united-states-of-europeMore Europe… or less? The current Eurozone crisis has observers worrying that Europe either needs deeper political and fiscal integration, or the single currency (and possibly European integration itself) will have to be abandoned altogether. Can Europe keep muddling through with the status quo intact? On Twitter, James Tinman is hopeful that some sort of deeper fiscal integration is on its way.

But what does “deeper fiscal integration” actually mean? Are we headed for a United States of Europe with an elected president? EU blogger Craig Wiley seems to think it’s possible (at least, the part about an EU president). He quotes Michel Barnier, the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, as arguing that the positions of President of the European Council (currently held by Herman Van Rompuy) and President of the European Commission (currently held by José Manuel Barroso) should be merged into a single office, to be directly elected by the people of Europe. Craig fully supports such a move.

Others are more sceptical, including one of the current holders of a post Craig thinks ought to be merged. Council President Herman Van Rompuy, as part of his Ask the President initiative, is quick to argue that Europe is nothing like the United States.

A few, however, are much more enthusiastic. Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal grouping within the European Parliament, is an unabashed champion of a United Status of Europe (he has even published a book bearing the title). Isn’t it strange for a liberal to be arguing for a U.S.E? Don’t liberals believe in more freedom for the individual and smaller government? A United States of Europe would naturally be a socialist project, surely? Indeed, socialists such as George Orwell were historically enthusiastic in their support for a United States of Europe.

Debating Europe spoke to Herman De Croo, a former Belgian minister and member of the same Flemish liberal party as Guy Verhofstadt. We asked him about the “United States of Europe”, his thoughts on an elected EU president and whether supranational government conflicted with liberalism as an ideology.

De Croo’s answers are well worth listening to. He argues that the United States is culturally and linguistically a very diverse place, stressing that any further political integration in Europe should learn the lessons of the United States and not seek to “kill the little places” (i.e. stamp out a sense of identity and history). Having said that, De Croo seems to be more in favour of strengthening and legitimising the European Parliament than creating a new presidential system.

What you need is a strong European parliament, elected, which has a democratic justification, [so] people can call upon the attitudes taken by parties, by groups, by personalities. Do you need an elected President [to] exercise so-called executive power? I’m not sure. It could be a kind of Swiss system, where the Swiss government is composed by all the parties [in] a kind of proportional situation, with the head of state moving each year.

However, De Croo is also unambiguous that we need a United States of Europe to confront the issues of the 21st Century. Without further integration, he believes Europe will be “little liliputians, disputing amongst ourselves” as global financial markets and emerging superpowers dictate the course of events. He also argues that Western liberalism as an ideology risks becoming less attractive to developing countries unless Europe and the US can start setting a better example. Countries in Africa and Latin America might start to “prefer the Chinese path, and not the European path”.

Of course, there are many other competing visions for Europe. Mr De Croo and Mr Verhofstadt espouse a liberal vision of a United States of Europe, but there are also socialist and conservative visions of Europe’s future – either with or without deeper European integration. We hope to speak to more political representatives over the coming months and find out what they think.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

26 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar

    I would like to see a real USE with a president elect. The EU Should also create a military. The EU should also promote itself better as a brit i fear the uk will seceed the union as such id like to see instead of an opt out an option for those who seek to remain european to do so and be able to use EU institutions and rights and access to european courts even if the stat decides to pull out. Maybe a rule that anyone on the european continent should be allowed the right to U.S.E. citizenship and to move to the U.S.E. from any country on the european continent.

  2. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    I am all up for a U.S.E., but only when the E.P. (European Parliament) gets full power, and the richer states stop monopolizing or dictating the smaller ones, according their interests…

    And I do not mean a centralized European Government..Rather something of what Germany or Switzerland are, or the UK and Spain are becoming..In Greece, Athens is a hydrocephalic Government that is why nothing gets done when it must..We do not want that..

    When we start thinking about our Continent collectively, and for the betterment of it all, and not just our national interests, then I think we can materialize this dream..Until then, I am not willing to be told what to do by the British, French and Germans “heavy weights”…

    If they can have a say in our own national affairs, then it must be vise versa surely, shouldn’t it? Or even better, decide what to do next, according the interests of all Europeans, not just the “heavy weights” elites..Yes?

