The sun is shining down on the Place Du Luxembourg in Brussels and it’s the twenty-fifth day in the month of March. It’s been eight decades since the Treaty of Rome, which was the establishment of the first union of Europe in centuries, and on the anniversary of the day of signing the treaty in 1957, a new era is dawning in Europe: the establishment of a federal union of European states.
The road to this day has been difficult, with many stumbling blocks along the way, including the exit of a number of member states and the splitting up of the union into two sections. Britain left the European Union in 2020, and once Brexit was completed, the commitment towards a closer integrated federal Europe was underway. It started almost with a whisper: is it really possible to bring so many European states, with their different languages, cultures and even political beliefs under one federal union? Once the chat became public, the move towards a federal union of Europe began when the President of the European Commission had given a blessing to the proposal in her 2021 State of the European Union Address and with that a new breed of movers in the project began to exert influence. A group of individual politicians, thinkers, business people and public figures began to quiz the Europeans through a well-run social media campaign, originally designed to counter the right-wing elements that were creeping across Europe. The campaign quickly evolved into a conversation about a federal union – a united Europe under one administration that would strengthen the continent and provide political and social stability. Initially, it was met with derision, anger and nationalistic aggression, but once the project got beyond the social media platforms and went into the town halls, rooms and houses of European citizens, the advantages began to show prominently and also conveniently. Its power of persuasion lay in the fact that many of those in campaign were from different sides of the political divide, which allowed many alternatives to be worked upon while the overall concept was gaining popularity.
Failure of the right
The right wing failed to mount any credible opposition. The Trump presidency had been an unmitigated disaster with his four-year term fraught with scandals, poor policy, dangerous military decisions and a complete lack of understanding. His campaign to run a second term filtered from the start and his opponent, a certain wife of a former president was in pole position from almost the first day of the campaign. Once their beacon had gone, Europe’s far right began to slip into a downward slide, unable to provide solutions and suffering from bad publicity or scandal by many of its leaders. Once the writing was on the wall, and Federalism was on its way, many of the right jumped ship and waded in with the concept, abet with their own version of how it should be.
With the new treaty, all existing member states had a choice – to either become part of the federal union or remain as a associate member state under the treaty of Lisbon which was updated to accommodate the new arrangements. Some states, like Ireland, voted in a referendum, while others, like Austria, decided to let their Parliaments decide. The outcome was mixed, with ten states: France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Latvia, Italy, Finland, Slovenia and Sweden all opting in, while the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia and Romania remained in the Lisbon Treaty. It seems that those who elected to stay out of the federal union will be watching closely and with the new treaty allowing current member states to join at any stage, there is no doubt that once the federalist model shows promise, others will follow in. In fact, Ireland has already decided that another referendum will be held in 2047 to determine if the country will be a member of the federal union of Europe.
We lost a few
Despite the promises that things would virtually remain the same, four member states were unconvinced and decided to follow Britain by exiting the European Union altogether. Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia all decided to leave when a formal declaration was made by both the European Parliament and the Commission to start proceedings for a new federal treaty in 2026. However, the decision to return to independence was not an easy one for the Eastern states, and not long after, they officially established the Visegrád Union which, ironically, was based almost completely on EU principles, with the exception of tough immigration laws and less detailed civil rights. Relations are sometimes trained, but for the most part both unions work well together and it is hoped that eventually the Visegrád Union will decided to re-join.
The Brexit aftermath
The other state to quit didn’t fair so well and only a few years after Britain had completed Brexit, Scotland, following a close but definitive result in a second referendum, had formally left the United Kingdom to become an independent state in 2023. Scotland, along with Catalonia who also gained independence in 2023, applied for EU membership that same year and despite promises that their application would be deemed special cases, so far they remain outside the Union. One of the conditions of the new treaty is that any new member state must become a member of the federal union within ten years of joining which may be a stumbling bloc for Europe’s newest independent states.
The rest of Britain since Brexit has been in political turmoil, with the traditionally large Conservative party finding itself decimated in the British General Election of 2021 and giving way to Labour/Liberal/EU Party coalitions which have been in government since then. Although the concept of Brexit was generally seen as a mistake by many of the British public, the “keep calm and carry on” attitude was almost detrimental to the prospect of Britain rejoining the EU. Once the concept of federalism was gaining popularity, many British felt that it was a bridge too far, especially given the fact that any future membership would eventually mean that they will have to become a part of federal Europe. Wales and Northern Ireland still remain part of the UK, although the prospect of a united Ireland grows more each year as the electorate in Northern Ireland becomes more favourable towards the nationalists and centre. Northern Ireland enjoys a special status within the EU /UK trade deal which ensures that there is no hard border and freedom to work and live is still present .Wales attempted to follow Scotland into independence, but a number of case studies carried out by independent assessors found that any move towards the Scotland model would be a disaster for the Welsh in that its decision to function separately would result in bankruptcy in a number of years. In 2037, the United Kingdom is still in a state of social disorder with short term loans from the Europe bumping up a shortfall in revenue. Tough immigration laws meant that industries depending on foreign labour quickly folded, resulting in more imports and less exports for a state that is desperate to sign any kind of trade deal across the world. A pro-Europe government is constantly burdened by an imposing treaty with Europe that is keeping a stranglehold on any future possibility of improving its situation. Right now, Britain is alone, isolated and held in check.
A new start for Europe
On this day of the signing of the two treaties by all current member states, Europe is stepping into the unknown. A two tier system now exists in the EU, but it is the perfect conclusion to the last ten years. The general consensus is that there will be a move in the direction of federalism rather than independence, but this new union must prove itself both to its existing members and abroad. It needs to show the perfect social model with excellent healthcare, social services, human rights and employment across the continent. It must exert itself diplomatically across the world and not try to be the police force of the planet, nor should it impose itself onto other nations in a democracy building exercise. It needs to look at the failures of its past – colonialism and war, and learn from those failures to become a beacon of fairness and prosperity.
Europe is a new nation and long may it live.
Of course this is all just speculation and the path to a federalist state will no doubt take longer and be far more complicated, but we as Europeans need to ensure that the discussion on closer integration must continue. If it should be confederalism, federalism of just keeping things as they are, we need to have that discussion. There are many groups and organisations who can provide you with the information you need to get involved in the future of Europe, so get out and see what part you can play. Start with the official website of the EU, because if you decide to let others determine the future of Europe, you may not like what you get, so be active and, above all, be European.