Elections, questions to candidates

Starting with the Council, hanging knots in European integration

It is widely acknowledged that the world is shrinking, economic and political interdependence of humanity is increasing, global communication is getting stronger every day. The Catholic Church has been reiterating it for a long time and it concludes that it is necessary to establish a political order that will take into account this evolution. Let it suffice to reflect on what the Council declared almost fifty years ago declared in its pastoral Constitution “Gaudium et spes”: “In view of the increasingly close ties of mutual dependence today between all the inhabitants and peoples of the earth, the apt pursuit and efficacious attainment of the universal common good now require of the community of nations that it organize itself in a manner suited to its present responsibilities, especially toward the many parts of the world which are still suffering from unbearable want”. The organization of political order is nothing more than the identification of areas of power and the degree of sovereignty ascribed at various levels. By tradition, sovereignty is characterized by three features: a sovereign is the leader of an army, who can raise taxes and who has the right to coin money. Discarding the old prejudices about the inferiority of economic activity, a fourth component could also be added, that of regulating the market. This possibility was, in fact, always jealously preserved by the powerful, who from time immemorial have striven to keep their right to impose rules on market stalls and shops located at the foot of their fortresses. The construction of Europe has been a major theme since the end of the Second World War, but it should be acknowledged that the process leading to the European Union has led to the gradual pacification of almost the entire European continent. Although the tragic recent developments in Ukraine and the riots in Bosnia are a reminder that not everything has been solved yet. The achievements are a result of the proposal by Jean Monnet, reiterated by Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi and others. In the awareness that the capability of running the economy together and establishing common rules would be the key to political stability in Europe, in 1957 they signed the Treaty of Rome, on which reposes the large common market with its numerous regulations, accounting for all the economic sectors involved. Shared monetary power became a major theme as of the 1970s, when the rush to the devaluation of currencies risked undermining the organization of the common market. This led to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and the introduction of the euro, the currency of 18 countries of the European Union today. Moreover, in 2008 it became evident that centralizing the power to set interest rates – which today stems from the power to coin money – should be accompanied by a harmonization of the economic situation throughout eurozone countries. The low interest rate fixed by the European Central Bank was perfect to accompany a stagnant economy in the north-western areas of Europe, but it had not been adjusted to the economies of the south. How to remedy the imbalances resulting in terms of unemployment and trade balance? This is now the heart of the debate on the future of Europe. The third feature of political sovereignty, namely the power of taxation, today lies within the framework of the eurozone. The question is whether to set up coordinated tax policies at European level in order to mitigate economic imbalances and accompany the necessary structural reforms. If so, European political order could respond to the growing interdependence of humanity. Otherwise, with the passing of time, the maintenance of the single currency and common market may become excessively complicated. As relates to the last feature of sovereignty, i.e., to command an army, those who criticize the EU’s powerlessness in the Balkans, Ukraine, the Middle East and elsewhere, are invited to reflect on whether stronger European integration in the realm of defence is the only way in which Europe could become a major world player. Finally, it would be convenient to ask candidates in the European elections to respond to the only questions that really make a difference: Do you want to keep the major European markets? If not, which changes in the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital do you propose? Do you want to dismember or keep the eurozone? Yes or no to a tax authority at European level? A European army: when?

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