    • avatar
      Pierre-Antoine KLETHI

      You’re totally right! By the way, federalism respects in itself diversity and is a decentralized form of State organization, as power is distributed among the Federal State and the federated states.
      And a federal Europe would indeed require more powerful EU institutions, especially the ones who represent the “common European interest”.

  3. avatar
    David Fuzzey

    No…its a stupid idea.

  4. avatar

    No, but something like the United States Constiution might come in handy. It isn’t the size of a phonebook, and outlines the basis of what are and aren’t in the competence of laws, thus guaranteeing individuals’ freedom without sounding like an ever-shifting but melodramatic sales pitch.

    It’s also concise enough that a large part of the population actually knowns what’s in it.

  5. avatar

    For 2000 years we Europeans have butchered each other in one senseless war after another. To date the total dead comes to roughly 100 million men women and children. This is from a Continent which prides itself on its intelligence and inventiveness and its cultural progress !!

    If we can bring about my dream of a United States of Europe then we have the possibility of a Golden Age -2000 years of Peace Prosperity and Progress which we can then hand to our children and their grandchildren.

    Britain has always wanted to be a member of this Golf Club but be allowed to use our own sized ball! Well, now nobody wants to play with us anymore and who can blame them ? It was the gambling spivs in the City of London who got us into the banking mess in 2008 and they are the ones afraid of having to be regulated by a powerful Europe. They just want to go on being free to gamble and speculate. Time we put them in their place !

  6. avatar


    • avatar
      catherine benning

      I agree with, Theo, and when he wrote this it was December 2011. Now it is August 2012 andI believe a United States of Europe is needed more now than ever before. As long as it is a united ‘Europe’ and remains a European culture and European ethos.

  7. avatar
    Marie THUREAU

    L’Europe intergouvernementale est peu démocratique et peu efficace. Nous devons rendre l’Union aux citoyens européens. L’Europe fédérale est une nécessité politique et économique, mais aussi démocratique, c’est une question de survie. Il ne s’agit pas de gommer les différences entre les états qui la composent mais de faire de la diversité une richesse PARTAGEE ! Pour survivre à la crise, il faut une répartition plus pertinentes des compétences inscrite dans une constitution européenne (pas un enième traité illisible), une séparation des pouvoirs (le rôle du Parlement européen doit être non seulement reconnu mais amplifié), des députés européens élus sur des listes européennes et non nationales, un président européen élu par les citoyens…

  8. avatar
    Pierre-Antoine KLETHI

    Yes, we need a more united Europe, “United States of Europe”.
    The European integration guarantees peace on our continent. What is more, a federal Europe would strenghthen democracy and support freedom and internal diversity. A more integrated Europe would also enable a more developed solidarity. Furthermore, a federal Europe would be stronger in today’s world. Finally, a more united Europe is also the accomplishment of the European project.
    That is why many citizens are European federalists.

    • avatar

      The EU spends an estimated Brussels is spending an estimated £2 Billion a year on propaganda !.It spent £225 million on spin doctors alone,I wonder how many internet EU-trolls and loaded websites that bought ?
      The European constitution was rejected in France and the Netherlands. Referenda were postponed indefinately or cancelled in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and in the United Kingdom,most people know,despite the relentless propaganda,that it’s being withheld because the EU and pro-EU political elites fear the answer.
      Strengthen democracy,don’t make laugh.The EU has no demos.It’s leaders are unelected.
      It’s the endgame,the Lisbon Treaty(the barely changed,renamed constitution) means a United States of Europe but without the democracy.
      The merger is going ahead as we speak,several commissioners said they would implement the treaty in their respective countries BEFORE IT IS SIGNED !!,democracy is not the EU way,they talk of post-democratic rule in Europe.The last time there was a similar unaccountable system where the leaders are not be directly voted in or out,with a subordinate parliament,was the Soviet Union.Build the EU on consensus and referenda and it might work.
      But that would mean asking the electorates of Europe what they think,in a democratic vote and at the moment the elites are terrified of a public vote.

  9. avatar

    Much less europe….as in No eu at all.

