Convincing the EU electorate about the need to federate

Many people may accept the key rationale for the EU countries to relinquish their sovereignty, in order to act as one state and thus being more capable in responding to existential risks. However, I would think that for a majority of the people cold, rational arguments for establishing the European Federation (EF) will probably remain unconvincing and emotions would come to the fore. Therefore, the day, when the Constitution will have been signed but not ratified by any country yet, will be a kind of a D-Day. On that day, a campaign lasting presumably for up to two years will be launched. Here is a likely implementation scenario for the EU conversion into the EF.

Assuming that the new Constitution of the EF will be approved by the European Council, the next step will be to convince the electorate in the voting countries that losing their sovereignty is a price worth paying for a significant reduction of the risk of their nation’s and indeed, the humanity’s survival? There may be some shocking new laws. For example, how to persuade people to give up some voting rights because the constitution may introduce a weighted voting system linked to some conditions, like education? How would MPs agree to serve a maximum of two terms rather than an unlimited no. of terms, as they do right now in most democracies? Turkeys do not vote for Christmas and this is a classic example of such a situation.

It is clear that the ratification process of the Constitution would be a major milestone, which would trigger the constitutional changes in the EU member states, causing them to adapt the existing institutions to new subsidiary roles within the EF. A lot depends on which specific laws the Constitution will contain and what will be the depth of centralization (how much freedom would be left to former member countries to lead their lives as before). The final decision will of course be made by national parliaments or by the referenda in the member states.

I am fully aware of unsurmountable difficulties that such a referendum campaign presents for the EU states and their citizens. Therefore, the only way I can see is that the electorate needs to be ‘persuaded’ to agree to the introduction of such deep reforms of the democratic system and new electoral laws by bundling them together with other proposals. Let’s call them ‘sweeteners’ that may tempt an average voter to support the federated Europe. This may include the introduction of a minimum living wage – same across the whole EU, and some form of the Universal Basic Income. Incidentally, this is already one of President Macron’s proposals. To enable the ratification of the new Constitution I suggest the following process (please keep in mind that we are talking about the enacting of such a Constitution and creating the EF by about 2030):

  • Carry out at least a two-year-long campaign in every EU country on deep social and economic reforms that will be introduced alongside new political arrangement. i.e. a deep reform of democracy such as proposed in the Consensual Presidential Democracy, which would fundamentally change current democratic principles, introducing new ones. Such a campaign could be supported by digital media, Facebook, and local conventions. This has been broadly proposed by the EU Parliament’s version of the Future of Europe Conference, planned for completion in 2022.
  • Introduce an unconditional Universal Basic Income (UBI) for every citizen, but with different entitlement for age groups (e.g. children, working adults and pensioners) and additional conditional Universal Basic Supplement. The condition could be being in employment, study, or doing voluntary work
  • Introduce the same minimum living wage across the Federation – a very expensive proposal but which may tilt the balance in favour of the new constitution in Central and East European countries. In any case, once the EU becomes the EF, such a policy would have to be implemented anyway
  • Identify big infrastructure projects, with the allocated capital for each joining country. That would be on top of already allocated EU funds for that country. In my view, investments to convert whole industries to zero carbon emission, like closing down coal mines in Germany and Poland, would significantly contribute to creating entirely new technologies and industries
  • Promise the introduction of deep social and economic reforms in the first Parliament of the EF. These may include:
    • deep Company law reform, which would constrain the influence of large corporations on the government
    • de-monopolization of media (e.g. maximum 10% of the market per media corporation)
    • changing shareholders rights, e.g. so that the rights of those providing the monetary capital (investors) will be balanced with those providing human capital (employees).
  • Suggest that instead of a referendum ratifying the new Constitution, a Citizens’ Assembly system will be used, to which the members will be randomly selected and work under the guidance of experts to recommend their decision to national parliaments. There is already a similar, more limited proposal made by President Macron
  • Promise that MPs and MEPs will get a guaranteed retirement pension for the next term, irrespective of whether they would be elected or not as a recompense for a potential lost opportunity to serve another term and prepare them better for the return to ‘life after the Parliament’.

These are of course sample ideas that can be modified as required at the time of the pending referendum.