Category Archives: European Union


Theresa Zettl is an ALDE individual member from Germany and was recently elected as delegate for the upcoming ALDE Congress. She is a member of the COVID-19 working group of the individual members. She talks here about Coronavirus pandemic, and EU efforts during and after lockdown

“In my opinion, the EU [European Union] has faced the hardest trial since the moment it was established.” Angela Merkel, German chancellor, emphasised this in April pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit all countries of the EU.With more than 27.6 million infected people and almost one million deaths worldwide,2 the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to become at least as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, scientists warned in a study published in the medical journal, JAMA Network Open, in August 2020.3 While European countries like Italy and Spain called for a complete lockdown to keep COVID-19 from spreading, other countries like Brazil still refuse to recognize the seriousness of the virus.4

Surely, lockdowns were a good decision with regard to containment of the virus, but the impact of the lockdown on people and economy has been and remains tremendous. For example, comparing lockdowns has already shown which countries have done their homework with regards to digitalisation. Switching from regular school to homeschooling and from workplace to home offices made clear which governments urgently need to act to make high-speed broadband available.

Work-life balances have been completely turned upside down, especially for single parents. It has been even more challenging for working single parents who are now supervising their school-age children and simultaneously working from home – or struggling to find someone to take care of their children where homeworking is not an option.

Unfortunately, lockdown has also increased the cases of domestic violence, as victims – mostly women – are trapped at home with their abusers. The United Nations published numbers that domestic abuse increased by 20% worldwide during lockdowns.5 Doctors are also reporting a rise of severe mental health issues as a direct result of the pandemic itself: isolation, substance abuse, domestic violence, economic uncertainty as well as the job loss fears are considered as factors that might contribute to the need for extra support to prevent people from burnout, depression or committing suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic.6

So how can we all prevent further lockdowns until the vaccine has been approved? We should trust our scientists more. It’s likely none have ever been exposed to a virus with such a high mortality rate. As time has passed, we have learnt more about the virus and have had to change how we respond to it. Unfortunately, it has become popular to spread conspiracy theories on social media – even when it is more than obvious these theories are fake and not based on scientific fact. There are too many people claiming they are living under dictatorship because they are facing short-term restrictions such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Those of us who live in democratic countries, and especially in Europe, should be grateful that we do not live in a genuine dictatorship. 

Theresa Zettl


2) John Hopkins University & Medicine | Coronavirus Resource Center:
    Global cases: 27.583.796, global deaths: 897.671; numbers as at 9th September 2020

‘Ministers’ criminal liability: Italian political justice and United States of Europe

Luigi Trisolino, Italian jurist and writer, European liberal activist, writes about the Italian political justice question and in particular on the ministerial crimes procedure and institutions during the monarchical statutory age; during the first times of the Republican age; and after the important Italian constitutional reform in 1989. Trisolino suggests uniform or coordinated disciplines on this matter, hoping for a European federalist future.

The ministers’ crimes issue is current and important for all. It has a constitutional significance in civil and common law systems. The juridical rules around ministerial crimes represent a public space where the state powers and functions realize their institutional relationships, and so the ministerial crimes represent an important aspect of the form of government. 

The ministerial crimes are the crimes committed by ministers or the President of the Ministers’ Council.

The time is ripe for all EU Member States to realise a frame of EU juridical discipline on political justice and on the criminal liability of those holding governmental positions. We can imagine a federal United States of Europe with an efficient ministerial liability system. In the face of requests for reform of the Italian political justice, we need to know the historical root of ministerial crimes. 

During the Italian age from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the Republican age in the half of the 20th century, the Senate also had jurisdictional functions. Article 36 of the Albertine Statute stipulated that the Senate was constituted a High Court of Justice by a King’s decree to judge the crimes of high treason and attacks against state security, and to judge the ministers accused from the Chamber of Deputies. The same article stipulated that in these cases the Senate was an apolitical body.

In the Historical Archive of the Senate in Rome, I researched historical sources about the trials of the Albertine High Court of Justice, and I studied documents about the trial of the Minister of Finance Lazzaro Gagliardo with the judgment of the 1898, and the trial of the Minister of Public Instruction Nunzio Nasi, condemned by a sentence of the 1908.

