All posts by Liberal Words

AN EXIT… FROM BREXIT

In this contribution, Kevin Mc Namara describes why, also with the Brexit process in course, it is in the interest of both parties that a strong relationship remains. Like Norway, or Switzerland, the United Kingdom could develop a sort of ‘Associate membership’ with some regulations to adopt.

I’m a British Liberal Democrat, and I campaigned vigorously for the United Kingdom (UK) to remain inside the European Union (EU). The result was heartbreaking but – for me – that did not end the fight. In the 2017 General Election, I stood for Parliament on a platform of offering voters an Exit from Brexit, and performed better than expected in a heavily leave-voting area.

Even though that election ended, that debate rages on – the Prime Minister’s Florence speech now prolongs it. Although light on detail, Theresa May’s speech did elucidate that her government wants a two-year transitional deal to avoid a cliff-edge and also to give her government more space and time, as it has thus far bungled the Brexit negotiations.

There was, however, one thing that I agreed with the Prime Minister on: the EU is stronger with the UK, and the UK is stronger with EU. For this reason, I think it is in the interest of both parties that a strong relationship remains – if I was the Shadow Brexit Secretary of a socialist party that was fudging this issue, I might even say “a progressive relationship” – but we need to decide what this looks like, and fast.

With Macron looking to radically reform the European Union – going as far as to call for a Eurozone Parliament to give democratic accountability to monetary policy – what the British and Northern Irish needs to be thought of in this context, and the UK desperately needs friends to move this along.

 

In the diagram above, other than seeing that Europe is a rather complicated place, you will see that the UK is inside the European Economic Area, the European Union, the Customs Union and the Council of Europe, but is not a member of the Schengen Area or the Eurozone – it has always enjoyed a unique relationship with the EU and related institutions.

Whilst this has always been used to appease the UK’s Euroscepticism, it can be used to keep the UK at Europe’s periphery, even if the UK now decides it no longer wants to be at its core.

Like my party, I believe that Single Market and Customs Union membership are paramount to the UK’s prosperity, and also are important to ensure that Brexit does not adversely affect our European partners either. The Union Jack in that diagram would move a few inches to the left and rest either next to Norway or Switzerland.

I know my government, aided and abetted by our socialist opposition, disagree so we need to prepare Plan C in the event that an exit from Brexit and a soft Brexit are both off the table. We need a Plan B that softens the blow not just for the UK and the EU, but for colleagues in Gibraltar who seek to be hurt most by Brexit. That Plan B also needs to leave clear a re-entry route for the young who voted overwhelmingly to remain,

To recap, the new arrangement needs to leave Bre-entry on the table as a possibility, cement a strong continuing EU-UK relationship without remaining part of the Single Market. In the same way that the EU has rolling accession talks with a number of nations – such as Serbia – it should establish a similar relationship in place for seceding nations too.

You might call it ‘Associate Membership’ of the European Union, a space and a framework in which states can:

  1. Continue to adhere to the Copenhagen principles
  2. Be part of a forum on future regulations and be able to adopt them if they wish to do so
  3. Enjoy trading relationships – short of benefits/obligations of the Single Market – with Member States
  4. Enjoy (optional) membership of entities such as European Atomic Energy Community, if possible.

I am afraid that I will not be able to show you what this looks like on the venn diagram above as I do not have the requisite skills and – sadly – the UK might again cut a rather lonely figure. In his speech to the LSE European Institute on the 28th September, Verhofstadt, ALDE Leader and European Parliament Lead Brexit Negotiatior, signals that he could also accept this as part of a package of broad EU reforms.

The advantage of this would be that it keeps the four freedoms indivisible, keeping the EU strong, it would provide a framework for seceding states to stay in-line with the operations of the EU, and a route to quick return. It would make softer the possibility of a very hard Brexit, and it would create a strong, forward-looking relationship with the EU27 so we can come up with creative solutions for Gibraltar.

And then the fight continues, and then one day, the structure of Europe might look more like this:

Kevin Mc Namara

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WHY EUROPEAN LIBERAL LEADERS WILL LEAD THE WAY

In this contribution, Anja Fabiani, our individual members country coordinator from Slovenia, describes why European and liberal leaders will grow in importance and will become a role model for any other leadership in the international scene over the next few years.

Smart power leadership is essential for future leaders. More than this; it’s the driving force behind successful global leadership. We understand it as a metaphor; it is not about the concrete leadership process or a leader as a personality.

