet access is guaranteed.

So many topics to discuss about, so important to deepen the analysis and offer solutions. The debate is open and you’re all welcome!

Susanna

WHICH INSTITUTIONS FOR RIGOR, WHICH INSTITUTIONS FOR GROWTH?

 

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Demonstrators march to protest against the British government’s spending cuts and austerity measures in London on June 20, 2015. (Agence France-Presse)

The role of rigor (and austerity) as a way to correct fiscal imbalances in the midst of the economic crisis, has been extensively debated over the last few years, and it is still a contentious issue to this date. The recipes imposed by the Eurozone authorities and by the IMF in the European sovereign debt crises have been widely criticized and contested. In one specific case, they have even been recognized as wrong. Well-known economists Carmen Reinhardt and  Kenneth Rogoff have been questioned in their main research finding of an existing inverse relationship between public debt levels and growth rates, beyond a certain critical threshold. On the other hand, there is a consensus that high levels of public debt are not desirable as they may pose a serious issue of sustainability and financial vulnerability. As a result, the need to keep the public budget under check is a broadly shared policy objective. A hotly debated issue, though, is whether the fiscal adjustment should be done during the crisis, at the risk of depressing growth, or whether it should be backloaded thus allowing the fiscal budget to support output and employment.

But, one fact is a logical antecedent to the debate itself: which institutions are supposed to be the best judges for choosing the optimal balance between rigor and growth?

A tentative way to start addressing this question is to assume a division of tasks between global agencies (like the IMF and G20), regional institutions (like the EU), and nation states. Each with its own set of competencies and responsibilities.

We then need to have some understanding of growth and rigor.

It’s hard to define growth. It is the result of a mixture of heterogeneous ingredients. Most of them are economic ones: the state may stimulate growth through public policies aimed at supporting investment and entrepreneurial initiatives. Similarly important are the institutional ingredients, such as the set of norms and rules aimed at encouraging certain economic behaviors or discouraging others, or the measures to make public administration more efficient or to reduce its costs. Other ingredients are social ones, such as public investment in health, education, and inclusiveness, which produce results in the long run. The whole mix of ingredients, moreover, has to communicate a sense of social justice and of shared efforts in order for it to be acceptable for the population.
Even though good practices may be of inspiration to countries engaging in pro-growth strategies, there is no such a thing as “the” right recipe for growth. Successful growth strategies differ from country to country, and across periods, and vary according to the strengths and weaknesses of each country, its culture, institutions, and level of technological development. The international context may influence domestic growth significantly.

It may be argued that growth has some kind of conceptual primacy inscribed in the mission of international institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, as well as of many regional organizations aimed at economic and financial cooperation. Of course, the way growth and other objectives are articulated in the charters of such institutions reflects, besides the different purpose and peculiarities of each, also the different times when their charters were written. Therefore, for instance, while the IMF Articles of Agreement (1944) show a conception of growth that is deliberately based on purely economic terms, the EU Treaty (1957 and revised many times) aims at a different, holistic, idea of growth, complemented by social elements, reflecting the cultures and politics of the region, as it has evolved over time.

Let’s explore now the meaning of rigor: it is understood to be a conduct (or even a set of rules) aimed at limiting excessive public debt and state deficit, and at restoring good governance and sound public finances. In practice, in the case of excessive deficits and/or debts due to cyclical or structural difficulties, rigor often translates into austerity policies, with cuts to public expenditures and high social costs.

Moving to the responsibilities and tools of international organizations, we do find many examples of interventions aimed at strengthening rigor rather than supporting growth. On the occasion of the recent European sovereign debt crisis, both IMF and EU engaged in supporting and restoring public finances in several countries. The Eurozone itself, in the process of strengthening its governance, added new instruments and regulations for disciplining public finances more effectively.

In the Treaty on the Functioning of European Union (TFEU) we find several rules of hard law that are intended for achieving more rigor, like, for instance, the articles 123-126 on fiscal discipline.

The best-known one is art. 126:

 “1. Member States shall avoid excessive government deficits. (…)”

There are, moreover, various legal acts specifying rules for rigor and the sanctions for violating them.

Frameworks for growth have also been contemplated at the global and European level, of which many G20 communiques and the Europe 2020 strategy are good examples. Yet they are all nothing more than good intentions, or soft laws at best. All the relevant policy instruments – and especially the budgets – are in the hands of national governments and parliaments.

