Member of the Executive Bureau of UEF-Italy
The idea of a citizens’ convention was launched by federalists before the French and the Dutch referenda, when it was still taken for granted that the European Constitution would enter into force.
The Convention would have served to propose the amendments required to make the Constitution a Federal Constitution, mainly the abolition of the veto right on all the competences of the European Union and on the procedure of constitutional revision and the transformation of the Commission into a European Federal Government.
Following the two failed referenda the EU has gone through a period of serious crisis and the constitutional process itself ran the risk of coming to an abrupt stop. For some months, it was only the federalists and very few others who held their position and were finally able to indicate the way to re-launch the idea of Europe having a Constitution as a fundamental step towards the European Federation.
In a climate of general euro-scepticism, worsened by the harsh contrasts in the debate on the financial perspectives for the years 2007-2013, the federalists had the lucidity to turn the Citizens’ Convention of Genoa into the first major event aimed at saving the Constitution by gathering people, politicians, representatives of several organisations of civil society together to call for a federal and democratic Europe.
Furthermore, important topics of the political agenda were addressed in the working groups: the role of Europe in the world, the economic and social European model, the European citizenship. The debate in the groups and in the plenary led to the elaboration of a European Manifesto (downloadable at www.citizensconvention.net ), which is a synthesis of the requests of civil society and of the proposals of federalists to re-launch the constitutional process. It is a remarkable achievement that shows how federalist ideas are also reaching associations and civil society.
Creating a front of people and of organizations pushing for a democratic and federal Europe is our task.
Many JEFers were present at the Convention and gave their support to the event by taking part in the debate and staging a lively demonstration in the streets to demand the re-launch of the constitutional process. The presence at the Convention of some MEPs is another noteworthy point: the European Parliament is a federal institution which, historically, has always been pushing for further integration in the European Union.
Our role is that of creating a link between our European representatives and the European people, who are in many cases vaguely pro-European but need to be led by people who are aware that the new line of division between progress and reaction is the one stated in the Ventotene Manifesto. Creating a front of people and of organizations pushing for a democratic and federal Europe is our task. The European Parliament is not insensitive to the requests of citizens and we must urge it to take brave initiatives.
I welcome some steps on the right way, such as the rejection, although not definitive, of the European budget approved by the Governments for 2007-2013, on the grounds that it gives much less funds to the EU than the European Parliament required, and the adoption of Duff - Voggenhuber report, even though two key points originally included in the initial text, i.e. the proposal of a new Convention and of a European-wide referendum in 2009, have been excluded from the final version. If the European Parliament seeks the support of citizens it will become an ally of federalists, as it was in the past.
Other conventions are set for the next months in Vienna and Paris. Let’s try hard to make them to succeed: our purpose is to obtain a European-wide consultative ballot on the Constitution, be it the current one or a modified text, on the occasion of the European elections in 2009.
Treasurer of JEF-Italy