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The President of the young European Federation John Forsythe, very keen on historical narratives, measures the importance of the symbolic significance and influence of history on the development of great advances that has gotten through in this case to boost, renew and build on European governance.
John Forsythe often likes to recall with malice and pleasure the events that led to his election to the head of Europe in 2024. Everything started from a famous dinner in Brussels.
It’s July 17th 2018, 7 pm, Brussels.
In her residence on Avenue Louise, Angela Merkel (the new President of the European Council) chooses the wines she will offer to her guests for the most famous dinner in the history of the European Union.
At 8 o’clock, her two guests show up: Emmanuel Macron (President of the French Republic) and Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Commission).
The invitation was launched the day before in a brief and unexpected meeting between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron in front of the Council’s headquarters – meeting so reported by Angela Merkel:
“On my way to the European Council, when I was about to enter the building, I met Emmanuel Macron. He looked worried (a little Jupitarian… He asked me to speak… We were standing on the street near the entrance door. He approached the famous question of the States “debt recovery” and its urgent necessity in the context of the economic and monetary union and even the preservation of the Union … “
On the table: the federalization of sovereign debts and the European President
The three guests therefore knew perfectly well which subjects – seemingly unrelated to each other – would carry their conversation:
– The authorization by the European Council of the “recovery of debts” by the European Union,
– and the establishment of a European President.
Since the beginning of the Union, the question of a “President of Europe” remained unresolved. There were three presidents in the EU at the same time: one for the Commission, one for the Council of Ministers and one for the European Council. Angela Merkel and Jean Claude Juncker wanted the Union to be ultimately directed and represented by a single person, elected by direct universal suffrage, guarantor of European unity and recognized as such, both within the Union and internationally. To achieve this, they needed the support of France.
On the other subject of the “recovery of debts” and their mutualization, equally important for the future of the Union, Emmanuel Macron is the plaintiff. In short, the aim was to authorize the EU to take over and manage the debts of the States and to finance them by borrowing on behalf of the Union.
In the mind of Emmanuel Macron, it was necessary to remedy the worrying state of the finances of several states which threatened the unity of the Union (and in particular the solidarity between Northern and Southern States) and restore the political and financial credit of the Union vis-à-vis its international donors. But it was also about creating the basis for a broad federal financial structure, the foundation of the European monetary system – to contribute to “cementing the Union by the existence of a permanent and controlled public debt” and to dispose of “a financial tool for the development of the European economy”.
For Merkel, however, this plan presented the risk of a dangerous pooling of financial risks between the prosperous states of the North and the Southern deficit states – which could only be avoided by creating a genuine federal financial power and a powerful central administration. Something that reminded Jean Claude Juncker of his old fears towards a “big government” without democratic control; although his skepticism was tempered by his sense of responsibility towards a Union, of which he chaired the executive.
But, going back to the dinner…
The guests arrived together in advance: Jean-Claude Juncker because it was his habit and Emmanuel Macron because he was particularly concerned with a question at the heart of his European policy. The menu – composed by the Maison Michel, a great Brussels caterer – lived up to the reputation of the best Belgian cuisine: Flemish asparagus accompanied by Carbonnieux blanc 2012, brabantan pheasant served with a Montepulciano and Malmédy kisses with champagne.
The conversation was brilliant among these three great figures of the Union. It was mainly animated by the brilliant Emmanuel Macron, convinced as usual by the correctness of his proposal and anxious to convince his interlocutors. Jean Claude Juncker played the role of a skillful and wise negotiator, strong in his long experience in the affairs of the Union. Angela Merkel spoke little – if not to comment on her culinary choices; she remained careful to maintain the equanimity of the remarks, but above all conscious that it would be up to her to draw the conclusions of the negotiations and to present the results to the European Council.
The agreements of the guests …
As we know, the outcome was positive and can be summarized as follows:
- The principle of the direct election of a President of the Union was retained. The latter would be elected at the same time as the European Parliament and the Commission in 2024; In the meantime, a Convention would be convened in 2020 to undertake a revision of the Treaties
- Regarding the recovery of the debts – and so regarding the creation of a genuine economic government, Emmanuel Macron and Jean Claude Juncker committed to support specific proposals that would be debated and adopted according to the same procedure and timetable.
… were rapidly put in place
The agreement was rapidly enacted:
– the European Council formally adopted the two projects starting from 2019,
– the following year, the Convention met to work on the revision of the Treaties which was ratified by all Member States in 2022.
To conclude, we will let the reader imagine the conversation that our three protagonists might have had a few years later during another meeting in Brussels. The political, economic and financial power subsequently developed by the “United States of Europe” would have certainly boggled their minds.
Jean-Guy Giraud (03/10/15 – adapted on 24/06/17),
Member of the Support Committee of Stand Up for Europe
NB: Every comparison of this imagined European experience with the situation of the United States of America at the end of the 18th Century – particularly the famous dinner held in Washington on the 20th of June 1790 and attended by Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison – would be risky. Let us just say that « Comparisons are not accurate, but they stimulate thought ».
To convince the reader, here is the link for Janus’ story “Dinner at Jefferson’s”: (http://www.pressefederaliste.eu/comment-les-Etats-Unis-creerent-la-dette-publique-federale)
We will do it!