We can draw the first conclusion: while international multilateral organizations have economic growth in their statutory mission, they are in fact best equipped for delivering rigor.

Why is this so? A simple but nonetheless convincing line of reasoning is that rigor is unpopular. And since the ultimate goal of politicians is generally to be elected
(or re-elected), policies for rigor tend to be avoided as much as possible by democratic governments (and, even more, by populist governments), unless they can be blamed on somebody else. On the other hand, nation states are best positioned and equipped to deal with growth policies, since it is at this level of government that one finds (i) democratic representation of citizens in order to have legitimate choices; and (ii) resources necessary for growth initiatives.

Thus, it is really not surprising that states have transferred the political price of unpopular (but necessary) measures for rigor to different levels of government, levels where there are no political elections. One of the consequences is that states are risking to kill international levels of government with unpopularity.

This dichotomy suggests a number of questions: (i) is nationally driven growth the best solution? Is it the best solution, if international organizations are responsible for imposing rigor?

The choice to place the tools for growth at the national level may appear in contradiction with the goals attributed to the IMF and the EU (as already mentioned), but also with the plans and guidelines for growth formulated periodically by the European Council and the Groups of States (G8, G20), which point to the need for making growth a commonly shared objective by the global community, one which requires international cooperative governance frameworks. At the same time, nation-states run against formidable obstacles to growth, as the international orientation to rigor inhibits their efforts to that end.

Back to growth: which are the main obstacles met by international organizations when they want to deal with growth? A first take involves responsibilities

If we believe that growth involves creative thinking and requires discretion, then we necessarily end up in the field of Politics (with capital P!), and leave the realm of technocracy.

This is substantially different than simply applying rules, which is what happens when international organizations intervene to enforce discipline.

Another obstacle is related to the budget. It’s not just a matter of having limited resources (even though, of course, larger budgets expand the set of feasible choices), but there is also an issue of “who” controls the budget. Only resources that are truly “owned” can guarantee independent (and creative) thinking.

Finally, there is an institutional issue. Growth requires a participative approach and a democratic institutional setup. A hard problem to be addressed is the coordination between the global and the national (as well as regional and local) levels of government. This is an area for multilevel governance and subsidiarity. Regional and global economic institutions may not impose growth recipes over populations but can offer useful fora for governments to discuss policy options and choices, which in the end only they can enforce.

In conclusion: if we consider rigor and growth from a purely “governance perspective”, we easily see that:

  • rigor is basically the application of rules;
  • it may be handled technocratically;
  • it has to be impartial (rules based);
  • it requires negligible budgetary resources;
  • it is easily and more conveniently delegated to supranational levels of government.

Growth, on the other hand, lays within the realm of political decisions. It implies a vision and requires making choices out of an infinite number of possible alternatives and combinations. The number of feasible choices grows with the increase of budgetary resources. Deciding on a growth strategy that is sustainable and inclusive demands democratic institutions.

 Rigor may, in fact, overrule growth preferences. The consequences are not merely economic, as they can have a significant impact on the democratic governance as well.

Identity, Nationality, Citizenship.

Who are we? 

Does our nationality or citizenship define us in some way?

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There is much confusion around and it’s about time to clarify the meaning of some words much used and sometimes abused.

These three words communicate different concepts answering to three very different questions:

Who am I? (Identity)

Where are my roots? (Nationality)

To Which Community I belong? (Citizenship)

Of course, the most difficult question – and the most important – is the first one. And we are totally free to answer as we like and we feel. No objective data, no other person can answer for us. Our choices, our purpose in life, our beliefs, our personality traits are important clues, but ultimately we decide about their priority in defining who we are. Our nationality – our culture, religion, language – adds to our identity, but there is so much more at stake.

Nationality, so, is only a part of our identity. It is the place where we are born or the nationality of our parents. It is where we feel at home or where our roots are. It is our language, often our religion too. It is our food, our traditions. Could even be our football team. We can choose to identify totally with it or not, we can even feel disconnected, as it may happen in a dysfunctional family.

Citizenship, instead, is a political concept. It is the community we belong to, where we enjoy political rights, where we vote or participate in some way.

Citizenship can be acquired and can be lost. Multiple citizenships are possible.

