Miloš Zeman said in an interview with the weekly Ekonom a few days ago that he is a “Eurofederalist”. The author of this column must say proudly that he is a Eurofederalist as well; this is what the two of us have in common.
But – what is Eurofederalism? Here in Europe, we are unable to reach an agreement even on the definition of the word, or rather have different explanations.
For example in the United Kingdom they interpret the term federalism as decentralisation. Federalism in Britain means that parliaments in Scotland or Wales were given more powers at the expense of the London-based government.
This is what we also know from Czechoslovakia. Federalism was that Slovakia had greater autonomy after 1968. Like in Britain, federalism brings certain asymmetric advantages for the smaller partners: There was a Slovak academy of sciences, but not a Czech one, just Czechoslovak one. There was the Communist Party of Slovakia, but no Czech Communist Party. Similarly, there is no specific English parliament, but there are Welsh and Scottish parliaments.
But that was a digression. Does federalism mean centralisation? To a certain extent yes, but at the same time federalism reinforces internal competition. The idea of internal competition, not the idea of centralism, is one of the pillars of the idea of federalism. At the same time, however, federalism is based on totally non-democratic safeguards, checks and balances that protect the small ones against the dictatorship of the big ones (the majority).
Let’s take the United States as an example. The tiny state of Delaware or the desert and uninhabited Montana have two Senators, the same as California with population of 80 million.
Individual US states have plenty of rules determined at the level of individual states (important are many types of taxes, but also as fundamental things like voting right).
So now back to how I imagine the European federation – we can call it “Eurofederation by Macháček”.
The only purely European federal institution is the European Central Bank. And it can continue operating in its original shape. Another key step would be the formation of the upper house of the European Parliament whose powers would be as strong as those of the US Senate. Each country would elect two representatives. The second variant is for each country to appoint two representatives to the upper house (inspiration in the German Bundesrat).
The lower house of the European Parliament will strengthen, and election results will lead to the appointment of the European government. The number of lower house members will be derived democratically from the population of individual countries. Foreigners will be able to stand for election too, providing they have domicile in their election district. The head of the European federation will rotate like it does in the Swiss confederation.
Fractions and coalitions of Christian democrats, liberals or socialists will change at the helm of the European government (commission) based on election results (that of course will not be written in the constitution).
So. Everyone probably understands that it would be a “long-distance run”. However, it is undignified to give up ideals just because it would take a long time to implement them.