THE VENTOTENE LIGHTHOUSE
A Federalist Journal for World Citizenship

June 15, 2021
by

In his memorable speech at the Sorbonne on 26 September 2017, the French President Emmanuel Macron presented a well-structured and convincing plan for relaunching the project of European unification, which has basically been on hold since the 2008 financial crisis. In this article I do not intend to discuss all of his proposals, which I myself agree with, but rather to comment on the concept of European sovereignty, which Macron indicates as an ideological objective for the future of the European Union.

In one part of his speech, Macron stated: “The […] key to our sovereignty is industrial and monetary economic power”, in short, the Economic and Monetary Union. At other points he proposes a “Defence Europe” and a “European defence fund”. Concluding, he summarizes his proposals as follows: “Finally, the essence of the European project is democracy. … For Europe, sovereignty, unity and democracy are inextricably linked. … We must promote this indivisible triangle”.

Here, I mean to show that while “unity and democracy” are two of the main pillars supporting the European project, the concept of European sovereignty is misleading: it would be more accurate to say “the powers and competences that must be entrusted to the democratic government of the Union by member states”. The concept of sovereignty is an ideological notion which is closely linked to the birth of the nation state and which cannot serve as a guide for the future of the EU.

I will present the reasons for this empirical approach in two stages: in the first I will indicate some contradictions between France’s foreign policy, still based on national sovereignty, and the notion of European sovereignty; subsequently, I will discuss the European Union’s foreign policy, a policy crucial to halting and reversing the trend towards growing international disorder, exacerbated by Trump’s nationalistic policies.

In a recent interview with Le Grand Continent (16/11/2020), Macron was asked “Can Westphalian sovereignty coexist with the climate crisis?” To which he replied: “Yes, because I have not personally found a better system than Westphalian sovereignty. If it is the idea of saying that a people in a nation decides to choose its leaders and have people to pass its laws, I think that is perfectly compatible because otherwise who is going to decide? How would the people get together and decide? … For decades now, Western democracies have been making their peoples feel that they no longer know how to solve their problems. …That is the crisis of democracies: it is a crisis of scale and efficiency. But I do not believe at all that it is a crisis of Westphalian sovereignty. … In everything I do internationally, for me what is paramount is always the sovereignty of the people”. There is no doubt that national democracies around the world are in crisis, but the answer cannot just be to boost the effectiveness of national democracies, because when the international order breaks down, as happened between the two World Wars, democratic regimes are no longer able to respond effectively to international challenges, be that economic security (as happened with the 1929 depression) or military security (to curb hegemonic projects like Hitler’s). Democracy becomes fragile when authoritarianism advances. Contemporary nationalism has emerged in increasingly aggressive forms since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the USSR. Macron does not understand the root causes of the crisis of the international order and therefore supports the foreign policy of France, as a national state, which actually prevents the construction of an independent European Union. French national policy has the effect of preventing the pursuit of “strategic autonomy” for the EU, a concept that was adopted many years ago as the basic orientation of the Union’s foreign policy.

We can observe the recent consequences of France’s foreign policy in two crucial areas, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, including Russia. When it comes to Libya, France supported General Haftar against Al-Serraji, thus favouring the intervention of Turkey and Russia in the region; in Lebanon, he attempted to cast France – rather than the EU – in a peacemaking role, ultimately to no avail, and in the Nagorno-Karabakh War, between two states that belong to the EU-promoted Eastern Partnership (EaP) – the European Union stood out for its absence, thus giving Turkey and Russia an opportunity to further extend their influence in the Caucasian area. Why is the EU unable to act effectively in these regions? According to Macron: “We have built European defence capabilities, although it was thought unthinkable” (LGC). The reality is different, as Josep Borrell clearly demonstrates: “In conflicts such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Libya or Syria, we are witnessing a form of ‘astanisation’ (in reference to the Astana format on Syria) which leads to Europe’s exclusion from the settlement of regional conflicts in favour of Russia and Turkey. Nature abhors a vacuum: we risk now seeing Russian and Turkish military bases being established in Libya, a few kilometres away from our coasts. In order to emerge from this situation and to be able to settle our conflicts peacefully with these new empires built on values that we do not share, we must continue to fill the gaps in our common defence capabilities. This is the price which must be paid to give birth to the geopolitical Europe that President Von der Leyen and the European Commission have called for” (Le Grand Continent, 14/12/2020).

