Europe is going through multiple crises: an economic crisis, a political and institutional crisis, a confidence and trust crisis. They are mutually reinforcing themselves.
The difficulty to face both the migrant crisis and the inner economic crisis fostered narratives grounded on nationalism: the apology of good old times or the ” we can do better by ourselves ” encouraged debates à la Brexit in several countries, moreover some political parties didn’t resist the temptation to blame foreigners or Europe for events which are really outside national and European control or which involve in various degrees the responsibility of local, national and European politics. The raise of anti-European parties, the walls under construction between countries and the step back on the Schengen commitments are all symptoms of a deeper problem.
The main road to restore confidence in the European institutions is a bold reform of the European treaties, improving the democratic side of the economic and monetary union through an increased involvement of the European Parliament and the establishment of a fiscal union.
The Eurozone still needs many elements which would make it a real optimal currency area, such as a bigger budget, real own resources (as some common taxes) and few elements of common welfare as would be an unemployment benefit. These would introduce automatic adjustments in case of crisis. Moreover, the discretion lost by national governments in the field of economic policy would finally be gained by the European level of government, which is now blocked by intergovernmental procedures and inadequate tools.
Unfortunately (i) all this requires time, as a new treaty needs a minimum of two years to be negotiated and ratified, even more to be implemented; (ii) all this postulates a strong and shared political will across Europe as treaty reforms require unanimous consent by member states. There is, vice-versa a need to act now, to restore the confidence in the Union and the credibility of the European integration project in order to prepare the ground for the so needed reforms. The best interventions are those able to answer to the immediate needs of the population and counter the narrative that Europe is damaging its own citizens. Only so, the raise of anti-European parties would be stopped.
What is needed is something similar to the Marshall plan for Europe, or to the New Deal for the United States: a big and bold recovery program.
What if money could be found almost for free, out of generosity, for a good cause?
For this reason I imagined a dedicated European Agency: the “Europeans for Europe Investment Fund”, for crowdfunding and investing on the basis of two basic assumptions:
- Citizens are willing to contribute to Europe’s Recovery ;
- European States are heavily indebted and the European budget is just too small for an ambitious investment plan, BUT private assets and savings are definitely relevant in Europe, making it (still!) one of the richest regions in the world
The “Europeans for Europe” recovery plan is not just intended to foster economic growth, but to address the multiple crises affecting Europe. Together with a financial crisis we are living a confidence crisis in Europe together with an identity crisis and a leadership crisis. There is a urge to bring back citizens to the public sphere, to make them feel fully involved in the choices, to counter the lowering level of participation to the electoral consultations, to give them pride in being Europeans, pride for what they have accomplished in the past, for their heritage of values and most of all for what they still can do for themselves and for the world.
The proposed plan is not intended to replace the necessary institutional reforms in Europe. Conversely, the necessary debates and negotiations have to start right now. It has nonetheless the aim to act in parallel and to prepare the ground for the political and popular approval of them, restoring a climate of confidence together with economic growth.
My project was submitted to the MGI Essay Prize: “Crowdsourcing ideas for revitalizing growth in Europe” as well as other 400 others. Unfortunately it was not among the three winners. Nonetheless, it was shortlisted among the 20 most innovative ideas submitted, as you can read in a booklet free to download on the prize page.
The full text of my paper is available on Academia. Feel free to comment, share and have a say!