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Re-Founding Europe

A somewhat monstrous being but one still able to fly to the Moon: today's Europe reminds me of the Hippogriff invented by Ariosto(*), that creature of fantasy, part horse and part griffin, horrible to look at and with an uncertain gait, which nonetheless, with many stops and starts and endless falls, succeeds in carrying Astolfo to the Moon to recover the ring.

Like a monster and made up of different parts, that is what this Europe is. Not a nation state, not a federation or a confederation: a union of sovereign states the likes of which exists nowhere else in the world, with a single currency but no Treasury, a single market but without a truly integrated free movement of people, goods and services.

This strange creature too moves forward with many stops and starts: there have been many falls from when it was founded until today, many steps backward, and yet the Union has grown, enlarged, confining its member states in a more and more complex juridical architecture.

How far we have traveled since that ceremony in Rome in '57, when I was little more than a boy and was learning, through what was reported in the press, about those European leaders who will remain in the history of our continent. A journey that has brought us far from the war between us, from the conflicts between Europeans that marked the history of Europe for thousands of years. It is important for us to remember this. It is not just rhetoric. It is the meaning of a change that should make us look forward confidently to the future of the European design. Even more so today, as our flight takes us through a phase of great turbulence, albeit not a fall in the true sense of the word.

It is with concern that we look towards the coming European elections, with the wave of Euro-scepticism that is spreading throughout the key countries of the Union, from my country Italy to France and far beyond. Populism is today corroding the way in which we are together. But it is no use blaming people who go out and demonstrate against Brussels or blame Germany for not showing enough solidarity. If we have reached such a lack of confidence it is because of the mistakes that were made in building Europe.

Here is one for all: the way in which the euro came into being. The idea that you can start with the currency and then political union will come later has been a total failure. Without political union, without a European government, without a European Treasury, the euro has ended up increasing tensions, driving the various countries further apart and turning the people against the European Union. Brussels seems ever more distant and forbidding, the surly custodian of a financial orthodoxy that has become an end in itself, one useful for technocracies but an enemy of the people.

We really need to re-found Europe. Lisbon has become archeology. It is time to work on a new decisive step forward, a leap forward in our flight towards the United States of Europe -- because this must be our final objective. We need an institutional architecture that is closer to the peoples of Europe, with a strong Parliament and a President of the Council of Ministers who is the real political head of the Union. From this diarchy would stem an executive commission which would be legitimized by Parliament and not be just an abstract custodian of treaties. This is the mission that must be given to the new Parliament even more so if it contains a large number of anti-European populists.

Italy is about to assume the Presidency of the European Union for six months. I hope that it will take a strong initiative in this direction, returning to a role as protagonist in the building of Europe. It would also be an important signal if after the European elections the winning forces could converge on the appointment or a woman President of the Commission. This would really give life to the European design: a woman Astolfo, able to guide our Hippogriff in the future towards a non-bureaucratic Europe, a Europe finally closer to its people.

(*) - Ludovico Ariosto, poet 1474-1533

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