Adam Snygg, casts a critical eye over the Rome manifesto, a result of a recent think-tank collaboration between the brightest minds in Europe. The manifesto was announced last week prior to the 60th celebrations of the Treaty of Rome anniversary.
Europe seems to in vogue. As the nationalist enemies of the European project have mobilized, so too has the defenders of this shared dream. Being the resident convinced federalist of Europa United I have happily observed and participated in this renaissance, but not without a tinge of worry. Now the similarly named but completely separate group United Europe published a manifesto in conjunction with the German-Italian Centre for European Excellence Villa Vigoni and Stiftung Mercator, called the Rome Manifesto, drawing up what a federal European union might mean in practice. The Manifesto was announced at a press conference in the German Embassy’s Villa Almone in Rome on March 23, 2017. While I am a federalist, I am also a realist and I must look at things with an open and critical eye. Let’s do that together here!
First things first. This is a long document to be a manifesto, yet too short to really drive home its point. Manifestos can be two things, either a short declaration of the demands of the signees or a complete description of the ideology being espoused. I’m finding that the Rome manifesto is too long to pack considerable emotional punch, yet too short for intellectual complete understanding. The communist manifesto, for example, is quite a long document usually between 20 and 30 pages long, but with a complete description of communist ideology and still retain a couple of almost poetic phrases that lodge themselves in the mind. While the merits of communism remain dubious they certainly were good at PR. We federalists tend to lose ourselves in the driest parts of our ideology and I sadly see that tendency alive in the text.
Yet, there is much good here as well. While I feel the text could be considerably shortened, there is a lot that I like, either for its intellectual merit or emotional punch. “We do not need to learn to be Europeans, we just need to recognize that we already are.” is an inspired sentence and evocative in its simplicity. On the other, on the more intellectual end, I find the concise description of the separation of powers under the headline Institutions of the Federal Union to be a clear, simple and effective way of making a federal union work. While such specificity clashes a bit with the more vague content before it, it is refreshing to have not just a hope for unity but a road map on how to get to it. To that end, I am also very fond of the three starting sentences which in a very clear and concise way describe what is actually needed to be a European federalist and what in actuality it means.
There though, I find a second problem. The fascination with “young Europeans” in federalist thought is certainly not only present in the Rome Manifesto, but I find it more egregiously annoying here than almost any other places I have come across it before. The European Union is not made for young people and I must admit I didn’t like the moniker even when I was an undisputedly young European. Youth is not a goal and the Union must work for everyone, from the youngest child to oldest pensioner. In a text which everyone should be able to sign, to spread and to be inspired it is a grave mistake to demand youth in its participants. I also find it strange that the document claims to be written by the young – the greying hair of the writers on the United Europe site makes me question their definition of “young”. And the problem there is not with there being men and women of higher ages to write it to be sure, but claiming that they are young and that this is a document for only the young. “We the young” is simply not as forceful or as inclusive as that American slogan “We the People” and that is to our detriment.
Relatedly, the manifesto is very heavily mired in where and when it is written. Good manifests have a timeless quality to them – the American constitution is quoted to this day and we all know that the spectre of communism is going through Europe from the Communist Manifesto. While the problem of immigration seems to have become the great battle of our time, it will not be the great battle of every time and I feel that the federal movement should be noted as its own reward, whether inside or outside of the traditional “Europe”. Perhaps one day a European federal union has grown to be a United Federation of Earth and a good manifesto should note that.
Other than that, I do think they have avoided many common federalist traps. For example, the manifesto does not call for a European Federation but a European Federal union, a distinction which makes it more inclusive – we are not certain how the ever closer union will look, but we are certain that its future lies in federalizing. By not naming a specific government form it opens up. A union of republics, a confederation or remain a loose union? Everyone is welcome according to the Rome Manifesto and for that, I salute them. It also never forgets that the union would be a union of states and their right to be different is never questioned. Some decision-making power that is in Brussels today, might even be given back to the member states.
In conclusion, I find this document to be interesting and sometimes even evocative, yet flawed in several places. It is too mired in the history, too explanatory when it should be concise and sometimes too concise when it should explain more. Yet for all that it is a tangible continuation of our federalist struggle to make us all into siblings and make this great continent a better, kinder and united place.
That is why, despite its flaws, you will see my name on the list of signees and why I implore you to be the next name there.