Oneness III

Following from chapter I here and chapter II here

Chapter III

Brindisi, April 6 2020

 

For an academic mind the first problem is about the definition.

For an academic mind, an even bigger problem is defining a spiritual object, giving yourself permission to dig so far outside your field, accepting judgment (even your own), and deciding to let it go, in advance.

Oneness: awareness of being one of One, a living cell in a huge living body called humanity. Or inside an even bigger body comprising all living beings on the planet. Or, even better, a spark of life in the body comprising – with all of her inhabitants – the very body of Mother Earth, our mothership in this travel called life.

This feeling that some of us have experimented in the contemplation of nature, in meditation or in some altered states of consciousness is the most sublime experience we can recall. Even if, sometimes, we realize we had it only after it has gone, vanished. Trying to explain this feeling may be difficult, even painful.

It feels like pure love. Not just feeling it, being it.

For me, a vivid moment of those was the first glance – eyes in the eyes – with my newborn Giuseppe, sixteen years ago. One of those perfectly quiet moments when the time stops and you feel you are in the right place and in the right moment and everything makes perfect sense.

I can recall other crumbs of infinity when, as a little child, I was contemplating the slow movements of snails on the grass until losing the sense of time. Now, I can somehow hack my system into feeling this state of temporary happiness when I see in my minds’ eyes all of us connected in the same luminescent energy field. Yet, I envy my cat when I see him lost in happiness, just being. Easily.

I suppose all humans, deep down, consciously or unconsciously perceive at times this being all one. Yet many do not know that this feeling may be cultivated with love, compassion, and gratitude and that it may grow like a muscle with exercise.

I feel called to write on this topic by the current pandemic, as we are now, as One, big sick body. Or maybe just now our illness surfaced after so many symptoms here and there. The illness dates back, I suppose, to the origin of what we call the Anthropocene.

How terrible to lose a dear one because of an invisible enemy and how exhausting to fight every day an unequal struggle in hospitals and labs. I have no direct experience, I can only imagine. Yet this could be a good moment to slow down and reflect on ourselves, on this big body we all are. We are sharing a deep common experience, we are more open, more caring to the world, more conscious of our interconnectedness.

Internet is now the circulatory system of this big body: our words and thoughts circulate like blood, bringing life and nourishment or more diseases. Waves of compassion, as well as waves of hatred, spread quickly and we are all responsible for the fragile health we have as a collective.

We don’t speak the same language, we don’t share the same beliefs and rituals, yet we have the same needs of safety and peace, of family and community, of food and fresh air and nourishment for the body, the mind and the heart. We suffer the same climate threatens. We all aspire to the same freedom and sovereignty in making choices for ourselves. We all depend on others, near and far.

Where does a population, a territory end, another start? People living on the borders know this well: it’s not black on one side and white on the other, there are shadows of grey and connections beyond the lines traced by politics and history. And we live in our state as in a big condominium, discussing common elements and big and small injustices, perhaps imagining the condo beyond the street as more comfortable and less quarrelsome. As Italian, I know I was lucky to be born in a good neighborhood.

Yet, the texture of my life is made up of thin threads connecting me to the four corners of the world: I have no idea where my tea, my coffee, my chocolate comes from, or the wood of my furniture, or the apps on my phone. I don’t know the lives of those my comfort relies on. Maybe I should. I could know more and care more about how all these little particles of my reality are produced and dispatched to me.

We are all rings in a chain. My work too is intended to benefit others near and far, or at least, I hope so.

I want to enlarge my glance now and allow myself to dream out loud: one day this big One living body could show a collective intelligence and dance to the same rhythm of life like a flock of birds or a swarm of bees. Just think of the potential of AI, if not misused. Just think of our huge combined creativity.

Maybe it is time for humans to step back, leave the hearth breath and the sun shine and use their terrific brain and its fruits to imagine and realize a more equal and less aggressive society for themselves, for the other living beings, for Mother Earth.

Oneness. II

Following from Chapter I

Chapter II

Brindisi, March 21, 2020

Existential Doubts

The coronavirus pandemic had, as a consequence, an entire nation’s lockdown and many other nations around were following on the same road. Two weeks had already passed.

In Italy, I was watching the developments from some sort of vantage point. We were 10 or even more days ahead of many other countries, already used (resigned?) to the contagion and the “extraordinary measures” going with it. We experimented as the second (after the Chinese people) the effect of this strange “staying at home”.

In those first two weeks, I had seen the good and the bad surfacing in my compatriot captive fellows.

The good was the raise in collective identity.

Italians are great individuals, but I wouldn’t define them as great as people. Yes, for us the family is important, but not so much the community: the town, the country, the others. The sense of the state, the perception of common goods, the respect for what is public are quite scarce.

Pictures and videos of the Italian “balcony flashmobs”, with people singing and clapping together, traveled around the world. People kept each other cheerful, raising the spirit to make up for the lack of social contact.

Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp conversations were more lively than ever and zoom meetings for work, but also for a chat, a toast, a love conversation, was the new normal. The social dimension never disappeared, not a little bit.

Well, without touch. Missing hugs and kisses was a way to realize how important they previously were in our daily lives.

Doctors and nurses were doing miracles, working relentlessly, with poor safety measures, arousing our admiration. All the people working in the food supply chain couldn’t stop as well. Volunteers provided shopping for the old people at home and tissue facial masks were sewed and gifted in several towns and neighborhoods.