Even if usually nationality and citizenship go together, it may not be so (as for Albert Einstein) or we could have a citizenship without a state, as it is the case for European citizenship, or a  citizenship beyond the borders, as Estonian e-citizenship. If nationality may be an accident, citizenship may be a choice.

In the end, as social animals, we humans need identity, roots, belonging. We also need to be aware that circumstances of our life do not define who we are, we do.

And we could also accept the idea that all these definitions can be dynamic: identity evolves as we grow and deepen our understanding of ourselves; nationality, as the tree’ s roots, expand as we learn more about our culture and its interconnectedness with other cultures; citizenship can change as we progress in our life path and I bet that we are going to experiment new more kind of citizenships, as legal creations giving us rights and access. We, humans, are a work in progress.

Whatever the nationality and the citizenship, the broader is the definition we give of ourselves, the larger is our circle of compassion. Defining ourselves as human beings means we choose to feel connected to the human family.

As Einstein beautifully said, “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind”

It happens when the three, identity, nationality and citizenship, just overlap and adhere to each other in the illusion of exclusivity and superiority.

We had that disease already. If we can keep that memory alive next generations will be immune.

Identifying and Solving World Problems: the SIMPOL Solution.

SIMPOL is not a typo. It means Simultaneous Policy.

And this is the solution to the world problems offered by two brilliant minds: John Bunzle and Nick Duffell.

SIMPOL

If you read their original and provocative book “Our world is in a mess. Here is the SIMPOL solution“, then come to discuss it with me, we are going to have epic conversations!

I will tell you two of the reasons which made me love this book and read it in one breath.

The first reason is the clarity in identifìying the n.1 public enemy we face when it comes to managing world economy – how useless it appears nowadays targeting growth, shared prosperity and equality when everything seems to push us in the opposite direction.

This enemy is competition. Not the (almost) healthy competition we can see inside a legal order, among competitors who respect the same sets of rules – tax rules, labor rules, bureaucracy and foremost antitrust rules – but in the global arena, outside any rule.

Where nobody can be punished for unfair competition.

Where it is pretty normal that big multinational company move towards tax havens or countries who become tax havens just for them.

Where it is considered acceptable to invest in countries where labor standards are incredibly low and poverty will push people of any age – even children – to work in terrible conditions and to work for almost nothing.

Where these big competitors can easily wipe out the small ones, who cannot move so easily, don’t get special tax deals and struggle while states complacently behave like reverse Robin Hoods: taking from the poor to benefit the rich.

Why so? Because they have to remain competitive or they will lose in the big game of world economy and – if the big ones go away – they will face even more unemployment and even fewer tax revenues.

Because this is the paradox of destructive global competition: states are the victims, they are in a trap and do not know how to get out of it. This trap made them weaken the welfare systems, struggle with public debt and here and there get close to failure. Simply put, states are just too small to manage this alone.

Before we jump to the conclusions – and I don’t want to spoil too much – I will tell you the second reason which made me love this book: psychology. It doesn’t happen often that a psychotherapist and a businessman join forces to explain us the problems of the world.

As I feel and know for sure – and if you have read some of my posts you know that too – the solutions have to be bigger than states, possibly matching the dimension of problems.

There is an entire cultural shift needed, from the nation-centric to the world-centric approach. This wouldn’t be the first time in history that we, the humanity, move from a political and dimensional paradigm to another: from the tribes to the Westphalian order we took a step or two.  Still, we are stuck in the mourning of a system which doesn’t work anymore. We just cannot let go the myth of sovereign nation.

And here comes the psychotherapist, explaining to us that this is just normal: most of the humanity can be observed living – collectively – in one of the 5 stages of the mourning process: 1. denial and isolation; 2. anger; 3. bargaining; 4. depression; 5. acceptance. 

Reading what happens nowadays through these lenses make it easier to understand current politics. Even the worst of it. It makes us even feel compassion for those grieving the loss of a myth.

The book doesn’t stop here, it offers practical steps to get out of this trap.

What is even better, it encourages us to feel responsible for the state of the world and take a personal stance to push politicians to bring our states out of the game of competition at any price, adopting simultaneous political choices agreed with other states when it comes to facing global issues.

The book is filled with brilliant insights and provided me the definition of what I am: a “late world-centric”, meaning a person who sees the whole world as a dynamic organism, looks for global solutions with a holistic approach, accepting and respecting all cultures in their own context.

