It is time to call for a Constitutional Convention triggered by the #NoVeto campaign
The Conference on the Future of Europe concluded its work with some spectacular results. It involved more than 6,000 physical and online events attended by more than 700,000 participants, as reported on its website. The report on the final outcome of the Conference contained 49 proposals. The three EU Presidents committed on 9 May 2022 to deliver on the result, which included citizens’ recommendations on a large variety of issues, ranging from climate policy and health to defence, migration and a stronger economy. Its full text is now awaiting implementation by EU politics from all levels.
By this article, however, we would like to focus on the most distinguished conclusion of that exercise: the abolition of member states’ veto in the cases where unanimity is required for the EU Council decisions.
The most popular proposal
From blocking crucial sanctions on Russia, to holding up action on a global corporate tax, to adopting EU budgets, and basic questions of the rule of law – the ability of individual national governments (i.e. an individual politician) to veto EU action has been a dangerous chokehold on Europe. Therefore abolishing the veto right of individual member states at the EU Council was the single most popular proposal on the Conference digital platform. The Conference plenary adopted #NoVeto into the Conference outcomes, exempting only questions on EU expansion and changes to the EU’s fundamental values (see Proposal 39, on page 39 of the document). #NoVeto was one of, if not the most, hotly debated and loudest issues at the Conference plenary. The Spinelli Group of federalist MEPs declared ending the veto “top priority”. Prominent figures like Enrico Letta, leader of Italian Partido Democratico and former Prime Minister, has come out publicly calling for the end of the veto.
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution based on the outcomes of the Conference, and officially triggered Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union to embark on a process for the revision of the Treaties, including a commitment to abolishing the veto. The 23-24 June Meeting of Heads of Governments will be the last chance for the French Presidency to find a simple majority to take up this EP initiative. President Macron committed to table that proposal at that meeting and, if this happens, it will be noted as a historic development.
A historic opportunity
We, as pro-European federalists, critical of the shortfalls of the present EU and advocates of a more united Europe, are hopeful that the veto powers will be abolished or significantly restricted. If it requires an EU Constitutional Convention to get it done, let’s go ahead and have one. It will be most probably achieved thanks to the support of the majority of the EP members and also the EU member states. But it can only be achieved provided that the courage to speak truth about the backbone reasons for current lack of action at the EU level supersedes the ubiquitous cowardice of some political leaders. They are those who block EU reform behind closed doors whilst complaining about EU so-called inefficiency in public.
But we are pushing for something more than a simple amendment of the Treaties. History cannot wait any more: the Russian aggression, the pandemic, climate change, the food and energy challenges, the assertiveness of China, and numerous other overwhelming developments stress the need for something much more and deeper. The time has come for a Constitutional Convention to turn the EU into a federal entity – we should use the success of the #NoVeto campaign as a central talking point for why such a Convention is urgently needed.
What we need is a loud European public debate on this historic moment. Public campaigns like #NoVeto aim to mobilise those who are already engaged, while storytelling campaigns like “Humans in the EU” aim to reach out to those who would like to engage but haven’t yet. And still, the issue of EU Constitutional transformation has to be prime time news on our feeds, and it isn’t yet.
This is no longer a radical or utopic call for action. History is accelerating, and we should grasp any possible opportunity to shape it for a prosperous and hopeful future for the peoples of Europe, instead of narrow gains for individual national politicians.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of The European Network and/or its members and teams.
Yannis Karamitsios is founding member of Alliance4Europe and author of the book ‘Time for a European Federation”, Peter Lang (2021)
Julius Lajtha is the President of the Young European Movement UK, the UK section of the Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe
Omri Preiss is Managing Director of Alliance4Europe
Featured image by Jonas Horsch on Pexels.