But let’s talk about the bad.

First of all, it was surprising how fast we all accepted that social distancing was the only solution. I wonder if there was some alternative way to protect the weaker with exceptional measures, even at the same high price. As for most of the others, I suppose for me the risk was a viral infection with mild symptoms. Maybe we could cope with it, without putting at risk an entire economic system made of local shops and little enterprises.

As in a revolution, there was no time or desire to discuss alternatives. The only “political” debate was if the government was doing enough, had intervened soon enough or could restrict freedoms even more.

The big doctors on TV appeared to be the only legitimate authorities to discuss measures despite the fact that they had – at least – to be balanced with fundamental rights and freedoms.  I couldn’t help but think that freedom of worship or the right to mourn the dead could be saved somehow – maybe moving them open-air, with due distances. But that wasn’t debatable.

What was much worse, people locked in the houses started judging the few ones moving freely outside: a few runners, people driving cars and riding bikes. For sure, some had good reasons to move (with the special permission we all had in the pocket, when outside) some others were just less obedient. Regrettable of course, but not at the point to be hated. Pointing the finger was easy and lightheartedly done.

And such hatred was real, a sort of decompression for the sense of frustration for being prisoners of the invisible enemy. Overreacting, looking for the responsible for bringing the contagion in town, blaming the authorities for not protecting enough, that was the shadow surfacing in many good citizens at home.  

All in plain sight: the light and the shadow, and the boat we were all in.

I felt I couldn’t go on with business as usual.

In my cozy house – luckily prisoner with my two sons – I was doing my best to stay positive, shielding my boys from the wave of fear and anxiety I could perceive from the outside.

After years and years of frantic activity, staying at home wasn’t too bad.

Yet, from time to time I couldn’t help but think of the sick ones, the seriously sick: those condemned to stay in the hospital without the presence and the comforting touch of the dear ones. Dying alone, this was the curse of this virus.  

My work didn’t stop, even if I was confined at home.
I could teach online, correct theses, advise students, write…
Well, most of my work had always been at home: reading, studying, writing. Especially – and on purpose – in the quiet hours when the boys were at school.
I was used to struggling with the blank page on my personal computer and now I had plenty of time to do so. I couldn’t even complain about all the other chores.

Yet, motivation was totally missing. All of a sudden I was wondering if all my work made sense at all.

I had always seen my life as a continuous upgrading and now – I felt – it was time to upgrade again.
Unfortunately, I was clueless. Waiting for a hint about the next step, out of my old patterns and towards some new, more significant ones…

I had the impression this virus was a sort of wake-up call, not just for me, but for everybody. I felt, deep inside, the responsibility to get the hidden message inside the call.

Sleeping, reading novels, cooking was all I wanted to do in those lazy days of quarantine. All I had never had time to do. I was overwhelmed, at times, with a sense of guilt for this sudden laziness, something I was unprepared to face.

A sudden thought: – maybe this is how searching for the meaning of life looks like: waiting and contemplation. Maybe the white page is where it all starts and where I had to start. Seeing what could flow out of my mind. No plans, no goals, no attachments. Just the free flow of thoughts. Inspiration? Intuition? It was time to see if these were real, if they worked.

And there it was: my “Oneness” posts 🙂

Compassion. A sense of commonality with all the people living the same life and the same fears in so many towns and countries around the world.

Contribute. Could I contribute? How? 

The challenge to me was clear: the virus showing once more how this world is small, how humanity is nothing but a family whose destiny lays in interconnectedness.

We had already seen plenty of images of catastrophes around the world in this strange leap year: desperation, bombs, locusts, floods, and fires. Powerful images calling for our empathy and compassion for our fellow humans, the close and the far away.

Yet this lockdown because of an infinitely small virus – apparently not so terrible –  was something different: a shared experience.

 It was connecting for the first time people around the world, sharing the same fear. Could this become a sharing of love instead? I was wondering. Could we pray for each other, meditate for each other, feel eventually a real, family-like, connection?

Hope.

The light at the end of the tunnel could be brighter than the one we left behind, at least because we learned to enjoy it with new eyes.

Follows in chapter three

A EUROPEAN ANSWER TO THE CORONAVIRUS THREAT TO PROVE THAT THE EU IS A TRUE COMMUNITY WITH A SHARED FUTURE

680px-COVID-19_Outbreak_Cases_in_Europe.svg

file from the Wikimedia Commons

We, European citizens, understand that Covid-19 is a common threat, that may hurt one country sooner than another, but will eventually hurt us all, and can impact our daily life and economy almost like a war.

We, European citizens, are worried and scared by this threat; and even more by the cacophony, selfishness and self-destructive short-sightedness of the different, uncoordinated national responses; by the lack of foresight of our national leaders, who pretend not to know that our interdependence requires a single European answer with strict containment measures of the pandemics, and an EU-wide plan to re-start the European economy afterward.

