Democracy International: What is your vision of the future European Union?
Christian Felber: The EU should become what it originally promised: A project of peace. The European Union is not an end in itself, it has to give answers to these three questions:
Firstly, who builds the European Union, how does the architecture look like? Right now, citizens do not build the house but governments. This is a huge democratic deficit we must not accept!
Secondly, which rules of the house do apply? Who decides on these rules? How do the national and European levels interact with each other? Is it a fair game?
Thirdly, who does what? Which areas can the European Union decide on? In view of being a project of peace, this is particularly important.
How must the rules look like to realise this kind of European Union?
The rules of the games must be truly democratic, which means that the highest sovereign, the citizens, should make them. Right now the institutions make the rules, a fact that violates the principle of separation of powers. The people have no right to correct, dismiss or complement their representatives directly. This situation fundamentally infringes the democratic principle of people’s sovereignty. Yet, the European Union will only be realised as a project of peace when people have full sovereignty. That is why the people have to write the constitution, not politicians. This will bring about a clear division of competences, and also, peace will become an integral part. People will voice peace in a new EU Treaty.
Why do you say that peace will be expressed? Do you have a positive idea of mankind?
This is because people are longing for peace. That is what I am convinced of. Parliaments are more peaceful than governments. And sovereigns are more peaceful than parliaments. We all know that democracies are not at war against each other. Empirical studies demonstrate this. And in Switzerland in 1989, 36% voted for abolishing the army in a referendum initiated by the people.
So, we can be convinced of that peace will be expressed in a new EU treaty. It will become the state of the art as well as the obligation of the European Union when people make the constitution itself.
How is this to happen, how is a new EU Treaty to come about?
I see an EU convention as the instrument to elaborate a new EU Treaty. In order to be truly democratic, the convention should be elected directly by the citizens. Any citizen can run for candidacy either by election or citizens will be delegated, exactly reflecting the population. The delegation or voting mechanism should be independent from political parties. Once the convention is constituted, there could be direct and permanent exchange with the general public, like a ping pong game. The general public gives the convention feedback on its proposals and vice versa. The internet will facilitate the process.
How are people to approve the proposal that the EU convention will elaborate?
Referenda are to take place on the same day in each EU Member State. And the democratic decisions must be accepted: only that country will continue to be a member of the EU whose people have voted for the new EU Treaty. In other words: the country that rejects the EU Treaty will have to leave the EU. This will hurt, but it is the only option for a real democracy. Yet, I believe that this scenario of exclusion from the EU is very unlikely to happen. This is because the more democratic the procedure of constitution-making, the more sovereing peoples will vote in favour of the new EU Treaty.
Would you like to become a member of the EU convention?
So far, I have always denied an office of a political party. But yes, I would like to become a non-partisan member of the convention. This is an office with a lot of responsibility I would be ready to hold.
That’s great. So we will see each other again in the EU convention Democracy International is advocating. Thank you for the interview.
Questions by Cora Pfafferott in Vienna, 22 January 2013
on the project "Demokratische Bank" - "Democratic Bank" (in German) at http://www.demokratische-bank.at
on the project "Gemeinwohlökonomie" - "Economy for the Common Good" - (in German) at http://www.gemeinwohl-oekonomie.org
Democracy International's call for an EU convention at www.more-democracy-in-europe.org