THE EUROPEAN UNION IS POINTLESS
False: The Union of European nation states has guaranteed us peace for over seventy years. In the first half of the 20th century, two world wars prompted by European nation states left over 70 million dead.
“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (…) in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.” Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union
BUT LET’S FACE IT: THE EUROPEAN HOMELAND IS JUST A FICTITIOUS CONCEPT
False: On the contrary, it is a very vibrant and lively idea, especially amongst young people. Since 1998 the Erasmus programme has allowed 3.5 million young women and men to spend some of their lives in another EU country, expanding their horizons, improving their skills, increasing their work and career prospects, but most of all, enhancing their awareness that they are citizens of Europe, and therefore of the world. They are Europe’s children, and it cannot only be after terrorist attacks that we acknowledge them as such.
BUT EUROPE IS NOT DEMOCRATIC AND IS NOT CAPABLE OF EXPRESSING A COMMON IDENTITY BEYOND A FINANCIAL ONE
False: Year after year, member States have prevented the European institutions from acquiring the necessary strength and legitimacy which the federalist project intended. Blaming Europe, as though it can be any more than its member states allow it to be, is a serious mistake. If, at present, the EU is regrettably little more than a political dwarf, it is because of nationalism and unwillingness for power sharing on the part of national governments to. We will need more Europe, not less of it, if we are to have a common strategy on migration flows or on the main challenges we face internationally. If the European parliament is an assembly with limited powers and little room of manoeuvre; if European citizens are not allowed to directly elect their European president; if they can’t have a European Foreign minister expressing a common foreign policy: it is member states that are to blame.
OK, BUT ECONOMICALLY, EUROPE HAS BEEN A DISASTER
False. The EU guarantees not only peace but also prosperity. Despite the 2008 financial crisis, Europe’s standard of living is one of the highest in the world. The European Union is the world’s number one market.
YES, BUT AS CITIZENS AND CONSUMERS WE DON’T SEE ANY BENEFIT FROM IT
False. This one big market, created by the EU through its legislative initiatives, has brought huge benefits to all European consumers.
- Energy sector: Competition has stopped excessive price rises, while goals set at the EU level have favoured the development of renewable energy sources.
- Telecommunications: EU regulations have allowed mobile phone users to keep their number when they change network carriers; reduced telephone charges (for instance, all roaming charges within the EU will be abolished by June 2017); and ensured 100% basic broadband coverage across Europe, with private life and data protection safeguards.
- Aviation: In 1992, the EU opened Europe’s air transport network up to competition, dismantling national barriers. Monopolies have since been broken up, new airlines have come into operation, air fares have been decreased, new routes have been opened up, and consumers have benefited enormously in terms of both price and choice. Once reserved to the elite, flying is now a mass phenomenon.
- Health and environment: EU regulations have had a positive effect on issues of food security, waste disposal, water purification, air quality and workplace safety. European citizens can receive state funded medical care anywhere in the EU, and prescriptions made in one country are recognized in all other member states. The European Medicines Agency is responsible for evaluating and supervising the production of all medicines for human and veterinary use.
OK, BUT AS WORKERS AND TAXPAYERS, EUROPE HAS BROUGHT US ONLY DISADVANTAGES
False: To take just one example, thanks to a 2014 ruling of the European Court of Justice, the Italian government has been forced to grant tens of thousands of school teachers a permanent employment contract, instead of the temporary contracts they had before.
Another example: The EU’s rules on commercial aid prevent endless subsidizing of failing companies with taxpayers’ money. The EU’s Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive states that shareholders and bondholders must be the first to contribute towards a bank’s losses , before taxpayers are asked to foot the bill. EU monitoring of member states’ annual budgets checks reckless use of public funds which would put a burden on today’s taxpayers and on their children and grandchildren.
MAYBE…BUT THE EURO HAS PUSHED US INTO THE ABYSS!
False: Before the monetary union, the strength of the Deutsche Mark was envied across Europe. Today, we share the same currency with the Germans. Leaving the Euro would mean returning to a weak currency, and we all know what that means: our wages and our savings would lose their value and their purchasing power. This is why Greece, despite facing the most serious economic crisis in the history of the Eurozone, never seriously considered leaving the Euro.
STILL, IT COULD ONLY BE BENEFICIAL FOR US TO LEAVE THE EURO
False: Just the prospect of leaving the Euro, or of holding a referendum on the subject, would necessarily require capital controls and limits on bank withdrawals. Currency devaluation would mean a high risk of bank runs, which would be difficult to stop once started, and would have incalculable consequences on the banking system.
OK, BUT IF WE LEFT THE EURO, WE COULD GAIN COMPETITIVENESS THROUGH CURRENCY DEVALUATION
False: It would be a temporary and deceptive gain, like treating a serious infection with Aspirin rather than antibiotics. Far from being a cure, leaving the Euro would aggravate the condition by discouraging inefficient businesses from re-organising. The proper treatment is through structural reforms – opening up regulated professions and local public services to competition, deregulation, reforming public administrations and the job market – reforms which the European Commission and the European Central Bank have kept calling for without much success.
OK, OK, BUT STILL WE HAVEN’T GAINED ANYTHING FROM THE EURO
False: The monetary union has removed fees and risky fluctuations in exchange rates, favouring international trade and free movement of capital. Using the same currency in most European countries and crossing borders without passport controls are privileges we tend to forget: a trip to London is enough to remind us what it means to have to queue at passport control and waste money on exchanging currency.
…BUT STILL, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, WE SHOULD QUICKLY EXIT THE EU
False: With Trump’s America set on rising protectionism and trade wars, our export markets are shrinking and becoming unstable, putting a substantial share of our GDP at risk: the European common market, with its 500 million consumers and common currency, is the only safe haven for European states. Should they compete individually with global superpowers, member states would become irrelevant in the global market and their citizens would find themselves impoverished. It’s time for everyone, including those who would seek to wipe out their achievements by exiting the Euro and EU, to recognize the foresight and wisdom of the statesmen who signed the Treaty of Rome 60 years ago.
IT’S A FACT THAT THE EUROPEAN UNION IS A HUGE BUREAUCRACY WHICH WASTES HUGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY
False: The institutions of the European Union, with its 500 million citizens, employ about 55,000 people in total. Rome’s city council, on the other hand, employs 62,000 persons, 25,000 directly and 37,000 through subsidiaries. The EU’s expenditure in 2015 amounted to 1% of EU GDP , whilst the national public expenditure of the 28 member states amounted to an average of almost half their GDP in the same year.
MAYBE, BUT EUROPE IS STILL COSTLY
False: In fact, it is not Europe but Europe’s absence which is costly: the lack of common actions at the European level results in economic inefficiency in Europe as a whole. According to the European Parliamentary Research Service, if the process of developing common policies in some areas were completed (for example, completing the internal market, creating a digital single market and establishing a banking union) could result in a benefit of up to 1.600 billion euros in the long term.
So let’s hold on to the European Union. In fact let’s make it a federation. We radicals do not want a European federal superstate, but rather a light federation with a few further responsibilities: control of our external borders, defence and diplomacy. We are living through the most beautiful political experiment of human history: for peoples and nations which fought each other for centuries to integrate peacefully. Let’s hold on to that!