We, European citizens, denounce the current EU as an incomplete Res Publica, thus ill-equipped to face this challenge, with little competences and powers to face the pandemics. We welcome the timely decision by the Commission to provide 25 billion euro and financial flexibility to cope with this threat. Maybe it is the most it can do, but it is not enough.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliament to propose, and on the national governments to adopt (starting with the Eurogroup meeting of March 16, and a following extraordinary European Council to be called soon after) the following urgent measures, also using the Lisbon Treaty passerelle clause and simplified Treaty revision provisions:

  1. Make public health and the fight against epidemics a shared competence of the EU, subject to the ordinary legislative procedure, and provide the Commission with extraordinary powers to coordinate the response to the epidemics, as a federal government should do.
  2. Enlarge the scope of the European Stability Mechanism to finance the immediate strengthening of the European and national health systems to cope with the pandemics, which threatens the lives of European citizens, and thus also the economic and financial stability of the EU.
  3. Abolish the compulsory balanced budget provision for the EU and create an EU Safe Asset to be issued to finance an EU-wide plan to promote EU economic recovery and social cohesion during and after the emergency.
  4. Move fiscal issues to the ordinary legislative procedure and provide the EU with fiscal powers to adopt new own resources – such as the carbon tax (and carbon tariffs), the digital tax, the financial transaction tax – to finance the EU budget (or the Euro-area Budgetary Instrument, if the decision could be reached only at the Euro-area level).
  5. Immediately approve the next Multiannual Financial Framework increasing the budget to at least 1,3% of the EU GDP, as requested by the European Parliament, on the basis of the current structure of the budget financing; and with the provision to reach 2% with the new own resources, to ensure the provision of crucial EU-wide public goods.
  6. Turn the planned Conference on the future of Europe into a fully-fledged European Convention to draft a new Constitutional Pact among the EU citizens and Member states.

We European citizens believe this is the defining hour for the EU. The social perception of the EU will be shaped for years by its response to this crisis. This is the time to prove the EU is a community of values with a shared destiny, a life-line for its citizens and member states in the face of a turbulent global world with political, economic and health threats. It is time for bold common steps to overcome fear. It is time for European unity, not for national division.

 

To sign follow this link

Below a first list of signatories (now more than 400)

Romano Prodi, Former President of the European Commission, former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, President Sciences Po; President Jacques Delors Institute; former Italian Prime Minister Enrique Baron Crespo, Chair Jean Monnet ad personam, Former President European Parliament Pascal Lamy, Honorary President Jacques Delors Institute; former European Commissioner; former Director-General World Trade Organization Anna Diamantopoulou, President To Diktio, former Greek Minister and European Commissioner José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, former Prime Minister in Spain Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, President Istituto Affari Internazionali, former European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Gian Paolo Accardo, Founder of VoxEurope Alberto Alemanno, École des Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) Paris; Founder and Director, the Good Lobby Daniele Archibugi, Acting Director, IRPPS – Italian National Research Council Brando Benifei, Member of the European Parliament, Head of the Italian delegation in the Socialist and Democrat Group, Board of the Spinelli Group Vítor Bento, Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas Universidade de Lisboa; former Director of the Foreign Department of the Portuguese Central Bank; former General Director of Treasury, President of Junta de Crédito Público and member of the European Monetary Committe Stefano Boeri, President Triennale di Milano; Full professor Urbanistica Politecnico di Milano Pierre Brunet, Directeur du Département des Masters de Droit public de l’Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne Maria Chiara Carrozza, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa, former Rector, former Italian Minister of Education, University and Research Innocenzo Cipolletta, President Assonime, former director general of Confindustria (Association of Italian Business) Carlos Closa, European University Institute, former Director of the European, Transnational and Global Governance research area; former Deputy Director at the Centre for Political and Constitutional Studies (CEPC) in Madrid, and member of the Venice Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe Stefan Collignon, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa; former Harvard and London School of Economics; former Director Association for the Monetary Union of Europe Andrew Duff, President of the Spinelli Group; Visiting Fellow, European Policy Centre; former Member of the European Parliament Rafał Dymek, President Polska Fundacja Robert Schuman Sergio Fabbrini, Director School of Government at Luiss University Piero Fassino, President Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale; Vice President Foreign Affairs Committe of the Chamber of Deputies in Italy; Elsa Fornero, University of Turin, Scientific Coordinator of CeRP – Collegio Carlo Alberto, Vice President of SHARE and Research Fellow of IZA and Netspar, Former Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policies John Erik Fossum, Arena Center for European Studies, Oslo Mahmoud Gebril, former Prime Minister of Lybia Sandro Gozi, Member of the European Parliament, President of the Union of European Federalists, former Under-secretary of state for European Policies Ulrike Guerot, Head of Department for European Policy and the Study of Democracy, Danube University Krems, Austria; Founder of the European Democracy Lab in Berlin István Hegedűs, Chairman Hungarian Europe Society Aldo Kaslowski, Chairman of Organik holding, former Vice-President of Tusiad (Association of Turkish Business) Guillaume Klossa, writer, founder of EuropaNova and Civico Europa, Sherpa to the reflection group on the future of Europe 2020-2030, former Director at the European Broadcasting Union Anna Krasteva, New Bulgarian University and CERMES, editor-in-chief of Journal Southeastern Europe Peter Jambrek, President of the New University, Slovenia Cristophe Leclerque, Founder of Euractiv Network, President of Euractiv Foundation Jo Leinen, Former MEP, former President of the Spinelli Group, the European Movement International, the Union of European Federalists Francesca Longo, President Società Italiana di Scienza Politica Paolo Magri, Director Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionali (ISPI) Sylwia Majkowska-Szulc, University of Gdańsk, Secretary of the Board of the Polish Association of European Law Fabio Masini, University of Rome 3, Co-director International Centre for European and Global Governance (CesUE), Fabienne Peraldi-Leneuf, Sorbonne Law School Director of the Franco-Italian double degree Co-Director of the M2 International Lawyer, Giovanni Moro, Chairman of Cittandinanza Attiva Kalypso Nicolaidis, Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford Claus Offe, Hertie School of Governance in Berlin Gianfranco Pasquino, University of Bologna, Johns Hopkins Bologna Center and Fellow of the Accademia dei Lincei Otto Pfersfmann, Directeur d’Etudes Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales / Lier-FYT Paris Mikolaj Pietrzak, Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association of Advocates Gaetano Quagliarello, Luiss University, Senator Lia Quartapelle, Research Fellow at ISPI, Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Dimitrij Rupel, Nova univerza Ljubljana; former Foreign Minister of Slovenia (1990-1993, 2000-2008) Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and a Member of its Committee on Global Thought, which she chaired till 2015 Giuseppe Scognamiglio, Chairman East-West European Institute Richard Sennett, OBE FBA; Visiting Professor, The Senseable Cities Lab, MIT; Chair, Council on Urban Initiatives, United Nations Habitat; Chair, Theatrum Mundi, Ingrid Shikova, Head of Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence European Studies Department, Sofia University “St.Kliment Ohridski” Enzo Siviero, Rector eCampus University, Architect Christoph Strecker, Judge, Founder of MEDEL (Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés) Allain Terrenoire, Président de l’Union Paneuropéenne Internationale Arnaud Thysen, Director European Business Summit Nathalie Tocci, Director Istituto Affari Internazionali, former Advisor to VP/HR Federica Mogherini Nadia Urbinati, Columbia University, Andrea Biondi Director Centre of European Law Dickson Poon School of Law Kings College London, Peter Schiffauer Deputy Director Dimitris-Tsatsos-Institut for European
Constitutional Sciences Fernuniversität in Hagen, Livio Vanghetti, Executive Vice President of Philip Morris Anna Wessely, ELTE University of Budapest, President of the Hungarian Sociological Association, Editor-in-chief of BUKSZ – The Budapest Review of Books Vladimiro Zagrebelski, Carlo Alberto College in Turin, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights Bénédicte Zimmermann, Directrice d’études at the EHESS Paris, Susanna Cafaro Università del Salento, Vice-President of the Italian Society of International Law, Fabienne Péraldi Leneuf Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne, Nico A. Heller Democracy School, Paolo Garonna Università LUISS G. Carli, Elisa Baroncini Università di Bologna, Pietro Gargiulo Università di Teramo,  Gianpaolo Maria Ruotolo Università di Foggia, Luigi Daniele Coordinatore del Dottorato di ricerca
in diritto pubblico Università Roma “Tor Vergata”, Annamaria Viterbo, Università di Torino, Vesselin Popovski Professor Vice Dean Jindal Global Law School Haryana, India.

