Eurozone crisis: Farewell sweet sovereignty...

You won't need these any more. Flags of European countries taking part at an Ecofin meeting.
You won't need these any more. Flags of European countries taking part at an Ecofin meeting.
El País (Madrid)

If approved by the Twenty-Seven, the fiscal union proposed by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy would be a decisive new stage on the path to European federalism. But are all willing to pay the price: the surrender of the budgetary autonomy of states?

Sovereignty is in mourning in Europe. The greatest surrender of sovereignty in Europe since the treaties of Rome and Maastricht were signed is being prepared for the next few days.

With the first of the treaties, in 1957, tariff policy was surrendered, laying the foundations for the single market. With the second, in 1992, went currencies – symbols of nationhood that had been until then at least as resonant as national flags – and monetary policies, which allow interest rates and exchange rates to be fixed.

This, in turn, laid the foundations for the current sovereign debt crisis. At today’s summit the old states are now going to be asked to hand over their entire budgetary policy – in other words, the political soul of the nation state.

There will be no salvation in this globalised world if the old countries of Europe each go their own ways. Not even those two countries playing in the top league and winning all the cups – the FC Barcelona and Real Madrid that are Germany and France.

Liquidation of sovereignty

It is not just a question of scraping by in the global marketplace, but about living in acceptable conditions that will not significantly eat away at the fantastic quality of life that Europeans have enjoyed over the past 30 years. What is involved is not just national pride, seats at the G20 or the Security Council – that is, the weight, influence and visibility of the Europeans around the globe – but issues that are more tangible and closer to home, like, quite simply, our well-being and our ways of life, which can only be preserved in a European Union that works.

The transfer of sovereignty will result in a fiscal union. But this will be imperfect, since it will be a union of budgetary stability and austerity and not a union of transfer, solidarity and growth. At least, not yet.

The method used will not be the community method, in which leading roles are played by the Commission, the Parliament and the European Courts, which we identify most directly with federalism and Europeanism. It will be an intergovernmental method, and it will not bring in all the 27 countries.

Some because they do not want to be in it, like the UK; others because they do not know if they want to, like Denmark; and others who, though they do want to join, have not yet decided to take the plunge, like Poland.

The two European powers that have fought most with each other, who have gone to war three times as ambitious and sometimes expansive sovereign states, will proceed with this liquidation of sovereignty. No one else can do it. It is likely that only they can.

Europe without Europeanism

And the two of them will do it showing the greatest leadership ever in the entire history of European unity, even to the detriment of their own sovereignty. France and Germany have been the driving force of the European Union since its founding, but they are now much more than the motor: they are the vehicle itself, to the point that the project they will present in Brussels is meant to function even in the extreme and unlikely case that only these two countries are ready to see it through.

This is not a European board of directors. It is a Franco-German Europe, a federalism of two partners who are inviting those who want in it to join up. If we look into it in any detail, we see that the apparent symmetry conceals German ideas and French rhetoric, the stealth of Merkel, the pomp and flourishes of Sarkozy.

We thus return to a starting point that predates the creation of the single currency. The euro will turn into a European mark, just as all the European currencies, including the French franc, once clung to the German mark in the forerunner to the European Monetary Union.

And Europe will be divided into two: the countries in the eurozone together with those who one day want to join it; and the countries that are neither in the zone nor are expected to enter it. Things will be just as they were before the United Kingdom joined the EU, when a powerful European Free Trade Association (EFTA) provided an alternative to the then protectionist European Communities.

To resume, we will have a Europe without Europeanism – a "federalism without federalists." Again, with that very European hope, which continually springs anew, that someday the mechanism will end up creating the institution – i.e., the Europeanism and political federalism that are missing now.

Translated from the Spanish by Anton Baer

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