The spectre of federalism looms over Europe. Is this the end of sovereign nations?

“The question which must first be resolved … is that of the abolition of the division of Europe into national, sovereign states.” This is the passage from the 1941 Ventotene Manifesto cited today by MEPs seeking changes to the EU Treaties. And it is likely that the 'problem' of nation states will soon be solved.

On the 9th of June in the year 2022, the European Parliament, exercising its vested authority, initiated a monumental procedure aimed at amending the intricate web of European treaties. Fast forward to the 12th of October 2023, a crucial moment just before the Polish elections, when the Parliament's Constitutional Committee was poised to deliberate and cast their votes on a comprehensive report. This report, a weighty document containing proposed amendments to well over a hundred articles within the existing EU legislation, loomed with anticipation. However, a sudden and rather intriguing turn of events emerged, potentially indicative of a strategic move to sidestep potential discord in the public sphere of Poland. As a result, the vote was unexpectedly postponed, shifting the decision-making process to the 25th of October.

The potential ramifications of the proposed treaty amendments carry profound implications, signifying a seismic overhaul of the political landscape within the Union. Envision a transformation that portends a seismic shift of power from the individual capitals of EU member countries to the heart of Europe, Brussels. This transformation involves decisions being shaped and solidified by majority votes, a departure from the previous modality requiring unanimous consent among national leaders and increasingly involving the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). This centralised approach is in sync with the adoption of gender ideology, poised to become a binding mandate enforced through severe penalties against both states and individual citizens. This orchestration is intended to be executed through the formidable avenues of the European public prosecutor's office and Europol. It's of paramount importance to note that the impetus behind these significant alterations finds its roots in the Ventotene Manifesto, a guiding beacon referenced in the preamble.

The Ventotene Manifesto, a brainchild not solely attributed to Altiero Spinelli but certainly inclusive of his visionary contributions, emanated from an Italian activist whose political footprint traversed a multitude of roles. Spinelli's narrative encompasses a stint on the European Commission, overseeing industry during the 1970s, and later marking his presence as an independent candidate in the European Parliament, having been ousted from the Italian Communists back in 1937 due to his unwavering support for Trotskyism.

Delving deeper into the nuanced political canvas that Spinelli painted, the President of the Union of European Federalists, a stalwart advocate for the transference of nation-state sovereignty to the EU, offered illuminating insights into Spinelli's multifaceted persona. According to Spanish MEP Domènec Ruiz Devesa, Spinelli's criticisms were aimed not only at Stalin but also at the constrictions on political freedoms within the Communist Party. This sheds light on Spinelli being perceived as a federalist, a foundational figure in the tapestry of the European Union. However, the nuances of Spinelli's disassociation from communism reveal a more complex reality; despite his opposition to the Soviet system as articulated in the Ventotene Manifesto, he retained a lingering allegiance to certain aspects. Spinelli ardently believed that the remedy he proposed against fascism and the malevolence riddling the world would prove more efficacious than the strategies embraced by the authorities in Moscow.

Spinelli's avant-garde perspectives clashed vehemently with the pro-Soviet hardliners among Western Communists, individuals who often turned a blind eye to the atrocities and malevolence inherent in Stalinism. Yet, during the tumultuous 1980s, as Eastern Europe fervently endeavored to break free from the chains of Soviet influence, Spinelli paradoxically found himself embedded in the Communist and Allies Group within the European Parliament.

Amidst the passages of the Ventotene Manifesto, Spinelli meticulously weaves a narrative that tethers him away from the sphere of communism while still remaining connected to the revolutionary spirit and its underlying tenets. His advocacy centres on a nuanced approach to private property, advocating its abolition, limitation, correction, or extension contingent upon the individual context rather than adhering dogmatically to entrenched principles. Spinelli deftly harnesses the concepts of class struggle and the proletariat, foretelling an impending clash with the 'forces of reaction' poised to obstruct the establishment of a united European state by leveraging the restoration of nation-states and appealing to the sentiment of patriotism – a sentiment recently trampled on and easily surrendered to reactionary aims.

