“The economy has been used successfully as the driver of integration by the EU governments. But today, many citizens feel that economic processes are out of reach, that the political has vanished in the face of a technocratic and intransparent management on the EU level, often pushing ideological choices in the name of European common interest. Meanwhile, also companies, especially smaller ones which form a crucial part of our economic tissue, complain that Brussels regulatory activities are inaccessible to them and create disadvantageous conditions for them.” It was in December 2007, under the presidency of Franck Biancheri, that Newropeans made public their proposals on socio-economic issues in Europe. They have then been published in English, French, German and Polish.
Newropeans’ position on socio-economic questions – Final proposal of 10/12/2007
1. The economy has been used successfully as the driver of integration by the EU governments. But today, many citizens feel that economic processes are out of reach, that the political has vanished in the face of a technocratic and intransparent management on the EU level, often pushing ideological choices in the name of European common interest. Meanwhile, also companies, especially smaller ones which form a crucial part of our economic tissue, complain that Brussels regulatory activities are inaccessible to them and create disadvantageous conditions for them.
2. Newropeans’ proposals in the field of socio-economic policies seek to reinstall the possibilities for democratic economic decision-making where they have been lost on the national level. This concerns all countries which are today part of the single market, but most notably those countries which share the Euro.
Our understanding of the EU’s socio-economic model
3. We think that the vast majority of European citizens today wishes to live in a social-market economy, in which efficient systems ensure both social security within in the member states, but also cohesion among the member states. Only sufficient cohesion within the EU’s borders provides sound economic and social basis for joint trans-European decision-making and action. We are convinced that European citizens today request policies that ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability for the future generations. This has to be a guiding principle for all economic policy choices to ensure that the decisions serve the long-term interests of European citizens and respect their rights as European citizens.
4. The EU should solely become active in social and economic policy-making when European public goods are at stake. The member states and the regions should retain a large degree of independence regarding for instance their choices on their social welfare systems, but certain minimum standards within the EU borders should be democratically agreed upon to prevent that harmful competition endangers social and political stability.
5. When, however, European decision-making is necessary to complement the market and currency integration already achieved, it should be fully democratically legitimised. Policy choices should be the result of trans-European debates and democratic decision-making by the democratised EU institutions representing the citizens of all member countries. The EU thus has to seize the chance to modernise its own future socio-economic model which should ensure diversity, long-term sustainability and the guarantee of the humanistic values on which the EU was built. That way, the EU may serve as a model for other economic areas in the world, and with which the EU should engage on a global level to fight for sustainable economic world order.
Citizens in Europe’s single market
6. European citizens should not only be treated as “consumers” when the EU single market’s future is decided. As citizens, they also have interests, expectations or worries which are economically or commercially legitimate and constructive. This citizens’ view on socio-economic issues has to be taken into account to build a prosperous and democratic European society in the coming decades.
7. The reduction of mobile phone roaming cost and the possibility to have low-cost airlines operate in the EU are examples of a good though small start. Further steps have to be taken to reduce the cost for the average citizens to form and manage active trans-European civil society organisations which is a pre-requisite for any successful EU democratisation. Public transport, energy, food safety and health are other issues which should be looked at through the citizens’ perspective.
8. In order to ensure labour mobility within the single market, a European social security system should be set up for those citizens who wish to opt for it (and out of their national system). It should be a matter of democratic debate and decision-making whether this system should be organised by a public or private entity and whether it should contain redistributive elements. A European social security system would lower pressure on the member states to harmonise their national systems, while providing those citizens who wish to go for it with a truly European and completely mobile alternative.
A European Single Market with a Common European Solidarity
9. Newropeans is convinced that networks are the most efficient organisations to operate at the European level. They combine diversity of components and unity of action, a requirement for any successful trans-European project or organisation. In the past 20 years, however, networks where only used and developed in two fields somehow marginal to the key dimension of the EU Single Market (European research and high-tech (Ariane, CERN, Thalys, Eurostar, …) and in the field of European internal programmes (networks of universities, NGOs, local authorities, … ).
10. But for the core policy fields of the Single Market, classical competition between pyramidal organisations and their very uniformised management processes has been chosen as the only organisational structure, without any public debate and decision. Newropeans is going to push for alternative solutions in particular in sectors where public interest is directly at stake, such as energy networks, train networks, public health, food security, … . Trans-European networks, whether public or private, should be further explored as answers to the combination of preserving European diversity and specificities while improving efficiency and competitiveness.
11. There are several compatible ways to manage a 500 millions people strong market. Newropeans intend not to prevent any efficient option to be put on the table. And in any democratically chosen option, it will consistently put the emphasis that competition in the EU has to be pushed forward in parallel to economic and social cohesion and solidarity. Not only are these joint principles at the core of modern Europe’s successes, but it must be clear to all Europeans that our social security systems have been, as much as the EU project itself, key instruments preventing the return of large scale wars and extremism on our continent. This new dimension of solidarity, expressed from the very beginning of the EU project, through the structural funds has to be modernized and nurtured in order to ensure that no part of the EU could concretely feel that it is losing from the integration process.
Governing the single market
12. The European Union faces a crucial choice: either it ensures that the single market is governed and regulated in a democratically legitimate way. This is, in our view, the only way to maintain the single market and single currency in the EU.