  10. avatar

    In my country (Albania) we have an old proverb said by our national hero during the ottoman empire invasion, before his death he called his nephew Gjin and gave him a bundle of twigs and said to him to break them all and he couldn’t, after that he said to him, take the twigs one by one and try to break them and he broke them all, and after that he referred to Albanian army, he told them that only in the united way they can be undefeated. What I am saying is, for how long we stay divide we have to face with problems like: crises, under superpowers impacts and etc, but together we can be undefeated and more powerful than superpowers. According to our national hero Skanderbeg. I will say that we need to be united in one big European country who involves us all. Let’s give the European federalism the green light, let’s tell the others that we have potential to do that, and that we can live in harmony either if we are diverse people, with diverse culture and identity. And YES I’m pro the United States of Europe and I will live this dream. European dream it sounds amazing.

  11. avatar
    Illya Trubman

    much more EUROPE. Only with a strong EU we can face todays challenges like terrorism or globalization. If the national states of the EU fight on their own, their voice won’t be heard and ignored by the big superpowers like the USA and China. We have no option then getting closer together if we want to make a change and influence global decisions.

  12. avatar

    Would’nt centralisation reduce individual choice in our own countries. Isn’t this just another way control can be enforced on a larger scale?

    I do think however that a more united Europe would be beneficial, however; many European countries carry on regardless, this includes my country (UK) many European policies are ignored and the playground antics of these countries continues to rear its ugly head.

    Politicians for the most part do not seem to care about individuals, they care mostly about power, celebrity, status and perceptions of their own parties.

    We need a total overhaul of political systems within our countries and across Europe before we unite an already fragmented region.

    We need a new way, since trust for the men and women who claim to have our needs at heart, is at an all time low.

    The people of Europe must unite, for if we leave the future of our world in the hands of the duplicitous politicians, we are doomed to oblivion.

    • avatar
      Robbie Lockie

      I agree. Its embarrassing. When someone is giving a position like this, they have a social responsibility to set an example. Assaulting people is unacceptable.

  13. avatar

    conquest with out bullets and bombs …. no to esu

  14. avatar

    Difficult question, I don’t think so, what we do need is strenght the European union to the exterior,no one understands the current EU, the EU should exist, but not being a superstate, but as an organization for collaboration between nations, plus, I don’t have much sympathy to the EU when in the sake of union makes the little identities dissapear and is more and more centralist. Or when they try to interfere in Ukraine while not caring about Scotland, Catalonia, the Basques, Northern Ireland, Flanders, etc, you just continue with your petty flower-power supranationalism.

  15. avatar
    peter gossage

    the EU is a dictatorship.there is little democracy why would anyone want a united states of europe.

  16. avatar

    Absolutely NOT! Enough is enough. I think the EU is very important for all the countries within the EU but I really don’t want more power going to the EU and be taken from the govnerment of the countries themselfs. The EU must not become a goal but should be a method.

  17. avatar

    The question about “United States” of europe leads to much to the USA and it’s obvious that this system can’t work in europe, because at the time when the USA were founded there was no national proudness in the states and the states haven’t been independent countries before which fight against each other. So a system like in the USA wont work in germany, but the question about a closer cooperation between the states in europe isn’t senceless. Of course there are many things like nationalism, economic differences and the history of some countries which make that the idea of a united states of europe seems very unrealistic. Also the non-EU- members like russia and the USA perhabs wouldn’t be happy about a strong country in central europe with a large military and economic strength, because that will influence the balance of power in the world, so it’s predestinated for conflicts. The difficult relationships between the EU and russia and also the protests against the EU in many countries show that today the united states of europe aren’t a good idea, because there are to much people against it in europe and other countries like russia will maybe see it as a military alliance against themselves. But if those problems aren’t so large anymore and the end of the financial crisis in europe has come and there will be generation who had been growing up with the EU, so there wont be so many protest and so much nationalism, then the day has come to start thinking about united states of europe again, because in my opinion it would be a good way to keep peace in western europe and give europe the strength for transporting there ideas and civilation to other countries in the world and of course remembering the history it would be a big symbol, that countries which fought wars against each other for hundreds of years can unite to one state. Perhabs it also a good way to stop the elemination trend in europe.

  18. avatar
    John Thorpe

    The EU is not democratic. It is run by ‘non elected’ Commissioners of whom little is known. My understanding that no proper audited accounts have been published. It appears that it is the political equivalent of F.I.F.A.

  19. avatar

    It is not a question it is a must. Otherwise European countries will loose all the competitive edge we still have vs China or India. As Roger Waters says “Together we stand devided we fall.”

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