FROM OUR JUNIOR TEAM /
With the year 2020 now behind us, it seemed interesting for the LEAP team to look back on its Vision 2020. This book, written by Franck Biancheri, and published by Anticipolis in 2003, details 14 proposals to continue the European construction during the next two decades. In the preamble, the author outlines the challenges facing the continent and anticipates how the situation will evolve if these challenges are not met.
In the light of this change of decade, our team begins a handover to rejuvenate the team and propose complementary contents to the monthly bulletin. If you would like to take advantage of this content and/or help us produce it, please visit the GEAB Community group on LinkedIn. And if you want to support our work and develop your future intelligence, subscribe to the GEAB.
In italics and inverted commas are excerpts from the preamble of Vision 2020, written by Franck Biancheri, and in roman type the comments written by us in 2021.
« The European construction launched in the 1950s is a success that has made it possible to create the unity of the continent in a peaceful manner and to ensure the prosperity of its inhabitants. »
A statement to be qualified in 2020. The unity of the continent was a reality until the early 2000s; today it is threatened by the conflictual relations between Member States maintained by the EU institutions themselves. As for prosperity, it is largely questionable since the subprime crisis and the sovereign debt crisis that followed it.
« Today, with the peaceful unification of the European continent, a stage is coming to an end which requires a fundamental rethinking of the institutions and methods of the past decades. »
This has not been done and has led, among other things, to the questioning of the first achievements mentioned in the incipit.
« The growing difficulties of the current Community system in responding to new challenges have been embodied for several years now by a succession of Community crises affecting both its action and its internal functioning. It has led the EU to a decision-making paralysis on major issues and a confusion of responsibilities, creating doubts and concerns among citizens. The launch of the Convention on the Future of Europe is proof of these difficulties as well as an attempt at renewal. »
“Decision-making paralysis” and “confusion of responsibilities” which are still perfectly topical. Proof of this is that a Convention on the Future of Europe has again been initiated by the Commission in 2020. The institutions have therefore been unable to provide themselves with permanent mechanisms to enable them to apprehend the future of the continent by integrating the citizens.
« The key problem for Europe in the decades to come is therefore to reconcile democratic aspiration, the dream of unity and effective action: Europe is not to be made, it is to be governed democratically and effectively. The Euro is the catalyst of this evolution. »
Europe’s key problem remains the reconciliation of these three aspirations to be achieved. Europe has indeed been made, from the Treaty of Rome to the Treaty of Lisbon. As a result, the institutions and procedures enabling those who make it up, both citizens and political representatives, to govern it “democratically and effectively” have never been created. The single currency could indeed have been the catalyst, instead it became the symbol of impotence on the international scene, of the lack of efficiency in terms of economic functioning, and of an independent technocracy disconnected from all reality by an ECB mandate that only satisfied an ordoliberal vision of the functioning of the economy.
« This new deal marks a major shift in the forces that will determine the future of Europe. Administrations, the real “builders” of Europe over the last 5 decades, must hand over to politicians and citizens. In any case, it is public opinion that will shape Europe in the years to come. »
Administrations that did not transfer political power to officials or citizens became the embodiment of a ‘Brussels bubble’ at the service of a project designed by and for itself. The public opinion that actually shapes Europe has naturally turned against it – helped by national governments that are always inclined to blame the European institutions for unpopular reforms that were actually intended and carried out by those same national governments. Thus the European administration is perceived by European public opinion at worst as an oppressor, responsible for all their words, at best as the representation of a globalised elite draining the continent’s natural and human resources, excluding the greatest number in the distribution of these resources.
« This democratic transition of the community project is a very delicate period. It coincides with several decisive phenomena: (1) the departure from the initial foundations (war, reconciliation, reconstruction) which had justified the transfer of competences; (2) the ageing of relatively well-off populations which are not very conducive to innovation; (3) the strong questions of Europeans about their future in a world perceived as threatening; (4) the announced arrival of many new and little-known members. These factors are accompanied by a rise in populism, which is difficult for states and traditional political parties to respond to. It is these states and parties, now weakened, that have historically supported the Community project. To date, they have not found a relay at European level. »
The “determining phenomena” identified here have materialised one after the other. If transfers of competences are today so badly perceived it is partly due to the distance from the initial foundations. And above all to an inability to use these competences to meet the new challenges that have arisen and for which the European level is particularly relevant. The growing proportion of the older, relatively well-off and therefore less innovative population has continued to monopolise public debate and the functioning of institutions, refusing to hand over or even to take seriously the views of its descendants. This situation gave rise to #OKboomer. A symbol of misunderstanding and a broken dialogue between generations that no longer manage to overcome their differences. From a world “perceived as threatening” we have moved on to concrete threats and then to their implementation. Perhaps the most violent of these is the threat of terrorism. But the environmental and climate threat, although less clearly perceptible, is no less real and we are already experiencing it. The arrival of new members has indeed led to resentment, mainly through the posted workers system but also through budget transfers. Traditional political parties have failed to respond to the rise of populism. This naturally took its course and brought Salvini, Orban and Kurtz to the highest decision-making level. The latter have effectively made the EU their scapegoat and have at no time faced a counter-recit, structured at European level and carried by transnational political formations. In the United Kingdom, this situation led to the Brexit, which is now effective.
« Europe has thus entered a decisive historical phase which will either consecrate its success by perpetuating it as the first democratic continental integration; or will see it drift towards an anti-democratic and xenophobic national-Europeanism and thus towards certain death as a historical project. »
The European project has not been enshrined over the last two decades as the “first democratic continental integration”. The drift towards an “anti-democratic and xenophobic national-Europeanism” has been noted, particularly with regard to the Brexit and migrant management issues. Should we conclude that it is heading towards “certain death as a historic project”?
“The path followed will be determined by the ability of Europeans in the coming years to do three things simultaneously: – to put the political leaders at the helm of the EU under the effective democratic control of the citizens in order to make them the central actors of the European interest.
« The way forward will be determined by the ability of Europeans in the coming years to do three things simultaneously: – bring the political leaders at the helm of the EU back under the effective democratic control of the citizens in order to make it the central actors of the European collective interest; – fundamentally reorganise the Community administrative system in order to make it an instrument adapted to the European challenges of the coming decades and subject to democratic political control; – fully assume Europe’s international responsibilities in order to help build a world where the European values of democracy, freedom, peace and prosperity can flourish. »
These three actions to be carried out simultaneously are once again perfectly topical. Only two decades have passed since Franck Biancheri wrote these lines. Can we consider that there is still time to act in the same way? Or do the social, economic, political and environmental developments that have taken place over these two decades lead us to completely review the strategy to safeguard, or even enshrine, the historic project of European construction?
If you too would like to comment on the Preamble of Vision 2020 and compare it with your own vision of Europe, we have prepared a questionnaire containing extracts from the text. Do not hesitate to complete it and submit it to us by following this link.