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You are here: Home > Diritto di Voto / EU, Italy, Turin > EP2024_004: Freedoms - #European #Parliament #elections

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Published on 2024-05-16 07:00:00 | words: 2008


Just three weeks before the elections, and while we have had few years to observe how post-BREXIT UK evolved, it is now time to remember what the European Union stands for.

FDR on 1941-01-06 delivered a famous speech about four freedoms, but I prefer to refer to the "basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems":
"Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living."

Within the European Union, our variant of four freedoms used to be more "technocratic", as even the linked document from the Jacques Delors Institute state (page 2): "The four freedoms set the EU apart from other free trade zones" (my emphasis.

Specifically: "The four fundamental freedoms have been legally guaranteed since 1986: They state that goods, services, capital and persons can move without restriction within the EU."

As during the 2019-2024 term the European Union shifted de-facto toward more integration (e.g. collective debt, shared digital and green transformation policy principles), we need to expand, and probably get back to that 1941 list, that was de facto left behind in its own "country of origin".

I shared in 2021 an article (Systemic boundaries and the fifth freedom #Italy #EU #NextGenerationEU #PNRR) about how "systemic" is not necessarily a shared concept.

Hence, while dreaming of a future political Union that will be able to use existing elements in the European Union to generate a XXI century version of that 1941 list (considering also our demographic trends), at least we could start by adding what I called the "fifth" (technocratic) freedom: transparency, to allow the development of a shared consensus on what the European Union should become.

In the XXI century, doing the usual "backroom dealings about the future" is not what is needed: we do not need to have for the whole European Union a XXI century equivalent of the Sykes Picot Agreement, but applied here, and not in the relatively far away Middle East.

In our current society with its multiple constituencies that can join political force across the European Union on different levels (as shown by the "circles" within that 2021 article linked above), we have a further element: increasingly different demographic mix and increased automation will probably imply less working hours spread across more people in different age ranges.

Re-designing our way of business and way of living will not be a singularity, but a continuum, and a continuum that will require the active involvement of those who understand what we are talking about- and its impacts.


I will start again referencing the "fifth freedom" that often is lost whenever there is a crisis: transparency.

Transparency about decision making and any bartering associated with it- but even more important, transparency about what was considered and what was not considered.

In many previous articles referenced the "democratic deficit" of the European Union, which is well represented by the elections at the EU level that we are about to be allowed to vote in, to elect a Parliament that often sits on the fringes of discussions, while other EU institutions take the lead.

We are far, far away from what a Polish acquaintance in Brussels that met often within the pubs around the EU Commission building called the "paper mill", i.e. issuing statements and printing documents that...

... were routinely ignored.

The whole idea of electing a Parliament is to have it represent voters- which implies having some powers to be a credible venue to funnel expectations through.

While gradually expanding powers has been a long journey over the few decades since we directly voted for our European Parliament representatives, and is still a long journey before the European Parliament turns into an ordinary Parliament, as I shared in previous articles even in this series I think that some steps could be useful.

Such as having voters to choose someone who actually will stay at the European Parliament once elected, not figureheads that attract votes but have no intention whatsoever to sit within the European Parliament- it is not just today that we had e.g. minor Italian politicians elected to the European Parliament, just to use it as a pontoon to get back in the first rung of national politics.

But, again, I and my fellow Italians are not the only ones having politicians relaunching a national political career via the European Parliament or roles within the European instutions.

The next term of the European Parliament could actually be pivotal in either relaunching or sinking the European Union global role, but will need something more than "electing the smartest ones".

It will need to generate more traction at the bottom, i.e. within real society, to generate ideas and support (and choices) for a move forward.

The concept of "transparency" that described above would be a first step that could actually require a bipartisan support but little or no changes to existing rules.

I know that whenever somebody makes a proposal about a change on the way political activities are carried out, immediately the "let's create this or that" and ensuing bureaucratic frenzy start.

The concept is something different: within the existing framework and rules, open a bit more to society, not just with paraded events and "listening moments", but with a continuous and structural dialogue- a kind of "open door" policy that is something different from lobbying.