 

Oneness

Lungomare_città_di_BrindisiChapter I

Brindisi, March 10th, 2020

When it all started

It started as a quiet subversion of daily habits.

After the declaration of the state of emergency throughout Italy, the roads appeared deserted even in the southern regions where the risk was very low, just a handful of people infected by province.

Few people with masks and scared looks entered and left the shops on that beautiful March day.

Government instructions were clear: you could only leave the house for reasons of strict necessity: for medical treatments, for work, for “survival”, that is shopping for food.

The population was forbidden to touch, hug and kiss, to leave their own town of residence. All the activities that could be carried out from home – as distance learning or smart working – continued. Also some essential public services. But who knows how many activities were interrupted and for how long.

The planes no longer left. The silence was striking. In that green suburb close to the airport it sounded unnatural.

What struck me most was the loss of the little things I had always taken for granted: hugging my father, for example; exchange kisses on the occasion of my birthday; take a walk without a real destination just to look at the sea.

What about meeting my partner? He lived in another town and seeing each other was now impossible. Until when?

I felt a pang in the stomach. What if either of us got sick? No visiting, no help? And if it became serious? 100 km never felt like a difficult distance, now they were.

It was the first time I really thought of sickness as a real possibility.

Back home, I was welcomed by the usual smiles of my sons.

Ours was a little bubble of positivity.

We left daily news enter only for short updates in the morning and in the evening. The TV was turned off most of the time. Except when PlayStation was turned on, which was, for my standards, way too much.

My sons had reacted in two different yet quite healthy ways: one, the younger – just turned fourteen – had celebrated the closure of the school as a historic event per se, but deplored the fact that homework continued to arrive just the same.

The older one, close to his sixteen birthday, had armed himself with patience and although he suffered from the loss of his social life, seemed serene. Both had hobbies and games to play, they enjoyed all this extra time for themselves.

Turning off TV wasn’t a real novelty for us, but now it was self-defense. The virus was on-air h24. This health crisis had obscured all the other crises, not less dramatic: the bombing of civilians in Syria, the desperate situation of migrants on the Greek border, the exceptional Arctic temperatures.

