French think tank report proposes ways to make EU more democratic


The European Commission president should be elected and EU states’ VAT should be “centralised at the federal level”, according to a report launched in Dublin yesterday.

The proposals by a Paris-based think tank, aimed at making the EU more democratic, also include introducing a new European tax, cutting back the use of Strasbourg and Luxembourg for EU business and making “Europe Day” a national holiday in member states.

In a preface to the report by the Centre d’Étude et de Prospective Stratégique, former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland argues that the failure of the European project, “which cannot now be totally discounted as a possibility”, would leave the continent with “terrible internal tensions”.

He writes that the debate on the future of the EU is centred solely on “fire-fighting” and seen “through the distorting prism” of the current debt crisis.

To remedy the EU’s “democratic deficit”, the think tank says the president of the European Commission should be elected by members of the European Parliament. The commission itself should include only MEPs.

Mandatory voting

On European elections, the report suggests addressing low turnout rates by introducing mandatory voting and putting an end to elections by list, a system used by a number of states.

The parliament itself should become a “full-fledged player” with the right to initiate laws – currently the preserve of the commission – and implement a “European tax” to fund the union’s activities.

The report stops short of calling for a common European corporate tax rate – an idea cherished by France but resisted by Ireland – but suggests VAT should be “centralised at the federal level” in order to put an end to fraud and inefficiency.

It refers to the proposal as “a political taboo if ever there was one”, but argues it would not amount to money transfers from rich to poor states, nor herald the creation of a federal state.

The report advocates the creation of a “federal treasury”, however. It says a currency can work only if linked to a single treasury and a central bank, which “must assist the [treasury] by purchasing part of the debt” it issues.

On the EU’s relations with the rest of the world, the report calls for a major strengthening of the bloc’s common diplomatic identity and speeding up of moves of create European, multistate embassies around the world.

The think tank’s report, Let’s Get Europe Moving, was launched by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn at an event in Dublin last night.