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The EU and the US: the essential difference

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Trump’s election to the US presidency prompted debate about its impact on Europe future. Many have focused on the similarities of public anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic, on the recurrence of some key themes during electoral campaigns, such as economy and immigration. Only a few realize the essential difference between United States and Europe, between EU and US citizens. The former have a federal government and may change the political class and US policies with their vote. The latter can't. The policies are defined at European level, but the political struggle remains within national borders. Citizens can change their own national government, but being one country out of 28, this will not affect European policies. In addition, the European states have more constraints on their policies and budgets than American States, mainly because of the absence of a federal government, its policies and its solidarity. This combination fuels political opposition and the crisis of national democracy in Europe.

The EU is an incomplete "Res Publica" where decisions are taken by different players and with different procedures depending on the subject. Supranational institutions - Parliament and Commission - play a crucial role over the Single Market, state illegal aids, trade, agriculture, environment. On the above mentioned issues the Council, where national governments sit, deliberates by qualified majority and no Member state has a veto. It is the communitarian Europe, that works, pursues state aid condemning tax evasion by multinationals, as in the case of Apple and many more.

On the opposite, national governments have to decide unanimously as far as foreign policy, security, defense, the European budget revenue, coordination of economic and fiscal policies are concerned. This is what can be called intergovernmental Europe, a Europe governed by the power struggle between Member States where German hegemony has emerged.This is the Europe of austerity, run by governments, defending supposed national interests and pseudo-sovereignty. In a historical time of globalization dominated by continental States - the US, China, Russia, with India and Brazil on the rise - national sovereignties are simply an illusion.

THe EU economy is equivalent to the American and Chinese ones. The EU is the world's biggest trading power. It has an excellent education system. EU Member states military expenses together makes the 2nd World military spending, but with very little military capacity caused by duplications over 28 different countries! All the ingredients for another cycle of development and for the management of geopolitical crises around Europe would be there, but cannot be properly exploited to achieve those goals. The EU has a single market, a single currency, but not a European economic and fiscal policy. It has a ridiculous budget of 0.9% of GDP. So the burden of fighting the crisis lies within the only federal institution: the European Central Bank.

To exploit its potential, Europe needs a government. We already elect a European Parliament: but it must be able to decide over the budget, to achieve investment policies and solidarity that it proposed, but currently does not have the powers to decide upon.The European parties should support their candidates to the Presidency of the Commission - which is responsible to the Parliament - and complete its evolution into a true federal government. That means approving a budget based on a fiscal capacity and loans to finance investments that would be impossible nationwide: since the EU has no outstanding debt, EU bonds would have ridiculously low interest rates.It means a foreign, defense and migration policy, including representation in international organizations, military and European intelligence, and border control.

The old order of the European nation-states is collapsing in front of globalization. We may not like it, but there is nothing we can do about it. The construction of a European federal government, which could save us, however, has not been accomplished yet. We are in the middle of a raging torrent ford. Populist nationalisms suggest us to stick to our old national side, that can lead us only to an obvious decline. Landing on the shores of European democracy is the condition to start again and try to govern globalization, to change politics and policies through the citizens vote, giving a perspective for the future and a meaning to the concept of democratic citizenship.

in collaboration with Luca Martinelli

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