This envisaged cultural shift made me think of the integral theory by Ken Wilber and of the “human colossus” represented in a sketch of Tim Urban’s brilliant post “Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future.

We can’t walk this path alone, we – the early world-centric – need to spread the word because only a critical mass and an active one, pushing political elites, can help humanity move to the final stage of grievance: acceptance. Then, the cultural shift will occur: embracing a new model.

Thank you, John and Nick, for your clarity, your explanations and to make me feel that I’m in good company.

 

 

THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION AFTER THE CRISIS: LESSONS LEARNED

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My latest book is out and, yes, this is the title…. and, yes, there are some lessons we have learned, even if some of us wouldn’t have waited so long… they were clear enough since the beginning.

The Economic and Monetary Union was an unfinished project already in the Maastricht Treaty. This was the topic of my first book!

Anyway, now, the evidence is there for everybody, impossible to deny.

The simple, plain truth is that we have in the Eurozone a monetary union (or, better, it is a monetary union), but we have nowhere an economic union. Yes, we have a customs union, a common market, and some important side policies, as common regulations on consumers and environment protection (which is great), but we don’t have any European fiscal policy, just a coordination of national ones. And we have a European tiny budget not up to the task of any reallocation or redistribution of resources, almost no tax harmonization, no European welfare and even less hope to save a State risking default. Every financial intervention to rescue the states in crisis was an attempt to cope with this lack of competence and tools. Sometimes it worked, but, even then, it was too little too late.

In my new book, I try to describe – as clearly as possible – the Maastricht compromise: a monetary union without fiscal union, somehow replaced by a set of budget constraints intended to keep the budgets under control but, still, fully national. Then, I analyze the rules and regulations adopted after 2010 to face the crisis and the evolution of the role of the ECB. Finally, I explore the possible solutions: the reforms which would make the Union (or the Eurozone) a fiscal union. Some of them have been suggested by institutions, experts, and academicians, some are just my attempts to connect the dots…

This is the flyer of the book, available, for now, only in Italian

locandina libro

And this is the English translation of the TOC, I hope there will be soon an English edition:

THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION AFTER THE CRISIS: LESSONS LEARNED

INTRODUCTION

The crisis of the law and the law of the crisis

Chapter I: THE UNFINISHED MONETARY UNION

  1. At the origins of the Maastricht agreements.
  2. The dichotomy of models for economic and monetary policies.
  3. The regulatory model of economic policy: reasons and limits:
  4. a) the coordination of economic policies;
  5. b) the code of conduct;
  6. c) the principle of “no bail out”.
  7. The institutional model of monetary policy:
  8. a) the reasons for monetary unification;
  9. b) the European Central Bank;
  10. c) independence and a strict mandate.

 

Chapter II: THE CRISIS AND THE EMERGENCY SOLUTIONS

  1. The global financial crisis and its European edition.
  2. The heterogeneity of policy instruments.
  3. The verticalization of politics and the intergovernmental management of the crisis.
  4. The impact on the democratic principles of the Union and of the Member States.

 

Chapter III: THE EVOLUTION OF THE ROLE OF THE ECB

  1. The European Union is not an optimal currency area
  2. The ECB’s intervention in the crisis.
  3. The controversial legitimacy of its tools and the intervention of the EU Court of Justice.
  4. The role of a central bank: technocracy vs democracy

 

Chapter IV: THE MISSING TILE: THE EXTERNAL DIMENSION OF THE MONETARY UNION

  1. Europe’s role in global economic governance;
  2. The European Union and the euro area in the Bretton Woods institutions;
  3. The European participation in the groups of states;
  4. Who represents Europe?

Chapter V: REFORMS ON THE WAY, REFORMS NEEDED

  1. Two paths for reform: Rethinking the regulatory model of economic policy and making the Eurozone an optimal currency area;
  2. A Treasury and a Minister in charge for it;
  3. A European budget;
  4. Real own resources;
  5. Adjustment mechanisms for an optimal currency area:
  6. a) taxation;
  7. b) welfare;
  8. c) free movement of people

Chapter VI: THE DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE UNION AND THE EURO AREA

  1. common and conflicting interests and goals;
  2. The unity of the institutional framework and its limits;
  3. How to stay together while respecting different views
  4. Possible scenarios after the Brexit

CONCLUSIONS

What if an economic union is also a good reason for a supranational democracy?

APPENDIX

A proposal: the European Agency for sustainable growth.