We had all seen pictures of penguins trotting in the mud instead of slipping elegantly on the pack: the photos had circulated on Facebook but had never found their way to TV news, yet 20 ° in Antarctica was big news. And the violations of fundamental rights perpetrated massively on refugees? What was happening?

Moreover, the United States was shipping 20,000 troops in Europe, the largest deployment of forces in 25 years. Apparently, practicing to lead a convoy across the Atlantic. Could we need a new landing in Normandy or Sicily? Who would invade us: the Russians? the Chinese? For the moment the Americans, although they had promised that they would leave Europe after cleaning training areas.

How could all this make sense in the middle of a pandemic?

Internet was the only source for everything that was not the virus and its consequences, a massive and chaotic source, overflowing with fake. Fake news continued to arrive on every mobile via the WhatsApp groups. I had received maybe ten times the same message telling us to fight infection with hot drinks, as ridiculous as it sounded, most of my contacts had believed and passed it on.

I had spent the last two months organizing big conferences, one was already canceled, the other looked uncertain but we were clinging to the idea that everything would be fine and that the emergency would end soon.

Ironically, our conferences were on democratic global governance, on commons and common values. I smiled at the idea that speaking of democracy with the right of meeting suspended was quite a thing.

By the way, our team knew how much this was contradicting the direction that politics seemed to have taken at the national and the global level. Yet, it was a way to face and counter the narrative, hopefully, to start writing a different one.

And now this virus, quietly, was overwriting on its own, putting on hold globalization, reviving borders and building new ones, even from town to town.

I was feeling like a little lab rat. Italy was a little lab. Our first-class citizenship which allowed us to go everywhere, often visa-free, was now rejected. Closed, each of us in our little towns.

And yet, with the coronavirus declared a global health emergency by WHO, we had further (unnecessary!) evidence that borders were pointless in front of great emergencies, that viruses traveled without documents and that you could find yourself on the wrong side in no time.

Solutions, whatever, needed cooperation, not competition. We were all connected, even more with hugs forbidden.

I had so much to work on, articles and chapters on democracy and citizenship and global governance, but all this thinking was bringing me to the core: oneness. I had to work on oneness, skipping all the intermediate steps.

To be continued…

Chapter II

Chapter III

Connecting the dots: how a “supranational” path led me to the Supranational Democracy Dialogue.

Most of the experiences I had in my life (in researching, teaching, advocacy) point to this specific direction: governance beyond the State.

Advocacy came first. Since I was a teenager, I played a leading role in the Young European Federalists (JEF).

It was only after I was awarded a Ph.D. grant from the University of Bologna that I had to put aside that experience (apparently to prove to be a “serious” researcher) according to the suggestion of my mentor prof. Paolo Mengozzi. My Ph.D. thesis, which became my first book was dedicated to the economic and monetary union, a brand new topic after the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty. The focus of my whole work (in the Nineties) was the lack of economic governance in Europe or, to be precise, the need for a common fiscal policy, a topic still relevant nowadays (and the topic for another book later on).

From there I moved to research on the ways and tools for Europe and the Eurozone to speak with one voice in the international fora, so I came to study the IMF and the World Bank (and to the governance of the two was dedicated my second book). The external relations of the EU are a recurrent topic in my record of publications, with two specific focuses: representation in international organizations and euro-Mediterranean relations, between bilateral and multilateral options.

Only later on I realized how my federalist starting point was influencing my research path: wherever I see a governance problem I start to investigate representation, legitimacy, accountability, budget. And I’m drawn to governance issues like a moth to a flame!

Once realized that, I went straight to the point, publishing on democracy in international organizations, on accountability, on citizenship in the European democratic formula.

 I think that not less interesting and diverse has been my experience in advocacy.

In 2009, with a group of colleagues, I founded the think tank The Group of Lecce which, on the long wave of the global financial crisis, started releasing communiques on how to improve the governance of financial institutions.

 In the same period, I started attending the Civil society policy forum convened twice a year by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the occasion of their annual and spring meetings and I was invited to join the Bretton Woods Committee.

Starting a blog on “Supranational Democracy” in 2015 was the next step.

It seemed quite natural, two years later, to make the research line converge with the advocacy path and I convened a big international conference to invite scholars and people from academia and institutions to discuss with civil society leaders. All the networks I had previously attended mixed up in this new adventure.

So, in 2018 I have been the organizer – with a great supporting team- of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue (SDD), a dialogue among scholars, civil society and creative thinkers on democratic solutions to global challenges. the story of that experience is in a little documentary film.

As the first edition of the dialogue was a big success and created a platform of like-minded scholars and activists, I am now working on the second edition. I can count on an interesting and diverse network collected around this idea that the world needs some kind of democratic global governance.  

Eventually, this year, I was awarded a Jean Monnet Chair whose title is “Legal Theory of European Integration: a Supranational Democracy Model”. A sort of blessing, for me, after so many years of dedication to an idea which was, for many, plain crazy.

I think that building governance beyond the state and reinventing democracy for the human family is the big challenge of the XXI century, or maybe of the second millennium.

Spiritual people call it oneness: realizing that we are all one, connected and interdependent.

Pragmatical scholars move from different premises: issues are nowadays global (global warming, sea pollution, water scarcity, migration waves, trade wars, threats to peace and security); global institutions are imperfect, as they were created many decades ago for a world of sovereign nations which look nowadays inadequate (both the nations and the global institutions). Globalization of finance, markets, social media calls forth globalization of rights.

