The Multilateralist

European official demands more supranationalism

The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, delivered his State of the Union speech to the European Parliament today. It featured a full-throated call to move beyond intergovernmental negotiations and to vest more power in the suprnational elements of the EU, notably the Commission itself: It was an illusion to think that we ...

The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, delivered his State of the Union speech to the European Parliament today. It featured a full-throated call to move beyond intergovernmental negotiations and to vest more power in the suprnational elements of the EU, notably the Commission itself:

It was an illusion to think that we could have a common currency and a single market with national approaches to economic and budgetary policy. Let’s avoid another illusion that we can have a common currency and a single market with an intergovernmental approach.

For the euro area to be credible – and this not only the message of the federalists, this is the message of the markets – we need a truly Community approach. We need to really integrate the euro area, we need to complete the monetary union with real economic union. And this truly Community approach can be built how? In the coming weeks, the Commission will…present a proposal for a single, coherent framework to deepen economic coordination and integration, particularly in the euro area. This will be done in a way that ensures the compatibility between the euro area and the Union as a whole….

For all of this to work, we need more than ever the independent authority of the Commission, to propose and assess the actions that the Member States should take. Governments, let’s be frank, cannot do this by themselves. Nor can this be done by negotiations between governments.

Indeed, within the Community competences, the Commission is the economic government of the Union, we certainly do not need more institutions for this.

For a reason the Treaties have created supra-national institutions. For a reason the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice were created. The Commission is the guarantor of fairness. Moreover, the Commission, which naturally works in partnership with the Member States, is voted by and accountable to this House. The directly elected Parliament both of the euro area and of the European Union as a whole.

As Leigh Phillips explains here, Barroso was referencing the long-running policy and academic debate between those who see the European Union primarily as a vehicle for intergovernmental bargaining and those who see it as a fundamentally supranational project. It’s not surprising that Barroso ends up on the supranational side of that debate. But his blunt contention that national governments are, on their own, incapable of navigating out of the current crisis is remarkable.

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