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Achieving a “United States of Europe” Through Eurofederalism

As of the publication of this article, the European Union (EU) faces numerous and diverse crises. For years now, the Union has been facing the rise of the euro-sceptic, parliamentary far right throughout the continent, making political cohesion and planning the future difficult, to say the least. This, added to the immigration waves from recent years, the effects of the Russo-Ukrainian war on the economy – namely high inflation rates and the current energy crisis – and the devastating consequences of climate change, has provoked doubts on the efficacy of the EU as a transnational governance model.

Various answers are given to this problematic from all sides of the European parliament, but some attention should be given to a rather unknown vision: the European Federalists. Federalism, as the etymology suggests, is about progressively turning the EU into a functional federation or a confederation, meaning, one single European state, the culmination of decades of the development of a supranational system of European governance. Models of how this would look like are still heavily debated upon, but the essence is that, for federalists, there needs to be a European Federation with its own legislative, executive, and judicial powers to direct the policies of its member states, enhance unity and cohesion, and gain the capacity to tackle political, economic, and geopolitical problems as one solid block, overcoming borders.

Today, one of the most interesting voices of the movement is held by Volt Europa, with three seats in the Dutch parliament and one euro-parliamentarian. As globalization accelerates, this young party (founded in 2017) proposes to complete transcend national borders to face today’s challenges in cohesion and coherence.

In their manifest and political program, they put forward such massive structural reforms like the reform of the immigration policy, currently directed by the Dublin Convention III, that determines which country is responsible for the administrative handling of immigrants. On this matter, Volt argues that a very small handful of countries (Spain, Greece, Italy, etc.) have been taking most asylum seekers and immigrants, causing struggles of every kind inside such countries. They also want to increase and improve the pathways into Europe that immigrants may use, in order to make the route safer for them but also have relative control over said pathways. They also propose reforms on climate change policies, by introducing an EU-wide carbon tax to stop people from using carbon-intensive products, drastically reducing subventions to the fossil fuel industry and increase the energy-saving targets from 30 to 40%. For this, a Federal Europe would have a European Prime Minister, idea which had not really risen since the proposal of a European Constitution between 2004 and 2005. On another more social note, Volt wants to legalize sex work and euthanasia, seek alternatives for prisons (like rehabilitation centers), and, thereby, prioritize other types of sanctions. Volt also insists on the need to go through a digital revolution, to stop using paper in administrations and further expands on innovative ideas like e-healthcare systems and the Estonian e-government model.

This pan-European ideology is also somewhat represented in other parties like the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, founded by Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister during the height of the sovereign debt crisis. The party proposes a pan-European agenda that would ignore national borders of member states, pushing for a Union-wide European New Deal, advancement in tech sovereignty and a Green New Deal for Europe.

Regardless of the party, federalists believe that Europe is currently facing problems that can only be solved on the totally transnational level. Only the absolute union of nations can fix the issues Europe is suffering from. Borders are seen as a block toward needed major reforms, and transnationalism is the only way to save the EU.

On a global scale, a federalized EU would effectively become the third global superpower, joining the US and China. It would be a demographic giant with over 450 million European citizens, with incredible potential as the workforce of the future thanks to immigration. Economically, a European Federation would have a GDP of a staggering 17 trillion dollars, making it only third in the world after the two aforementioned giants. This, added to the possibility of creating a military union summing the powers of nations like France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Nordic member states, would make of the EU an undisputed (nuclear) superpower, exerting its influence throughout the world.

On a federal scale, the role of the Union would expand to vital sectors once monopolized by member states, like education, healthcare, social security, defense, retirement age, foreign policy, etc.

Nevertheless, this project does not have the support it would need to be even close to implement any of these reforms. The feeling of European identity is growing, but it is not strong enough for Volt or any other federalist parties to grow significantly. Abolishing borders means a massive and radical shift in identity for many, who feel more attached to their country than to Europe. Others, notably on the nationalist sides of parliaments, simply argue that such a project is a threat to the sovereignty of the member states who, signing the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, did not necessarily expect the creation of a powerful, supranational State that would swallow them whole and start directing them like just another instrument in the orchestra. And even if a European Federation is born in the future, it would need to tackle deep and structural problems like the territorial inequalities within Europe (East and West, North and South) or the integration of candidates (an independent Scotland, Kosovo, etc.). To this, we must add that federalists are not entirely united either, how subtle their differences may be. They are still separated into different parties and pursue all-so-slightly different goals.

Therefore, while we have seen that the path towards consolidation and a stronger union has already been paved, actual progress in these proposals depends on the current institutions, the leading countries in the Union, and beyond all, the people of Europe and their democratic choice.

Edited by Melisa Altıntaş

Works Cited

“A Federal Europe? The Party Trying to Unite Europe Further.” TLDR News EU, 12 Aug. 2021.

Union of European Federalists

Leali, Georgio “Draghi: EU needs ‘pragmatic federalism,’ more integration“ Politico, 3 May 2022

Volt Europea

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