The European Union's homage to the architect of the Ventotene Manifesto, Altiero Spinelli, is profoundly evident in the prominent display of his name at the entrance of a significant EU edifice nestled in the heart of Brussels. An august moment in August 2016, where the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the French President François Hollande orchestrated a solemn tribute. This tribute saw them lay flowers, adorned with the colours of the European Union, on Altiero Spinelli's grave on the Italian island of Ventotene. This symbolic gesture was a poignant tribute to Spinelli, a man interned on the island during the era of Mussolini's regime due to his steadfast commitment to communist ideals.

Moreover, the revered Spinelli Group within the parliamentary corridors boasts an eclectic mix of members hailing from diverse political factions. Notable figures such as Radosław Sikorski and Danuta Hübner from Poland prominently feature within the group's roster. This distinguished group proudly showcases the inclusion of all five rapporteurs entrusted with the arduous task of proposing 267 amendments to the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Central to these sweeping changes is the revolutionary notion of scrapping the principle of unanimity and, in tandem, the formidable right of veto in the decision-making corridors of the European Council. This radical reform seeks to alter the foundational principle of the EU system, an edifice already slightly weakened by the 2007 Lisbon Treaty. This recalibration endeavors to pivot from the erstwhile “nothing about us without us: principle to a startling “everything about us without us” paradigm shift.

At present, the epicentre of the political compass of the European Union is essentially charted by the European Council, a confluence of Heads of State or Government. Decisions on myriad issues necessitate unanimous consent, essentially conferring each country with the coveted veto right – a privilege many hold dear.

The power of the veto was invoked with notable consequence by Hungary, staunchly opposing sanctions on Russia. Similarly, Belgium, driven by its lucrative diamond trade with Russia, stood as a formidable roadblock against the imposition of sanctions. Consequently, the trade of precious stones in Antwerp continued unabated, funneling resources into Putin's regime, illustrating how the interests of a singular nation can imperiously overshadow the collective concerns of all others. The moral impetus to eliminate the veto from European law gains ground in the backdrop of efforts to counter Russia's aggressive incursions into Ukraine. Advocates of reform resoundingly champion an amplified authority, not just to confront future pandemics but also to combat terrorism and navigate the intricate channels of migration.

The imminent abolition of the veto right holds the ominous spectre of rendering Polish politicians bereft of the crucial ability to oppose mechanisms dictating forced relocations. Furthermore, Poland wielded the mantle of unanimity as a formidable shield, staunchly opposing attempts to curtail freedom of expression.

The European Union, confronted by these objections, is actively pursuing strategies to circumvent these hurdles by proposing a comprehensive overhaul of the treaties. This strategic overhaul aims to obviate the necessity for such circumvention maneuvres.

The notion of the veto right stands as a bulwark protecting the interests not just of powerful nations but also of the most diminutive states, thereby averting the emergence of international conflicts that stem from one country's domineering will imposing itself upon others. Yet, the Spinelli Group proffers an alternate viewpoint, championing a paradigm shift that would bestow dominant majorities with the authority to govern across all states within the Union. Altiero Spinelli's visionary ideals stand as the guiding beacon behind this movement. His firm belief was that the ultimate eradication of international conflicts could only materialise by dismantling the prevailing institutions of nation-states, unifying Europe into a singular superstate. In his perceptive vision, this unification would be the harbinger of peace, akin to the tranquil era that enveloped the Italian peninsula following its unification.
Building dedicated to Alberto Spinelli at the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo: Laurent Dubrule / Reuters / Forum
Henceforth, crucial decisions concerning any significant issue will be subject to a qualified majority vote in the European Council. This implies that the endorsement from 55 percent of the Member States, representing no less than 65 percent of the EU population, will suffice to enact nearly any legislation.

In practical terms, the leadership of the longstanding Union will possess the authority to enforce their policies upon Eastern Europe. To put it succinctly, this will lead to a transformation in Poland’s reality, influenced by politicians who Poles cannot alter through the ballot box. Curiously, the proponents of such groundbreaking treaty modifications believe that this approach will be more democratic.