From the beginning of the Italian Republican age in 1948 to the first Constitutional Act of 1989, Article 96 of the Republican Constitution stipulated the ministerial crimes procedure: sanctioning an accusation by Parliament gathered in a common session, and after a judgment in front of the Constitutional Court. 

After the Lockheed scandal of 1977, in which political personalities from Italy, West Germany, Japan and Netherlands were involved and in which there was the sentence of the Constitutional Court against Defense Minister Mario Tanassi for corruption, the times were ripe for a constitutional reform of the political justice and ministerial crimes procedure.

The first Constitutional Act of 1989 rewrote Article 96 of the Republican constitution in the current version and in the same year there was Act number 219 too regarding the ministerial crimes procedure. Article 96 sanctions that, even after they leave the office of President of the Council of Ministers or as a Minister, they are subjected to ordinary jurisdiction for crimes committed during the exercise of their functions, after the authorization by the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies according to the Constitutional law. 

The cases concerning ministers’ crimes in the performance of their institutional functions are heard by an ordinary judge, which in these circumstances has a particular composition. This particular college of judges is called the Tribunal of Ministers. This expression is not present in the normative texts, but it is used for this particular composition. The Tribunal is not a special court, but it qualifies as a specialized section of the ordinary court. It is established at the court of the capital of the district of the Appeal Court competent for the territory, by reason of the place of commission of the ministerial crime.

Now I can speculate about a pragmatic evolution of the European and Italian political justice question, but with a great prudence for the particular delicacy of the borderline between the political system and the judicial system, on this matter.

On the one hand, there is the need to avoid politicization in the strict sense of the judiciary. On the other hand, there is the need to guarantee to all citizens respect for the fundamental principles of the Italian constitution and the inalienable rights of persons without inopportune distinction. There is the need to guarantee a specialised solution about the political justice question and, in particular, about ministerial crimes procedure. There is the need to combine the constitutional respect for the separation of powers with the value of equality between citizens in the criminal trials.

The future for the political justice procedure and in particular for ministerial criminal liability lives in the courage to build and implement a Euro-federal legal discipline in these sensitive matters. This courage is the courage of the liberal and democratic United States of Europe values.

To those who want to deepen some profiles inherent to the Italian political justice question, first of all in the historical perspectives, I suggest reading my two academic essays. The first is titled ‘The High Court of Justice. About the jurisdictional function of the Senate during the statutory age’ and was published in paper 7 of the number 18/2020 of the academic review Historia et ius, and also on The second academic essay, titled ‘Perspectives historiques sur la ‘justice politique’: la responsabilité pénale des ministres en Italie’ and was published by Roma Tre Press in a collective work, and is also on the website This second essay is the result of my academic intervention in France on 26 September 2019 at the Law and Social Sciences Faculty in the University of Poitiers, during a scientific twinning among the jurists from the Roma Tre University and the University of Poitiers.

Luigi Trisolino

A multiexistential ‘par condicio’ for a social and dynamic pan-bourgeoisie

Luigi Trisolino, ALDE International Member from Italy writes about the need to increase -economic system in a new open capitalism, and the need to build federal models 

Public actions on national and local economies cannot go beyond what is necessary. If the ‘invisible hand’ is absent in markets, states cannot alter the complex balance in the markets’ questions and offers.

When markets are composed of some fragile actors, the public hand has to search for the instruments to rebalance the economy. Social inequalities and human/geographical adversities are elements of aprioristic imbalance and economic distortions. The great and old Italian Republican Giorgio La Malfa is remembering Keynes’ lessons about the state’s economic policy.

Contemporaneity needs to stay free from  scientific consciousness about social limits and risks. Socioeconomic considerations cannot remain on the margins during political decision-making processes. This particular consideration must become the heart of economic and political structures. Various new liquid necessities among subjects are the consequence of the super-structural actions, but public rules can create a situation where citizens-customers have the legal power to influence the necessities of production and trade. Only an open liberal democracy can dissolve rust on the capitalistic mechanisms. Subjective and objective elements to change the socioeconomic system are not on the horizon, and the realistic plan for socioeconomic development is according to the real people’s life. Therefore contemporaneous skills can be improved by the way of an effective open capitalism. After Locke’s combination of liberty and property, the new values in combination are liberty and new-personology. Each social personological conception of life that wants to interpret and solve today’s needs cannot renounce freedom. Political, civil and economic freedoms are into the DNA of the new social and pluralistic individualism.