Now let’s look at the issue of the defence and security of the Union, which means talking about the future of NATO. In his interview with LGC, Macron was undoubtedly aware of the proposal from Germany’s SPD party to create a 28th Union Army, namely a European army at the disposal of the democratic organs of the EU. Yet he does not mention it, as if the question of European defence had already been solved. Perhaps Macron believes that French  defences, which also include nuclear weapons, are sufficient to guarantee the security of the other countries in the Union, a doctrine that goes back to de Gaulle. Yet this sentiment is not shared by Eastern European countries such as Poland or the Baltic nations, which look to the United States and NATO for protection. Macron criticizes NATO’s shortcomings, as he did in 2019 when he argued that the Atlantic Alliance was experiencing “brain death”.  This criticism is justified, but what alternative does Macron offer? The SPD proposal would effectively achieve the “strategic autonomy” of the EU. Here it would take too long to go into the details of an issue that is undoubtedly key to Europe and for world peace. I will merely recall the contents of a ‘Policy paper’ written by three federalists entitled A New Atlantic Pact. A Peaceful Cooperation Area from Vancouver to Vladivostok (The Ventotene Lighthouse, 7/10/2020), which considers – and updates – Gorbachev’s 1987 proposal for a “Common European Home”. This proposal was abandoned after the break-up of the USSR, because European and US policy for the eastward expansion of NATO – despite Kohl promising Gorbachev otherwise – ended up compromising relations with Russia: Russia had initially been invited to join NATO in the Partnership for Peace (PfP), to launch a more intense form of economic and military cooperation, later interrupted by the crisis in Ukraine, disputed between Europe and Russia. The paper argues for the need to resume peaceful cooperation with Russia, inviting it to participate in a free trade area from Vancouver to Vladivostok, and re-enter the PfP until the time is ripe for further steps. The paper also proposes creating a European security system based on a “dual army”, a proposal similar to that of the SPD. More peaceful relations between the EU and Russia would indirectly contribute to changing international relations between the EU, the US, Russia and China, and reducing the level of nationalistic competition between the great powers.

European foreign policy, however, is not limited to Euro-Atlantic relations. There are global political challenges which urgently need to be addressed. The mob attack on the US Capitol was not only a vulgar insult to democracy, but is also indicative of the further weakening of US leadership in the world, because in the coming years the US is likely to be divided internally by social and political rifts. The international institutions created after the Second World War were designed by the US to guarantee “a safe world for democracy”: the UN charter is based on “Westphalian sovereignty”, but contains rules to mitigate conflicts, through the Security Council, and a number of agencies to support economic stability (the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT), health (the WHO), agriculture (the FAO), human rights, etc. This architecture, which was based on multilateralism as the US wished, and was originally accepted by 40 other countries including the USSR – withstood the crises and turmoil of the Cold War. However the break-up of the USSR heralded an ongoing erosion of the post-war order, and the emergence of new global powers, such as China, Russia, India, Japan and Brazil, etc., was inevitable, giving rise to a multipolar system with no world government. Trump’s policies have shown that the US prefers bipolarism to multilateralism, an approach that benefits the stronger country. This return to conflicting international relations will continue in a different form even under the Biden administration, because there are currents in the Democratic Party that are in favour of protectionism and nationalism.

