'Europe isn't working' admit young Brussels bureaucrats as they call for greater union

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In a rare move, a group of young public servants and diplomats based in the European Union's headquarters in Brussels has launched a passionate plea for a more constructive and far-reaching debate about the fate of Europe. Members of the group, called Euro2030, want to remain anonymous to avoid embarrassing the institutions its members work for. But with under two weeks to go before European elections, this new generation of officials at the very heart of the EU has become frustrated both by the tone of the current debate on Europe and by the failures of the EU itself. The group's analysis of Europe's faults and its proposed solutions are at loggerheads with the orthodox view of Brussels institutions. Above all, the young bureaucrats admit that the EU dream is not working – and that European integration “runs the risk” of losing the support of the continent's people. Ludovic Lamant reports.

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A group of young Eurocrats working at the heart of the European Union's key institutions has launched a bold appeal for a fuller debate and a new direction for Europe, with under two weeks to go before key European parliamentary elections. The impassioned call for action – which includes forthright criticism from the very people who make the EU function - was first published exclusively by Mediapart, in French, here, on Monday May 12th. It is now also available on the group's website in English.

The group, which calls itself Euro2030, is made up of young bureaucrats in Brussels – most are in their thirties – from different member countries of the Union, most of whom work in the EU's key institutions, the European Commission, the European Council, the Parliament and the European Central Bank. Describing themselves as “advisors to European leaders, advisors in national permanent representations to the European Union, parliamentary assistants, officials from European institutions”, they have asked to remain anonymous because they do not want to embarrass the institutions they work for.

But the group's members say they are deeply concerned about the lack of real debate over Europe ahead of this month's European Parliamentary elections. Above all they fear that unless Europe is reformed - and soon – the EU project risks losing the support of the majority of the continent’s public. So this new generation of Eurocrats has decided to “stir” their own debate, as they put it, with a website in English and French that puts forward 50 proposals for the future.

“Europe does not live up to its promise,” admit the young bureaucrats, whose criticism of the EU's faults and ideas for the future are in conflict with the usual discourse of public officials and their PR departments in Brussels. “A vicious circle thus appeared between an 'executive deficit' which impedes Europe to act [sic] and a 'democratic deficit' that produces every day more rejection and more tension. We sense that European integration runs the risk of not being supported any more by the peoples, [who] are becoming impoverished and tempted by national if not outright nationalist retrenchment,” say the group.

Un ouvrier à l'entrée du principal bâtiment de la commission européenne, à Bruxelles, en septembre 2013. © Reuters. Un ouvrier à l'entrée du principal bâtiment de la commission européenne, à Bruxelles, en septembre 2013. © Reuters.

This is not the first manifesto ahead of the elections calling for greater EU integration to solve Europe's problems. Late last year a group of German intellectuals close to the parties in German's coalition government – the conservative CDU and the social democrat SDP – published a similar text under the name of the “Glienicke Group”. Their manifesto, available in English, stated: “
None of the fundamental problems underlying the euro crisis have been solved – not the banking crisis, nor the sovereign debt crisis, nor the competitiveness crisis.” And the group expressed concern that in countries hit by crisis the political fringes were being “increasingly radicalised”.

In France, meanwhile, a similar initiative was launched in early 2014 under the name of the “Eiffel Group” by, among others, Euro MP Sylvie Goulard. And in February a group of French academics and journalists – who included the economist Thomas Piketty, historian
Pierre Rosanvallon and editor Guillaume Duval published a manifesto for a political union for the euro zone. “Nothing could be further from the truth than to think that the toughest part is behind us,” they wrote of the EU's recent crisis.

All of these three initiatives share the same powerful analysis: that the crisis that is affecting the EU is not just an economic one but is also harming the very basis of its political project, for example as seen in the reforms forced on countries by the so-called Troika of the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, or as seen from the hardening of the anti-EU rhetoric of the regime in Hungary.

But the appeal by the Euro2030 group is a little different. First of all, because it comes from the very heart of the Brussels machine, a rare event indeed. Secondly, because the Eurocrats' call goes beyond simply a political declaration and puts forward some very detailed proposals, including some on social issues, to get Europe out of the current impasse.

The young public servants call for a “Union of the Euro” which would give the eurozone its own budget and minister of finance. The European Parliament would see its powers strengthened, gaining the ability to put forward new laws, something that currently only the Commission can do. At the same time MEPs would have their allowances linked both to their work in full sessions of the parliament at Strasbourg and to their work on committees in Brussels where the majority of legislative work is carried out.

Under the group's proposals the Commission itself would become a more political institution, with a trimmed-down number of commissioners; the  current informal rule is that each member state should have its own commissioner, meaning a total of 28 in all. As for the European Council, the body representing member state governments, whose impact was criticised during the management of the eurozone crisis, it would in effect became a form of senate, with a narrower function. The Eurocrats also suggest removing the EU's revolving presidency, which changes hands every six months to no great purpose, in the view of many observers.

Above and belong these institutional issues, which in themselves are unlikely to capture the imagination of the general public, there are some more concrete proposals. One is for a financial fraud prosecutors' office, seen as the only body capable of fighting against tax evasion on a continent-wide basis. Another is for a European Monetary Fund (EMF), a topic that has become something of a recurring theme in Brussels since the start of the crisis, which would replace the need for the Troika in member countries that need bailing out. Another idea that seems technical but would in practice have political implications would be to allow member states to dip into the European budget, and to use EU structural funds in a “countercyclical” way, in other words to counter the effect of austerity politics at a national level.

The Euro2030 group also envisages a new form of work contract which each member state of the eurozone could offer its workers and which would have
the “key characteristics of the flexicurity model”, and also have a eurozone-wide unemployment insurance scheme linked to it. People must come to see Europe not just as a source of obligations, but also as a provider of some rights, says the group.

Throughout its proposals, the Euro2030 group is careful to avoid the word “federalism”- a term often favoured by pro-Europeans and loathed by Eurosceptics – and insists it is an “apolitical” body. The group appears convinced there is a “third way” between what they see as the “inertia of the traditional parties” over Europe and the “nationalist temptation” which is currently attracting support.

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The French version of this article can be found here.

English version by Michael Streeter.

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