We need to overcome ancient capitalism for a new open and liquid capitalism of socio-personological needs. The capitalism that can flow from the new humanities is the capitalism of shared and equal opportunities. The new, open capitalism of the contemporaneous and liberal rebirth is the system able to go beyond the chains of birth socioeconomic condition. The par condicio system can share human capitals through the cultures, enhancing the differences of ethnic, sexual, religious and philosophical free lifestyles, based on a liquid, new-personological freedom for a holistic-queer-social-class, and for a free social choice building a dynamic and trans-national pan-bourgeoisie.

Federal and trans-continental united states systems are the auspicious international horizons of a new balanced-libertarian and liberal peace. These economic harmonies are the realistic means to commute needs into progressive and general opportunities. Women and men can bring children into the world, if they want, giving to them the perspective to be free and to be different from their socio-economic conditions of origin. Towards a new and different model of a holistic and trans-national pan-bourgeoisie composed of free persons-citizens, people have the social power though liberal and legal opportunities with dynamic lifestyles. In this direction, states and public powers have the rule of new-constitutional guarantors. They can control and maintain the vertical and horizontal subsidiarity of their positive actions in society.

The neutrality of a methodological secularism is the space in which law and humanities can become socialized for all ethnicities, genders and social classes, overcoming the modern concept of social class for a smart wellness society with free, holistic and heterogeneous corpora hominum. This evolutionary perspective needs to be against the tired models of the Soviet communism and to be against Khomeinism too.

Luigi Trisolino

(Re)forming the EU to continue the European project

In this contribution, Clive Sneddon from Scotland talks about the need to reform EU to make european project stronger, againsta populist and nationalist drift.


 Clive Sneddon Bio

Clive Sneddon was political leader of North East Fife District Council from 1988-96, during which time he also served as Convener of the Rural Affairs Committee of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (1990-92), and was an alternate member of the first Committee of the Regions 1994-96.  He subsequently stood unsuccessfully for the European Parliament, and is currently the Convener of Angus & Mearns Liberal Democrats.  As a researcher in mediaeval French translation studies, he maintains active contacts with colleagues in France


Fighting to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum campaign, successfully in my part of Scotland, led me in 2017 to join ALDE as an individual member, and think about the future of the European project. Reading ALDE’s 1976 Stuttgart declaration led me to conclude that it had been too specific. More thought is necessary, about the final destination of the European project and what steps will get us there.

For me, the project was to make war unthinkable in Europe, by working together and thereby getting to know each other. If that is the aim, the EU has not done enough to bring the peoples of Europe together, and needs a new framework treaty for decision-making, not based on self-interested deals between member states.

The current treaties, including the doctrine of the acquis, are a stumbling block because they make sense only as building blocks to a United States of Europe. The example of the American Civil War shows that forming a big state does not of itself prevent wars, much less make them unthinkable. In the long run, working together and getting to know each other may make a United States of Europe seem a natural outcome, but at present public opinion across Europe is not convinced. What is needed is a framework treaty that allows working together to overcome citizens’ problems.

What specifically are these problems? Ever since the rise of market fundamentalism in the 1980s, governments across Europe have left social and economic problems to the market to solve. Worse, they have not done enough to enforce competition, so that the ‘market’ has delivered greater concentrations of power to big corporations. Citizens campaigned across Europe against the recent proposed TTIP treaty, because they saw it as selling out to big business. The EU has become part of the problem.

In 2016, the leave campaign promised to ‘take back control’, so that British citizens could deal with their own problems. This was very persuasive. Immigration was the most salient example of loss of control, but farmers and fishermen voted to abolish the policies imposed on the UK as a condition of entry, because they had not worked for them. Too many people felt excluded from prosperity and any prospects of improvement, while the Single Market allowed unscrupulous employers to undercut local people.

Firstly, we know that all European countries have similar problems, which their current national governments have spent decades not resolving. Secondly we have to recognise that helping each other across state borders increases the chances of national governments succeeding. Thirdly we have to create flexible arrangements in Europe so that we can all work together in our own way. To bring success, these points all require us to get to know each other better.

The first two points are about ensuring all citizens share in the prosperity from free trade and the Single Market. This will require Finance ministries to abandon market fundamentalism, a failure now as in the 1930s, and follow a more Keynesian approach. It may also require more use of land as a tax base, and Scandinavian-style laws on income distribution. Such policies enable a better functioning of capitalism and reduce the risk of economic and social exclusion producing nationalist and xenophobe responses.

