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Brexit: the half-full glass

It is worrisome that the overwhelming majority of the most distinguished scholars of the European Union integration process propose the same, dramatic scenario.

Giandomenico Majone sees the future of the European Union as a “club of clubs”, meaning a network of networks very strictly task oriented.

Professor Jan Zielonka use the expression Neo-Medievalism in order to describe the consequent European arrangement due to the crisis of the European Union and of the Nation State. Neo-medievalism should be shaped, and will be shaped, in Zielonka vision, on Mitrany’s recommendations: multiple actors will be linked through territorial and task-oriented networks. Political and economic agents will form spontaneous alliances and networks to address their specific interests. The European Union will survive, but only as a “junction box”: perhaps the European Commission will administrate functional arrangements, but it will no longer be a sort of European government; the European Council will be a decision-maker at the same level of large cities and regions and the European Parliament will lose all their raison d’être. European laws will be suspended, repelled or simply ignored: these transactional networks will set up their own independent jurisdictions instead.

In Fritz Scharpf’s vision, the possibility of opt-outs and the variable geometry of integration will increase the Union’s capacity for effective action. Indeed, there will be a concrete possibility for reforms regarding existing legislation that no longer fits the interests or preferences of a majority of member governments. Equally important, the higher problem-solving capacity should not be achieved at the expense of democratic legitimacy. That will be the case if the politically salient preferences of national constituencies were to be overridden by majoritarian decisions at the European level. According to Scharpf, in order to reach the necessary effectiveness of the European integration, a greater variance in geographical coverage and hence an increasing patchwork character of European law is needed.

The price of effectiveness must seem high, as Scharpf points out, for those who still hold on to the original goal of a politically integrated “United States of Europe”, and who defend the perfection of economic integration and the unity of European laws as the most significant achievements of decades of struggles toward that finalité; and I completely agree with him.

In my opinion, the real and biggest mistake that has been made within the European integration process is the possibility of opt-outs clauses in the Maastricht Treaty. From that moment the goal of “united in diversity Europe” has vanished by admitting a Union of different geometries.

Today the United Kingdom and its citizens decided, unexpectedly, to leave the European Union. It is a sad news for everyone. It is the first time that article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon is seen as a real possibility, and the fear that others in the EU could try to imitate the UK is high. But in my opinion it is a sad but strong possibility that is given to the reve europeen.

What can be done in order to keep the possibility of a united Union is, on the one hand, limiting the geographical size of the EU to that Member States which are really willing to share this project and, on the other hand, trying to create an European demos. I agree, unwillingly, with Professor Weiler, who admits that an European society still does not exist, but there is the evidence from the Eurobarometer surveys that the European policies can be identity-maker tools in order to create a common-feeling among the European citizens, as the single currency or the freedom of movement enhanced by the Schengen Agreement have done.

A smaller Union with a clear will of unity could be a realistic solution to the current crisis of the European Union and to the problem of the democratic deficit. Such a Union would surely allow to realize the necessary institutional reforms, thereby contributing to create a better place for the European citizens.

Today Britons have pushed us to take our responsibilities. Now, 59 years after the Treaties of Rome, Europeans must be brave and make the “ever closer Union” a reality. Otherwise all the negative scenarios exposed before will become true.

Alice Perini