We should begin by putting an end to the idea that the state of public opinion is such that it is impossible to change the European treaties. Since public opinion detests Europe in its present form, above all, make no changes! The argument is absurd – more than that, it is wrong. To be precise, the revision of the whole set of Treaties concluded by the 28 countries in setting up the European Union, in particular the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, is undoubtedly premature. The United Kingdom and Poland, to mention only these two, have very different agendas from ours. But this does not mean that we should stand by and do nothing. It is quite possible for us to conclude, parallel to the existing treaties, a new inter-governmental treaty between those countries in the Euro zone who desire to do so. The best proof is that this is what happened in 2011-12. In the space of a few months, the Euro zone countries negotiated and ratified two inter-governmental treaties with very serious budgetary consequences. One set up the ESM (the European Stability Mechanism) with a fund of 700 billion Euros, which is intended to provide support to countries in the Euro zone; the other is the TSCG (or Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) establishing new budgetary rules and automatic sanctions applicable to member countries.
The problem is that these two treaties have only led to a further deterioration of the recession and the drift towards technocracy in Europe. Countries which request support from the ESM must sign a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with the representatives of the so-called Troika (Article 13 of the ESM Treaty). In a few lines, a handful of technocrats from the European Commission, the ECB (European Central Bank) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund), sometimes competent and sometimes rather less so, have been given the power to supervise the reform of health, pension and tax systems etc. of whole countries with no democratic control and a complete lack of transparency. For its part, the TSCG (article 3) sets a totally unrealistic target of a maximal structural deficit of 0.5% of GDP. We should specify that this refers to a target for secondary deficit (after interest payments on the debt): as soon as interest rates rise again, this will imply, for decades, enormous primary surpluses of 3% or 4% of GDP for all countries having run up significant debts following the crisis, that is almost the whole of the Euro zone. In passing, it has been forgotten that in the 1950s Europe was built on the cancellation of past debts (in particular to the benefit of Germany) and that it is these political choices which enabled investment in growth and in new generations. Furthermore, these admirable constructions – the ESM and the TSCG – are under the control of the Council of the ministers for finance in the Euro zone which meets behind closed doors and which regularly informs us in the middle of the night that it has saved Europe, before we realise the following day that its members are not themselves aware of what they have decided. This is a fine example of European democracy in the 21st century.
The solution is obvious: these two treaties should be brought back to the drawing board and the Euro zone should be provided with genuine, democratic institutions, capable of taking clear decisions after discussion of the issues in broad daylight. The best option would be the creation of a Parliamentary Chamber for the Euro Zone, composed of representatives from national parliaments, proportionate to the population of each country and the different political groups. This Chamber would have to take all the budgetary and financial decisions directly concerning the Euro zone starting with the ESM, the control of the deficits and the restructuring of debts. It could also vote a common system for corporate taxation and a budget for the zone enabling investment in infrastructure and universities. This hard core of European member states would be open to all countries, but nobody could block those who wish to advance faster. Concretely, if France, Germany, Italy and Spain, who together represent over 75% of the population and GDP in the Euro zone, agree, then this new inter-governmental treaty should come into force.
To begin with, Germany will undoubtedly be afraid of being in a minority in this type of Parliamentary Chamber. But it will not be able to openly refuse democracy, except by taking the risk of irrevocably strengthening the anti-Euro camp. Above all, this new system would constitute a balanced proposal: it opens the way to cancellation of debts, but at the same time all those who wish to benefit from this – like Greece –would be obliged to submit in future to the law of the majority. A compromise is within reach, provided that we set aside conservative attitudes and national egos.