For the third point, a framework treaty should encourage cooperation but not compel it, and include provision for a United States of Europe if the citizens of each federal state consent. A decision-making process based on democratic values and the rule of law would allow member states to cooperate on the issues they chose, with no veto on other states cooperating on other issues. The outcome would be a series of concentric circles, in which the outlying members cooperated on relatively few issues and the inner core on many more. If members help each other wherever possible, as is currently the case for study and research, citizens are more likely to appreciate and support the European project. With citizen support, and the ability to end policies that have not worked, the range of issues on which member states cooperate is likely to grow.

Finally, the mechanisms to achieve this would be the Commission making new proposals, enacted or not by the democratically elected European Parliament, and if enacted available to every member state to adopt or not as it saw fit. That means no Council of Ministers, because the national input would come from the national parliaments, and a set of willing volunteers for every European initiative. European laws would be interpreted by the European Court of Justice, whose interpretations would be taken into account by state Supreme Courts. Such a treaty might be flexible enough to get consent from the UK, and perhaps Norway and Switzerland.

 Clive Sneddon



In these article, our blog coordinator, Emanuele Lombardini, talks about  +Europa’s defeat in the Italian elections, and the new perspective for the liberal-democratic list; the project have a new stake: reach 4% in the next EU Elections.


“We lost. But let’s move on.” The Italian political elections did not have a happy outcome for the liberal-democratic and pro-European +Europa list with Emma Bonino, who did not reach 3% of the votes, a target necessary to enter Parliament with a relevant  number of elected representatives.

The list only reached 2.6% at Deputy Chamber and 2.3 at Senate, thereby gaining only 4 seats: 3 of them thanks to Uninominale (Single name list) and one in  overseas constituencies.  Due to poor results and to the collapse of Democratic Party, with whom was +Europa allied, none of the ALDE Individual Members candidates were elected. So +Europa, with Emma Bonino, will be represented in the next Parliament by: Riccardo Magi (Italian Radicals secretary), Bruno Tabacci and Alessandro Fusacchia in the Deputy Chamber, with Emma Bonino at Senate. Due to the lack of members (minimum is 20 and 10), +Europa will not have its own group but need to amalgamate with others in the so-called Mixed Group.

Despite this defeat, in a press conference, +Europa leaders announced that the project continues, in view of  2019 European elections. Emma Bonino explains: “We have created +Europa to face the populist, nationalist and xenophobic wave, but unfortunately we didn’t realize that it was not a wave but a tsunami. We fought with all our strength and we lost, but the defeat in numbers doesn’t mean the defeat of the political project. Rather, the wave of populism, nationalism and sovereingty that is mounting in Italy, makes it increasingly necessary for the project to go ahead”.

Which way +Europa  with Emma Bonino will go ahead has not yet been decided, but the now former undersecretary, Benedetto Della Vedova, who was also defeated and will no longer sits in Parliament, has already outlined a possible scenario:  “This list was born with a specific purpose: give an equal and opposite response to the anti-European wave, one that is the same of Trump and Brexit, building an alternative agenda. In a very little time we have reached 2.6%, over 850000 votes, and these will be our new starting point. After the month of June we will evaluate in what form the project will go ahead. There are some options:  a Federative project, as was the UDF in France, with Valery Giscard d’Estaing or a completely new movement . So, we will build one movement or more than one, with some specific guidelines: pro-European, reformist, anti-nationalist, multilateralism, for international trade and international law.”  It also sets a target: “This project has the strength to grow and our goal is to reach 4% in the next European elections.” A comparable standpoint was also voiced by Riccardo Magi: “It is necessary to rebuild an alternative front to the sovereign one; let’s start from here.”

Bruno Tabacci, leader of Centro Democratico, one of the lists reunited under +Europa,  cites Adenauer: “Europe had been a dream of the few, it had become a reality of many; it will be a necessity for everyone. And besides, looking at the numbers of the individual countries, it is clear that there are no alternatives for Europe to be internationally competitive.”

A clear picture emerges out of all of this: it is mostly Italians who live and work outside Italy, especially in Europe, that understood the importance and the need for Italy to have a political and economic vision of their country, such as the one that +Europa describes.

