L’idée de l’Europe est en déclin, et l’Union Européenne est dans un état avancé de désintégration. Avec le Brexit, un pilier capital de l’Union Européenne s’est déjà effondré. D’autres pourraient suivre – si ce n’est pas au cours des cycles électoraux de cette année, alors ce sera pour les suivants.

“ Peu importe le coût. Nous avons repris les rênes de notre pays ! ” clament èrement ceux qui ont soutenu le Brexit. Quitter l’Union Européenne, c’est une aspiration qu’on commence à rencontrer aux quatre coins de l’Europe, même au sein de partis de gauche qui défendent un retour à l’état-nation.

L’Europe est-elle une cause perdue ? Peut-elle être sauvée ? Doit-elle être sauvée ?

DiEM25 est convaincu que nous, les peuples d’Europe, devons reprendre les rênes de nos pays. Nous devons même reprendre les rênes de nos régions. De nos villes et cantons. Mais pour cela, nous devons retrouver un but commun entre peuples souverains. C’est ce que nous apportera un projet Européen internationaliste, commun, transnational. C’est ce que nous apportera un New Deal Européen. Ce document vise à le démontrer.Partie 1 – INTRODUCTION


Rather than putting all their hopes in top-down democratic reforms that never come, progressives should themselves assume responsibility for building a truly democratic Europe. The 2019 elections could be the best chance to engage citizens in radical, participatory processes and end years of statis in the European institutions.

Waiting for European democratic reform is more frustrating than waiting for Godot. In the Beckett play, Godot is clearly never coming, and at least in the eternal wait we can meditate on the absurdity of human existence (and anyway the play will finish at some point). In the European Union, democratic reforms are coming at some point, but are seemingly endlessly deferred. When they do come, as a result of political compromise and national obstructionism, they are rarely what is needed. In the meantime, for lack of ambitious European democracy, the forces of reaction and nationalism grow so that on the one hand democratic reform becomes less likely, and on the other any such reform is less likely to be satisfactory or ambitious. A perfectly vicious circle.

It is time to stop waiting for others. Godot isn’t coming, and he is not called ‘Emmanuel’ or ‘Angela’. The 2019 European elections can be an important moment to mobilise citizens around the request for democratic change. But change will not come through the official ballot boxes alone. Whatever welcome progress may be made by having spitzenkandidaten or transnational lists or even genuine transnational parties will not be sufficient to drive through an ambitious democratic transformation. And so, in addition to fighting in the official elections and getting votes in the official ballot boxes, citizens need to set up their own ballot boxes, and even their own elections.

Turning back the technocratic tide

The intergovernmental and technocratic system of the EU increasingly frustrates any meaningful space for the expression of European citizenship. For as much as the Parliament has gained powers of co-decision, decision-making has moved to informal groups like the Eurogroup, intergovernmental agreements outside of the Community method (such as the Fiscal Compact or the scandalous EU-Turkey agreement), and into secretive ‘trialogue’ negotiations. The structure of the Parliament itself prevents the emergence of real transnational parties. By consequence, European citizens are deprived of political agency at precisely the time when they demand it and need it the most.

The question ‘what Europe is going to do?’ – about the banks, about Greece, about the euro, about the migrants, about Brexit, about Catalonia, about TTIP, about tax evasion… – has been discussed every day in almost every bar and café up and down the continent for nearly a decade of crisis. The idea that there is no European public sphere is no longer tenable. And it is not just discussion. Millions of Europeans have mobilised on the streets in protest or solidarity over the past years. The alleged apathy of citizens is a myth actively fostered by governing elites: it provides the ideological justification for keeping the EU a technocratic, intergovernmental, backroom affair. The distance of citizens from ‘formal Europe’ is fully understandable. They have no seat at the table and few avenues of meaningful political participation. But Europe has a meaning beyond the grey corridors of the European Council, and citizens have been reclaiming it.

It is now time to go the extra mile. People deprived of political agency have little to gain by crafting common positions in the hope that the ‘powers that be’ will take them up. In the 20th century, both the Indian Congress and the South African Congress realised that, rather than expect the imperial elites to change, they needed to construct bottom-up political power in order to transform a system that structurally deprived colonial subjects of citizenship rights. This required a movement that politically enfranchised its members through organised struggle in order to legally and socially enfranchise the majority that was being denied a voice. Today in Europe, most people are not subject to state violence – although migrants and Roma very often are – but like in colonial contexts, institutions increasingly impervious to democratic control need to be resisted and citizens need to politically enfranchise themselves as citizens of the European Union against repeated attempts to relegate them to mere subjects of undemocratic, intergovernmental governance.

