Federalist wakeup call to national governments outside European Council

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Federalist wakeup call to national governments outside European Council
Photograph: Juuso Järviniemi

The June European Council meeting has been called a crunch moment for the EU. Migration and the Eurozone, topics high on the meeting agenda, both seem potential existential threats to the European Union as we know it. The EU system remains fragile. With violence still raging on in Europe’s neighbourhood, European governments still lack a common vision for migration policy. Moreover, if there were a new Eurozone crisis tomorrow, the EU would need to face it without adequate support mechanisms for struggling member states.

The Young European Federalists (JEF), together with the Union of European Federalists (UEF) and other groups, arranged a demonstration next to the Schuman roundabout in Brussels to demand that European governments #wakEUp. Christopher Glück, President of JEF, and Paolo Vacca, Secretary-General of UEF, appealed to the urgency of reforms, as ‘Europe is sleepwalking into disaster’. Other speakers invited on stage represented political party youth organisations, and pro-European groups such as New Europeans.

MEP support and British presence

Attendees from the immediately preceding anti-Brexit rally by the Brussels-based British Pro Europa group helped to bring the overall crowd size to well above two hundred. Remarkably, the speakers at the British rally, including Julie Ward MEP, did not solely focus on a pro-’People’s Vote’ message, but went well into the territory of developing the European project. As such, the People’s Vote rally morphed near-seamlessly to the federalist demonstration, and the two demonstrations mutually supported each other.

Particularly the federalist demonstration was attended by Brussels professionals popping in at their break from work. Among these was Brando Benifei MEP who has become known as a staunchly pro-federalist representative in the Parliament. In his speech to the crowd, Benifei pointed to the work that other EU institutions have done. The European Parliament in particular has done its part to resolve the present issues, but Benifei expressed profound dissatisfaction with the anticipated conclusions of the European Council meeting. In other words, the speech recalls debates on which institutions are “doing their work” and which ones are not.

Is the call answered?

The #wakEUp demonstration is not the first time that the federalist movement has rallied outside European Council meetings. Historically, many of JEF’s demands have been met, starting from a common currency. Martin Maréchal, President of JEF-Belgium, insightfully asked whether we are ‘simply a generation ahead’, or whether our governments simply are a generation behind.

Whichever the answer is, historical experience suggests that the federalists would get their way in the end. Complacency rarely leads to much good, however. By turning up to a demonstration instead of staying in the office, the rally attendees displayed that they are ready to do more than just talk and write. The first wakeup call may not always work, but perhaps the third, fifth or ninth one does.

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