Democracy in International Organizations: a Supranational Approach.

2013TitleMap-IOPublic opinion’s demand for democracy at a global level has significantly increased in the last decade, due to the number of global challenges affecting humanity as a whole and the growing feeling of transnational interconnectedness generated by the internet. Unfortunately, international organizations are not (yet) equipped for democratic participation of individuals as they are basically intergovernmental.

An institutional formula for global democracy doesn’t exist yet and it’s time to invent it, reframing the very notion of democracy for this space which is not the familiar nation state we know since the Westphalian order.

Of course, we cannot imagine simply transferring what works at the national level – institutions and procedures – given the variety and complexity of organizations at international level. Moreover, we should consider the intrinsically difference of legal orders grounded on the membership of States instead of individuals, where even the basic principle of equality doesn’t fit.

The approach I suggest is grounded in a constructivist method: after deconstructing democracy in three basic components— legitimacy, accountability and inclusiveness—it is possible to reassemble them originally with the aim of their progressive strengthening.

This method will allow a realistic assessment of the level of democracy in international organizations and it will help promoting institutional reforms in line with the expectations of democracy in the global civil society.

A fundamental shift will occur from the typical intergovernmental model towards a more supranational one—as improving legitimacy, accountability, and inclusiveness naturally implies an increasing relationship between individuals and international organizations. The existence of a direct correlation between the role of individuals (or if you prefer of a demos) and the level of democracy appears to me a crucial topic.

I explain more about my reflections on this topic in this article, just released by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Global Studies

Why Democracy is Declining

It’s no surprise that democracy is in a deep crisis, a glance at the democracy index by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit shows it clearly. According to it, only 4.5% of the world’s population lives nowadays in a “full democracy”. It was 9% only few years ago.

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This is even more evident in the very countries we always regarded as examples and bulwarks of democracy – Britain, France, US – the cradles of parliamentarism and of the rule of law.

I don’t say that these countries are not democratic anymore, I just worry about the amazing rise of populism and nationalism there, which are testing the democratic institutions as never before.

We can give so many different explanations for that: sociological, psicological, cultural… the liquid society and the solipsism and egotism of the modern human, the globalisation and rise of technology, the circulation of capitals and the social dumping, but I think that all this is just the background picture.

The real problem is in the dimension of the issues we face nowadays: migration waves, financial crises, global warming, terrorism…

Not one of these problems can be faced by a country alone, hardly by a group of countries acting together, even the European Union is struggling.

Citizens feel insecure, unsupported, and they expect answers from their political leaders, and from their governments. After all, this was the reason why the modern state was created in the first place: to offer security. Unfortunately, no state can offer this, not anymore.

Only populist politicians still offer promises and guarantees, do they know how illusory these are? Do their electors know?

And the easiest promise of all is the nationalist one: shutting the world out of the door, raising walls, guarding borders,  stopping people. Our country first… and only.

I understand the fear which originates these reactions and I am not here to add judgment and blame on the already excessive amount of judgment and blame we see around. I just don’t think this will work… if not to buy some time before the same problems knock to our doors again and again.

The solutions to these problems are difficult to imagine and hard to communicate. Nonetheless they do exist.

Just have a look at the agenda for Sustainable Development Goals  and at the countless initiatives started by private citizens to improve the state of the world, such as Geoversive, SimPol, the Good Country, ICRCCEN, Global Citizen, Business Fights Poverty,  and my list could go on and on…. Other solutions are possible and – even if we don’t see them on TV shows or in the news- other people are already thinking of them.

The decline of democracy can be stopped in two ways: one is in the hands of governments and it is the cooperation for the common good, the other is in our hands as citizens and it is in owning the awareness that we are global citizens and claiming for solutions at national and at global level.

Only stepping into our power, supporting and joining the initiatives and the causes aimed at solving our common problems we can still feel proud citizens of our state and and of this world.

 

 

 

Manifesto: “A genuine European Union to ensure welfare, security, and democracy”

We European citizens are worried and scared. The economic and financial crisis has impoverished many of us. Youth unemployment risks creating a lost generation. Inequality grows and social cohesion is in peril. The EU is surrounded by war and instability from Ukraine to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. The flux of refugees and migrants has become a structural feature we must address together, in a human and forward-looking manner. In many Member states we witness authoritarian tendencies and the rise of nationalist and xenophobic forces. Democracy and the core values of the European modern civilization are under attack. The EU itself is questioned, although it ensured peace, democracy and welfare for decades.