Global figure assign to +Europa 5.63% of the votes among who lives abroad, and 8.16% in the specific college ‘Europe’ (fourth list after Democratic Party, Five stars Movement and United center-right). As such, this approach towards next EU elections seems to be the right one. It is enough to look at some results to realize this: +Europa reached 18% in The Netherlands, 16,55% in Ireland, 14,67% in Sweden; 13% in Spain; 12% in the United Kingdom, and exceeded 10% in many other countries.

Such figures ensured the election of one deputee, the newcomer Alessandro Fusacchia, who says: “We received votes especially from young adults and those in their teen, but during these weeks we did not just want to focus on them: we talked also with people who emigrated in the ’60s, even with those who no longer speak Italian. Clearly it is easier for us to turn to those who left Italy two or three years ago or in general to young Italians, but our project is for everyone”. As Benedetto Della Vedova well explained: “if we want a stronger Italy, we can only have it with a leading role in a stronger Europe “.

The path of + Europe, therefore, has just begun: “We had a moment of arrest, but now it is time to get up and start again,” +Europa leaders explain. Destination: Brussels 2019.

Emanuele Lombardini 

“You can’t say no to Emma”: The radical challenge of making the United States of Europe

 Claudia Basta describes in this article the meeting which took place in Rome, which brought together some pro-European political figures and activists, headed by Guy Verhofstadt, to discuss the prospect of possible United States of Europe

Every country has its own liberal icon: one outstanding political figure that more generations associate with the most epochal liberal accomplishments of the 20th century. What makes the figure of Emma Bonino unparalleled is that those generations are nearly four; that her political influence stretched unchallenged into the current century; and that the unconditioned respect she earned along fifty years of tireless political activity crossed not only the Italian borders, but the European ones.

Born in 1948 in northwestern Italy, Emma is one of the historical leaders of the Italian Radical Party. A thin, discrete, energetic woman who commands European major languages as well as Arabic, at first sight I wouldn’t be able to guess her origins.

Something of her reminds me of the portraits of Dutch writer Etty Hillesum: the inevitable cigarette, the eyes straight into the eyes of the observer, and the attitude of inquiring and challenging her interlocutors at the same time. Her style of argumentation resembles that mix of intellectual rigor, firmness, and yet uncomplicatedness of an experienced scientist; her bearing, that distinct dignity of the Israeli and Palestinian women who walked me through the many gates and walls of their existence with a perpetual smile. In a congress room packed with hundreds of participants, media staff and security, I have never seen her, once, denying a moment of genuine attention to every single person – including myself – who approached her. These traits combined confer to Emma that sort of authoritativeness that one accords to another, somehow, instinctively; without, which is perhaps what impressed me the most, experiencing that distance and subjection so typically emanated by Italian leaders.

Guy Verhofstadt, Emma Bonino

At the beginning of his speech, Guy Verhofstadt summarized all of this very effectively: “You can’t say no to Emma”. Invited to participate in the convention Stati Uniti d’Europa: Una sfida Radicale (United States of Europe: A Radical challenge), held in Rome on October 28th and 29th, Guy showed to having experienced Emma’s invitation as a ‘call to arms’ from the side of the commander-in-chief of a battle that he, too, wishes to win: constructing the European Federation of States that founding fathers like Altiero Spinelli had envisioned at the dawn of the European Union.

Emma’s Radical Party – evolved into the movement of Italian Radicals, which hosted the convention in the framework of the yearly congress led by secretary Riccardo Magi and president Antonella Soldo – endorsed this vision since those early days.

Roberto Saviano

In an Italian political landscape infected by more and more viral anti-Europe narratives – according to which the Italian economic decline is due to the Euro, to ‘Brussels’ bureaucrats’, and to the imposition of so-called austerity – this convention stands out as a stronghold against the populistic drift to which Italian voters, approaching the political elections of 2018, seem so vulnerable to. Once again, Emma and her companions are combating a battle for the common good that few understand, many misrepresent, and many more European Liberals should join.

With the sole exception of writer Roberto Saviano (who stressed his mutual inability of “saying no to Emma” despite the strict security requirements of his movements), the convention opened and closed with the speeches of prominent politicians. Whilst all of them shared the vision of a federation of European States in which regulatory and decisional processes, European citizenship, market and borders, and the latter’s international positioning could be more consistently, cohesively and concretely empowered, each speaker emphasized specific aspects of the relevant challenges. These – from the challenge of implementing one European fiscal policy to the creation of a joint defense system – were discussed in five parallel sessions. Relevant outcomes were reported to the audience on the second day of the congress, before the final speeches and Emma’s conclusions.

