by Lucio Levi
The Juncker Plan represents the most significant achievement of the campaign New Deal for Europe (ND4E) begun with a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) in 2014. After seven years of austerity policies, the President of the European Commission has finally declared that growth and the creation of new jobs (the objectives underlying the political proposal of ND4E) are his priorities, specifying that there is hurry and he seems to link the fate of his mandate to the success of his investment plan, because he is convinced that it can provide the answer to what citizens demand. We are those who coined the slogan ND4E which is now on everyone's lips, from Tsipras to Renzi and Ségol, and Juncker himself has used it.
Facts are proving that we are right. The most remarkable success of our proposal lies in the fact that during the European elections campaign it has received the support of five out of six leaders of the main European political parties and the promise, by Juncker, to consider the proposal after the elections. The Juncker Plan contains the answer. Now, it has begun to be operational. ND4E has obtained support of 10 national committees, 68 NGOs, 13 trade unions, 126 mayors (including those of Paris, Lyon, Lille, Rome, Turin and Pisa), 47 personalities from the world of culture and politics, 50 members of the European Parliament. It has been many years since that a federalist campaign was so successful in involving so many political and civil society actors in so many European countries simultaneously. We have launched a slogan that meets the needs of large layers of the European population and politicians could not help but recognize it.
We can assert that, while the three ECIs who reached the milestone of one million signatures did not obtain by the Commission a corresponding legislative proposal, ours is the only case in which the Commission has put forward a proposal encapsulated in an ICE, and did so before the end of the collection of signatures. That is why we have withdrawn the ICE ND4E and decided, at the same time, to continue the campaign ND4E to pursue the objectives not yet achieved (the creation of new own resources through a financial transaction tax, a carbon tax and euro project bonds), resorting to another instrument of participatory democracy: the petition to the European Parliament.
It is true that we have not achieved the goal of one million signatures, but this was the fate of almost all ECIs. The difficulties encountered (the skepticism, if not the adversity, of a part of the public opinion and, not the least, the excessively burdensome procedure of the mechanism) are such that the use of the ECI is almost ceased. Today only four are in progress. The European institutions are discussing what to do to save this institution of participatory democracy (the first example of popular law-making initiative at the European level) which has raised so many expections and so much interest.
Anyway, I believe we were right to experience this innovative institution which received so much attention from the institutions, the political world and civil society. We claim the freedom to experiment because we are convinced that no one possesses the a priori truth. Not only knowledge but also the success of political initiatives are laboriously built in the experiments. We who aim at being the conscious vanguard of the European people, so had a sort of moral obligation to experience the instrument of ECI among the first ones. Its use has helped us to confirm what everyone knows today - that the institution needs to be changed - and, at the same time, to achieve the important political result illustrated above.
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The debate on the future of Europe is polarized around two positions occupying the political scene: neo-liberalism and populism. Neo-liberalism is the ideology that, in the wake of globalization, asserts that the more the constraints to the free play of market forces are reduced the more prosperity, freedom and peace will grow. The dominance, since the 70s, of large concentrations of economic power in the global market brought about a retreat of politics, the erosion of state sovereignty and democratic institutions, the increase for social inequalities, the subordination of governments to markets and the real economy to finance.
On the other hand, populism believes to be able to put under control the financial oligarchies returning to closed sovereignties and to nationalism. It is an anachronistic position that tries to make the wheel of history turn back, as if the return to national sovereignties and currencies would allow to face the global challenges in a world where the protagonists are States that have a macro-regional dimension.
It is our responsibility to assert federalism as the new strong thought able to give a response to the financial and economic crisis and to promote, through a Europe speaking with one voice, the federal model in the world. We must return to the principles of the Ventotene Manifesto aiming at peace through the European Federation. In this perspective, economic integration looks as a step towards political union. Only within the framework of a federal union politics will be able to prevail over the markets and extend the principles of democracy, of the rule of law and of economic governance at the European level. With a financial transactions tax and a tax on carbon dioxide emissions - which can be activated only in the eurozone - it will be possible to regain control over financial speculation and the environment pollution, to double the own resources of the European budget and to start to transfer to the European Parliament the power to decide non only the expense but also the income of the European Budget.
We need to bring solidarity to the heart of Europe and to put Europe at the service of citizens. The campaign "New Deal for Europe" for a special European plan for sustainable development and employment is the answer to the two emergencies which the EU has to face: unemployment, which in the EU exceeds the 23 million level, disaffection of a growing number of citizens towards the European institutions.