Smart power leadership means  the combination of various sources and strategies, of hard and soft approaches, all dependent on context. Different players constitute the social and political reality, they interact with each other and contribute to the changes in the same way that conventional leaders once did. Civil society and cyber revolution are part of it. This means radical democratisation as other forms of hegemony fall apart.

The process of Enlightenment is unfinished. It never will be complete but  it has revived the contra revolution of religious and other ideological belief systems. Today, Society is not threatened neither by class, nor by God warriors – endless expansion threatens it. Future leaders will show their capacity when referring to the frame of limitation; how they will relate to Others (third World, powerless…) and to technological and scientific developments.

European worth lies in the heritage of its intellectual diversity.

European worth lies in the heritage of its intellectual diversity. Not in the civilizational elitism nor in the mimicry of ideologies alone but in an interaction of both. United in truth; It is the different intellectual and cultural models, arisen from Europe’s past, which today form the new reality. This is the context of smart power and the potential of European leadership. It could be a role model for any other leadership outside when properly understood. It is renewed; it is newly enlightened.

Transformative leadership is the leadership which addresses the exchange of needs and targets values of liberty or justice. It is inspirational, not pushy; it reaches out to the liberal norms. Transactional leadership is harder; but combination is the perfect harmony.

So, why is the future leader European and liberal?

In understanding the process of changing global society, it is never just European, but it carries its essential part: self-limitation with ratio, self-consciousness of diversity and claim for peaceful co-existence.

The new leader flies on the wings of freedom, only by personal choice and in full interaction with Others, with full respect to Equality, Fraternity and Liberty and with the reference to Moral Imperative.

They will never allow others to limit their Freedom, not with vain ideas, nor fixed ideology, and never by terror.

The future European liberal leader is Millennial

The future European liberal leader is Millennial,  they turn the world upside down and shake it because they know that everything is meant to be change.

It is about the dance of existence in the heart of Europe. It is about freedom when there will no longer be a need to explain what freedom is or where Europe is placed. Leadership as such will transcendent its meaning.

Until then, we, all leaders, are the force behind and have the responsibility to understand.

Europe faces challenges, which are bound to stoke tensions between security and freedom. We should act united, in common defence, but open. Real threat lies not in openness but in the tension toward it, in extremism or radicalisation.

Liberals should move forward to bright horizons of centre. Why are we always in third or fourth place? Why not first? It feels so natural.

The first real smart power leadership

Individual membership of ALDE Party is a genius idea because it is a grassroots movement, which involves the spectrum of civil society, but is a part of political family, which lets people act on both levels. Truly democratic. We could name it: the first real smart power leadership. The challenge for the future will be to maintain its purity –people acting with no power aspirations, loyal to ideals – but still maintaining influence on decision-making processes. On the other hand, Europe as a value, has never been more important. It is  now centre-stage.

We have a chance as never before. Towards smart leadership: the first step is to build transnational European lists, to have transnational delegates to European structures, to have European citizenship and to federalise the continent in a completely new way.

Go for it. Stand up for it.

Be the inspiration and the transformation.

Anja Fabiani

THE OCCIDENT AND IDENTITY: TWO YEARS LATER

In this contribution, Dr Sid Lukkassen, an individual member from The Netherlands, asks whether his book, written in Dutch and published two years ago, Avondland en Identiteit, is still relevant today. Risen to prominence in recent times in Dutch public debate, Sid in his book pleas for a political strategy and identity that is rooted in self-confidence, while also contemplating the question of the role liberalism plays in the decline as well as in any possible renaissance. 

As a young city council member for the VVD, I made my debut in 2015 with the book Avondland and Identiteit (Aspekt). The book draws attention from influential people. Prime Minister Mark Rutte posed with it while Dr Thierry Baudet wrote the introduction for the reprint. I was invited to speak in the European Parliament by ALDE Party individual members. Applying its analysis on Europe today: is it still relevant?

‘Avondland’ (in German: Abendland) is the overarching concept for the culture of the European civilization. The Abendland signifies the western sphere where the sun disappears after sunset. For the European Union, this sunset may be proverbial: thinking about Brexit, the debt crisis in the southern member states, and the discussion about constitutional reforms in Poland. Together with the migration crisis, these factors create the perfect storm that could end the European Union.