 If the European Union proves unable to contain the nationalist leanings of the major powers, it will face a global challenge which could have dramatic consequences. A relentless struggle for world hegemony would end up bringing down the European construction. Each European country that wants to maintain its sovereignty in foreign policy, as Macron does, will be drawn into the hegemonic orbit of one or another major world power. To face this challenge, the European Union must equip itself with effective capacity for foreign policy that goes beyond what is currently in place, as the EMU; i.e. a European defence force (the 28th EU army) and a reinforced European budget, because foreign policy also requires fiscal capacity. The European Commission, endowed with new powers, would be accountable to a two-chamber Parliament (the EP and the Council of Ministers voting by a majority).

 This reform is possible, but in the meantime some global challenges need to be addressed through the existing institutions. The first is the Glasgow Climate Conference on 1-12 November 2021. The EU will be appearing at this important event as a world leader, thanks to the launch of the European Green Deal which – in addition to the positive results achieved in the past (from Kyoto onwards) – represents a pioneering foreign policy initiative (global CO2 emissions: China 28%, USA 15%, EU 9%, India 7%, Japan 3%). Multilateralism can no longer be guaranteed by a hegemonic superpower, but will have to be built gradually through peaceful cooperation – a global governance by the major players of world politics. Among these, the EU stands out as the leading power in a select number of forward-thinking countries (about a hundred) in favour of a global plan for the sustainable development of the planet. Security policy in the twenty-first century – the century of the Anthropocene – no longer depends solely on the military might of each power, but on their ability to guarantee a sustainable future, as indicated by the Global Development Goals (UN 2015). Over the past decades national governments have passed the burden of the structural adjustments needed to combat climate change onto future generations. Now, the young people of Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion are demanding a sustainable future. The human species, like other animal species, could become extinct if we fail to meet the objectives agreed in Paris in 2015 (to limit the level of global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels). We are now approaching 2°C; if this trend is not halted by the end of the century we will be looking at an increase of 4°C, with devastating consequences for all forms of life.

 Preparing for COP 26 in Glasgow will not be easy. The major world powers need to accept strict limits. The new Biden administration is taking an ambiguous position in this regard: while it has declared that it is in favour of the Paris objectives, it has launched the idea of a summit of democracies that could end up having overtones of the Cold War, if understood as an anti-Chinese alliance. China’s environmental policy is also ambiguous: its commitment to achieving CO2 neutrality by 2060 is positive, but in the meantime the Chinese government is financing the construction of coal-fired power plants both in China (17 new plants) and beyond, with a few hundred in Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt and the Philippines, thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative. The negotiations ahead of the Glasgow conference will have to address these problems. The battle is on. If there is the will to do so, it will be possible to achieve the goal of CO2 neutrality by the middle of the century. However, past experience suggests caution. No matter how many promises governments make, without a binding form of coordination on a global scale it will be unlikely that national environmental plans are respected. The practice of passing the buck onto future generations could continue.

The European Commission has managed to relaunch European cohesion among the 27 thanks to the Next Generation EU plan, perceived by European citizens as a European public good. This initiative has beaten back national sovereignty in the various political formations. A similar proposal should be adopted in the run-up to Glasgow, so that international political cohesion is guaranteed by there being obvious advantages to cooperation, an added benefit that each UN country can acquire by signing up for a World Green Deal in good faith.The world plan should be based on the use of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a kind of world currency issued by the IMF, as UN Secretary Guterres has proposed. This first initiative, crucial for economic stability, should be accompanied by a tax on the profits of multinational companies to finance the World Green Deal. Global sustainability will only become effective if poor and emerging countries can work harmoniously: the efforts of each single country should be teamed by collective hope for the future. More aid for development, a boost for renewable energies and strengthening the WHO to combat the pandemic effectively will help reduce the gap in wealth and well-being between the world’s rich and poor. Contrary to what Macron believes, the UN can and should be endowed with supranational powers. This is the first step towards a post-Westphalian order.