We European citizens don’t want our national politicians to care only about their next local or national election. They ask for European solutions to European problems but then they act to render those solutions impossible or ineffective. They disregard sensible Commission proposals or fail to implement decisions already taken , including when agreed by all. They claim, one day, for Europe to do something and protest, the following day, Europe’s proposed actions. We ask national politicians and the media to stop depicting integration as a zero-sum game, thus pitting nations against one another. In an interdependent world no nation can satisfy all of its citizens’ basic needs and appeals for social justice. In this context, integration and supranational government is a positive-sum game. Our European social model based on liberal democracy and a social market economy can only survive in a multi-level framework of government, on the basis of the subsidiarity principle.

We European citizens are aware that globalization is transforming the world. We need a European government to foster our common values and contribute to the solution of the global problems threatening humanity. The world needs an outward-looking cosmopolitan Europe to help build a more effective and democratic global governance to cope with climate change, peace, global poverty, and the transition to an environmentally and socially sustainable economy.

We European citizens recognise the EU as an incomplete Res Publica. It has a ridiculous budget (0,9% of GDP) and no financial autonomy from Member states, while its current competences are out of date for what is necessary to successfully answer the challenges of the current crises. It has a federal like legislative, judiciary and central bank. But democracy is the possibility for citizens to choose the government and make it accountable. For the Union to work and be democratic its decisions, including budget, foreign and defence policy, and the reform of the Treaties, should primarily be taken by a qualified majority representing the majority will of European citizens and states. The Commission should evolve into a fully-fledged government, setting and promoting a political agenda legitimated through elections. European parties should present their candidates to the Presidency at the European election. The alternative is a directly elected President of the EU merging the Presidencies of the Commission and the European Council.

On 14 February 1984 the European Parliament adopted the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, the so-called Spinelli Project, pointing towards a political union, which Member states disregarded. On 14 February 2017 we call upon the European Parliament, the only directly elected body of the EU, to take a new initiative to kick-start the EU on strengthened democratic basis. Talking about banking, fiscal, economic, energy, security, defence and political unions makes sense only within a genuine democratic European Union, with all those policies under a European government.

On 25 March 2017 the Heads of state and government will celebrate the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community and Euratom in 1957. We call upon them to match the vision of the Founders. They should open the way to the re-foundation of the EU on the basis of the European Parliament proposal, and immediately exploit all the Lisbon Treaties’ instruments to strengthen EU institutions and policies, especially on foreign and security, economic and social policies. We call upon the Europe’s youth, its civil society, workers, entrepreneurs, academia, local governments and European citizens to participate in the March for Europe in Rome on March 25. Together we shall give the political leaders the strength and courage to push forward the EU to a new beginning. European unity is key to solve our common problems, safeguard our values and ensure our welfare, security and democracy.

If you agree, please consider adding your signature to the ones by over 300 European intellectuals and academics. You can easily do it here.

You can also join us in Rome on March 25, the programme is here.

Certain urges…

Who, among you, remembers Woody Allen in Manhattan Murder Mistery stating – “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland” ?

There are certain speeches, attitudes, states that simply trigger urges, fears, anxieties.

For me, simply, listening to Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen (or even the Italian Salvini, much less famous) lights up the urge to quote Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela or Bertolt Brecht… I can’t help, it’s just that I start getting the urge….

So here it is, some Bertolt Brecht I want to share with you all …

 

“First of all, they came to take the gypsies
and I was happy because they pilfered.
Then they came to take the Jews and I said nothing,
because they were unpleasant to me.
Then they came to take homosexuals,
and I was relieved, because they were annoying me.
Then they came to take the Communists,
and I said nothing because I was not a Communist.
One day they came to take me,
and there was nobody left to protest.”

― Bertolt Brecht

 

Refugees as Global Actors

 

Image: UNHCR

Image: UNHCR

Some days ago I came across this beautiful petition (thanks Twitter!), which resonates with my assumption that individuals should have a say about issues and policies which impact on their life, even when they are managed at global level.

I copy/paste it here for you to read and possibly sign:

Internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile unite!

Europe is presently facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Millions of people are being displaced in Syria and Iraq, as well as in other parts of the world, and many are trying to reach Europe, not only because they hope to be safe there, but also because of the political rights Europeans enjoy and take for granted: the right to free expression, the right to vote and so forth.