European self-esteem

The book is my plea for a political strategy and identity that is rooted in self-confidence while also contemplating the question of the role liberalism plays in the decline as well as in any possible renaissance. When I published the book in 2015, I was optimistic about the European project – marching Russian boots, the threat of Islamic extremism, China’s neo-colonialism and ethnical tensions in our cities would be the wake-up call for European citizens and their representatives. My expectation was that within a few years, Europe would restore its self-esteem and through that formulate a realistic approach to geopolitics.

The opposite has happened. By manipulating the migration crisis and European feelings of guilt, while supporting its ‘storm troopers’ in European cities, Turkish President Erdogan  blackmails the European Commission. The idea of a solid foreign policy through the unity of Europe has failed completely. Despite the acquisition of bonds by the ECB, monetary easing and the European Stability Mechanism, the economic outlooks are grim as well. Great amounts of financial aid are flowing back to financial institutions instead of helping economies in need. The resulting inflation damages the middle-class and their savings. In the midst of this, the British have lost all hope and resigned from the project.

The end of liberty

The explanation of the rise in popularity of Trump, Farage, Hofer or Beppe Grillo by mainstream political parties and media remains one-sided without self-reflection. These forces immediately claim the role of authentic moral resistance, while at the same time promoting the interests of the increasingly distrusted status quo.

Meanwhile, Merkel, Timmermans, and Zuckerberg cooperate to “eliminate hate speech on the internet”, aided by others such as Google CEO Eric Schmidt and George Soros. The latter financially supports Correctiv, which is supported by Facebook and German law to “remove messages from doubtful origins”, especially “negative stories on migrants”. Who determines what is fake news and what is truth? Who defines these criteria is ultimately a question of political power. People who haven’t experienced higher education, and who fail to voice their concerns adequately, will be frightened to voice their opinions due to this imminent censorship. They will be disconnected from the political debate and take their revenge in the voting booth.

Those we call “elite” today –those in control of the judicial systems, top-ranking public officials, media-moguls and CEOs – do not experience the negative consequences of these changes. They live in a safe and wealthy environment; their children enjoy the best education. They are mobile and are always able to escape the situation that may arise if civil society collapses. Psychiatrist Dr Esther van Fenema published about the cosmopolitan elite: the view of highly educated people in secure office buildings. From their privileged position, they survey the burkas that slowly but steadily fill the streets.

Ethnical tensions and economic resentment 

In Brussels I could see it with my own eyes. At the Berlaymont, where European Commission civil servants work, a secured parking garage was built. Made possible by the taxpayer. The rest of the people have to park somewhere on the streets. If damages to property occur, perhaps due to vandalism, the people request better law enforcement and more police. In response, they will hear that they should not “live their lives in fear”, that they have a “authoritarian worldview”, and they should “open their hearts towards their fellow men”. At the end of the day, these officials drive out of the secured parking lots. I mention this anecdotal evidence so that you may recognize the rhetoric and understand the class interests that are the basis for these statements.

Besides the ever increasing ethnical tensions within Europe, the economic resentment creates another problem: the disappearing of small retail, where the young used to gain their first working experiences in order to become middle class later in life. It is there where they learned the work ethics that defined the middle class. Nowadays these small business are replaced by multinationals that can avoid taxation through mailbox companies and legal loopholes.

Better prospects of work do not elevate the position of the young, but instead they are worsened through zero-hour contracts and financially inadequate internships/traineeships. In all the LYMEC and ALDE conferences I have attended between my twenties and thirties, I seldom heard young representatives voice this concern, which defines the struggle of our generation. These traineeships are being sold as “investment in your career”, while they supress their income and compete with workers who have completed the same education and now have to pay off their loans. This situation is detrimental for the formation of families – a vital topic I see ignored by many young cosmopolitans, which in turn increases the problems of demographic decomposition and ageing. Whilst problematic for one, employers see the demographic explosion of Africa – Nigeria alone will host 440 million people in 2050 according to forecasts of the United Nations.

Politics degenerates into emotional storytelling

All the while these substantial problems persist, the status quo tries to seduce voters with rhetoric and imagery language. As I’ve shown in my latest book Democracy and her Media, voters do not receive a coherent set of ideas but are the recipients of associative imagery.[3] The beauty of football matches, successful Olympic Games or recreational life on the terrace are used to distract people from social tensions. The imagery is as follows: pleasure above principle. The Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han, explains how our demise is sold to us as a form of optimism: compulsory positivism with a ‘double-think’ vocabulary where failures are redefined as ‘learning experiences’ and the loss of individual rights are called ‘challenges’. Loss of security is framed as ‘agility’ or ‘flexibility’. The compulsory positivism of society supresses reasonable worries into a taboo: especially the concerns that cause people to think about cultural cohesion and national sovereignty.

