“The Europe of the “Bratislava Declaration” is not #ourEurope”

The Bratislava Declaration, written by the heads of States and Governments of 27 EU Member States, aims to “diagnose […] the present state of the European Union and discuss our common future”. Interested in precisely those questions, JEF Europe, after reading and analysing the six-pager, clearly states that the Europe the declaration outlines is not #ourEurope. In reasoning why it does not fulfill the standards we have set out for our future in Europe, this piece will rely heavily on one principle the declaration sets out: “[u]se clear and honest language”.

What is the Bratislava Declaration:

A paper written by all Member States except for the United Kingdom to outline an approach to create a common vision. Sounds difficult? It won’t get better.

It is not #ourEurope, because:

  • it is not a Europe that serves pan-European interests.

    • Shaped by its authors, the Europe of the Bratislava Declaration is intergovernmental. The European Parliament, as the voice of the European people, is not mentioned once. Ironically enough, the paper writes that it wants to take into account the citizens more;
    • #ourEurope has a strong European Parliament: the parliamentarians will then have a mandate not only to change legislative proposals, as today, but also to introduce them;

  • it is imprecise;

  • the language it uses is inhumane:

    • granted, we appreciate the use of “we” and “our” in the paper; however, the way it refers to refugees is shocking. In fact, the word refugee has not been used,“illegal migration” is key here. Instead of setting out a vision in which decreasing the number of refugees dying in the Mediterranean / during their journey to zero, the paper sets out to “never […] allow return to uncontrolled flows of last year and further bring down [the] number of irregular migrants” and sticks to the EU-Turkey agreement (which is called “statement” in the declaration). No ‘innovative’ ideas such as improved legal ways into the Union, an asylum redistribution scheme, a single agency for asylum seeker identification, a common European border force, overcoming the Dublin regulations or a single foreign policy are mentioned. Instead, empty, imprecise words (“commitment today by a number of Member States”, “support to frontline States”) that will stay only on paper without a clear strategy;
    • #ourEurope is shaped by a generation who know their  history, wondering how our (great)grandparents’ generations survived or lived during the years of fascist or communist rule. We’re afraid of becoming the next generation with an own shameful chapter in a history book; 

  • it is not thinking of the future and is not innovative:

    • while identifying a real problem, such as the management of our external borders, no visions for European policies are mentioned;
    • there is no mention of a common army;
    • there are no traces of a proper EU budget dedicated to fund youth unemployment policies;

  • it does not consider civil society:

    • the Member States “committed in Bratislava to offer to our citizens in the upcoming months a vision of an attractive EU they can trust and support”; 
    • We, as representatives of the civil society, would gladly help the Member States’ governments  in defining how an “attractive and trustworthy EU” would look like in our eyes;

  • it does not address the democratic deficit in the European Union:

    • the European Union consists of a Parliament, which - although having become stronger over the years - is still not on an equal footing with the European Council, most notably lacking the status of a co-legislator on foreign affairs. Too often, major European problems are not discussed within the framework of the Treaties at all but ad-hoc between Member States’ governments only, cutting out the European Parliament as the institution representing pan-European interests.  It also still lacks the  right of legislative initiative which sits purely with the European Commission. The sessions of the European Parliament are livestreamed, the ones of the European Council are not;
    • many of the Treaties created during the first years of the economic crisis consist outside of the EU treaties. When the Eurozone group meets, for instance, no agenda, no minutes, no livestreams are published; 
    • the Declaration only spells out that communication “with each other - among Member States, with EU institutions, but most importantly with our citizens” needs to be improved. “We should inject more clarity into our decisions”, the paper continues;
    • but is it truly lack of clarity in decisions? We argue it’s more a lack of clarity in the process of how decisions are taken. Not every citizen is aware that Member States, whose representatives often claim that “Brussels decided something”, are actually part of the legislative process.
    • Most importantly, the problem is that the decisions taken by the national governments in this declaration are inadequate to the problems and lack democratic and moral substance.

The Europe that national governments have vaguely drawn up in the Bratislava Declaration, published on 16 September, is therefore intergovernmental, not addressing key issues for Europe and is not innovative.

It’s not #ourEurope.

Dear Member States, dear Heads of States of EU27, listen up. We have got some ideas for you.

We’ll see each other the latest in Rome, during the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. Alongside other federalist and pro-European organisations, JEF-Europe will be present at the rally for our ideas and values. 

Download the statement about #ourEurope