Benedetto Della Vedova, Enrico Letta

In the limited space of this article, what I would linger on is the red thread that connected the contributions of Guy Verhofstadt, Benedetto Della Vedova (founder, in 2016, of the liberal movement Forza Europa) and former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta: that is, the motivation and pre-condition for the making of the United States of Europe. The former consists of the inevitable transition of the European Union toward a smaller, older, and ‘slower’ geopolitical entity squeezed among the American, African and Asian giants; the latter, consists of fighting the anti-Europe narratives that, by feeding nationalistic and populistic movements from Italy and France up to The Netherlands and Great Britain, contribute to weaken that entity further by persuading European voters to leave the Union with the false expectation of “taking the control back”.

What the convention United States of Europe: A Radical challenge conveyed with force is that changing that narrative and establishing a transnational political culture orientated toward reforming rather than leaving the Union, demands to all European Liberals – regardless of our individual positioning on the liberal spectrum – of becoming ‘masters of the European future’. This requires us to respond to irrational fears and ideological preconceptions with facts and figures; to embody progressive optimism against conservative pessimism; simply, to remember to our fellow citizens what it means being able to move, without crossing neither physical nor psychological barriers, from one country to another, from this to that European University, and from one to a better job; and what this will mean for future European generations. In the end, changing the narrative according to which the European Union is our problem rather than our solution calls us to embody the same forward-looking attitude of Altiero Spinelli, whose famous statement was recalled by Emma Bonino in her conclusive remarks: “a European federation is not something that will occur by destiny. It is something that only the will and effort of the European people will achieve.”

We can’t say no to Emma, remember.

Claudia Basta

Love letter to the Union: the rational case for emotional Europeism

In this post, ALDE Individual member Alejandro Almau argues that the defence of the European project does not depend on spontaneous feelings of belonging, but rather, that such emotions can arise from the rational acknowledgement of its merits

I was tempted to call this a ‘thought letter’. I decided to go with love because, as I will explain, it is actually both and, well, it sounds better.

First I should clarify that to me, true love is not the result of a sudden emotion that could go away as it came. Not a whim of the soul that defies explanation.

When I think of why I love my girlfriend I don’t find myself in clueless wonder. I could name dozens of reasons why I think she’s great, why I care about her and why it would be foolish to leave her. Chemistry definitely plays a part too, especially in getting started, but beyond that, there has to be actual reasons to serve as the foundation for any lasting relationship, romantic or otherwise.

In this time of shameless sentimentalism I am often accused of being cold for presenting ideas of this kind, but I disagree. I find that there is nothing more heart-warming than the deeper form of love that comes from the certainty that the reasons of affection are real and will not vanish overnight. I resent the notion that magic and lack of explanation are preferable. That’s called ignorance.

In politics, feelings are volatile and dangerous. While important to our humanity (crucial in fact), sentiments are not the ideal material to build governments on. The benign love for one’s country can easily turn into xenophobia under the wrong circumstances. A seemingly harmless feeling of pride for one’s heritage often becomes the justification for racism. These are not theoretical risks. We have seen it happen too many times in Europe.

There is a place for feelings in politics though: after reason. Not before. I love the European Union and what it represents. Not because of the colour of its flag or the harmony of its anthem, but because of the strength of its reasons.

There was a time when we humans lived in tribal societies. We developed social conducts of cooperation and empathy among us, but also feelings of distrust and aggression towards those outside the tribe. We carried those instincts with us throughout history.

We created bigger and more sophisticated political communities, and still, for centuries, we all had to adopt the king’s religion and live as subjects, not citizens. Even after the enlightenment, we took the idea of the tribe and turn it into nations. And so, with our nation-states, victims of nationalism and collectivist ideologies we kept killing each other through countless wars and abhorrent genocides.

It took the death of millions, the ruin of our once shinning empires and the lost of our standing in the world to realise that our tribal inclinations were holding us back. That we had plenty to be proud of, just not of what we used to be.

From that realisation the most successful political endeavour of our times was born: The European Union. Through trade and cooperation we were able to build a new age of shared prosperity and peace in what used to be a continent of almost perennial war.

