What will turn the EU into one superstate? The common currency, debt, and taxes

The highway to complete centralisation of all areas of life in the EU will be opened by intensified democracy and prosperity. This means consent for the EU single currency, permission for its bodies to incur debt, and the Parliament's ability to impose taxes freely, from which the debt will be repaid. Expanding competencies of the European Commission in other areas could be abandoned without harming federalisation plans.

On the main European Parliament’s website is a photo of a group of young people with the words "Together for Democracy" signed underneath. When you move the cursor over the picture, the details become blurred: the characters lose their individuality, facial features disappear, and it isn't easy to distinguish a man from a woman, to see the skin tone, beard, smile and type of facial expression. The blurring technique is common on many Internet platforms, and it was probably used thoughtlessly here as well because that's how it's usually done. The photograph does not present any specific group of people but models hired to create stock photos intended for companies that want to show their world-friendly faces and illustrate their activities. Everything complies with the principles of creating websites. It's nothing personal, just pure communication.

Mind you, above all things, the European parliamentarism is a communication project. Woe to anyone who wants to find a specific provision or check who voted for it. Anyone curious will get bogged down in a maze of links, signatures, quotations, and tons of information covering everything except for the things one is looking for. Eventually, this individual will find the file in demand. Still, one will have to wade through references to distant paragraphs, various "whereas" and "while", get used to the reluctance to use explicit terms, and finally - and after a very long time - the researcher may get to the point, or to what only seems to be the essence of the inquiry. Our curious individual will then learn an important lesson: either the person will seriously engage in training about how to navigate the ocean of words and numbers or will need to give up the independence. Only then will it be possible to receive the adequate, righteously optimistic, non-controversial image of the community that is willing to build the future, friendly to disabled people, minorities, immigrants, women... basically everybody, except the enemies of democracy. All without the necessity to sharpen the vision of anything that could distort the intended perception. Just an image confusingly similar to the one you could see on the main website, transformed by the touch of the cursor into a smooth and harmonious wholeness. The entire concept is democratic, of course.

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For the majority of people, democracy is associated with something positive. The worst thing is to earn the reputation of the anti-democratic politician or the enemy of democracy. That is why parties that want to gain or maintain power use terms such as the "democratic camp", which includes them and not their opponents, who are generally anti-democratic and therefore not worth voting for. Thus, the changes in the European Union that have been loudly discussed for some time are heading towards democratisation, or - as the authors of official documents like to write - deepening and broadening democracy. The revolution that is currently taking place, if successful, will occur in the name of democracy. Prosperity will be the second, equally crucial pro-revolutionary factor.
Fragment of the European Parliament home page. Photo printscreen
Europeans will be asked a simple question: do you want democracy and prosperity? On the other side, there will be the European "sweaty men in their pursuit of power", eager to preserve national particularisms, filled with an aversion to minorities and immigrants, of course Islamophobic, and dreaming of shaping other people's lives according to their principles, perhaps – to our horror! – even religious principles. These will be populists who are unable to look broadly into the future, who do not care about the fate of the climate and want to exploit our planet relentlessly, and carnivores who ruthlessly hate animals. In extreme cases, you will even have hunting enthusiasts. When the situation in the East calms down enough to return to "business as usual", warmongers will probably be included in this infamous group, but it’s not the right moment for such things now.

Pro-European democrats - supporters of diversity and inclusion who want democracy and prosperity - will stand opposite the xenophobic anti-European people who wish to block the development of others by using veto; they will confront those for whom democracy is only a tool to gain power and wealth, an empty word since they do not want to support activities of those who lead to this awaited welfare. This is more or less what the clash will look like between the supporters of the federalisation of the European Union – willing to create a single-state entity - and the supporters of preserving the national states and something that once was called "Europe of homelands". The former will point to the future, and the latter will refer to the signed treaties and obligations.

Calling of the former can be derived from the fluttering sentence of the Ventotene Manifesto: " The gigantic forces of progress that spring from individual interests must not be slaked by the grey dullness of routine". What will the latter say? Well, Europe will probably not hear them, so it is worth referring again to the prophetic text of the Italian communist Altiero Spinelli, written in 1941 in exile on the island of Ventotene, which became the federalists' bible: “In the brief, intense period of general crises (during which the fallen governments lie broken, during which the popular masses anxiously await a new message and are, meanwhile, like molten matter, burning, susceptible to being poured into new moulds, capable of welcoming the guidance of serious internationalists), the classes which were most privileged under the old national systems will attempt, underhandedly or violently, to quench the thirst, the sentiments, the passions groping towards internationalism, and they will ostentatiously begin to reconstruct the old, state organs”.

We had a sample of what "molten, burning matter" looks like in action during the year-long Conference on the Future of Europe, when several hundred randomly selected people willingly took on the role of representatives of all Europeans. Politicians then accepted the results of their deliberations as a democratic basis for changes in the functioning of the Union, which means they now constitute the basis for the clash that will take place in 2024 and probably in the following years. Next year, however, will be crucial because the elections will select the body of the European Parliament, which then may become something like the Constituent Assembly of the new country.

Nothing unites people more than shared debt

When I observe public discussions on the future of the European project, I get the impression that they focus on essentially marginal issues. Outraged citizens and their representatives point out several proposed regulations that limit the power of individual countries in various areas and transfer it to European bodies, considering this abundance as evidence of the expansion of the emblematic Brussels bureaucrats. It must be admitted that the range of these ideas is vast, and the recommendations refer to forests, education, foreign policy, defence strategy, biodiversity, and many other detailed matters that caused greater or lesser emotional disputes among the discussants. However, I will risk saying that the provisions on extending the competencies of the European Commission could be withdrawn in all these areas without any harm to the planned federal changes. It might be enough to maintain only two directives: consent for the EU single currency allowing its bodies to incur debt, and the Parliament's power to impose taxes freely from which the debt will be repaid.