Hacking the 2019 elections as an act of civil disobedience could be the way to open up fresh alternatives. We propose using the occasion to elect a Constituent Assembly for Europe.

A democratic strategy for a citizens’ Europe

This political and performative act would work as follows. All candidates in the official European parliamentary elections, as well as all citizens and any individual who declares an interest in the future of Europe, would be able to stand for the constituent assembly.

These candidates may organise themselves in transnational lists, and European parties would be asked to field candidates for election, so as to create an immediate link between the emerging assembly and the European Parliament. Taking part in the assembly process would represent a stupendous opportunity to show commitment to the idea of citizens-led democratic renewal. Civil society and social movements would be encouraged to propose their own lists. Ideas, programmes and values for a future European constitution would come forward. The communication campaign and the performative act of organising the election of such an assembly would provide a powerful push for getting the debate on European democratic reform on the agenda for the 2019 election campaign.

Preparing the ground for the election of a constituent assembly will take time and money. The whole exercise could be carried by NGOs interested in democratic renewal coming together before the election to organise it. A network of organisations could secure the necessary funding and human resources to start the process and see the election through. New transnational parties could also play an important role. Clearly, depending how large the elections get and how many places hold them, the process might get very expensive. But as a performative act there is no need for a complete coverage of the European territory, only for enough participation to create awareness around the idea and a sense of legitimacy.

So here is how it would work: on the day of the elections, in as many cities, towns and villages as possible across Europe, just outside the official polling stations, voters would be able to physically elect members of the constituent assembly. At the same time, online elections would be held. These elections, which should be accompanied by as much publicity as possible, would choose a group of, say, 200 elected representatives.

The constituent assembly itself would not have the legitimacy to decide on a new democratic constitution.  ‘Elections’ self-organised citizens across Europe would not be formally adequate for that. Rather, the assembly would serve as a new civic power to inject ideas for democratic renewal into the European institutions, show that citizens are full of ideas and energy for such a project, and ensure that they cannot be ignored or side-lined in any future convention or treaty change. The assembly could be accompanied by a secretariat and would operate as a new kind of organisation: a cross between a citizen-led NGO and a democratically elected congress.

Following the elections, the assembly would meet as the elected representatives together with randomly selected citizens, representatives of non-European countries (because Europe’s actions impact the whole world and the whole world needs to have a say – and this is what real transnationalism should ultimately be about), representatives of municipalities and local authorities as well as interested NGOs and social movements to elaborate ideas for the values and content of a democratic European constitution. Online, a wiki-constitution would be discussed and collaboratively drafted. Indeed, the assembly would be a significant actor to initiate a wider process of citizens’ assemblies, through a cycle of meetings, discussions and debates organised in town-halls, schools, universities, cultural spaces and other venues throughout Europe, with coordination and exchange between these different cities and citizens.

The process could focus on three questions:

How to ensure democratic decision–making at a European level in which the interests of people throughout the continent, and the consequences of European decisions for other people affected, are taken into account and the common interest is guaranteed through a just, accountable and transparent process?

 How to ensure the maximum possibilities for direct citizen involvement in political decision–making, as an expression of European citizenship and the best guarantee of common interest?

 Which economic, political, and social issues are best approached at European level and what legislative competences should democratic transnational institutions have in these areas?

This process could run in parallel to ‘official’ processes at a European level, but would be more effective if it could fully infiltrate and initiate the formal processes and possibly lead to the participatory drafting of a new constitution to be approved by European citizens by transnational referendum. Beyond just a drafting of a new constitutional proposal, such process would itself be an experiment in transnational participation and a testament of the possibility of practicing European democracy in a new way. The recent process of participatory constitutional redrafting in Iceland is an important precedent in the development of empowering processes where citizens commonly decide their rules for living together. The scale of the task is enormous, but that is no reason not to start.

Doing nothing is not an option

Many of the changes proposed by such a participative process may require EU treaty change, and therefore unanimity between Member States. Treaty requirements should not prevent European citizens from initiating processes of change and adopting various strategies for enacting those changes. The important first step would be to establish transnational movements of citizens for a democratic infrastructure for Europe. The second step would be to adopt strategies, depending on legal procedures, for forcing institutional changes to be adopted. Leaving all initiative for treaty change to Member States, or worse, just some powerful Member States, is no longer an acceptable option. Doing so just reinforces the impression that the only options available are either to submit to the authority of the leaders of the most powerful countries or to abandon all European integration. However, a third alternative is available: citizens themselves proposing a genuine European democracy.