We must conclude that Liberalism has the duty to defend the ‘Avondland’ from collapsing. After all, the philosophy of liberalism was born out of the need to defend freedom of thought and speech.

Dr Sid Lukkassen

 

 

 

[1] De Blauwe Tijger, 2017. ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen MEP (VVD) said about this: “A sharp analysis about the influence of the new technologies of communication on the political decision making in Western democracies; at the same time about the ways in which these technologies derail decision making.”

TRANSFORMING THE BREXIT DEBACLE INTO A VICTORY FOR EUROPEAN DEMOCRACY: THE CASE FOR TRANSNATIONAL LISTS

In this contribution, Sebastien Martin from France, discusses how to transform Brexit into a chance for European Democracy and relaunch the topic of transnational lists for the European Parliament. In particular, he supports Emmanuel Macron’s idea to use the 73 UK seats.

Back in the 1950s, the three European founding treaties stated that “the European Parliament shall consist of delegates who shall be designated by the respective Parliaments from among their members in accordance with the procedure laid down by each Member State”. But, already fixing their aim higher, they gave to the Parliament the task to “draw up proposals for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States”. The first point is, as we all know, a reality since the European Electoral Act of 1976, which enabled the first European elections by direct suffrage three years later. The second point though – a uniform procedure covering a pan-European circumscription – remained, until now, unachieved

  1. The constitutional framework: the step back of the Treaty of Amsterdam

For more than 40 years, all constitutional amendments have maintained the idea that a single uniform procedure for European elections was the main objective of any future efforts to modify the Electoral Act. Unfortunately, the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) revised those ambitions downward by creating the option of having elections held “in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States” (now Article 223(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)).

The same treaty encouraged the Council, a few years later, to amend the Electoral Act of 1976. In its original Article 7, the Act contemplated only – as the founding treaties – a uniform electoral procedure. In 2002, the Council cut short this option with a very laconic formulation, whereby “the electoral procedure shall be governed in each Member State by its national provisions”.

2. The institutional procedure: the blocking of the European Council

The Treaty of Maastricht (1992), the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, contained a second paragraph regarding the procedure to be specifically followed to amend the 1976 Act, and which has been later defined as a “special legislative procedure” by the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). In what is now Article 223(2) of TFEU, the Parliament has the exclusive right to initiate the procedure reforming the Electoral Act, but its proposal shall be unanimously approved by the Council and ultimately ratified by each Member State as per its own constitutional requirements.

In 2011, former Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK), then-Chair of the EP’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO), prepared a project of reform which unfortunately failed to reach the plenary assembly. Instead, the European Parliament opted in 2013 for mere recommendations to the Member States. A second proposal, backed by Danuta Hübner (EPP, Poland) and Jo Leinen (S&D, Germany), has finally been voted in plenary by the Parliament on 11 November 2015. Since then, the project has been blocked by the European Council which argued, not directly on the point of transnational lists but rather on the official recognition of Spitzenkandidaten, that its prerogatives were being diminished by the proposal.

3. A perfect alignment of the stars – but citizen support might be the ultimate element to tip the scales

The European Parliament, in its latest resolution on Brexit dated 5 April 2017, has reiterated its willingness to move forward on the reform of the Electoral Act, implicitly making the connection between the transnational list initiative and the UK seats which will become vacant.

Macron, since the start of its French presidential campaign, made clear that transnational lists were one of the priorities of En Marche’s European policy and that the 73 UK seats shall be used to support the initiative. Now elected, Mr. Macron is de facto a member of the European Council, which raises the hopes that the Council’s position will finally move forward on the topic – probably at the cost of concessions to be made to some other provisions of the European Parliament’s proposal.

In a world where citizens are more willing to take the power back into their own hands, online petitions are a powerful tool to bring legitimacy and weight to overcome institutional lethargy. And we, as ALDE’s Individual Members, have a duty to raise public awareness on the ongoing debates, support our ALDE Group in Parliament, and ask our recently elected Delegates to testify about our unconditional commitment at the next Party’s Congress and Council meetings.

As Andrew Duff wrote in a recent article for the European Policy Center, “the time for such a radical reform is now. The introduction of European lists would at a stroke Europeanise the European elections and re-invent the Parliament”. Let’s make sure that ALDE is pushing as hard as possible to transform the Brexit debacle into a victory for European democracy. The countdown has already begun.