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These regulations are similar to those proposed in America in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers, who led to the creation of the United States of America. According to his proposal, the federal government took over responsibility for the debt of individual states - that had become heavily indebted during the American Revolutionary War - and was given the right to incur new debt and impose taxes to repay this debt and run the financial economy of the entire union. After making these decisions, the integration of the United States may not have gone smoothly - because there was a war along the way - but in any case, it was certainly unstoppable. The possibility to shape the money system and a common budget, i.e., the ability to distribute wealth and access to virtually unlimited financial resources, connected all Americans with the inextricable thread. The year 1790 is still referred to as the "Hamiltonian moment", commemorating the name of the man who created the greatest power in the modern world.

The Europeans currently constituting the headship of the EU - who could be described as the political mainstream - also dream of turning the continent into a powerful state. Firstly, it would be the financial power. For several years, we have been told that Europe's "Hamiltonian moment" has come. The foundations were laid decades ago in the Maastricht Treaty, thanks to which the common European currency could be created. Until now, it has been optional. In the latest draft treaty changes, voted by the European Parliament, the provision that the European Union " shall establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro" was replaced by the laconic sentence "the currency of the Union is the euro", meaning that voluntarism is to disappear.

We tried to take out joint debt when creating a recovery fund after the COVID-19 pandemic. The exorbitant sum of 723 billion Euros was borrowed without difficulties because the EU's creditworthiness was at the highest AAA level, and there was no indication that this level would drop, even in the long term. British financial analyst and publicist Anatole Kaletsky, commenting on the incurrence of this debt, wrote with delight that "if the European Union issued 10-year bonds, they would probably have zero or even negative interest rates, potentially enabling almost unlimited debt". To show the scale of the opportunity, Kaletsky went on to write in the same piece that after taking on debt for the recovery fund, "next year the European Union could easily borrow one trillion Euros for the digital inclusion fund, then perhaps two trillion for the rollout of electric cars, or three trillion for a comprehensive fund to fight climate change.”

Money that "costs nothing"

Considering that the average debt level of eurozone countries exceeded 90% last year, and countries such as France, Spain, Greece and Italy are in debt for over 100% of their GDP, you can imagine how strong the temptation we are dealing with is. Anyway, it is enough to remember how optimistically Poles reacted to the prospect of receiving billions of Euros borrowed from the EU before it turned out that the money would be the subject of the Commission's political game to change the government in Poland.

Obtaining money that costs nothing, or almost nothing, arouses a desire that is difficult to control. Citizens imagine their country will reach a higher level of development without any special effort. At the same time, politicians calculate that they can surf the ocean of money created for a long time thanks to their activities. Since the indebtedness of individual countries is associated with increasing difficulties and is too expensive for their capabilities, it is natural that they look covetously at the vast body of the Union, which is not in debt at all by global standards. One can imagine that words similar to those used by Kaletsky about "unlimited possibilities of incurring debt" have touched the ears of many decision-makers who want to ensure the well-being of their citizens (and themselves).
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during the meeting of the European Parliament in October 2021, during the debate on the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal on the primacy of the Polish Constitution over European law. Photo PAP/Albert Zawada
Therefore, prosperity will be one of the two key slogans of the campaign for the future of Europe. The second, as I mentioned at the beginning, will be democracy. Without these two elements, the "Hamiltonian moment" will not happen. There can be no debt without the ability to repay it, and only European taxes can provide this possibility. The loan repayments based on contributions made by different governments would be impossible, if only because some countries are net payers and some are not. Moreover, payments can be subject to bargaining, and tax collection gives the collector sovereign power over the budget. However, taxes can only be imposed by the democratically elected parliament. Otherwise, it would be recognised as the anarchy and disorder, which the EU does not tolerate. Hence the emphasis on deepening and broadening democracy in the European Union and on increasing the causative role of the European Parliament. That is why it is so important for EU citizens to come forward "together for democracy", as the slogan on the main website of the European Parliament says.

And again, the proposals voted on in November include a laconic provision which does not even include the word "tax", and in fact it was decided to remove it from the Treaty, probably in order not to arouse suspicions that Brussels wants to collect any levies. Paragraph 2 of Article 223 now reads as follows: “The European Parliament, acting by means of regulations on its own initiative in accordance with a special legislative procedure after seeking an opinion from the Commission and with the approval of the Council, shall lay down the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the duties of its Members. All rules or conditions relating to the taxation of Members or former Members shall require unanimity within the Council ”.

This last sentence – in bold here – was deleted in the voted proposal. This means, as I mentioned before, that anyone searching for the "tax" word - in the new proposed Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - using any regular search engine, will not find such a term, which should reassure everyone that the Union has no intention to impose taxes on its Member States’ citizens, the companies operating there and the countries’ governments. At the same time, in practice, it will turn out that the EU Parliament will be able to adopt such tax policy with a democratic majority because the blocking provision requiring the consent of all governments represented in the Council has been removed.

Therefore, all provisions about the EU taking over competences in specific areas - such as forests, education, defence and others - can be abolished as calmly as possible to satisfy those concerned about the prospect of building a "superstate". It is enough for the Union citizens and their governments’ representatives to vote for democracy and prosperity. Democracy and prosperity, i.e. a common currency, common debt and the possibility to impose taxes that will open the highway to full centralization of all areas of life. Of course, not immediately, but inevitably and irreversibly.

– Robert Bogdański

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Katarzyna Chocian
Main photo: Inauguration of the national "EuroMission" campaign in Warsaw in 2022, which was to promote information about the Euro and the advantages that the introduction of this currency in Poland will bring. Photo PAP/Tomasz Gzell
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