 The return to multilateralism is obviously about more than just environmental policies. There are other crucial problems, such as atomic and conventional disarmament, the regulation of international trade and finance, respect for human rights, etc. Ultimately, the goal should be to reduce nationalistic conflicts between the great world powers to create a global governance, a key objective when it comes to saving democracy threatened by national sovereignty in every country.

In this article I have deliberately avoided a doctrinal discussion of the relationship between the concepts of sovereignty, state and democracy. Treaties on international law and international relations devote much attention to these issues. I merely wished to show that we can tackle the problem of the European Union’s foreign policy and security without resorting to the hackneyed concept of sovereignty. In the century of the Anthropocene, what sense is there in striving to defend the sovereignty of a single nation, or Europe as a whole, when the future of humanity is at risk? Sovereignty is a political concept that came about to foster the creation and consolidation of nation states. Today this archaeological relic should be left in the hands of the nostalgic custodians of the past.


1. Young people and their future – The global reach of the “Fridays for Future” movement has brought the environmental crisis to the attention of public opinion and international politics. Since Only One Earth, the conference held in Stockholm in 1972, the United Nations has been warning national governments about the risks of the destruction of the environment. Scientific studies on ecological systems and their possible collapse have increased exponentially in the meantime, from the research regarding the hole in the ozone layer to more recent reports on global warming and the mass extinction of animal species. Yet little or nothing has actually been done, despite the fact that the deadly effects of the environmental crisis are now evident. Pressure on national governments must be increased, with effective action on a global scale.

            “Fridays for Future” initially asked governments to heed scientists’ warnings. It was no use: the inaction continues. Now civil disobedience protests are being planned, similar to the type of action pursued by “Extinction Rebellion”. Yet rebellion is just the beginning of political action. There has to be a strategy based on achieving a specific aim. A global problem calls for global solutions.

2. The Anthropocene century – In the year 2000, a group of scientists came together to address the issue of the changes taking place in the geological epoch known as the “Holocene”. Paul Crutzen, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, interrupted the meeting with the admonishment, “Stop saying the Holocene! We’re not in the Holocene any more”. Crutzen’s point was that the changes under way were being caused by humans, not nature, and the name he came up with to convey this was the Anthropocene. Indeed the Anthropocene is the epoch in which the future of life on the planet now hinges on human action, or inaction. This term has become a cultural paradigm, explored by natural scientists, social scientists and philosophers alike. The Indian historian Dipesch Chakrabarty notes that we can no longer write the history of humanity, as has always been done, as distinct from natural history. From now on, history must be written framing the human species as part of the history of other living species. Darwin himself highlighted this connection. The human species is not exempt from the risk of extinction; it is not immortal.

            Politics needs to embrace this point of view too. The political subject of the twenty-first century is no longer a class, a state, a group of states or a dominant culture; it is the whole of humanity. Those who want to be in politics have to come up with initiatives, economic, social and institutional reforms that will enable humanity to plan its own future. This new humanism is based on a notion of civilisation that rejects all those who, still today, are guided by Nazism/Fascism and racism. There can never be another Auschwitz. Today, those in politics must think and act like citizens of the world.

3. Sustainable development – With the publication of the “Brundtland Report” in 1987 –  which defines sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own  needs” – it finally seemed that it would be possible to come to an agreement within the framework of the United Nations to address the environmental challenge. Yet crucial difficulties soon arose. The technologies for removing greenhouse gases were not yet mature, and using them would have led to a significant increase in production costs for some industries. Secondly, the gap between rich and poor countries became evident. The costs of cleaning up pollution could not simply be divided by population on a per-capita basis: emerging countries had no intention of paying the price for the environmental destruction that the polluting industrialized countries had caused in the past. Lastly, the threat of the sixth extinction of living species had increased exponentially, but it was not clear what should be done to protect the surviving biodiversity.

