Federalism, if not now, when?

, by Joan Marc Simon

Federalism, if not now, when?

Federalism is an instrument to deal with interests of different entities in an equal footing basis applying the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, freedom, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.

In Europe and in the world the interests of nation-states collide with those of supranational bodies in a non-sense fight leading us nowhere.

The age of empires and nation-states has thus come to an end; the influence of the nation-states in the modelling of world policies is decreasing -in front of terrorism, economic globalisation, global warming, AIDS, etc. nation-states are helpless if they don’t integrate into global systems-.

The forces shaping the new world and pushing forward policies in all countries are all cross borders. Faith-based movements and world-wide free market economy are leading the globalisation process and are modelling the policies that nation-states can not avoid but adapting to -terrorism, financial speculation, birth-control policies, diseases, pollution, delocalisation, social dumping...-.

A 3rd force, democracy, should be above the laters guaranteeing that the rights and the will of the peoples are represented and guaranteed whilst creating a space of dialogue where cooperation and solidarity could be the rule and not the exception. The consequence of the non-existence of democratic control at international level is the increasing distrust in democratic institutions that we are observing in the last years among the citizens. National democratic institutions alone can not generate trust because they can not deliver solutions on supranational problems. Only by integrating into international institutions and by promoting active citizenship this can be achievable.

Unfortunately democracy at a supra-national level remains a dream. And there we find the dreamers: the federalists!

They believe that democracy should be applied to all levels among equal entities which act in freedom and bla, bla... fools!

There is a far better system: problems with free market-economy? Let the governments meet at WTO and decide... “Dangerous” countries? Use NATO under UN mandate... otherwise US army is always ready to intervene in altruistic pacification missions... Environmental issues? Kyoto works great!...

Hold on a second, who is the dreamer here?

A) Those who think that we can keep on using international organisations and uni/bi/multilateral agreements to deal with supra-national problems?

B) Those who believe that democratic and human rights are universal and need to be reinforced at all levels by accountable and transparent institutions?

We can not afford to have the most important world players out of democratic control. Agreements between countries always prioritise the national interests and end up in horse-trading manoeuvres and prisoner dilemas which in the end leave the citizens without effective control on what is happening at international level.

The EU has been a perfect example of how to overcome borders and differences in order to create stability, prosperity and avoid war. Still, we have a long way to go before nationalism can be buried in the past and Europe achieves the Kantian peace.

In Europe and in the world we need democracy and rule of law at all levels. Following the principle of subsidiarity, the citizens should have a say on everything that affects them, including international decisions. Otherwise we risk that they lose the confidence in democratic institutions.

It is necessary that the citizen understands that it is the precisely the lack of good integration what is lagging Europe behind. The solution is better integration -with the right application of the subsidiarity principle- and not renationalisation of policies just for the sake of it. Therefore, now more than ever JEF has a role to play. We offer a solution that will turn European citizens into actors deciding about their future at all levels without having to deny any of the rights they already have.

It’s time for European federalism; if not now, when?


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