What has happened in the past weeks in Strasbourg and Brussels will be marked in European history. Perhaps one day it will also be recorded in history books. But it can already be said that since the vote of May 22-25 the Union of 28 peoples and states underwent a gradual swerve, capable of imprinting a different direction to its 60-year-long journey. The European Parliament election has given a voice to citizens. By going to – or deserting -the polls, 500 million Europeans have expressed their will. Some of them expressed support to a stronger and more efficient Community, others expressed their hope in a different EU, more useful but less “Invasive”, compared to national prerogatives; others, in different ways, have simply said no to further convergence. In the past few days the newly elected Strasbourg Parliament – where forces and steps in favour of further integration prevail – has been discussing the candidacy of Jean-Claude Juncker – EPP representative, that gained the highest number of popular votes – as president of the Commission, after 26 out of 28 heads of Government and State who convened on June 26-27 at the summit in Brussels voiced support to his candidacy. Juncker, from Luxembourg, with a long institutional curriculum, on July 8 and 9 met with the political groups at the European Parliament, listening to their political requests and sharing the outlines of his “idea of Europe” vis a vis ongoing challenges, which range from economic growth to employment, from health to consumer protection, from the environment to culture, from infrastructures to energy, from regional development to migrations… Next week Junker will be a speaker in Strasbourg where he will illustrate his five-year program (the mandate timeframe of the Commission), that will subjected to vote during the plenary of July 15. He needs a majority of 376 votes – out of 751 MEPs entitled to vote. If he manages to obtain a green light, Junker will be called to propose, in agreement with Member States, the names of 27 candidates for the position of Commissioner, one per Country. They will be undergo confirmation hearings after Parliament’s positive vote of the College by the end of October. They will take office on November 1st. This complex procedure, stipulated in the Lisbon Treaty, provides few, albeit significant, innovations to Community “rituals”, that proceeded since the 1950s with a prevalence of inter-governmental decisions regarding various forms of parliamentary democracy. At this stage, in fact, the European Parliament is at the centre of negotiations to elect the highest offices of the EU, notably the head of the Executive. Member States’ governments must in fact reach an agreement with MEPs elected with universal suffrage: it’s as if Merkel and Hollande, Cameron and Renzi, Tusk and Rajoy, had been called to be accountable to every citizen. Moreover, the Parliament in Strasbourg not only evaluates the candidate to the Commission’s presidency, on which it expresses a decisive vote (Junker could also not obtain a majority and thus the European Council would be called to propose a different candidate). It also delves into the effectiveness of its programs, of identified solutions to small and big questions that fall within the competences of the EU. In practical terms, the European Assembly can finally give a direction to European policies. And even this is an innovation since – albeit gradually – the hemicycle has become a political body in its own right, extending its action beyond its present areas of competence that have already been expanded with Lisbon, to encompass EU legislation and budget. Participating in the identification of EU personalities, programs and strategies makes the European Parliament a pillar of the future EU, thereby contributing to changing the face of European democracy, a democracy which, as such, envisages debate on major values and goals, to be translated into government programs that must be pursued though mediation, decisions, shared regulations, adequate timeframes. However, this new Europe that is taking shape should be consistent with the will of the majority of citizens (at least of those who have cast their vote). In other words, it must correspond to authentic political will. From a broader perspective it must also include an overarching project and even a European “dream”. In concrete terms we are witnessing the development of a kind of Community experience that differs even from the vision of the “Founding Fathers”, which is perfectly understandable considering that the historical, political and economic framework is completely different when compared to that of the mid 20th century. On May 3 1950 Jean Monnet, who is one of those “Fathers” – a few days after the ratification of the Schuman Declaration, that placed the cornerstone of integration – claimed: “Europe has never existed, it’s not the sum of sovereignties gathered in councils that creates unity. We must create an authentic Europe”. These words – when considered beyond their temporal timeframe – can be valid also today.
Persons, programs, votes: the EU Parliament at the centre of negotiations for the future Commission