Sebastien Martin

Liberal on a limited planet

In this contribution, Sju G. Thorup give us a possible liberal point of view on how environmental concerns could be included in ALDE’s policy-making, and she is looking for people who would like to work with her to draft a resolution to this effect.

I believe that ALDE’s policy-making should build on a foundation of environmental concerns. Here I argue why and call for collaborators to a 2017 resolution to reflect this view in the party platform.

I am a proud liberal European. I believe in extensive individual freedom: freedom of conscience, speech and association; freedom to move, work and trade across Europe; freedom of each individual to do as they feel right for them. I believe in democracy: the mutually respectful dialog towards mutually beneficial solutions; the privilege of the majority to make a decision, with a view to the needs of the minority. I believe in the principle of subsidiarity: decisions and actions should be made at the most local level and only be made centrally if that provides the greater benefit for all.

In the last few years the international community has realised that humanity has been over-utilizing the planet. An ever-growing human population has extracted resources and polluted to a greater extent than the Earth can replenish.

10,000 years ago, humans made up 1% of land animals: the rest were all wild. Today, wild animals make up just 1%. The other 99% consist of humans, our farmed animals and our pets. The Earth is heating up and our pollution is everywhere. We should be ashamed to leave the Earth in such state for future generations.

As responsible citizens, Europeans must work to lower CO2 emissions, minimize resource depletion, stop population growth, restore the natural environment and re-establish wildlife. This insight should become a foundation of our policy-making. Liberalism must be moderated by its impact on our planet.

The individual’s freedom should be limited not only by concerns for society, but also with respect to resources, environment and future generations. Individual freedom must be countered by an obligation to allow wildlife to prosper and resources to replenish. Nobody has a right to pollute the Earth or use resources wastefully. Similarly, when we conduct business, we should ensure that environmental costs are not “externalized” for society to clean up later.

All policy proposals should be screened for long-term viability and environmental sustainability. The will of the people must be moderated by concerns for Earth’s resources and biodiversity, and the opportunities of future generations. We, as caring and well-informed citizens, must speak up for this long-term global view.

Lastly, we must remember that actions which may at a first glance seem to have only local consequences can have longer-term consequences on a pan-European or global scale. For instance, the approval to open a coal mine or to fell a forest may seem to be only a question of local concern, but the climate and nature consequences actually impact us all.

I was encouraged by reading Liberal International’s 2017 manifesto. Its statements reflect exactly my view:

Climate change is the greatest environmental threat humanity knows. Its consequences jeopardise freedom and prosperity for many generations to come. Therefore, Liberals believe that wealth has to be created with respect for the limits of a finite planet and by observing the precautionary principle. Avoiding irreversible ecological damage as well as disastrous climate change as a consequence of high greenhouse gas emissions is one of the preconditions for sustainable economic progress. This requires an appropriate international rules-based framework for protecting and making responsible use of the ‘global commons’.”

I was glad to observe that the ALDE 2014 manifesto also includes this basic liberal stance of environmental concern. The manifesto contains visionary statements for Europe to “take the lead in fighting climate change”, “transitioning into sustainable development” and “low-carbon economy”. However, these statements appear only under the headline of creating jobs! And the topic has faded somewhat in the current list of Values and Messages at ALDE’s website. Just one half out of the seven key messages mentions the planet, bundled together with world peace in one feel-good sentence about “Sustainable development and peace in the world”.

ALDE should work more explicitly and boldly to protect our planet. Environmental concerns should not be just one of many competing policy areas.  The acknowledgement that we are citizens of a limited planet should be the foundation for all policy-making. EU has entered the Paris climate accord with an ambitious CO2 pledge. We should enhance that ambition and aim for similar efforts regarding the natural environment, resources, pollution and biodiversity.

For this purpose, I intend to propose a resolution for the ALDE Party Congress 2017. I ask fellow ALDE members to join me in writing this resolution and turning it into party policy. Please get in touch.

Sju G. Thorup


 

To contact Sju G. Thorup write to sju (at) xpqf.com

M.Sc., MBA, management consultant. Her profession is helping companies succeed with their strategic initiatives, often supported by IT projects, and she has worked with large corporations as well as startups. She was born and lives in Denmark; She lived in France as a child, and in California recently. She is the mother of two wonderful young people. Her professional website: http://sju.xpqf.com/en/

Cover picture © by Lars Thorup

A liberal case for the Eurodividend

In this article,  Jorge Tanarro develops an idea to beat the economic crisis and makes the case for the introduction of the Eurodividend, the liberal way.