The European Union is not a nation. Nor does it need to be. It is not a union in religion, language, or any heritage other than our common commitment to democracy and the fundamental rights that it entails.

I love the European Union because it represents our ability lo leave our worst tribal instincts behind us and build a political community based on laws rather than just feelings. One that celebrates that we can be ‘united in diversity’ by creating bonds far greater than those coming from our primal instincts.

I love the Union, not out of an irrational emotion, but because its flag reflects the colours of peace and democracy, for so long denied to so many. Because its anthem echoes the voices of the voiceless who suffered religious and political prosecution in this land for centuries and are now free to chant for joy.

Our Union is far from perfect, but we love people even though no one is, not even my girlfriend.  Although to be fair, she is as close as it gets.

Alejandro Almau

Fighting for a federal Europe of the Regions, not for Regions in Europe

In this contribution from Sebastien Martin, reflecting on the current Catalonian crisis, he discusses the importance of granting more powers to regions and their role within the European Union to reinforce and defend the EU itself”.

As liberals, we cherish two values more than anything else: freedom and the rule of law – but not necessarily equally. As the Catalonian crisis unfolds, our community becomes deeply divided: some of us put freedom above the rule of law (arguing that the rule of law might become, in some cases, a constraint placed on the expression of the will of the people) while others put the rule of law above freedom (convinced that any freedom must derive from the law, and that any system developing outside the rule of law is inherently dangerous). The present article is an attempt at reconciling our community by refocusing on a common objective which respects both values equally, allowing the freedom of the people to flourish on clear legal grounds.

In the absence of a true European constitution, the law which continues to govern the distribution of power within a given Member State is its constitution. Under the Spanish and French constitutions, to take two examples, no administrative entity can legally secede from its Member State. Doing so would mean acting illegally, and raise complex issues as to the recognition of any independence declaration at both European and global levels. In the case of Catalonia, it is doubtful that France or Italy, for example, would recognize it as an independent State – simply because so doing would likely reinvigorate regional aspirations which have been rampant within their own territories. More pragmatically, if a region unilaterally decides to leave a legal agreement – in this case, a constitution – which it has originally adopted with a large majority, then what credit will it get when negotiating new treaties?

Overall, such a scenario would increase the risk of a dissolution of the European Union, as Europe is not solid enough in its current state to absorb further shocks and uncertainty. Furthermore, forcing Member States to concede to the independence aspirations of (some of) their regions – or, more correctly, putting Member States in front of the fait accompli – will simply not work, and probably end up in strong internal divisions, if not outright violence.

The solution to this dilemma is to go for what is, and has always been, our main objective:  a federal Europe. Transferring additional powers to the European Union as a first step, before redistributing part to regions, which would clearly have higher chances of success. The concept of Nation State would have been, by then, weakened enough –not by force – but with the implicit consent of the States themselves and, through them, by the collective will of all the European peoples.

Both parts could not be dealt with at the same time: it is highly unlikely that Member States would accept to ratify a European constitution which would immediately transfer part of their sovereignty to regions. But continuing to gradually transfer more power to Europe – in the way of making it progressively more federal – is clearly a step in the right direction.

We could go further and imagine a European constitution explicitly granting regions (however defined) the right to organize as they see fit; or even, a constitution which would recognize regions as official political entities of the Union. Such a solution would kill two birds with one stone: making Europe federal, making it a Europe of the regions. In such a scenario, there will be no need for regions to painfully renegotiate their accession to the Union – they will de facto be part of it. The political part could be led by the Assembly of European Regions, which has already successfully pushed for a more formal recognition of regions at the European level in the latest project of constitution, which wasfinally rejected in 2005. As for the institutional framework, it already exists: the abandoned constitution of 1953, as laid down by the founding fathers of the European Union.

In any case, we should have our priorities right. We should firmly abide by our values and not bend any of them to specific situations, however difficult or pressing they might be. Fighting for regional independence today will probably backfire tomorrow, and make our ultimate goal of a federal Europe more remote. We should go the other way around: we should make Europe the catalyst of this devolution, as the solution can only come from a higher political entity. I believe that refocusing on such a proposition would enable us to reconcile our views on an issue which is very divisive not only for Catalonia and Spain, but also for liberals.

Sebastien Martin


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