  Once the unanimity principle is eventually expunged from the European treaties, it will indeed be plausible to elect a party that either opposes Brussels' policies or aligns harmoniously with the European mainstream. However, the consequence will be inconsequential. The authority currently vested in the governments of the 27 European Union nations will vanish. Instead, what will remain is akin to local administrative bodies in Europe's capitals, with the seat of state governance centralised in Brussels.

This comprehensive reform of the EU treaties fundamentally aims at the marginalisation of nations where disagreeable politicians ascend to power. Political parties espousing views divergent from the mainstream will become a sort of local European political anecdote, lacking any substantive influence on the political landscape.

The proponents spearheading the overhaul of the treaties seek a radical expansion of the European Union's powers. Presently, the Union exclusively manages areas such as customs, the internal market, trade policy, the eurozone, and fisheries. However, common sector – domains where the Union holds a decisive but non-exclusive stance – encompass 16 spheres of influence. Foreseeably, this number is slated to undergo a significant augmentation.

The European Union's prohibition on Baltic cod fishing has had a detrimental impact on Polish fishermen. Despite the efforts of the Polish government to lift these restrictions and introduce alternative methods to protect the species, all attempts have been futile. Poles find themselves without a say in the matter of fish due to its enshrinement in the Treaties, to which Poland has previously assented. The proposed changes in the treaties are poised to compel Poles to relinquish not only their authority over cod fishing but also their influence over climate protection, environmental policies, and biodiversity.

At present, the European Union holds sway in areas such as transport, trade, the environment, energy, space, technological advancement, and the domain of 'freedom, security, and justice'. Advocated by the Spinelli Group, a proposal seeks to bolster the Union's influence in critical sectors including health, particularly addressing cross-border threats like epidemics, civil defense, industrial matters, education, and qualifications. Additionally, the suggested future competencies aim to encompass energy, taxation, international relations, security, border protection (including military aspects), the judicial system, and cross-border infrastructure.

An amendment, specifically number 12, endeavors to grant the authority to withhold all funds from the EU budget for non-compliant countries, thereby including cohesion funds utilised for investments and agricultural subsidies.

Presently, the European Union is withholding funds earmarked for the National Reconstruction Plan in Poland and other countries. These are additional funds, originating from sources external to the EU budget (common debt). However, there are mixed sentiments about the transfer of funds from the traditional EU budget to countries like Poland and Hungary.

The EU funds constitute a significant share, accounting for over one-sixth of the annual state budget, exceeding PLN 100 billion, excluding contributions (approximately PLN 30 billion). The proposed alterations seek to allow the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to arbitrate on treaty violations, potentially making it easier to block these funds in the future.

Currently, only a unanimous decision by the European Council is required to hold a Member State accountable. However, proposed changes aim to enable a qualified majority to tighten financial control over societies electing authorities contrary to the EU's objectives.

MEPs are pushing for the right to litigate against governments before the CJEU. This would allow MEPs from other countries to scrutinise the actions of governments in nations like Poland, presumably based on translated publications, given the language barrier.

Incidentally, a case pending in the European Parliament's Constitutional Committee is addressing the supremacy of European law over national legislation. These changes could render Polish laws ineffective if they clash with the visions of MEPs, especially concerning family protection and gender issues.

Currently, unanimous government action can address eliminating discrimination between genders, based on biological sex. However, amendment number 100 seeks to replace the term 'sex' with 'gender' and eliminate the unanimity requirement in various instances, while empowering MEPs to combat gender-based discrimination.

The reformists aim to replace the concept of gender equality in the EU treaties, shifting from equality between the two sexes to encompass equality across all genders, although this remains vaguely defined.

Registration to visit the European Parliament already allows identification as female, male, 'other', or opting not to specify gender. Envisioned treaty changes could standardise similar options in Polish educational institutions, services, offices, and businesses.

An amendment to Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union involves the incorporation of 'gender equality' among the Union's values, alongside democracy and the rule of law. European politicians critical of certain governments cite violations of this article, and the institutional empowerment might usher in genderism as a binding tenet across countries, irrespective of public opinion or the nature of national governance. This transcends mere tolerance and significantly impacts societal norms and governance.

