The EU should focus on doing less but doing it better, leading conservatives concluded following a two-day summit of young delegates in Brussels this week, as they seek to counter the push towards more EU integration.
Speaking with Euractiv on the margins of the youth summit hosted by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) between 20-22 September, where delegates and MEPs discussed their party’s visions for the EU’s future, Italian MEP Carlo Fidanza argued that there needed to be a counter-narrative to the drive for more EU integration.
“This event came about as a reaction, if you will, to the Conference on the Future of Europe (COFEU),” Fidanza told Euractiv.
The COFEU was a one-year exercise in participatory democracy at the EU level, bringing together citizens and civil society representatives from across the bloc to discuss how to reform the EU. Its conclusions included recommendations to increase the EU’s competences on cross-border health policy, scrap the need for unanimity on foreign policy decisions, and to re-open the EU treaties.
“When we realised that it was necessary to counterbalance a narrative that saw the process of European integration going in one direction only, that of more and more integration, which in our vision runs the risk of excessively penalising the member states and leading to an excessive devolution of powers from nation states toward Brussels, there arose the need to work with young people to try to give a different idea of a confederal Europe that does fewer things and does them better,” Fidanza told Euractiv.
Opinion polling suggests that the ECR’s member parties, including Fidanza’s Brothers of Italy, whose leader Giorgia Meloni heads the Italian government, are likely to make significant gains at next June’s European elections. That could, potentially, elevate the group to become the third largest faction in the European Parliament behind the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats, and has prompted speculation in recent months that future majorities in the next Parliament could see EPP and ECR alliances.
Fidanza argued that the gathering in Brussels was about promoting “a Europe in which national sovereignties are respected and in which we share some major competencies that we can do together, those that cannot be fully carried out as nation states”.
“But on the more everyday aspects of the lives of European citizens leave freedom under the principle of subsidiarity to the member states to be able to regulate as they see fit,” the Italian MEP added.
A stronger Europe
However, he dismissed the notion that this is a eurosceptic vision that seeks to attack the role of the EU institutions.
“We want a stronger Europe in the international geopolitical context and the competitiveness of European companies that must be defended and protected against global competition with China and the United States,” said Fidanza. He also pointed to the need to counter illegal immigration and protect the EU’s external borders as a case of where a “stronger Europe” was needed.
“So we are actually pro-Europeans, as opposed to those who instead handed us a weak Europe from a productive industrial point of view and only gave us a lot of rhetoric about ever-increasing integration that, however, did not then bring a stronger Europe.”
Fidanza also called for EU lawmakers to take a more pragmatic approach towards the green energy transition, contending that the last four years of Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission have witnessed “a legislature that has been under the banner of a particularly green ideology that has actually hit the productive capacity of European companies very hard”.
“We are conservationists. Nature is what our fathers passed on to us and we will pass on to our children,” he said, adding that “we have a conservative idea of ecological transition, of man’s relationship with the environment”.
“It is crucial for these kids who have grown up with more environmental awareness than previous generations, but who are well aware that having a green desert is still a desert,” said Fidanza.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]