I am a European federalist. I know, it's a shocking thing to say, like an American candidate saying "I believe that the world is older than 10,000 years" or "Yes, selling Playboy to teenaged boys is less dangerous than a semi-automatic Armalite rifle". I'm a bit eccentric that way. I believe in a United States of Europe as being the best way of defending the liberal and democratic values that I believe are under threat from crazy religious fanatics (of all persuasions) from Mecca to Tel Aviv to Rome to Alabama, from a rising one party tyranny in China, and from a thuggish regime in the Kremlin.
Yet I also believe that Eurosceptics are right about one thing. The EU cannot continue without the people being directly consulted. We cannot sleep walk into a banking union, fiscal union and then into a political union without the people being explicitly asked.
Now, you say this to some people in Brussels, and they look at you like you've exposed yourself to them and asked "Should it really be that colour?"
Here's the funny thing: some of them are indeed so arrogant that they are shocked at the idea that the little people should be consulted, but they are not the majority. The majority are afraid of what happens if people vote no. They genuinely don't know what the alternative is.
Well, this Irishman, coming from the country that has more referendums on the EU than Silvio Berlusconi has special lady friends, has a suggestion.
First, we devise what the options actually are for each country. They are a hard federal core with the euro as its currency, a directly elected president, and a federal treasury that cuts out all the reckless spending and borrowing nonsense, built around a federalised debt. Secondly, an outer ring, basically a European Economic Area with its own currencies, access to the single European market, and free from non-trade related EU rules but with no European commissioners, MEPs or seats on the Council of Ministers, and bound (on single market issues) by the European Court. Finally, negotiated exit from the European Union altogether.
Having agreed how each option will interact with the other, we have a vote in every EU member state on the same day, securing a democratic mandate for the entire process, and letting each country find its place in the European construct or choosing to leave altogether.
That's the beauty of this proposal: There can't be a no vote that leaves a country in limbo, because every country will not be asked to endorse a position but instead to actually choose its place in the New Europe. Every country will give a clear answer.
There will of course be caveats. Germany is a unique case, and if Germany votes for anything other than core membership the whole plan would have to be suspended. But bear in mind that choosing to join the core would also be choosing to give a popular democratic mandate to intrusive German style rules to keep your national finances in order, so it's not all one way traffic. Yes, you will get access to funds raised by eurobonds issued by the EU federal government, but they will control how they are spent in your country too.
How likely is the above plan? Well, ask yourself this: How likely was it five or ten years ago that we would be on the brink of a fiscal union? We live in interesting times, and in interesting times people can propose interesting things.
Jason O'Mahony is an Irish political blogger and political activist blogging at www.jasonomahony.ie
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