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Amendment 5 underscores the proactive promotion of gender equality rather than mere tolerance. Amendment 21 asserts that EU institutions must ensure employment opportunities for individuals not confined by traditional gender identifications, ensuring both legal protection and participation in governing EU states for a broad spectrum of gender identifications.

Furthermore, there's a directive (amendments 152, 158-161) to consider gender inclusivity in recruitment across all working environments, including private companies and services.

Amendment 97 introduces a novel facet to European Union activities by not only addressing gender-based discrimination but also extending protection against discrimination on political views. This marks a significant shift, protecting not only individuals with non-conforming gender identities but also shielding diverse political perspectives. However, the implementation might favor protecting left-wing views, potentially overlooking safeguarding dissenting opinions regarding gender ideology.

The amendments regarding Europol (No 22) have sparked considerable attention. While some MEPs advocate for an EU equivalent to the FBI, a peculiar facet emerges wherein Europol is mandated to combat gender-based violence, extending its scope beyond counterterrorism and organised crime to include unspecified gender-related offenses. The concern here lies in the potential classification of political dissent against gender activism as 'hate speech,' which could be encompassed within the ambit of 'violence.' However, much will hinge on specific cases and the interpretation of laws by enforcement agencies. Notably, it will also become mandatory for Europol to hire representatives from the LGBT community.

Crucially, other amendments grant Europol the authority to conduct operations and make arrests within any European country without the requisite consent from local authorities, a significant divergence from the current requirement. Simultaneously, there's a call for bolstering the European Public Prosecutor's office, empowering a Europol officer, bearing an EU-wide mandate, to apprehend any citizen without the need for local government consent, establishing Europol as a supra-national institution. Amendment 5 indicates that gender equality is to be promoted, not tolerated. Amendment 21 states that the EU institutions must guarantee employment to persons whose identification does not fall within the gender divide, which in turn guarantees not only legal protection, but also participation in the governance of EU states to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, non-binary, genderless, agender and “two-spirit” persons…

The order to take the gender key into account during recruitment will also apply in any working environment, i.e. in private companies and in the services (amendments 152, 158-161).

Puzzling is amendment number 97, which states that all European Union activities are to combat not only discrimination against any gender, but also discrimination against political views, which has not been the case so far. This could be seen as an inconsistency when political views contrary to gender ideology would be protected. Arguably, however, the idea is to protect no longer only people who identify differently than biology indicates, but also any left-wing views. It is unlikely that the genderist-controlled Court of Justice of the European Union (see Amendment 21) would care about discriminating against, for example, right-wing views.

Among the most bizarre amendments are those concerning the European police force, Europol (No 22). MEP Domènec Ruiz Devesa, who has already been quoted, said that the EU needs something like the FBI. Only, according to amendment 121, Europol will be in charge of combating ... gender-based violence.

Today, Europol prosecutes terrorists and international criminal groups involved in the trafficking of human beings, arms and drugs, the sexual exploitation of women and children and money laundering. Unspecified gender-based violence has just been added to this list.

Political views that are at odds with gender ideology may be considered 'hate speech' and subsumed under the concept of violence. Certainly, much will depend on the specific case or the interpretation of the law by specific officers. It is worth recalling here that it will also be mandatory for Europol to employ representatives of the gender community.

Key, however, are further amendments that allow Europol to conduct an operation (and thus also arrests) on the territory of any European country without the consent (today required) of the local police and government. The strengthening of the office of the European Public Prosecutor is also called for. In other words, an officer from any country wearing a Europol uniform, without the consent of the national police, will be able to arrest a citizen of any country, and the local government will not be able to do anything, because Europol will be an overarching institution.

Common EU-wide standards on the rule of law and democracy are anticipated to be incorporated into the educational curricula of schools and universities. In the context of the other amendments promoting gender inclusivity, it's expected that this ideology will predominantly influence the realm of education.

Despite claims that the proposed changes entail the establishment of a European state, Domènec Ruiz Devesa refutes this, attributing Poland's resistance to federalisation to a lack of comprehension regarding the founding principles and purpose of the European Union. The President of the Union of European Federalists firmly believes that the essence of community membership lies in the shared sovereignty.