Etienne Balibar has recently powerfully argued that we need to be more nuanced in the way we talk about the EU and its history. It is important to distinguish between the philosophical prehistory of Europe as a utopian idea of perpetual peace, the political origins of the federalist project particularly in the anti-fascist resistance, and the historical beginnings of the supranational institutions in the Cold War. Only by reclaiming Europe in the first two senses, taking Europe into hands of the citizens as an act of resistance and invention, and through recovering a sense of utopian energy that can transform the apparently insolvable contradictions of political power, will projecting a positive European future become possible. This is no play, and citizens are not spectators in a theatre. Let’s stop waiting and let’s start acting.

The first transnational European list – a DiEM25 initiative


On 7 February in Brussels, the European Parliament rejected the idea of creating transnational European lists for the 2019 Elections. Nevertheless, the first transnational European list of candidates for the 2019 Elections was created on 10 March, in Naples.

On the initiative of the Democracy in Europe Movement, DiEM25, founded in 2016 by the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, several national, regional and municipal political organisations from all over Europe met in the Domus Ars in Naples:

Génération-s, the left-wing French environmental movement led by Benoît Hamon;

DeMA, Democrazia e Autonomia,  a citizen platform, led by the mayor of the “rebel city” of Naples, Luigi De Magistris

Razem, the Polish feminist, pro-labour, anti-austerity movement, represented by, among others, Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk

Livre , the pro-European, left-wing libertarian, ecological, Portuguese movement, represented by its co-founder Rui Tavares

Alternativet, the Danish, progressive, European, environmentalist party represented by Rasmus Nordqvist

Bündnis – DiEM25, the electoral wing of DiEM25 in Germany

Open to the public with its press conference livestreamed, the meeting took place under the benevolent regard of a great lady of the European left, Susan George, and was observed by representatives of the Romanian DEMOS movement, the German DiB party, the French Communist Party, the Croatian parties Nova ljevica and Zagreb Je NAŠ! the Slovenian Levica Party, as well as the Party of European Greens and the Party of the European Left.

In the context of the European Elections of 2019, the organisations gathered at the Naples meeting decided to present:

–  a common policy programme,

–  a single spitzenkandidate (a candidate for the head of the commission),

–  a common coordination,

–  a list of candidates (corresponding to the sum of the lists presented in each country by each party and movement member of the list). This list, which will be agreed upon and democratically voted on by the members of the various movements and parties, may provide for the swapping of candidates across countries.

An act of constructive disobedience

This initiative is put forward, explicitly and deliberately, as an act of constructive disobedience, that is, an act of concerted, manifest disobedience capable of accelerating change.

The technocrats in Brussels don’t want transnational lists? In reality, it only takes a little imagination and political creativity to simulate them within the framework of existing laws.

A rebellion is developing

This act of disobedience announced by the organisations gathered in Naples is only the first in a long series.

The European New Deal, for example, i.e. the economic policy developed within DiEM25, around which the list will build its programme, recommends disobeying the status quo by using existing European institutions in order to simulate federal functionality within the framework of the current treaties – thus without providing a pretext for ruinous and unrealistic exits from the European Union.

This federal simulation will ensure the creation of an economic, ecological, feminist and social policy framework capable of addressing under-investment, poverty and inequalities in Europe, tackling public and private debt crises, promoting public and common goods, and implementing a massive green investment programme representing at least 4.5% of the European Union’s GDP in direct cooperation with European cities.

In the same spirit, the forces gathered in Naples plan to launch a citizens’ assembly process, beginning in villages and cities all over Europe. This process will enable European citizens to implement, at least symbolically, the constitutional process that Europe needs and that the European institutions do not have the strength to ensure. This process of participatory democracy will initiate the creation of a democratic Constitution written by the peoples of Europe for the peoples of Europe, capable of putting citizens, local communities and municipalities at the centre of decision-making processes, eventually leading to a Constituent Assembly which, together with the European Parliament, will draw up the future European democratic Constitution by 2025.

A European liberation movement

Far from being a simple electoral cartel, therefore, this newly created list represents the electoral expression of a common vision now beginning to spread among the peoples of Europe.

