Press release: European civil society organisations call for radical strengthening of the EU after the COVID-19 crisis, on the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration

Brussels, May 9th, 2020

Today, 9th of May 2020, is the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, a moment that marked the beginning of European integration spiritually and politically. It is not a matter of looking at the past: on 9 May 1950, by proposing to pool the production of coal and steel among European countries, Schuman took the bold and courageous step to propose the ‘first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace’. Today Europe needs the same type of leadership, courage and political innovation “Do our present European leaders remember the deep roots of the European project, when every European summit is a bitter pursuit of short-term, selfish national interest?”, asks Sandro Gozi, President of the Union of European Federalists. “Can they raise above their daily political concerns, break taboos, transform European politics and come up with a radical and far sighted plan for the future of the EU? What is at stake today is no less than the future of Europe as a political project”

The Union of European Federalists and the Young European Federalists, along with 21 European civil society organisations, have launched today an appeal to European decision-makers, at all levels of government, for 10 concrete steps – in the short- and medium-term – for exiting the COVID-19 crisis as a united and prosperous Europe. The appeal proposes a range of measures: from providing a European guarantee for basic public health standards; to restoring the full functioning of the Single Market and the Schengen area, and adopt an ambitious long-term EU budget, to engineer Europe’s recovery through real European resources and on a socially and environmentally sustainable path; as well as the need to relaunch the Conference on the Future of Europe, the instrument to establish a new pact between European citizens and governments at all levels, through a mandate for a European Constitution.

“The vision of the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the EU seems to have been lost, crisis after crisis. Sometimes, the attempts at wearing it down have come from geopolitical competitors, who loathe the EU model based on democracy and the rule of law. Sometimes, like in the case of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are blindsided by a health crisis we couldn’t predict, but that we could have prevented, if we had shown more care to our environment. And yet the more it’s hit, the more Europe shows its strength. But as it was once said, ‘peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it’. Today, that creative effort requires the caterpillar that the EU is today to break free from the chrysalis of intergovernmentalism, and evolve into a real political union, a butterfly able to fly without shackles”, concludes Leonie Martin, President of the Young European Federalists.

Civil Society Appeal on the Future of Europe after COVID-19

Europeans are facing the most severe crisis since the Second World War. The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically affected Europe and the wellbeing of its citizens. Lacking a European Government with adequate European instruments, however, national governments have been left to protect their own citizens and interests as well as they could, and so many have been overwhelmed. With every Government for itself, the COVID-19 crisis has shown – if there was ever a need – that reliance on mere international cooperation for crisis management makes our response less effective, less cohesive, less targeted. We must act as one Europe, we must act as one World.

As civil society activists, on the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, we therefore propose the following ten measures, both urgent and with long-term effect, to exit the COVID-19 crisis in unity, peace, and good health: 

    1. Europe must ensure a more effective and coordinated response to the COVID-19 threat: the European Commission should be able to issue rules applicable across the EU on a coordinated approach to lifting the containment measures.
    2. The Union should abide by its own obligations to ensure a high level of Human health protection to all EU citizens and people living in the EU: the EU should be entrusted with real competences in the field of public health, public health should be a shared competence between the EU and its Member States.
    3. The COVID-19 virus won’t really be defeated until there is a vaccine, or at least a cure to counter its most severe effects: a European research consortium should be set up to work towards a vaccine or a cure, together with other teams in the world.
    4. Ensure the unity of the European Union, its Single Market and the functioning of the Schengen Area: all decisions to reintroduce internal border restrictions between Schengen countries must be reversed as soon as possible. The virus knows no borders. The smooth functioning of services, such as food provision and health care, are all the more essential at this moment.
    5. Extraordinary and coordinated fiscal measures to mitigate the most immediate socio-economic effects of the current crisis: enlarging the scope of the European Stability Mechanism to finance – without undue macroeconomic conditionality – the immediate strengthening of European health systems, mobilising European temporary support to national unemployment systems, extraordinary support to European companies through the European Investment Bank.
    6. The recovery effort must be commensurate to the severity of the economic slump, all the while seizing the opportunity for a transition to a sustainable and carbon-neutral Europe: the Council should immediately approve a Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027 of sufficient size, financed through genuine own resources and European Recovery Bonds.
    7. Safeguarding Democracy and the Rule of Law in times of emergency: introduce a  European Review Mechanism on Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights and revise the Art. 7 procedure. The next Multiannual Financial Framework should introduce the principle of conditionality to suspend EU funds when a Member State violates the rule of law and fundamental principles of the EU.
    8. Europe needs the tools to step up and become a valuable global player providing a model to govern sustainable globalisation: adopt a new coherent agenda for human security and sustainable globalisation adopt a common asylum and migration policy as well as ensure overcoming the emergency living conditions of refugee camps.
    9. European public goods should be financed by genuine European resources: The EU should be able to raise and spend its own fiscal resources, including the power to issue genuine European debt on the market – or Eurobonds.
    10. The planned Conference on the future of Europe should deliver a political mandate to draft a European Constitution.
The appeal has been signed by following organisations:
  • Young European Federalists
  • Union of European Federalists
  • Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori CISL
  • Conferation of Labour Unions
  • DYPALL network
  • European Movement Italy
  • Europese Beweging in België (European Movement)
  • For Citizens – European Institute for Active Citizenship
  • Foundation for European Progressive Studies
  • FutureDem
  • Garage Erasmus Foundation
  • Health Citizens – European Institute for Health Promotion
  • IM Cultural Institute
  • Italian Youth Council (former Italian Youth Forum)
  • Jeunes MR
  • La Nuova Europa
  • Millennials
  • OBESSU – Organising Bureau of European School Students Union
  • Pulse of Europe Czech Republic
  • StudiCentro – Unione Studentesca Europea
  • The Good Lobby
  • Young Educators – European Association
  • Center for United Nations Constitutional Research

About JEF Europe

The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO active with 13.000 members active in more than 30 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation.

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JEF Europe
European Secretariat
+32 2 512 00 53