            Yet these issues do not justify the continuous postponement of decisive global solutions. The political crux of the problem, which supporters and opponents of sustainable development overlook, is the fact that humanity is divided into sovereign nation states.  The international system, also known as the Westphalia system, is founded «on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members» (Art. 2, UN Charter). The Westphalia system survived the French Revolution: it is the dogma upheld by every national government. At all the UN conferences on environmental issues, a unanimous decision therefore has to be reached between 193 “equally sovereign” countries. The consequence has been a lot of buck-passing, i.e. countries continuing to postpone the measures required to “meet the needs of future generations”. In democratic countries, electoral terms last four or five years. It is therefore in the interests of all governments to pass on the costs of cleaning up pollution to subsequent administrations, and let them be shouldered by future generations. Today young people have realized that their future might consist in gradually suffocating to death on a desertified planet. This buck-passing policy has to end. Even those living in undemocratic or authoritarian countries are aware of this. The future of humanity cannot be conditioned by the existence of borders, be they geographical or political.

4. What can be done? – In 2015, all of the UN member states approved the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs). The 17 goals represent a coherent set of policies that could set humanity on a path to sustainable development. Yet the UN does not have any instruments of government it can use to persuade the “equally sovereign” countries to adopt the policies needed to implement the plan. What is needed is for at least the continent-size countries – members of the G20 – to agree to entrust the UN with some powers of government, as its Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, asked when the pandemic broke out. Guterres wanted the IMF to issue Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a global quasi-currency, to help poor countries in difficulty and reinforce the WHO. This could be accompanied by the creation of a UN budget financed with a levy on the major multinational companies that currently hide their profits in tax havens. With these resources at its disposal, the UN would be in a position to launch a World Green Deal.

            If we want to stop passing the burden to future generations, we need to endow the UN with limited but effective powers. Every country would benefit from a plan for the sustainable development of the planet (SDGs). A political community cannot exist if it does not accept a government or governance, that is, a peaceful but binding system of coordination, to ensure that collective decisions, reached democratically, can be enforced. International democratic cooperation is not an unrealistic utopia; it is a necessity. The European Union has already taken steps in this direction. Global governance, and peaceful cooperation between UN members, is possible.

            What happens in the twenty-first century will decide whether humanity has a future. While some visionaries are looking into colonizing other planets, it is worth remembering that Planet Earth is the common home that we cannot destroy. Civil disobedience will only be effective if it combines protests against the malgovernment of the planet with proposals for a peaceful global governance.


The Conference on the future of Europe should be convened by the end of the year. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced it in her inaugural speech and the European Parliament recently urged that it be convened before the end of 2020 (Resolution of 18/6/20). Yet some unexpected obstacles risk drastically reducing the significance of the Conference.

At present, the main issue is the European Parliament’s proposal to entrust the presidency of the Conference to Guy Verhofstadt, who for years has been fighting for a democratic and federal reform of the Union. Various members of the European Council have flatly opposed this proposal. An article in Politico (De La Baume, 13/10) reports: “Verhofstadt was considered a nonstarter by a number of governments in the Council”, due to the fact that he is seen as a “champion of European federalism”. The hunt for alternative candidates is currently under way.

We can only surmise that in Europe it is legitimate to be a liberal, democratic, socialist, green or sovereignist, just as long as you are not a federalist. Yet if this view prevails, the Conference will be dead in the water. Obstructing the European Parliament without a serious reason for doing so is an insult to European democracy: the European Parliament is the only body legitimized by the popular vote, something that the Council lacks. Nevertheless, sovereignist governments are intent on drastically narrowing the political horizons of the debate. They want to rule out any discussion of European federalism in advance, despite the fact that President Macron, when proposing the Conference, called for a debate “without taboos”. Evidently, however, some issues remain taboo.

Yet European democracy and European federalism are two sides of the same coin. In this dramatic year, with the pandemic, many significant proposals for European citizens drafted by the Commission and Parliament have been blocked by means of the unanimity vote in the Council (the dispute over the budget is a case in point): a small minority of countries and population circumventing the vast majority.  It is the tyranny of the minority. If we want to get past this impasse, we need to look to the lessons of the federalist thought (which dates back to Immanuel Kant and Alexander Hamilton), because the principles of federalism can help disentangle the problem.