Rutger Bregman, the author of ‘Utopia for Realists‘, tells us that 37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless. As machines take over human labour, we are struggling to find the sense and purpose in the work we end up doing. Jeff Hammerbacher, a brilliant data scientist that used to lead the data team at Facebook, said “the best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” Machines are not taking the jobs we do not like or do not want to do. They are taking expensive jobs that are cheap to automate. However, in order to call it technological ‘progress’, shouldn’t they be taking the meaningless jobs, so we have the freedom to actually do something that we consider valuable in our limited and unique lives?

Coming back to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said that “we should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like Universal Basic Income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.” The socio-economic system we have today in the European Union is not broken or defective; in fact, it is probably one of the greatest human achievements in history; but it is also one of the most fragile – so could the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) make it much more resilient and fairer?

By covering the most basic of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the UBI would give citizens the freedom to refuse a job and to work for free in something they consider meaningful without risking their own survival. The labour market would be impacted because meaningless jobs would get far fewer candidates (becoming more expensive) but meaningful jobs would get far more candidates (becoming cheaper). Automation would continue trying to make expensive jobs cheaper so it would end up dealing mainly with meaningless jobs as soon as these become more expensive. We would be reshaping technological development and automation with no need of new specific regulations or ‘robot taxes’. So should we, liberals, be promoting Unconditional Basic Income?

Ways to justifying and implementing UBI

There are quite a few different ways of justifying and implementing the UBI, some even incompatible with each other. The left-wing parties GUE-NGL and PES will certainly come up with their own models and narratives and we should be ready to engage in that discussion and make the case for it with our liberal values and perspectives. If we don’t take ownership of a position in that dialogue, ALDE might end up taking the observer seat in one of the most interesting and promising political developments of our time.

The Universal Basic Income is not simple and it has two fundamental problems:

It should be universal, otherwise meaningless jobs get more expensive and get exported to other countries. It should be basic, and it is difficult to agree what ‘basic’ means.

At the ALDE Party Council of June this year, a plenary debate was organised on UBI and Employment Automation with Philippe van Parijs, Hanno Pevkur and Barbara Visser. Philippe van Parijs is a very well known UBI advocate that also came up with the idea of a ‘Eurodividend’. European is probably as universal as we can get, but it sounds just good enough.

Good enough would also be to get as broadly ‘basic’ as ‘feasible’. In Alaska, everyone receives an annual cash dividend that represents their share of the revenue derived from the oil reserves of the state, the so-called Alaska model. Scott Santens proposes to extend this model to intellectual property and big data calling it ‘netizen dividend’ or ‘data dividend’. The beauty of this model is that it is not about the right to receive an agreed amount of money from the state at the end of every month but about recognizing instead the citizens as stockholders that receive a dividend depending on the revenue derived from those common assets. This way, the rent is diverted directly to the citizen before any of it reaches the hands of governments or corporations.

Possible combinations and effects

A Eurodividend could be based on the revenue derived from a European Fund managed by the European Union that would be growing over time, getting progressively larger shares of European natural resources (the allowances of the emissions trading system, water, coal, gas, wildlife, etc.), European natural monopolies (electrical grids and other networks for energy, water supply networks, highway networks, railways, stock exchanges, lotteries, olympic sports federations, EU labels, etc.), European transport hubs (international harbours, airports, train stations, etc.) and the European Patent Office. It could also be combined with the idea of Quantitative Easing for People (QE for People) allowing the European Central Bank to distribute extra money directly to the citizens through the European Dividend to maintain inflation in the eurozone under control.

This way the European Fund would reflect the value of European cooperation by making the citizen the direct beneficiary of a dynamic European economy. The progressive nature of the dividend would allow society to digest the changes smoothly and adapt little by little to the impact of the new guaranteed income. The irregularity of its amount and risk component of its financial nature might help citizens understand that the Eurodividend is not free money but actually the product of a very complex and fragile socio-economic system. As the system thrives, the dividend raises, but if the system struggles, the dividend would diminish; and if the system collapses… well, at least one thing would be clear: we would all have something to lose.

Jorge Tanarro

Do you agree? disagree? Just come and join our conversation about the European Dividend in the #economy channel of the ALDE Party Individual Members Slack group!!!

ANALYSIS OF AN EMPTY EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

In this article, Antonio Martinez Gil discusses the case of an empty Parliament in an important debate and the need  to reinforce the idea that it defends and protect citizen’s interests.