The idea is to extend the process that was used in some countries (Italy included) to generate the national recovery and resilience plans linked to the recovery and resilience facility part of the NextGenerationEU.

And make it structural.

Not for "flash mob" photo-ops as often Friday for futures and the like are, where "structural" is really "ritual" and "scheduled", but something generating a continuous exchange, feed-back, and contribution on both sides.

Transparency is not just a mere concept about "giving visibility" on how the things are done- but expanding the access to potential contributions of society to decision-making at the European Union level on what it should become.

Because no matter how many experts were "detached from society to the institutions to contribute", what the European "four freedoms" represent is the issue we had so far: once in, as since the 1950s the structure evolved its own lingo, rituals, and Weltanschauung, at each round got further from a reality that was evolving faster and faster.

My routine readers know that I wrote about this concept (referring to national, social, and business evolutions) as part of the "becoming a data-centric society", and you can see some of the public results and work-in-progress that I shared since e.g. 2019 in the shape of datasets on various online venues.

In a complex, data-centric society, creators and consumers of data (and associated feed-back and choices) are not clearly differentiated, and, moreover, mutually influencing interactions are fast enough to make impossible to have somebody "digest" through a handful of staff members everything.

You need to both built "trusted circles", and continuously scout.

Anyway, within the context of the European Parliament elections and what will need to be done to define the future shape of the European Union institutions, the need will be for a continuous exchange with experts embedded in society, not within or around a couple of dozen of equivalents to the "twelve olympians".

I referenced above to the process used e.g. in Italy for the collection of feed-back from society.

The idea was sound, but the delivery was the usual committee approach: listening to many advocating what, in the end, was convenient to each one of the presenters, not a common goal.

Building structural transparency would implying disposing of the "we know better" approach that often over the decades shifted from occasional "Monnet moments" to a continuous stream of announces- notably under the current European Commission.

It is quite curious how many times, while in Brussels, attended events and workshops with the focus on inclusion (obviously also e-inclusion and overcoming the digital divide), but how little we saw of that implemented vertically- including within the European Union institutions that frankly sometimes, in their communication, remind of the old joke "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche".

Yes, as a citizen surrounded by devices, I appreciate the concept of shifting everything to USB-C.

As I appreciated (but, frankly, in my past tests did not really work) the concept of disposing with roaming for mobile phone- also if I wondered if this was an issue felt more by those working within the European institutions than ordinary citizens who occasionally go on vacation abroad.

Anyway, neither of those measures, that appear routinely on my Linkedin stream, would actually be prime motivators for a renewed relationship between European institutions and citizens.

Nor a digital Euro that the more is discussed, the more makes think to Orwellian scenarios- but will have to wait a couple of years to see what will turn into once it is real, if still we will have the level of integration between Member States that we currently have.

On many issues, we are still 27 different jurisdictions where only three of the four "technocratic" EU freedoms apply- as for citizens, it is still cumbersome to do simple things such as moving from one Member State to another, or even just living in one Member State, or temporarily working for a company based in another Member State- something that is actually undermining the economic development of the European Union, as we cannot have the level of physical and virtual mobility that the high level of competencies and physical plus digital infrastructure should enable.

Whatever the political party you will elect to vote for at the European Parliament, probably the rationale should be what does the European Union stand for, and what is (or should be) the European Parliament role within that concept: your choice will be different from mine, but at least you would avoid sending to the European Parliament those whose only usefulness is having currently their 15 minutes of fame.

Of course, there will be many different ideas of what the future European Union should look like- still, if the next European Parliament term were to result in a European Commission that is listening ahead, instead of fixing after making choices, would be better.

And would at last bring instutions created in the aftermath of WWII and under the Damocle's sword of the Cold War into the XXI century.

This, before our demographic trends and continuous quarreling about any choice that matters will make both the European Union and the Euro marginal outside...

... the European Union itself.

The next article in this series will be just around the elections: so, it will be interesting, now that the list of candidates are ready, how the debate will shape until election day.

Stay tuned!