The Spinelli Group: « Towards the United States of Europe? »

, by Marc-Antoine Coursaget, Traduit par Vincent Carriou

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The Spinelli Group: « Towards the United States of Europe? »

On Wednesday January 12th, 2011, Joschka Fischer, the former German Vice-Chancelor and minister for foreign affairs and Jean-Marc Ferry, philosopher and Habermas’ disciple met at the European parliament, for a debate over the restart of the European construction process. The debate was moderated by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and held by the Spinelli Group.

With more than 500 participants including a hundred Members of the European Parliament (MEP), the success of the event casts light on the high expectancies of this brand new federalist group at the European Parliament. A number of painful assessments have been discussed concerning the legitimacy crisis the European Union (EU) is facing, essential questions have been asked in order to understand the reasons of this crisis, but the answers are still to be built. This is the main goal ofthe Spinelli group.

After the Treaty for a European Constitution (TEC): « A weak period for federalism in Europe ».

Ever since the election of its members through universal suffrage, the European Parliament has always been able to rely on a federalist group. Or, at least, it had always been able to do it. Because the “Crocodile Club”, launched by Altiero Spinelli in 1980 in a Strabourgeois’s restaurant that has the very same name, and that turned out to become a Federalist Inter-group in favor of a European Constitution in 1999, under the guidance of MEP Jo Leinen, grew more and more influent with time passing by, until it suddenly collapsed after the European elections in June 2009.

For 10 years, the inter-group had been throwing all of its energy in the EU reform over the institutions, turned down by the TCE in a first time, and that was partially made successful with the adoption of the far-less-glorious Lisbon treaty. Worn out by the energy, the inter-group consented in launching in this campaign, maybe tired after the TCE failed attempt to give the EU its own Constitution and the adoption, but without referendum, of the Lisbon Treaty, the inter-group did not succeed in seducing European political groups that were created in the wake of 2009’s Treaty and finally collapsed despite the pro-Europe movements’ desire.

Economic crisis, crisis of legitimacy … It may be time for the EU to prove its real value.

Whereas the inter-group was composed of 138 MEP in 2004, it rapidly disappeared in the Parliament assembly as a consequence of the turned-down TCE. But neither the crisis of legitimacy, nor the achievement of institutional reforms has put an end to federalist thoughts. It is actually the contrary in that, for the Spinelli Group, it is time to define a new path to go through. As European leaders have been claiming it uncounted times on January 12th, the EU has very often proved that it could perfectly be able to transform its deepest crises into political opportunities towards a bigger Union-feeling between EUs’ citizens.

The Spinelli Group restores federalism at the Parliament.

After a few months of existence, the Spinelli Group is now composed of 90 MEP signatories among whom some of the most famous European political leaders such as : Guy Verhofstadt, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Sylvie Goulard, Isabelle Durant, Jacques Delors, Mario Monti, Joschka Fischer, Pat Cox... The name of Tomaso Padoa Schioppa, Euro’s father recently dead and who was remembered during this first conference, is also among those who signed it up.

The Spinelli Group wants Europe to go further, and for that we need Europeans citizens to feel closer to the EU.

The conference organised by the Spinelli Group on last January 12th gave an opportunity to grow aware of the number of federalists, in favor of a more related Europe: the first point that the leaders have to deal with is to restore its legitimacy to the EU, thanks to an economic unification as a response to the crisis, the growing inter-connection of local, regional, national and European dimensions, a closer and closer relation between the EU and its citizens... The conference’s goal was to enable a meeting of a philosophical point of view and a political one in order to define new axes, for the European construction to go further.

Enthusiastic reactions of numerous political leaders after the debates.

Political leaders interviewed by the Taurillon as soon as the conference took end, have expressed both enthusiasm and ambition about the Spinelli Group’s goals : while the ecologist MEP Sandrine Bélier analyzes the Spinelli Group as a discussion place between diverse members of different movements, aiming at defining the common guiding lines for the European construction, Young European Federalist president, Philippe Adriaenssens, considers it as an opportunity for the pro-European movements to create strong links based on confidence and influence with political leaders.

Louis Michel, ADLE’s MEP, former European commissary for development and Humanitarian help and Belgium State minister dealing with foreign affairs, considers the Spinelli Group as an influential vector, but also as a communication one for which the action sphere could spread to the member States in order to address directly to the citizens, and to help the EU re-introducing emotions in political debates.

To Conclude with an exert from the Spinelli Group manifest: « The history of the European Union has proven that more Europe, not less, is the answer to the problems we face. Only with European solutions and a renewed European spirit will we be able to tackle the worldwide challenges. Nationalism is an ideology of the past. Our goal is a federal and post-national Europe, a Europe of the citizens. This was the dream the founding fathers worked so hard to achieve. This was the project of Altiero Spinelli. This is the Europe we will go for. Because this is the Europe of the future. »

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