A Question of Efficiency

Article published on March 31, 2004
community published
Article published on March 31, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Politics has changed. Capital cities cannot continue to take power away from Europe and regions. The alternative? Macro-regions.

Europe is suffocating. From economic crises to a limping constitution, it is denied oxygen and this is affecting important European projects.

A European government for European problems

If politics is first and foremost about power, why can't anyone admit there is a crisis of national sovereignty? From terrorism attacks in Madrid to the euro zone's economic stagnation and the EU's constitutional restructuring, it is fast becoming evident states cannot act alone. This is exactly why the EU was created. But intergovernmental Europe is grinding to a halt. Madrid's 200 victims are 200 too many, a stagnant 1.1% and a four year constitution stalemate are as many signs of a blocked institution.

Europe is not the problem but instead the states composing it. Today more countries delegate their oversight on important issues, like terrorism,immigration, the environment or international trade to the European Union. The much talked about Federal Europe, backed by a constitutional charter democratically approved by European voters, is becoming reality.

Restructuring the Nation State

The "Europeanisation" of politics has to go hand in hand with regionalisation. Whether it be dispencing unemployment benefits or healthcare, a growing number of public services are managed by regions rather than states. How can Italian unemployment be tamed by a single centralized government considering the current economic disparity between its north and southern regions? How can one talk about a jobless Germany when the situations are so different in industrial Bavaria and post-communist East Germany? Therefore distributing development funds to regions over states, as instituted under former European Commissioner Michel Barnier, is a step in the right direction.

But it is far from enough. Europe must undergo a widespread restructuring process. The notion and idea of what is a modern, constitutional nation state has to change. But to be effective this evolution, has to first be explained and understood by Europeans.

Today nation states are too big to sustain a viable economic growth. One reason why the US federal system works is because its population lives across 50 states where average populations do not exceed six million inhabitants. On average, even when including little Luxembourg, EU's average population is 25 million strong.

The Adriatic Alps: macro-regions already exist

For future prosperity traditional nation states need to evolve into "macro-region." "Macro-regions" are territorial entities that are neither too big (like states) but large enough to effectively integrate the European dimension. Macro-regions already exist in Southern Italy, and the United Kingdom with Scotland or Wales.

Macro-regions dont have to limit themeselves to national borders. The Adriatic Alps, regrouping alpine regions spreading across Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Croatia or the Confederacy of the Rhine (Alsace, Bade-Wurtemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and some Swiss cantons) are examples of functioning international macro-regions. This cooperation would improve infrastructures and provide solutions to socio-economic problems that nation states are finding harder to resolve alone.

The rise of region does not signal the end of nation states. But today the status quo is intolerable and for an efficient, healthy Europe its institutional balance must be revolutionised.

This is a revised and updated version of 'Global Europe', an article by the same author published in 2001 on www.cafebabel.com