No matter which position you move from, you can get to this awareness moved by the mind or the heart. You can come from international law, economics or maybe philosophy, anthropology, a religious belief, or a psychological search… the supranational democracy dialogue could be the place for you.

The panelists come from so many different experiences that nobody expects to teach or to hold the truth, and everybody has for sure something to learn. What is expected is a phenomenon of cross-pollination among ideas, cultures, and paths.

The next edition of the SDD will be in Brindisi, on April 16-17. The program is still a work in progress, it will be posted shortly. If you want to attend or to receive the network newsletter please send an email to info@supranationaldemocracy.net.

See you there xxx

Susanna

Lights and Shadows in European Democracy: the Appointment of the European Commission

President-elect
In the picture: the new President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to be appointed in this position.

The first task of the newly elected European Parliament is the election of the new President of the Commission, and, in a second stage, the full list of Commissioners agreed with the Commission President-elect. The Executive Body of the Union, so, is a direct expression of the political majority inside the Parliament, it matches the same term of office of EP members (5 years) and can be dismissed at any moment by the same Parliament.

What I just described is the well known parliamentary model for governance.

Plus…

…in the European Union, there is some plus as well as some minus…. confirming its hybrid and experimental formula for governance. There are some shortcomings if we look at it in comparison to the state model and  – yet – some improvements and positive innovations which come from being an advanced experiment in open governance, at least when some institutions are concerned.

For instance, few national institutions are so much online as the European Parliament, whose work (agenda, preparatory documents, committees’ activity, and plenary debates) are fully accessible. Few governments are so much scrutinized by their parliaments before the appointment. And if you have doubts about it, just follow online the hearings of the commissioners to be – in the competent Parliament’s committees – from September 30 to October 8. I can tell you that some of them could not pass the examination: a negative evaluation has prompted candidates in the past to withdraw from the process.

I wish I saw this in my home countries where governments come and go and usually some ministers are not qualified for the task…. but that is considered dramatically normal as political belonging wins over skills and performance.

But…let’s have a look at the shadows.

First of all, the two supranational bodies – a Parliament directly legitimized by European citizens and an independent Commission legitimized by the Parliament (just like many national governments) – have to co-exist and share their role with two intergovernmental bodies, whose role, even if balanced and circumscribed, is still powerful. These institutions are the Council and the European Council, directly representing, through their ministers and heads of government, the member states.

Even if a chamber representing the interests of states is a normal component in the federal systems and each member of the two bodies receives legitimacy from its own national democracy (being them governments’ representatives… that’s why it is so important for all that each member state remains a democracy), the composition of the two changes at any national election (or national change of government) and their  continuity and coherence, as well as the transparency,  aren’t exactly ideal.

The European Council, i.e. the heads of Member states, nominate a candidate for the post of Commission’s President, taking into account the European election results. Of course, they are willing to pick somebody who could win the confidence of the Parliament, yet the Treaty does not oblige them to indicate the same person chosen by the political groups as their candidate, as it happened with Juncker five years ago (spitzenkandidat). Unfortunately.

The Parliament needs to approve the new Commission President by an absolute majority (half of the existing MEPs plus one). Otherwise, the European Council needs to propose another candidate within a month’s time, acting by a qualified majority. 

On 16 July 2019, the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen the future President of the European Commission. She is the first woman to be President-elect of the European Commission. She is also the first President representing a coalition (S&D, Green, Liberal). Moreover, she is the first President committed to enshrining gender equality.

The Council, in agreement with the Commission President-elect, adopts a list of candidate commissioners, one for each member state.  Even if they do not represent member states, in order to pursue the common interest of the Union and to respond only to the European Parliament, the role of national governments remains fundamental in designating them.

After the Commissioner-designate appears before parliamentary committees in their prospective fields of responsibility and each of them draws up its evaluation of the candidate’s expertise and performance, the full Commission, including the President and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, needs to be approved in a single vote by the Parliament.

After the President and Commissioners have been approved by Parliament, they are formally appointed by the Council, acting by a qualified majority. In the event of a substantial portfolio change during the Commission’s term of office, the filling of a vacancy or the appointment of a new Commissioner following the accession of a new member state, the Commissioners concerned is heard again before the relevant committees of the Parliament.

Is this procedure democratic? I would say so. Is the Commission legitimized as the Executive of the Union? Once again, I would say so.

Of course, it would be more if national governments opened up their own procedure (if any) to appoint candidates. Or if the Council became a more stable Chamber of States.

Are European citizens aware of these mechanisms? No, they are not. I doubt even the majority of national politicians and of journalists are, really.

Until the largest part of the population will still miss some important pieces of the puzzle, misperception will undermine the good functioning of European democracy as democratic links need to be felt and lived with. Awareness is the main ingredient missing in the European recipe… and of course yes, any recipe can be improved!

Before the European Elections, Let’s Talk about Us, the Citizens

A new event hosted by Università del Salento on April 5, 2019, Rectorate (Piazzetta Tancredi), open to the public:

 

CITIZENSHIP IN ACTION: IMPLEMENTING PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

Ten years after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union is a democratic space, as its founding treaties officially recognize (art.10-11) TEU. Yet, many citizens don’t know their European civic rights and the potential of the Treaty of Lisbon – to enhance the role of the citizen at the center of the system – appears underexploited.