July 4th, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, expressed his deep when just 30 MEPs appeared at the chamber, than a 5% of the total 751. Juncker stated that the European Parliament is ridiculous and not serious. He also declared that if the Prime Minister of Malta, who was appearing at the chamber, had been Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron, the chamber would have been full. Immediate critiques have come from different European personalities, by adducing an excessive harshness and inappropriate manners.

It may not be worth to give too much importance to that situation. However, Juncker’s statement might revive the classic debate on the purpose of the European Parliament, that had been less of a priority during recent times because of Brexit and the general elections in Austria, the Netherlands, France or Germany.

Now that it seems that anti-European parties have lost a lot of their power, the European project, without the United Kingdom, is likely to go on, so what Juncker has identified as an important issue should be tackled when the current tumultuous period finishes. If the European States, parties and institutions intend to prevent our Union from being put at stake again, they must entrust citizens with the European Union’s destiny as they once did. It is precisely the lack of power of the European Parliament that should be corrected to recover people’s trust.

It is commonly said that, whereas the European Council defends the interests of the Member States and the European Commission defends the common one, the European Parliament is destined to protect the citizens’ interests. Nevertheless, as it might be well-known, the main functions assigned to the European Parliament are passing of the budget, the political control of all the institutions, the investiture of the President of the Commission and some legislative roles, but none of them allows the Parliament to take the legislative initiative, which means that the only body that is directly chosen by the citizens doesn’t have the tools to accomplish its task.

All the Member States, except France, Portugal and Romania, are organized under the form of parliamentary republics or monarchies, in which the citizens elect the parliament instead of an executive president. Despite this fact, almost everybody believes the political system of their countries is democratic. However, such a consideration does not extend to the Union according to a very high percentage of the European people.

It is easy to believe that there is an apparent contradiction on the collective previously mentioned, but there is an explanatory reason. Regimes with unelected executives have a strong legislative power that brings balance back.The European Parliament does not have this.

If the Parliament was given more power, critiques of the Commission would decrease, since its president would be invested by a more legitimized European Parliament and, as a result, people’s trust would increase in both the Parliament and the Commission.

On the other hand, we must not forget that the European Parliament has managed to consolidate a really efficient control of the Commission activity, as a result of the need to consult the Parliament before passing the most relevant pieces of Community legislation. It means that in case the reform suggested in this article was enforced once, the European Parliament could become as legitimized as the national parliaments.

In conclusion, I believe that Juncker’s indignation is understandable and fair, and pro-Europeans should consider criticism from within and not just from those who attempt to throw away such a common project. The European Union deserves to be improved, and considering that the support of citizens is crucial in order to make reforms succeed.

Antonio Martínez Gil 

IL POPULISMO, IL FASCISMO E IL MEZZOGIORNO IN UN’EUROPA CHE CAMBIA

In this blog post (in Italian) Massimo Ricciuti describes the situation in Italy, the return of ‘fascist’ ideas and possible liberal solutions. Furthermore, he explains the particular situation in Southern Italy

In queste settimane, immediatamente successive alla tornata delle elezioni amministrative in Italia,  alle presidenziali e successivamente alle legislative francesi (oltre quelle inglesi) sono emerse questioni drammaticamente importanti che ci toccano da vicino. C’è una crisi generalizzata delle istituzioni democratiche, è vero e tale crisi fa immediatamente affrontata. Ma il punto più preoccupante che è emerso in questi giorni è la sfacciata ricomposizione di gruppi e forze politiche dichiaratamente fasciste. Purtroppo la questione è generalizzata e coinvolge tutta l’Europa.  E’ quindi quanto mai urgente porsi il problema di “quale Europa” ci sia bisogno.

Cambiare per superare la ‘transizione permanente’

