Barack Obama, Christine Lagarde, Mario Draghi, David Cameron and all of our major world partners are asking Europe for a clear vision of its future so that the mistrust it has been the focus of can be overcome. Angela Merkel, Mariano Rajoy, Mario Monti and a number of European leaders have indicated what this vision should comprise: the reassertion of its joint commitment to the single currency, the euro, together with immediate adjustment measures to avoid the dispair of those who are doing the most work. Firmness and solidarity.
However everyone wants to know how far the Union and euro zone Member States want to go, what kind of economic governance they want and which facilities they are ready to accept. Discipline, Eurobonds and democratic control?
After a long electoral period, which unfortunately privileged domestic debate, France can no longer remain silent, at the risk of paralysing the Union. Because both at the European Council on 28th and 29th June and in the long term, the major decisions which are now emerging on the horizon will affect the traditional exercise of sovereignty. Will the divisions over this issue arise again in France? Will every political party protest once more at the idea of granting a shared authority some of our decision making competences vis-à-vis the national budget, taxes as well as spending? And will France again hesitate to take advantage of its European commitment, which no President and no majority have dared to question in the last 62 years? The electoral campaigns carefully circumnavigated the issue, and yet it was an ideal moment for a true democratic debate; the rise of populism both on the right and the left dissuaded the candidates from asking the question.
And yet France can rise to the occasion on two conditions:
- that it focuses exclusively, as Schuman and Monnet did in their time, on the single goal of recovering confidence, stability and growth. The only things at stake are the measures vital to this end and there is no need for ideological debate or wars of words, which so rapidly ignite the Frenchman's spirit!
- that temporary national union is put forward focusing on an acceptable vision, i.e. one which is realistic but ambitious, of a truly integrated European Economic Union.
The new French leaders therefore have an historic responsiblity. If they acccept to turn the electoral leaf as quickly as possible, they will rise and be worthy of the issues at stake and France will facilitate a decisive European response, which everyone is waiting for. They will then decide, with the support of the opposition that already signed, to ratify the budgetary pact and growth measures. They can form a European majority that will come to agreement on a shared vision of how the Union is to develop, which will approve the necessary constitutional reform and enable the country, which was the cradle of European unification, to say clearly what it wants.
It is time. France has to speak out.