Andrea Manzella, small steps for Europe

Article published on April 11, 2006
community published
Article published on April 11, 2006

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

Despite the no to the Constitution, we should remember the irreversibility of the European project, argues the Italian Senator Manzella.

We met in Faenza, in front of the imposing edifice of the International Museum of Ceramics. Manzella had just finished filming a debate at the local television studio and seemed disconsolate. “It’s impossible to have a reasonable discussion today” he said. The reason for this is that Italy was feverishly preparing itself for the elections on the 9th and 10th April. These elections saw the centre-left coalition led by Romano Prodi (of which Manzella is a member) confront the ‘House of Freedom’ guided by the then Prime Minister Silvio - I am Jesus - Berlusconi.

Everywhere you go… Europe always knows…

Constitutionalist and Senator of the Italian Republic, Manzella has had a long relation with the European Union, having been a European deputy. He was also a member of the committee who worked out the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. “It was an experience of enormous importance” he remembers that it was “a meeting between two different judicial schools of thought; the British and the continental. This research was united by the belief that unity should emerge from diverse national identities. We made this an essential part of the European Constitution.” Unity in diversity is the motto of the EU. For Manzella this is both the strength of the European project and its weakness, for it brings with it a dangerous tendency towards homogeny.

A Europe that is more “British”

So where would Senator Manzella go if he was an ERASMUS student? “England, without a doubt” he explains. “Not only to practise the language but also in order to understand their mix of socialist and liberal politics.” He continues, “we should not forget the extraordinary response of the British public following the London bombings and the strength of their political integration. In practice it cannot possibly work, but the proposed model merits attention.” The British presidency of the Council did not go far enough, but Manzella values Prime Minster Tony Blair and his work. He remembers that “in the history of European integration, Great Britain is not the black sheep it has been made out to be.”

Jean Monnet holds us together

I asked the Senator what he thought about the crisis in Europe following the failure to ratify the Constitution. Citing Jean Monnet, who believed in “politics in small stages” as an example, he said that “when Europe seems closed to integration we can continue to construct Europe in other areas through concrete practices.” He suggests that despite small setbacks, we must bear in mind the historical inevitability of the EU, which we can see in all the irreversible decisions that we take. In the development of European Union Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust), we can see the beginnings of a strong mutual trust within the community.

The ‘No’ vote has given the project some time for reflection. He is not convinced by the European Commission’s “Plan D” – the attempt to communicate better with the European public in an effort to get them to change their minds. “They spend all this money on these propaganda initiatives, but what results do they produce? It is no use posting up a million manifestos to try and resolve the problem.” It is only communication at the local level which can improve things: ERASMUS, for example. “When people and ideas move, Europe is improved.”