Which tools and channels can citizens activate to get involved in the European decisional process?

Could transparency in the EU legislative process be enhanced?

Is citizens’ legal protection guaranteed in any stage, as individuals and as members of communities and groups?

Are the core values of the Union guaranteed as well?

Can we really say that there is “no way back” on democratic guarantees?

 

These topics will be discussed with the audience by:

 

 

Onno Brower ( Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Law Firm – Amsterdam/Brussels)

Antonio Caiola (European Parliament Legal Service – Luxembourg)

Emilio De Capitani (European Parliament, King’s College- Brussels)

Claudia Morini (Università del Salento)

 

Chair: Susanna Cafaro (Università del Salento)

 

 

 A summary will be posted shortly after!

 

 

Scientific Coordination: Susanna Cafaro, Emilio De Capitani

Borders

 

blue and white planet display

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that our beautiful planet appears from space as a mostly blue ball, surrounded by white clouds.

It’s a poetic view: a cosy and hospitable planet. No borders are visible, not one of the about 200 fragments called states that we humans have created in the last few centuries. Yet, one old boundary is visible, the Great Wall of China. Big walls are not something new, as we can see, and yes, they get outdated soon or late.

There are many kinds of borders.

Yet, speaking about borders, the first which come to mind are the borders between states. They have multiple functions, here are the main ones: safety from external threats such as invasions; delimitation of rights for the conferral to the insiders of some special status (as citizens or residents); source of income as goods and services can be taxed when they cross that line; stop of unwanted people or unwanted goods.

States and societies are more or less open. As Popper taught, the more a society is democratic, the more it is expected to be open. An open society accepts the exchange with the outside on the economic as well as on the cultural level. The more it exchanges, the more it flourishes. History has proven this to be true in all ages.

Nonetheless, even for democratic countries, borders are a challenging topic. It took about 50 years to Europe to dismantle them; first came down the customs barriers and the limitation to circulate for workers, then the police controls, finally they became totally invisible. The European Court of Justice, one decision after the other, deleted tons of hidden obstacles to the free movement of people, goods, services and capitals and removed all the discriminations brought to its attention. Free circulation became a fundamental right. EU contributed to reducing borders with the other countries too, as this was the main goal of hundreds (or even thousands) of international agreements concluded in the last half-century.

Many borders went down thanks to technological advancement. Internet was a powerful tool for overcoming cultural borders. Low-cost flights made the movement of people easier. Yet, borders are now rising again.

Borders are constructs of fear. And fear is rising

Even within borders, there are often other borders. Many ancient towns have walls around them, yet they were inside kingdoms or even empires. Nonetheless, they feared near towns, or just near towns’ products in the market, they kept guarded gates to keep outside unwanted travellers and to close inside at night.

Even within towns, there were often other borders. Ghettos are old phenomena, they had real barriers around them.

Now that many physical barriers are collapsed, and others are more permeable than they were 50 years ago, the political debate seems polarized on how to raise them again.

In Europe, after a long season without internal borders that attracted 28 countries from the initial 6, confusion and uncertainty dominate the political scene on how to rebuild the border with Britain (and even more unfortunately across Ireland).

In the US, “the wall” seems to be the reason for an unprecedented shutdown costing billions to the American economy.

The international relations appear dominated by debates about trade wars and trade deals on customs duties.

But the worst borders are the invisible ones, those within the mind of people. In Italy, as well as in several European countries, nationalism and racism are menacingly reappearing. This resurgent division between us and them – be them the strangers, the refugees, the poor, even those living in another region of the same country – are my main concern.

Once again, it is nothing but a construct of fear, and it generates even more fear. Even those resisting this wave and trying to keep mind and heart open could start thinking in terms of us and them – being them, this time, the racist, the fascist, the “bad ones”. This is falling in the same trap of separation.

If we want to resist all this, we cannot but think in terms of humanity. We cannot but express compassion for the reasoning we cannot accept nor legitimize. We can see and acknowledge the fear behind it.  Then we can play our little role in dismantling inner and outer borders in politics as well as in daily life.

 

The “infringement procedure” against Italy for the excessive deficit.

 

silver and gold coins

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

First of all, the infringement procedure, all the Italian newspapers talk about, is not an infringement procedure (sorry, as EU law prof I cannot but suffer for all these wrong terms, words are important).

Second, there is no conspiracy against Italy or its recovered sovereignty, just the (usual?) consequence of an infringement of a rule, which, by the way, is quite common sense:  excessive deficits are prohibited as they threaten the whole Euro area, its very existence under its current institutional structure.

But let me clarify the first point first.

The infringement procedure is a legal procedure started by the European Commission against an EU country that fails to implement EU law. The Commission – after a pre-judicial exchange of communications – may refer the issue to the Court of Justice, which in certain cases, can condemn the state and even impose financial penalties.

Otherwise, in this case, we are witnessing the first step of the procedure for the application of the prohibition of an excessive deficit, set up by article 126 TFEU and further specified by a number of legal acts, which is radically different.

First of all, it is not a judicial procedure, but a political one. The main decisional body is the ECOFIN Council (the Council of Financial Ministers of the Union), not the Court of Justice. Second, it is grounded in economic reasoning, and the only possible line of defence is on the same ground.