Referring back to the Ventotene Manifesto, a driving force behind the ongoing EU law reform, the manifesto emphasises the necessity to establish conditions conducive to a life of liberty and freedom within a revolutionary regime. It concludes optimistically, urging the pursuit of the challenging yet necessary path toward a better future.

At the end of this text, I have added links to the Ventotene Manifesto and the report detailing amendments to the EU Treaties are provided, encouraging individuals to form their independent opinions. The report was voted on in the European Parliament's Constitutional Committee on the 25th of October 2023, signifying an advancing procedure to amend the treaties. The potential outcome of this legislative journey could result in a new European Union, presenting benefits to some while being detrimental to others.

Although the legislative procedure to amend the treaties might encounter various hurdles, the finalisation of this process could pave the way for the establishment of a European superstate. Notably, a similar endeavor to reform the European Union in the early 21st century was rejected by the French in a referendum. However, changes in legislation seem to be orchestrated to bypass any future referendums concerning such matters.

It is speculated that the revolutionary vision inspired by Altiero Spinelli might encounter resistance, potentially from within the Left, recognizing the shifting sentiments in Europe and the upcoming Euro-elections that could potentially see right-wing politicians gaining prominence in Brussels. This change might transform the Europe of gender equality aspirations into a nightmarish scenario for the Left. The identity gracing the entrance to the European Parliament might no longer be that of Altiero Spinelli but could potentially represent contrasting ideologies, signifying a paradigm shift in the European political landscape.

Common EU-wide standards on the rule of law and democracy will appear in schools and universities. In the context of the other amendments on the protection and promotion of genderism, there is no doubt that this will also be the prevailing ideology in the field of education.

There are claims that the planned changes mean the creation of a European state. Domènec Ruiz Devesa denies this, but in his view, the Poles' reluctance to federalise stems from a lack of knowledge of what the European Union is and why it was founded. The president of the Union of European Federalists is convinced that the point of membership of the community is to share sovereignty.

Let us return to the source – the Ventotene Manifesto, which inspired the reform of EU law under discussion:

“There are no grounds for fearing that a similar revolutionary regime will develop into renewed despotism. This may develop if a servile society has been formed. But if the revolutionary party continues with determination from its very first action to create the conditions necessary for individual freedom, conditions under which all citizens can really participate in the life of the state, it will evolve towards increasing comprehension of the new order, even though moving through eventual and secondary political crises, and acceptance of it by the population. It will be growing, therefore, in the direction of increasing possibility of functioning, and of free political institutions.”

The manifesto concludes with the words: "The road to pursue is neither easy nor certain. But it must be followed and it will be!"

At the end of this text, I include links to the Ventotene Manifesto and to the report with the amendments to the EU Treaties, so that everyone can form their own opinion. On the 25 of October 2023, the report was voted in the European Parliament's Constitutional Committee, which means that the procedure to amend the treaties is gaining momentum. At the end of the legislative path is a new European Union, better for some, worse for others.

At present, the legislative procedure to amend the treaties may be stalled at various stages, but if it comes to an end, nothing will stop the process of creating a superstate. In the first decade of the 21st century, a similar attempt to reform the European Union was rejected by the French in a referendum. Conservative Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, however, noted in an interview that the law had been changed so as not to trouble the French any more about taking part in a referendum.

Maybe the Altiero Spinelli-inspired revolution will be stopped by the Left itself, when it realises that the changing mood in Europe (and the upcoming Euro-elections) may lead to a situation in which right-wing rather than left-wing politicians will be the players in Brussels in the future.

For in this new arrangement, the Europe of increased gender rights could turn into their nightmare, and the name above the entrance to the European Parliament might not be Altiero Spinelli, but, say, Gilbert Chesterton, or, horror of horrors, the cross…

– Arkadiusz Jarzecki

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Roberto Galea

Main photo: Illumination of Rome's Trevi fountain to mark the centenary of Altiero Spinelli's birth on the 31th of August 2007. Photo: EPA/CLAUDIO PERI: PAP/EPA/Wikimedia
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