Aware of the fact that European problems can only be solved at the European level, and firmly opposed to any compromise with the existing European institutions, the groups gathered in Naples have set themselves the objective, not only of participating in the 2019 elections, but more generally of launching a movement that Rui Tavares has proposed calling a European liberation movement.

As well stated by Luigi De Magistris, for years the forces of national, local, civil society have been resisting Brussels’s institutional violence – the time has come to strike back.

An open call

The organisations gathered in Naples intend to broaden the scope of this movement well beyond its first members. A call has been extended to other political and civil society movements throughout Europe to participate in the political elaboration and electoral expression of the programme.

We stress that the process is wide open to civil society.

For too many years, professional politicians have had an interest in deepening an artificial distinction between grassroots politics and institutional politics, thus separating citizen action from power.

DiEM25, together with all the protagonists in Naples, invites civil society movements, local authorities and citizens’ initiatives to respond to the call and to bring their know-how, experience and demands into the institutional game. We believe that it is only through their contributions that together through the struggle against European institutions, we can forge the European people.

Seven hazards in David Cameron’s intended European policy

Posted: 23 Jan 2013 12:00 AM PST

This morning sees UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s long anticipated (and delayed) speech on the UK’s relationship with the EU. Michael Emerson sets out seven major hazards that his expected policy positions will have to overcome, ranging from defining its core objective, problems with the referendum process, and the economic costs of generating uncertainty over the EU/UK relationship. 

This article was first published on LSE’s EUROPP blog

Unless the British Prime Minister changes the script that he has led us to expect for his speech later this week on his policy intentions towards the European Union, his propositions are going to encounter a plethora of problems for their successful implementation in the British and European interests. To set out the litmus tests, there are no less than seven major hazards for his policy to overcome.

The first hazard is the task of defining the core objective in a way that holds water, i.e. operational and proportionate to the political purpose of repatriating sufficiently substantial EU competences to claim that he has strategically rebalanced the relationship. The UK has already opted out of the eurozone and the Schengen area, and does not want to opt out of the single market and foreign and security policy. What is left to add to the opt-outs? Not much. That is why much is being made of the possibility (provided for by Protocols 21 and 36 to the Lisbon Treaty) to repeal the UK’s implementation of much existing EU law and policy in the Freedom, Security and Justice area. The populist argument being made that this legislation somehow threatens the rule of law in the UK is utterly contrived.

Michael Theis Credit: (Creative Commons BY ND)

The second hazard lies in the negotiating style and tactics currently already being announced by the Prime Minister, namely that of either getting his way, or if not, blocking the eurozone’s proposals for a new EU-based treaty to correct its systemic deficiencies. This is already criticised as ‘blackmail’, notably by some senior German parliamentarians, but the use of this damning language gets an immediate echo around the rest of Europe. The blackmail tactic encounters two problems, both fundamental. The first is that it will not work, since eurozone countries are already prepared if necessary to negotiate a new treaty outside the formal EU legal order. The second is that it will harden the terms of opposition to whatever the UK wants or has as a special favour (e.g. the UK’s budget rebate).

The third hazard arises from the political manageability of the process, when the outcome would have to be settled by referendum in the UK. The Swiss are well trained to use the referendum instrument for precisely targeted issues. For the rest of Europe with less training, like the UK with hardly any, the hazard is that of the referendum question being transformed in the eyes of voters into something other than what the text exactly says, like general dissatisfaction with the state of the economy or general performance of the government.

Indeed these first three hazards might push the political dynamics into the secession scenario, or fourth hazard, which the Prime Minister says he does not want. But if one looks at the secession scenario, what does one see? The most obvious approximate model is that of Norway, which is wholly in the single market as member of the European Economic Area (EEA). The problems here are that the UK would have no say in the negotiation of a new single market law. So the UK would have less sovereignty than it does now over the single market, which is its highest priority domain of EU activity. In addition, Norway has agreed to substantial financial contributions to the EU structural funds, which would certainly be demanded of a seceding UK.

Hazard number five is the potential economic cost of the strategic uncertainty that is being created for a number of years ahead, with the scenario of secession in the air. Competition between EU member states over footloose investment by multinational corporations is already fierce. As British business interests are already saying with alarm, in a situation of strategic uncertainty for the UK the most obvious sales pitch of its close neighbours will be “you cannot know where the UK will be in relation to the EU single market in a few years time”. With the obstinately on-going recession in the British economy, this is hardly a message one wishes to facilitate.

