Unite Europe! We believe Europe is at its strongest when we come together. We therefore want to build a truly democratic Union that lives up to its values and principles. We believe that a federal European Union will be able to realise its full potential of shared prosperity, security and freedom for all citizens.
What would we do first?
Turn the European Parliament into a full-fledged legislator!
What’s going on?
For the past sixty years, European integration has brought about an unprecedented period of stability and peace. The continued development of the Common Market has also allowed free movement of people, goods and capital, and triggered constant economic growth, resulting in the EU being the world’s largest economic trading bloc and economy. Since the Second World War, the European project has developed from mere economic cooperation toa political union driven by strong shared values.
However, integration has not been uniform across policy areas and some States have maintained exceptions and opt-outs from provisions of EU treaties. Furthermore, States have sought to maintain the primacy of national governments, instead of trusting democratically-elected representatives in the European Parliament. The subsequent number and overlap of EU bodies has largely obscured the policy-making process, decreasing its efficiency and alienating citizens.
Recent crises have further fueled discontent and exasperation towards EU institutions and increased the feeling that the political class acts too late, too small, and with little regard for the opinion of citizens. As a result, citizens feel estranged from European institutions, do not relate to their representatives, and fail to participate and vote.
Overall, it is unsustainable for the EU to continue accommodating a partially democratic system where the executive is unelected, Parliament lacks the right of legislative initiative and is absent from a number of policy areas, the judiciary is restricted to a bare minimum, and an unelected upper house gives a right of veto to all of its members.
What’s our vision?
The solution to the Union’s ongoing troubles is not a question of “more Europe” or “less Europe”, but of a “better Europe”. Democracy should exist at the local, national and European level. This very democracy is the key to restoring the trust of European citizens in their institutions and in agreeing on common solutions to common problems. This requires fundamental changes in our institutions: some right away, others through treaty changes. This is the only way to finally achieve a qualitative change and move towards a federal European system.
Yes, we strongly support moving to a federal Europe in which institutions are more transparent, more efficient, and truly democratic. We propose having an accountable executive branch − with a President, a Prime Minister and cabinet of Federal Ministers −, a bicameral legislative system – with a strong Parliament consisting of directly-elected representatives and a Council representing Member States −, and a truly federal judiciary to ensure the respect of the Constitution and the fundamental rights of all.
How do we get there?
As first steps in the transition towards a federal European Union, we propose:
1) Turn the European Parliament into a full-fledged legislator:
a) Put all European legislation up for vote in the European Parliament: Currently, not all pieces of legislation go through both legislative chambers. When the legislative competency is shared between member States and the EU, a bill must only be approved by the Council of Ministers and is not bound to adhere to the outcome of the Parliamentary consultation. Volt will work for all legislation to be put up for vote in the European Parliament.
b) Give the European Parliament the right of legislative initiative: A Parliament consisting of directly-elected representatives is the best-suited body to design laws that respond to the people’s demands and needs. The European Parliament must therefore be given the right of legislative initiative so that it may draft and adopt its own laws.
2) Limit the power of the European Council: The European Council consists of the European heads of State or government. Its prerogatives must be limited to those prescribed in the treaties, that is to provide “the Union with the necessary impetus for its development and [define] the general political directions and priorities thereof. It shall not exercise legislative functions.” The European Council should therefore not be involved in every-day political matters, leaving elected representatives in Parliament to decide, and eventually be abolished.
3) Turn the Council of Ministers into a genuine Second Chamber: The Council of Ministers (or “Council of the European Union”) consists of national ministers meeting in different configurations depending on the policy area under discussion. For a more democratic governance, the European Parliament and Council must be co-legislators and legislation must be adopted by both chambers under the same voting system. The Council’s various configurations must be turned into preparatory bodies similar to the Parliament’s committees, while all bills are adopted by the same Council members under a fixed presidency.
4) Politicise and reduce the Commission: The Commission must be enhanced by limiting the number of Commissioners and having the Council (and ultimately, the President of the EU) appoint as President of the Commission, the leader of the Parliamentary group or coalition with the largest number of seats following elections. The Spitzenkandidaten, first introduced in the 2014 elections, is maintained and each political group in Parliament needs to present its candidate ahead of the elections. The President of the Commission must be allowed to freely choose his Commissioners, irrespective of their nationality or affiliation, as well as the size of his Commission. In order to ensure accountability, there must be an impeachment procedure upon referral from the Parliament.
5) Empower the European Court of Justice: The Rule of Law is an essential foundation of democracy. The ECJ’s prerogatives must be extended to include a review of the compatibility of national and EU law with EU treaties (and, when applicable, with the Constitution), disputes to which the European Union is a party, disputes between member States, between a State and citizens of another State, between citizens of different States, and other similar cases. Appropriate and dissuasive sanctions must be made available.