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Duff: bravery and a new Convention, what the Eu needs to end the economic crisis
Andrew Duff

Duff: bravery and a new Convention, what the Eu needs to end the economic crisis

Interview. Andrew Duff talks to us about his new book “Pandora, Penelope, Polity: How to Change the European Union”

The European Union should make the Fiscal Union a “top priority” of its agenda if it wants to escape the ongoing economic crisis. However, “this cannot be agreed without deep democratic improvements to the EU’s system of governance”. In “Pandora, Penelope, Polity: How to change the European Union”, leading constitutional specialist and former member of the liberal group of the European Parliament Andrew Duff lays down the blueprint for reform of the Eu’s constitution, to give Europe the government it needs to meet the pressing challenges it faces as a continent.

It was not too long ago that the Eu member states adopted the treaty of Lisbon. Why do you think it is so important to change again the Eu treaties?
In fact, the Lisbon process started directly after Nice, in 2000 – a long time ago. After a good start (the Convention), its drafting was weakened after the 2005 French and Dutch referenda. That it is now not fit for purpose has been evidenced by the crisis.

What kind of Eu treaty changes should come first if we want to put Europe in the condition to meet the urgent challenges it faces?
All the changes must come together or the critical momentum for radical change will not be reached. We need to devise a large package deal, so that all stakeholders leave with something they want in exchange for something they are less happy with. The top priority is fiscal union, of course, but this cannot be agreed without deep democratic improvements to the EU’s system of governance. They are inseparable.

Andrew Duff a Firenze
Andrew Duff durante il suo intervento al convegno di Eunews “How can we govern Europe” del novembre scorso a Firenze

Where do you think the strongest opposition may come from?
From the conservatives who are found within most mainstream parties of both left (S&D) and right (EPP). They are frightened to upset the status quo. The radicals of left and right (including the British) will be more open to radical change.

What are the bigger risks of failing to take action?
The EU will have to resort to yet more rigid over-centralisation of coordinated national economic policies. This is bad economics and bad democracy. Sooner or later, someone will leave (Grexit, Brexit), and the remaining members will be effectively under a German hegemony.

How should the Eu institutions approach such a delicate task? What makes the Commission’s draft Penelope proposal (draft constitutional treaty) and the Spinelli Group’s Fundamental Law good examples?
The Commission needs to take the lead both intellectually and politically. Parliament must support Juncker to the hilt. Both Penelope and the Fundamental Law have not been tried: almost everything else has (QE being the last shot). Both are clever and articulate comprehensive packages, not piecemeal and not tinkering at the edges. Only a bold federal leap such as they prescribe will let the EU escape from the limbo in which it now finds itself.

How should the Commission deal with the British demand for renegotiation of its terms of membership? Do you think that is possible to reach a compromise over the free movement of people?
The rest of the EU have to decide what price they are prepared to pay to keep the UK inside the EU. That negotiation can only take place in a Convention whose task is to reform the whole constitutional order of the EU. More British opt outs from basic common policy should not be accepted.

What makes you feel positive about Europe’s future given the reluctance of it institutions to embrace constitutional reforms? Even more so in this situation of economic crisis. 
In the absence of a real lead from the Commission in the federal direction I will not be feeling positive. The economic crisis provides the best possible pretext for radical change.

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