Yet, those few who do make it to Europe find themselves excluded from public life, without political rights and without a voice. To challenge that, we, people displaced by force, together with some NGOs and other stakeholders, are starting to organise ourselves with a view to creating new democratic structures both locally and internationally, so that in future internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile can offer themselves as dialogue partners to local councils, national parliaments, the European Parliament and the UN.

If you would like to support this initiative, please sign this petition now. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you agree, you can sign it here.

After a Skype conversation with Nico Andreas Heller, promoter of the initiative and founding director of the Democracy School, I found out that this petition is the tip of the iceberg of a wider process, aimed at creating an International Committee of Refugees (ICR), a directly elected, democratically accountable, representative body for internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile.

The challenge is tremendous: refugee camps host people from different cultures, religions, life experiences and many of them could have no experience of democracy at all (or don’t buy my or your idea of democracy).

They escape from different realities and for different reasons. They are over 65 millions nowadays and this number could increase over time as it is very possible to imagine climate refugees in the next future, fleeing from extreme climate events.

How the population of a camp could be represented? How the camp could have some kind of self-government to manage its specific needs and solve its internal problems? How the global population of refugees could dialogue with states and international fora – the UN in the first place – about their future?

From a strictly legal point of view, we need to consider that individuals are not unanimously considered subjects of international law, they cannot create an international organization, but just a non-governmental organization (NGO). They cannot dialogue on equal footing with states and international organizations but just enjoy – here and there – a limited observer status.

Nonetheless, an International Committee of Refugees would give them the rights to be aknowledged and to be heard. Which seems to me the minimum threshold for global civic rights. The mobilisation to explore innovative solution is on its way, and we are all invited, you can join it here.

I want to mention another beautiful project, the Project Love  – promoted by the architect and life coach Gregorio Avanzini -intended to create a holistic and scalable solution for refugee camps which includes everything from meeting basic human needs ( nutritious food; clean water; shelter; health care; education; emotional support). This too is an open initiative and everybody could offer his/her own expertise to make a difference.

We cannot ignore that we are facing  “the worst refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II”( quoting UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon) and one of the biggest issues in the XXI Century. Denial will just make it bigger.

It’s time to consider people not just as part of the problem, but as part of the solution.

SUPRANATIONALITY IN PRACTICE: THE EUROPEAN CITIZENSHIP

The European Union’s founding Treaty (TEU) recalls and reaffirms the role of citizens in articles 9, 10 and 11 – provisions dedicated to its “democratic principles” – with the intent to establish a direct link between EU citizenship and democracy in the Union.

european-peopleThis need to look for (and find) legitimacy in citizenship – the dual legitimacy of the Union and of its member states – deserves to be analyzed as it is a peculiar expression of this supranational system. Although we find its most effective expression in the last edition of the EU Treaty, this quest for legitimacy is not new in the European integration process.

This is even more interesting as we consider that the lack of citizens’ ownership is often considered a cardinal sin in the process of European integration, whose elitist nature is often blamed.

We may find, instead, that citizens – as beneficiaries of rights as well as actors in democratic processes have always been important.

We can read in the article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Union that:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

Even if the significance of the word “democracy” remains unspecified, we could give a first and provisional definition referring to the values listed in art.2 itself, to the constitutional principles common to the member states and to the content of the European Charter of fundamental rights.

In terms of political participation, the European notion of democracy gained significance through the direct election of the European Parliament since 1979. Then, with the creation of a European citizenship by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and, eventually, thanks to the inclusion in the latest version of the Treaty of a title entitled to the Union’s democratic principles: the art. 9-11.

“Article 9

In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.

Article 10

  1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.
  2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.
  3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.
  4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

Article 11

  1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.

  2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.

  3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent.

  4. Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. (…)”

This trail was actually prepared by the ECJ case law.  The  starting point was the Van Gend en Loos case (1963). In it the European Courts defines – for the first time – the Community as “a new legal order of international law for the benefit of which the states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields and the subjects of which comprise not only member states but also their nationals”. The Court quoted itself, using the same statement in other famous decisions such as Costa vs. ENEL (case 6/64), Simmenthal (case 106/77), Francovich (cases C-6/90 and C-9/90), opinions 1/91 (December 14th 1991) and 1/2009 (March 8th 2011).