It should nonetheless be noted that looking to existing federal states is of little help. To date, federalism has regarded sovereign nation states (such as the USA, Canada, India, Australia, Switzerland, etc.) thus becoming – in contemporary political culture – a mechanism for administrative decentralization. In Europe, on the contrary, the founding fathers designed the first institutions, the ECSC and the European Economic Community (EEC), as a “work in progress” towards a federal union. The Schuman Declaration is very clear on this. To overcome the current obstacles it would be useful to take a step towards supranational federalism. European federalism will be different from all existing federal systems. Not all competences and powers of national governments will have to be assigned to Europe, contrary to what sovereignist forces assert, including those governments that reject the ideals of the very institutions they benefit from. The criterion of the vertical division of powers applies to policies for trade, taxation, security, defence, the environment, health etc.

I do not intend to enter into a debate that will have to be conducted by the representatives of European citizens in the Conference. I merely wish to note that the Union faces internal and international challenges that call for urgent structural reforms. Issues like immigration, European security, the atomic rearmament of the major powers and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the development of the new information technologies, environmental disasters and pandemics cannot be tackled on a national level, but require a capacity for European action, at the federal level.

Without policies befitting the importance of the issues at stake, there will be no cohesion between European citizens and the Union will remain weak. A political community cannot exist without common ideals, a shared identity and effective policies. Some indications for how to proceed in this direction have already been provided by Josep Borrell in his message to the United Nations: “The EU Stands with the UN” (Project Syndicate, Sept. 22). Borrell asserts: “A world governed by agreed rules is the very basis of our shared security, freedoms, and prosperity. A rule-based international order makes states secure, keeps people free and companies willing to invest, and ensures that the Earth’s environment is protected. The alternative – might makes right – has been tried for most of human history, and its horrific record is the best argument for the multilateral system. Unfortunately, it is increasingly being tried again, with the results visible to all. This is not the approach of the EU. We will continue to believe in and support the UN”.

The EU’s role in the world will be one of the crucial themes of the Conference on the future of Europe. Today’s young people are concerned about the future of life on our planet and are asking government leaders for a bolder policies to combat the pollution of the biosphere and construct a peaceful world. The EU has no future if the planet has no future.

The politicians in the European Council who want to exclude the prospect of a democratic and supranational Europe from the debate should explain to young people why it is better to remain closeted inside national borders.


Europe’s response to the pandemic comes in the form of a major undertaking, the Next Generation EU recovery plan, based on a European public debt and new own resources. The Commission’s commitment to offering young people a future shows that European solidarity exists. But there are various rarely discussed phenomena that are gradually eroding it.

            The one I would like to examine is the phenomenon of citizenship for sale. Many countries, large and small, sell their citizenship to those who can pay for it. As well as republics in the Caribbean, the US, Canada, the UK and Russia all advertise it on the web, and in the EU you can pay to become a citizen of Cyprus, Malta, Bulgaria, Portugal, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Lithuania, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Luxembourg and Austria. The cost of a “Golden Visa” varies greatly from country to country, with some countries setting conditions such as residence, a certain amount in private investments or public debt, and some offering generous discounts on taxes.

            The issue was debated in the European Parliament, which in 2014 passed a resolution that stated, “EU citizenship should not be for sale at any price”. Furthermore, an in-depth study (EPRS, October 2018) warns member countries against this practice, due to possible negative consequences such as financial instability, harmful fiscal competition, excessive investments in real estate, the infiltration of organised crime, political corruption and lastly, the most damaging consequence, citizens’ loss of trust in democratic institutions. Yet despite these warnings, the citizenship market thrives.