Hazard number six concerns the political future of the United Kingdom itself, with pressure for a referendum in Scotland over its possible secession from the UK. The Scottish nationalists do not however want to secede from the EU, and for the UK to be toying with secession from the EU could intensify Scottish arguments for seceding from the UK. EU lawyers seem to be of the view that an independent Scotland would have to apply under the regular accession procedure, and several member states would not want to endorse this precedent. But the prospects for a very messy tangling up of the debates over these Scottish, UK and EU affairs are very real, with Cameron risking that his epitaph becomes “the man that led the unravelling of both the UK and EU”.

Hazard number seven concerns the place of the UK in the world, and its relations with its closest allies and friends. The US has already in recent days made its position absolutely clear, that its interest lies in a strong UK voice within a strong EU. Here they are getting a crystal-clear message that the current British government is heading in the wrong direction. The UK’s traditional like-thinking liberal democratic allies in the EU, such as the Nordics and Benelux, are appalled at what they see emerging. As for the old Commonwealth, they went their own way a long time ago. The UK’s remaining international prestige with major powers such as China and Russia will decline.

At least these seven hazards are now being aired in public debate, and it is for the normal democratic processes to sift through the arguments and see informed judgement prevail. The responsibility of the British Prime Minister in these next days will be at least not to foreclose the debate by locking his government onto a path of uncontrollable political damage, for which the possibilities are nonetheless abundantly evident.

This article is a shortened version of a CEPS Commentary paper.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the British Politics and Policy blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please read our comments policy before posting.

Michael Emerson has since 1998 been Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Brussels.  Since 1998, researching European foreign, security and neighbourhood policies. He was a Senior Research Fellow at the LSE in 1996-1998. He has numerous publications on EU integration, EU relations with the wider European neighbourhood and contemporary European conflict.

Left must call for sanity on spending cuts

Progressive political forces in Europe need to act in concert to battle the austerity measures threatening economic nightmares

It is undoubtedly right that the Labour party goes through a period of self-analysis and debate before electing its new leader but the timing could not be worse. Just as the British left retreats into months of introspection, a mammoth crisis emerges across Europe which screams out for protest and mobilisation.

The £6.25bn of savings for the UK announced today are potentially damaging enough but when set in a wider context of the cuts-mania gripping the European Union they become positively terrifying. £6.25bn may not look like a vast amount in the context of overall spending but as a recent analysis revealed, cutting that amount will lead to thousands of job losses and damage growth. And this is, of course, just the beginning, with a full comprehensive spending review planned for the autumn.

Alongside cuts to local services, today’s announcement also included cuts in areas specifically designed to help the economy: such as employment programmes for young people and regional development. And there are rumours of cuts to be announced in industrial investment. It is looking as though a big proportion of these measures that Labour put in place to support the economy through uncertain times is facing the chop.

These plans alongside similar announcements being made across Europe put the future of the UK and the continent at risk. This is not just an economic concern, unpalatable political forces could well flourish in the resulting downturn. Angela Merkel may be under enormous political pressure at home but by leading the calls for eye-watering cuts, the German chancellor is at great risk of repeating historical mistakes that damaged the advanced economies incalculably in the 1930s and the developing economies in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The political consequences in both cases were rarely pretty.

The really tragic part is the austerity packages being unveiled across Europe will not work. Cuts in one country are dangerous enough for a national economy close to recession but simultaneous cuts across a continent still reeling from the biggest financial crisis and recession in decades is absurdly risky.

The damage done to European economies and hence to tax revenues and the public finances could be huge. Deficits will widen and the markets will continue to panic. Indeed, for all the Tory talk of how the bond markets want to see deep and urgent cuts, there are clear signs that the markets are equally worried about the impact of austerity packages on the European and global economies.

The senior politician one might have expected to have intervened early in this situation with some good sense, Vince Cable, is clearly not in a position to speak out. It is only the opposition and wider progressive forces, hopefully supported by a wider movement, that can urgently start calling for some sanity. Alistair Darling has made a typically understatedintervention along these lines but something much noisier is required.

Progressive forces must demand that the EU acts closely together to take the necessary action to restimulate and rebalance the whole European economy. Yes, that will mean richer nations, particularly Germany, stumping up the cash and honestly acknowledging that their economic model is as much to blame for the problems afflicting the EU as any other. And if some restructuring of sovereign debt is required, so be it. The alternative route of deep austerity is to risk a leap into a fiscal, economic and political nightmare. The right may be happy to see Europe sleepwalk into this, the left must shake the continent awake.

Guardian 24 May 2010