After this first step came, one year later, the Costa vs ENEL case, where we read that “the member states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves”. In this case the Court clarifies two cardinal principles – the direct application and the prevalence of European law over national law – both are grounded on this direct relation between the European legal order and the citizens which are direct beneficiaries of its norms

This direct relationship between the citizens and the supranational organization is not immediately qualified as a supranational citizenship – which will appear only in 1992 – and it never became a “supranational nationality”.

Since 1992, in fact, the European citizenship is nothing but a set of additional rights, a status added to national citizenships, barely visible if not in the passport format. Keystone of this status is the principle of non-discrimination, walkway between many European peoples and a common citizenship.

Splitting the two concepts of citizenship and nationality – the first existing at two different levels (national and European) the second limited to the national level –  is therefore a basic element of a clear political project.

The strictly legal content of the European citizenship is indisputable, comparable to that which characterized the notion of the Roman civitas.

The abstractness of a citizenship that is pure legal concept becomes a strong choice where it appears to be an alternative to the notion of nationality or people, terms which instead bring with them a rich substratum of history, culture, religion, language, identity and belonging.

And, in fact, the Union’s objective is not to eliminate the nationality or  the peoples of the member states. Article 1 TEU refers to an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”, article 3 specifies that the Union’s aim is promoting “peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples“, the same provision recalls the richness of its cultural and linguistic diversity.

So, we have a clear separation between the two notions: a European politeia/citizenship and national demos/people, the first including a number of different national demoi living together in peace, under a roof of common values, principles and rules.

The same distinction is very clear in the preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, where we read:

“Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.”

And

“The Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States”. (Emphasis added)

Therefore, this European integration as a legal process – which coexists with strong national identities – is not necessarily a weakness of the system or the mark of an unfinished process, but it seems rather a choice.

Among the European countries there are strong elements of cultural commonality, especially when viewed in perspective, in the context of a globalized world. Europe’s common “spiritual and moral heritage” is not a rhetoric invention, but it was a clear choice to ground its legal order on a “citizenship without a people.”

This choice has some advantages: first, it does not conflict with the national identity recalled and guaranteed by the Treaty and it promotes an integration model based on the coexistence of diversities; second, it should respond better to the need to reassure the defenders of national sovereignty, reducing the risks of nationalist reactions or to the fear -even irrational- of losing national identities (even if, as Brexit is there to prove, it wasn’t enough). Finally, it prevents a possible European nationalism, a typical degenerative disease of nationality.

As we can see, it is a quite different model from the American melting pot.

This belonging to a polity, expressed in purely legal terms, is the real novelty of the European model, replicable in other geographical areas or global organizations – which could generate – one day – their one partial citizenships – and it opens the door to multiple and cumulative citizenships, not conflicting among each other, to communities partially overlapping.

Alongside this European polity – that performs the dual function of building an area of justice and rights and to legitimize the EU supranational institutions, there is another peculiarity of the European democracy: the absence of an explicit reference to collective self-government.

“Sovereignty belongs to the people” is a recurring formula in the states’ constitution and funding acts, so…how can possibly exist a democracy without a people? This requisite appears to be an essential and indispensable element of democracy – as also pointed out by the General Assembly of the United Nations (resolution no. 55/96 of 4 December 2000).

And here we see why this reference to the peoples of the Member States – alongside with national democracy – is also important: it becomes an implicit reference to national constitutions that recognize and codify these collective sovereignties.

The European polity thus integrates a second democratic level on top of the national one, the two being mutually invigorating. It’s no accident that democracy is an essential requirement for the accession to the Union (art.49TUE).

And yet, some people and some political figures still blame the Union for the persistence of a democratic deficit. We believe that this deficit is not in the EU institutional system but in some essential transmission belts required for a genuine democracy: European parties, a European political debate and – even more – a press reporting to citizens what happens in the European Parliament and the other bodies at work over the national level.

Another real gap is in the absence of awareness of many European citizens about their rights and their status in Europe, even if, once the mentioned tools in place, that would be maybe filled up.

So far, in vain  the European Commission launched communication campaigns designed to fill these gaps. The system is formally democratic, but essentially perceived as distant from its citizens.

Its democratic formula – being so disconnected from a sense of identity and belonging – is especially difficult to communicate. Even more difficult if press and political elites don’t give it a try.