            The sale of national citizenship is a side effect of the financial globalization that began in the 1980s. It is a parallel phenomenon to that of tax competition between countries, which began to reduce corporate tax rates to attract foreign investments. This has proven to be a suicidal practice, especially for European countries with expensive welfare programs, which now increasingly depend on the taxation of income from immovable property and work, and less and less on that of mobile assets such as the capital of companies and individuals, which/who can move their wealth to safe places. National sovereignty is being eroded not by external threats, but by an internal cancer, because the political class is scraping the barrel and putting the family heirlooms up for sale.

            Citizenship is a valuable public good; it is the very substance of a political community. In the history of humanity, the process we call civilization began when the individual questioned belonging to a political community, as happened, in pre-modern forms, in the Greek polis and the Roman empire. In the contemporary age, civil progress has assumed a form defined by the French revolution, based on the declaration of “the rights of man and the citizen”, when the multitude of subjects demanded to be recognised as citizens – a new legal status which did away with privileges and discrimination. “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” are the values that identify post-revolutionary people.

            The sale of citizenship of an EU member country is doubly wrong. It injures democracy, because citizenship is sold to wealthy individuals who are primarily interested in exploiting the single European market and national and European voting rights. Indeed, article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty states: “Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union”. It also deprives the Union of its power to regulate the crossing of its external borders. Article 77 of the TFU states that the Union must “develop a policy with a view to carrying out checks on persons and efficient monitoring of the crossing of external borders”, and ensure “the gradual introduction of an integrated management system for external borders”. How can we justify the fact that European citizenship is granted to the wealthy, yet denied to poor individuals looking for work and a new homeland? The former become EU citizens, the latter subjects. Moreover, the distinction between refugees and economic migrants is destined to become increasingly blurred with the rise in “ecological migrants” fleeing their countries as a result of global warming.

            There is no simple, clear cut answer to these problems, but I would like to suggest two possible reforms. The first reform consists in giving the Union, as indicated in article 77 of the TFU, clear concurrent powers when it comes to granting European citizenship to third parties from non-member countries. If a person is granted the right to vote in Europe, the main reason for this must be political, because the European Parliament plays an active role in defining the Union’s policies and is elected by a multi-national people of European citizens, not the multitude. The granting of national and European citizenship must therefore be approved by the European Commission and the sale of national citizenship must be prohibited.

            Based on the principle that crossing the borders of the Union implies an explicit European decision, the EU should have the power to grant “citizenship of residence”, or local citizenship (Ius domicilii) to those who legitimately request it. This could be one way to solve the long-standing controversy over the Dublin Regulation and European immigration policy. The alternative to the trafficking of migrants is the creation of legitimate channels for migration, as the EU is doing with the African Union (Joint Communiqué, 29th February 2020). Local citizenship would enable immigrants to be integrated into a local community, which could be chosen when applying, for example, to the African Union. Of course, the EU must comply with national governments and local European governments (cities, provinces, regions) to plan how many migrants to accept, because local and national political sensitivities need to be taken into account. Naturally those who benefit from citizenship of residence must respect the rights and duties enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and will only able to vote on the local level, because voting in national and European elections requires national citizenship.

            The second proposal concerns the introduction of compulsory European civil service, coordinated with member country. Politics nowadays is dominated by uncertainty: some decisions are taken at a national level, others at the European level and others at world level. In some countries of the Union, citizens fight, sometimes vehemently, for demands that cannot be met, or become prey to populist or illiberal parties, led by demagogues promising a brighter future. Democracy is in danger. One of the possible remedies for this is to remind young people, when they reach voting age, that citizenship entails duties as well as rights, because political communities break down if there is no sense of membership – and membership means giving as well as receiving. A European civil service would enable young people to work in their community (on any levels, from local to global) on projects concerning health and social services, environmental protection, collective security and international aid. Public goods are not a gift of nature; they are the result of selfless human action, deliberately pursued for the good of others, as we saw during the pandemic, with the tireless efforts of healthcare workers.

            These two proposals should be taken into consideration at the forthcoming Conference on the future of Europe.