But let’s take a step back

The States of the Union have “almost” full sovereignty over budgetary matters, they are absolutely free to decide how to compose the basket of income and expenditure.

The only limit is the prohibition of an excessive deficit.

The rationale is simple: the default of one state would spread among the others like a contagion. Moreover, the EU budget is too small to save anyone. And taking money from one state’s budget to rescue another is difficult and unpopular (we have witnessed all this during the Greek crisis).

So the EU Treaties try to prevent all this through two basic rules: one is article 125 TFEU stating that every state is responsible for its own budget and no government (not even the European one) is obliged to take over the responsibility stemming from a state’s budget. The second is article 126, intended -with its prohibition – to prevent unsustainable deficits.

The ECOFIN Council is in charge of assessing, on a proposal from the Commission, whether the deficit is excessive. In this case, with a predefined step by step procedure, it may adopt a recommendation, then an intimation, and finally a sanction (but it takes almost a year to get to this final stage). The spirit is to promote correction: the procedure can be stopped at any moment presenting a correction plan. It has happened many times for other EU countries, it happened in 2003 for France and Germany.

These rules, in the treaties since 1992, have been signed and ratified by Italy, even willingly.

Among the fathers of the euro, some eminent Italians as Guido Carli, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Tommaso Padoa Schioppa were well aware of the damage that was being inflicted on future generations with a debt out of control. They thought that an external bond could save Italy and acted accordingly.

In general terms, excessive debts are not a good thing for States: they generate interests and reduce oxygen for expansive policies, they compress the discretion of States on current policies and they transfer a burden over the future generations. In a currency union, they are even more unsustainable as we cannot print money to cover them.

But, let’s think for a moment that we could, would it be the solution? Are you aware of the price of inflation over the economy and over the population? Just on everybody? In a short span of time, we would all be poorer as the purchasing power drops and savings lose their value.

Or are you thinking that we have the choice of not honouring the debt?

Unfortunately, it’s not a debt with some foreign power or financial institution. It is a diffused debt, which we find in most of the mutual funds, in the retirement funds, in the portfolios of all Italian banks. Not repaying it would be just a different way to spread poverty.

Now, I personally do not like either the stability pact or the austerity approach. I think there are times when expansive policies have to be made (and the Commission has tried to do so with an investment plan that has greatly benefited our country, but we do not talk about it). Of course, it is too little, and the EU budget is also too little if we think (as I think) that it is useful having some kind of corrective and balancing function of a central budget in a currency union. But this is another point.

We can promote new rules at European level, we can negotiate the new EU budget multiannual framework having in mind our needs and the needs of the disadvantaged areas (not just our ones), we can suggest new funding for unemployed people, wherever they are (you know Italy studied this proposal some years ago?).

This nonetheless would not stop the procedure. We can stop it, anytime, implementing sounder public finances, whatever the political vision we want them to mirror.

By the way, we are already paying the sanction. It is the so-called sanction of the markets: call it spread, call it interest, call it difficult allocation of the new debt emissions. It is, in broader terms, the price of loss of credibility.

I don’t think my country deserve this, but I can only blame its current political choices and not some financial monster in the shadows.

The Beauty of Being Visionary

 

SDD opening

 

The first Supranational Democracy Dialogue has ended one week ago and I am just recovering from the stress and the fatigue of managing and hosting it, and from the overdose of joy and enthusiasm of welcoming so many friends and fellow visionaries, of sharing ideas and plans for the future. We even signed a beautiful final manifesto, you can download it here: Manifesto for supranational democracy final.

SDD reading the manifesto

It was a great experience and the most exciting in my career path.  Nonetheless, I am not sure it was really about my career path. As Myra Jackson pointed out in one of our breakfasts together, it was more about coming out of my “academic closet”.

Several of my young, great team members published posts on the event pointing out how I was the visionary behind all this. And that’s flattering!

Except that, in Italian, if you write visionary (visionario), then you add “in a good way”, as they all did. Because in Italian “visionario” means plain foolish (pazzo visionario!).

It’s a pity. As I learned in other political and cultural climates, being visionaries is a good thing: it’s about having a vision for the future and sharing it. It’s the quality of true leadership. I wonder if this reticence of our language in using the word “visionario” is just a reflection of our collective pessimism and of having given up visions for the future.

It took me years to accept the idea of being visionary and it is just the first time that I am publicly defined so.

Before accepting my being visionary I went through a number of life-changing experiences: starting the Group of Lecce with some fellow visionary colleagues, being invited to join the Bretton Woods Committee, walking a spiritual journey and meeting many extraordinary mentors, attending three A-fests in a row and the first Mindvalley U (and this year, again!), stretching my finances – in a way I would have never imagined – and standing mostly out of my comfort zone. I was already forty – and a single mom – when it all started – several years ago. It happened gradually, it was sort of re-prioritizing my entire life, step by step. And setting myself free.

Do you realize how much of our freedom of expression is limited by self-censorship?

Now, I cannot say I have arrived somewhere. Maybe I have just stopped in some big station, and waiting for the train to move forward, to the next one. It’s all about who you become along the way:  yourself, or Your-True-Self.

In my case, it is about becoming visionary (or plain foolish :-)))

By the way, I love this quote, it is from a conversation between Alice and her father:

 

Risultati immagini per alice foolish quote