Report: “Alternative Europa!” at JEF’s “Europawerkstatt 2017”

With the goal of creating “an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe” (Art. 1 (2) Treaty on European Union), current primary law only vaguely describes the EU’s ultimate objec­tives. Only the direction of integration is prescribed. Does this goal statement provide a suffi­cient orien­tation for coming reforms, or do visions for the further devel­opment of European integration require concrete goals in order to stay on course in the path towards deeper integration?

This question is asked in reference to the five scenarios in the EU Commission’s white paper, as well as in line with self-appointed task of “Alter­native Europa!” of formu­lating a concrete vision for the future of Europe. While scenario 1 of the Commission’s white paper denies the necessity of an ultimate objective and the scenario 5 presents the classic “finalité fédérale” as its objective, scenarios 2 through 4 leave these questions unanswered. As partic­i­pants at the kickoff workshop could not reach a consensus as to whether their sugges­tions for the further devel­opment of the Union should be oriented according to such guide­lines or rather to move step by step starting from the status quo, this question was once again tackled during a session at the Young European Federalist’s (JEF) “Europaw­erk­statt 2017”. It was organized by AltEU!‘s Task Force on finalité and moderated by Susanne Zels (Polis180) and Julian Plottka (IEP).

Discussion partic­i­pants first considered the risks and advan­tages of a concrete, end-goal-oriented process of integration. The restrictive effect of a fixed end goal, amounting to the preclusion of all other solutions, was counted among the risks. As such, European integration would forfeit the flexi­bility of incre­mental devel­opment with which, in a series of small steps, it had achieved great progress in the past. A societal debate over end goals also ties up resources that could be better spent on solutions for concrete problems and for concrete results. Proposed solutions to the question of end goals have to date been largely oriented around the nation state, and there is a lack of proposals which go beyond these in order to facil­itate integration.

On the other hand, the following advan­tages were identified. At the present time, solving concrete problems cannot be separated from insti­tu­tional questions, as existing insti­tu­tions do not provide a decision-making structure capable of being sustained in the long term. It also begs the question as to whether European policy focused solely on solving concrete problems is capable of advancement. Additionally, there is the danger that a policy which revolves too strongly around pragmatism could lead to an undesirable devel­opment in the long term, as well as to insti­tu­tional arbitrariness. The EU is often described by its critics as being intan­gible and distanced from its citizens. Recog­nition of a clear vision for the future could aid in remedying this critique and a goal-oriented struggle could develop into an identity-forming moment. Against the background of this cost-benefit analysis, partic­i­pants quickly agreed that neither further integration without a defined goal nor “finalité” in the classic sense of an end state described in great detail, were reasonable. Instead, the devel­opment and subse­quent imple­men­tation of reform proposals must follow a guiding vision (“Leitbild”) which sets out the basic values and proce­dural norms that must be met by the decision-making process through which we Europeans decide about policies. In order to define these “insti­tu­tional values”, a society-wide debate about the values and norms of a post-national policy is necessary. This assignment will be under­taken by our working group.

Authors: Julian Plottka, IEP, and Susanne Zels, Polis180