The debate about Britain’s future in Europe is full of fear, misinformation and often abuse. Many people are confused. Time is short. So I am posting this blog to give voice to a hopeful, imaginative vision. I hope Brits will come to their senses and in the referendum vote clearly for Remain in Europe.
Brits are Europeans: we fought and died in WW2 to save Europe from dictatorship and Nazi crimes. The EU was set up to create collaboration, prevent more war and, like the UN, create a better more peaceful and prosperous future for everyone. Today we face enormous challenges which require collaboration: climate chaos, destruction of the ecosystem, the danger of nuclear war, a growing divide between rich and poor and mass migration. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the number of people displaced worldwide has hit a new record, with 65.3 million people forced from their home as of the end of 2015.
Rather than complaining and fighting amongst ourselves, often abusively, we Brits should play a constructive part in building a Good Europe, for ourselves, our children and their children and the World. Here are constructive proposals of Compass – together for a good society, http://www.compassonline.org.uk/ created by its members.
Building a Good Europe
A more hopeful, imaginative, inspiring discussion about Europe
This publication draws on ideas discussed online at www.goodeurope.org. We also held a participatory event for around 100 people, when the themes we address were debated in small working groups. A summary of the responses from this event is given at the end of each policy essay. The full PDF is here http://www.goodeurope.org/report/
Visions of a Good Europe
We need to re-imagine what a Good Europe would look and feel like. The creation of the EU set the direction for peace and trade in the 20th century. But today Europe is failing to respond adequately to the huge crises we now face – from Syria to Greece, refugees to austerity, and climate change. The purpose of the EU must be re-established for the 21st century. We explore how a Good Europe can meet the demands for social justice, democracy and sustainability.
How we experience life at the European level is inextricably linked with the EU, which has not always been as it is now. Its structure is not inevitable: it was created and can be recreated. As it reforms it must become a Europe for the people by the people, to meet the needs of the 21st century.
Europe is not just a place, it’s a story we tell each other. By nature it’s a cultural construct and this will shape its evolution. A Good Europe will be a continent-wide expression of what it means to be human in the 21st century. It will be relational, not transactional. Solidarity will transcend borders as we work together to bring about a better world that is underpinned by the original intentions behind the EU (peace, human rights and equality) but more fair, green and democratic, where security and freedom will go hand in hand.
Radical, feasible policies
We need transformative policy ideas to unlock the vision of what a Good Europe could look and feel like. These are the big-hitting policies that could lead to a fundamental transformation of the EU in the 21st century.
Democracy is the biggest weakness of the European project, yet also its potential deliverer. The EU must do democracy better – and do it fast. We should insist that democratic legitimacy is the axis on which the EU turns. A Good Europe must adopt democracy as its founding value – and be open to a number of key changes this will bring. Specifically:
- The EU must become more transparent
- European Parliament, EU Council and other meetings should be live recorded
- All treaty documents should be made public
- The register for lobbyists must become compulsory
- The institutions of the EU must place democracy at their heart
- European Parliament should be able to propose legislation
- European Parliament should have two chambers: one directly elected proportional to population, the other selected by member state’s parliaments
- We need to move beyond representation to direct participation
- A Constitutional Assembly drawing citizens from across the continent should consider all the options for democracy in the EU and make recommendations/decisions
The European project is an embodiment of the flourishing of potential that can be achieved when a commitment to the free movement of people across national borders is implemented. Yet misguided policies and a lack of coordination at the European level have led to many problems. We must have renewed coordination and solidarity between the member states and with migrant populations, to find policies which are more sustainable and lead to better outcomes for all. We should:
- Implement a rights-based refugee response
- End immigration detention in the EU
- Create a social rights pillar
- Create conditions where people don’t feel they have to leave their country to have a good life, for example, a universal income for all in Europe
- Throughout each aspect of the discussion of migration we must face up to and tackle issues including othering, racism and Islamophobia.
Europe works on a scale that provides a stepping stone between the national and the global – a vital role for the environment and sustainability. Europe must work harder to be more sustainable through:
- Green Quantitative Easing (QE)
- “Green QE” channels money directly into the green and low-carbon sector of the real economy
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) for real
- Companies should be required to report on social and environmental risks and impacts, and not just their financial performance and outlook
- Companies should be discouraged from short-termism in their decision-making through restricting shareholders’ voting rights to those who hold shares for a minimum period of at least a few years
- Consumer behaviour change
- Speaking about the environment and the economy together
How can solidarity in Europe be (re)created? Our model should be the Nordic welfare states, premised on progressive taxation funding universal benefits and services. The EU may have state-like qualities but it is a much more modest entity than a state. Yet, elements of ‘radical redistribution can be inserted into its architecture. The areas that present opportunities to cultivate solidarity are:
- Jobs and wages
- All adults in the union should be guaranteed employment, re-education/retraining or other (remunerated) social participation
- European-wide minimum wage of 50% of average national income
- Universal childcare across the union as a progressively introduced entitlement
- Social Insurance
- Every European citizen should be issued with their own social insurance card for protection when they move from state to state, like the European Heath Insurance Card
Few people believe that Europe is safe from a future financial crisis, or that the EU’s economy is performing as well as it could be. However, the EU can deliver reforms that would not be possible for individual countries:
- Facilitate new business models and best practises to spread quickly
- Promote a more diverse eco-system of bank business models in Europe
- Establish a Europe-wide authority to regulate financial transactions, developing a more networked approach
The EU could also:
- Require banks to fund themselves with more capital
- Provide finance for a social purpose, for example, encouraging the development and use of local currencies
How does change happen?
When dreaming of our new vision for a Good Europe and fleshing out the policies that will help us get there we must consider how change happens. Making change happen is never simple or easy but when dealing with a set of transnational institutions it becomes very complex. We cannot simply look to one tactic, institution, party or ‘silver bullet’ policy.
The elements of making change happen include: changing the discourse, looking for opportunities and creating a European demos – a public sphere for European citizens to debate, discussion, decide and act.
Sovereignty has long escaped national borders and is never coming back. Power and politics have been separated. As tough as it is, we have to create transnational democratic, political and economic platforms.