E’ ormai acclarato che siamo definitivamente entrati in quella che si chiama “fase di transizione permanente”. La qual cosa ci pone di fronte a rimetterci continuamente in discussione come cittadini di un’Europa che se vuol davvero essere all’altezza delle sfide della contemporaneità deve fare del “cambiamento” il suo elemento distintivo. Il cambiamento (o anche crisi) è parte fondamentale della vita dei singoli ma anche delle istituzioni. Ma il cambiamento spesso fa paura e non è un caso che il sentimento dominante oggi è la paura. Le società contemporanee sono afflitte da questa sensazione di incapacità di affrontare il nuovo e ecco che trovano terreno fertile forze politiche e gruppi che si reggono proprio sulla paura. Ma abbiamo il dovere della memoria. E deve essere sempre presente la cognizione che le peggiori dittature sono diretta espressione dell’incapacità dei singoli e delle istituzioni di reagire positivamente alle fasi di crisi (cambiamento). Dalla Brexit all’Ungheria, dal fenomeno Le Pen fino allo scampato pericolo populista in Olanda e continuando fino all’Italia si può dire che l’Europa si sia battuta con tenacia impedendo l’imporsi di una egemonia reazionaria e illiberale. Ma è vero che nel frattempo elementi di forte preoccupazione si sono palesati in tutti i Paesi membri della UE. Non nascondiamoci dietro allo scampato pericolo…perché qualcosa che brucia c’è, e solo un’ Europa rinnovata e più forte può far fronte a segnali spesso intollerabili e sfacciati. Un’Europa che spesso è proprio il bersaglio principale di sovranisti di ogni risma. Per esempio, non è casuale quello che sta accadendo in Italia oggi.

Il ritorno di nostalgie ‘fasciste’  e come superarle

Proprio in questi giorni si sta discutendo, in Parlamento, della possibilità di estendere il reato di apologia del fascismo anche su web e di inasprire le pene per chi commette tale reato. La reazione delle destre populiste (Salvini, Fratelli d’Italia e il Movimento Cinque Stelle di Grillo) sì è subito fatta sentire. Tra l’altro in questi partiti vi sono molti assessori, consiglieri comunali e regionali che non fanno mistero di inneggiare a Benito Mussolini e al nazifascismo.

Credo di non essere il solo a essere preoccupato per tutto questo.

Di sicuro si tratta dell’ennesimo fenomeno che segnala una debolezza di tenuta della forma della democrazia rappresentativa e dei suoi meccanismi di funzionamento ma anche di una sensazione di lontananza delle istituzioni che devono rispondere a nuove urgenze che la contemporaneità richiede.

Però risulta evidente che esiste una questione “fascista” , in Italia, mai metabolizzata e risolta. E’ come se ci fosse una sorta di “rimozione” psicologica…. E spesso accade che chi si macchia del reato di apologia del fascismo non viene perseguito ma tollerato. Questo fa pensare che in fondo questo Paese non abbia mai affrontato realmente il ventennio fascista e forse ne abbia quasi nostalgia!

Mussolini viene ricordato come un “nonno” severo e nulla più dalla maggior parte degli italiani,  la cosa è drammatica.

Per questo occorre subito smettere di rincorrere i populisti e le loro tematiche. Occorre puntare sull’Europa come propulsore di democrazia e civiltà. Occorre rilanciare l’open society contro i sovranismi di ogni tipo.

La ‘Questione meridionale’: clientele da superare

Esiste, inoltre, un’altra questione che riguarda il mezzogiorno d’Italia e il ruolo che dovrebbe avere in un’Europa che sia protagonista dei cambiamenti che riguardano i Paesi che affacciano sul Mediterraneo. Un’Europa che sappia governare i cambiamenti e che stimoli e sproni zone come il sud-Italia a essere partecipe del presente e artefice del proprio futuro e non vittima di ataviche cattive abitudini e atteggiamenti conservatori. E’ proprio dalla presa di coscienza delle proprie possibilità che il sud e i Paesi mediterranei potranno (nel medio periodo) essere un volano per  tutta l’Europa visto il ruolo che potrebbero avere su un’area in cui gli scambi commerciali, culturali e economici offrono ambi margini e occasioni di sviluppo e crescita. Ma il Mezzogiorno di Italia la smetta di perpetuare modelli di governo locale plebiscitari, peronisti e clientelari! Abbia la forza di scommettere su se stesso e sulle proprie capacità di saper attrarre investimenti. Dimostri di saper sfruttare le sue naturali risorse e “faccia sistema” con il resto del Paese e si faccia parte propulsiva di un nuovo progetto di rilancio europeo che parta dal mediterraneo…. E vedrete che con un po’ di rigore e una decisa assunzione di responsabilità il sud potrà essere nel giro di un decennio l’esempio di un nuovo modo di fare impresa. Un ponte di opportunità per tutta l’ Europa. Un ruolo strategico (non è un caso che la base NATO di Napoli sia stata scelta come riferimento europeo per la lotta al terrorismo)

A patto che si smetta con nostalgie nefaste…

Massimo Ricciuti