13. If the EU is not complemented by a European political union based on democratic decision-making, the single market will and should be less integrated. We assume it would slowly but surely disintegrate, because a falling number of national politicians is willing and able to defend the common market project vis-à-vis their citizens. If there is no fully democratic decision-making on the EU level, for reasons of legitimacy, the EU has to regulate less and the principle of mutual recognition (based on the Cassis de Dijon ruling of the European Court of Justice) has to be questioned as it imposes an automatic overruling of national legislation and hence violates democracy on the national level. If these far reaching legal principles of the EU (such as mutual recognition) are to be maintained, European citizens have to get their say and their choices in the definition of the key elements of the system.
14. If Europe opts for integrated markets governed by a European government, market regulation and competition policy on the EU level should be complemented by a common tax policy and a common industrial policy. Both should take into account the specific needs of small- and medium-sized companies, especially family-owned business, who do not usually have a global access to capital, markets and labour force.
The European Monetary Union – a particular challenge
15. With the arrival of the Euro, the member states surrendered a large part of their capacity to make economic policy to the EU level. It is becoming clearer with every year of the single currency’s existence that it is time regain economic policy making competencies – together and on the European level.
16. Today, economic policy-making for the Eurozone countries is largely non-democratic. Not only are institutions and decision-making processes opaque given the high degree of informality and so-called soft coordination which seeks to impose certain principles and logics of economic policy making. More importantly, there is no democratic scrutiny of economic policy making, because the main actors are out of reach of the electorate.
17. This concerns most notably the set-up for fiscal policy. Budgetary policy is not only a question of allocating money to certain programmes and redistributing money within a society. This is what the member states continue to do in their national contexts and according to their preference. But in any Western democracy, fiscal policy also has the function to stabilise the economy over the business cycle. The European Monetary Union is built in a way that this macro-economic stabilisation also has to be done by the member states. Yet, they fail to do this efficiently under the current conditions. The result are suboptimal macro-economic conditions which can harm productivity and labour market performance.
18. The European Monetary Union, as any other currency union in the world, hence needs an automatic fiscal stabilisation mechanism on the EU level. This would insure the public good in the EMU: a stabilisation of growth and employment across the business cycle and across the member countries. One first measure is to generate income to the European budget through a European tax which is highly sensitive to cyclical stabilisation. The best choice is a European corporate tax which should constitute a kind a basic European tax, to which member states can add the national taxes along their preferences, without increasing the overall tax burden in the EU. A second measure is the creation of a European Unemployment Scheme.
A European Unemployment Scheme – a quantum leap for the citizens
19. This European unemployment scheme would provide a six-months unemployment insurance for all citizens who have worked anywhere in the EU for at least twelve months, no matter where they worked or where they move to within the EU’s borders. The benefit level should amount to 50% of the last income and should be capped at 50% of the average income of the country where the job was held.
20. The European Unemployment Scheme would replace part of the national unemployment schemes, without increasing the overall burden of social contributions for employees and exployers. Its introduction would not influence the national choice of social systems. What is added to this European basic insurance on the national level remains the choice for each country according to its preferences and traditions.
21. The benefit for the citizens is first of all a minimum of social security irrespective of their location and the degree of mobility they opt for within the EU’s borders. The European Unemplyoment Scheme is moreover a modern way to organise cross-border solidarity – not between member states, but between citizens, who all pay into and benefit from the same unemployment scheme.
22. Economically, the European Unemployment Scheme would play a particularly important role in the European Monetary Union, which is totally underequipped with reasonable fiscal stabilisation mechanisms at the European level – which it yet urgently needs. A European Unemployment Scheme would play an important macro-economic stabilisation role. It would take money out of the economy where it booms, and transfer it to regions where a fiscal impulse is needed. All this would not happen through lengthy horse-trading negotiations between governments, but through a transparently defined scheme, in which the citizens are the stakeholders. The European Unemployment Scheme would contribute to macro-economic stability and hence growth and employment, by stabilising business cycles across the regions, which tend to drift apart under the current conditions in the EMU.
Small and medium-sized companies
23. Democratisation of the EU is particularly relevant for one category of economical entities: the small and medium-sized companies. They are by far the largest number of companies in the EU. They are by far the first employer in the EU. They are by far the biggest tax payer in the EU. They are of particular importance for a sane economic tissue of the EU.Small and medium-sized companies also constitute an important part of regional and local traditions and cultural habits, for instance local food producers, crafts work etc. who should remain able to provide consumers with their particular offers. Their survival should be ensured as it is part of Europe’s cultural heritage and ensures Europe’s internal diversity.
24. But the influence of SMEs on EU business-related policies is almost non-existent. In many ways, regarding EU decision making processes, SMEs are like citizens … they do not have a voice on most of it, though much is done in their names by organisations or lobbies who represent mostly the big multinational companies. For Newropeans, democratizing the EU business-related policies to allow a more direct input and control by SME’s throughout the EU is a priority.
Today the transeuropean political movement “Newropeans” as it was created by Franck Biancheri in 2000 no longer exists. The archives can be consulted in the frame of the Franck Biancheri Documentation managed by the AAFB (Association des Amis de Franck Biancheri). The AAFB has been created in 2012 after the decease of Franck Biancheri (Oct. 2012) by his direct heirs, and is beside the FJME (Fondation Jean Monnet pour l’Europe) in Lausanne, the unique legitimate structure to keep and publish the works and memories of Franck Biancheri.