Commentary. The problem of the European Union is not the recovery of national sovereignty, now purely mythical, but the recovery of democracy.

To save Europe, save democracy

During the last French elections, everyone mocked Holland because 28 parties were competing for seats. In fact, there was nothing to laugh at: Thanks to the privilege of a strictly proportional representation law, barring any tricks from the majority, the Dutch, with their 28 parties, could make explicit the European-wide crisis of representation that’s upsetting ancient and historical political networks and producing a variety of phenomena summarily cataloged under the term populism. The crisis of the democratic system now appears in all its evidence.

It would be good if the representatives of the 28 European states reflected on that Saturday in Rome. Because a large part of the responsibility for the deep crisis of confidence is due to the way the union has been managed in these last 60 years. Of course they did not and resorted, as always, to the most insipid rhetoric.

There are a thousand things to say about this anniversary. The list of issues on the agenda is long and dramatic. I will not hint to them, because everybody knows them and we talk about it every day.

I fear nothing serious will come out of the celebratory summit in Rome, if anything just something to worry about, like the already-publicized proposal to strengthen our common military power (which is already remarkable, contrary to popular belief), as if the possession of more guns could give us greater security against the terrorist threat. Or more autonomy from the United States.

Actually, to rejuvenate some interest for the European Union, at a time when it is at its scarcest, would take just a reflection on why traditional European forces — not only the left but also the right — have lost the trust of their constituents.

That has happened for many reasons but mainly because the European project has been increasingly confused with globalization: Europe, instead of highlighting the differences, reaffirming its positive specificity (starting with welfare, but above all from its historical greater distance from the commodification of each aspect of life), has flatly aligned with it.

So why Europe? What is the point, if it remains nothing more than an anonymous piece of the world market?

It is not an easy goal to build a new supranational entity, with some cultural, social, economic, and thus political homogeneity. Especially when you consider that the history of Europe is the history of its nations, different in so many ways, starting with the languages we speak. This is why it was necessary to take care of society and not to engage in building a technocratic totally anti-democratic bloated bureaucracy.

Without a European entity, without a European people able to become the protagonist, supported by those intermediate bodies that give strength to public opinion — unions, political parties, media, associations — how can one think of asking for redistribution of resources, solidarity instead of competition and a sense of common purpose? The problem of the European Union, in short, is not the recovery of national sovereignty, now purely mythical, but the recovery of democracy.

I’m going to bring the discussion to the latest example: A month ago, Bayer bought Monsanto, a purely private international trade agreement. However, it will have serious consequences for all of us, much more important than any other parliamentary deliberation.

Do we really believe that in the event little Italy regains its full sovereignty, it could exercise control over such decisions? If there is a hope to recover some form of de-privatization of the decisions already taken by the giants operating in the international market, we have to give more strength to one of the entities in which globalization could be articulated, precisely Europe. But not any Europe, not the current one, but a political entity that has a redesigned, proper and real democratic model for our times. One based on the premise of the power of the people to contribute to the determination of the choices that affect it.

Formerly it was called “popular sovereignty” and was intended as a “national” power; now we have to conceive it as “European,” but without losing the substance of the terms popular and sovereignty.

Therefore, the initiative of many associations, starting with “my” Arci, is important. This initiative, under the title “Our Europe,” has organized seminars and meetings this weekend.

It is different from all the other activities in Rome this weekend because it says yes to Europe but wants to change profoundly. And also, to give consistency to this objective, we must begin to give prominence to European citizens, not as individuals but as a collective subject. “Our Europe” is in the embryo phase.

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