Few specific proposals, a lot of obstacles to fulfill them. The Five Stars Movement (M5S) unveiled its own political program for the electoral campaign and the next European legislature. Direct democracy is the main item on the agenda, as it could easy to expect from a political force that since the very beginning has been claiming to be “the spokesperson of the people”. But despite the intentions, it won’t be an easy task for the Movement to build the European Union offered on the internet.
The Five Stars published their agenda on their blog. Their priority list consists of six points. Generally speaking the approach is smart and pragmatic. It easier to focus on few dossiers, rather than on a program going in all directions. Having said that, the pragmatism shown by the Five Stars in theory must face reality, and keeping all the promises doesn’t appear an easy task.
Here is the program in a nutshell:
1) A new Europe: more direct democracy and stop to privileges.
2) Stop austerity: full employment and sustainable development.
3) Safeguard of people, health and environment
4) In Europe for made in Italy
5) Single migration policy and a European re-distribution.
6) Fight against tax evasion, corruption and crime.
Why do we say that M5S’ proposals are difficult to be fulfilled? Because they contain a mix of policies for which national governments are responsible, and policies which require inter-governmental agreements that are not for the European Parliament but for the Council of the EU.
Referenda, a critical issue
Starting from the first point on the agenda, more direct Europe in the sense suggested by the Movement will require a treaty change. The Five Stars want to introduce both consultative referendum and repealing referendum, in order to give people the power of influence the legislative proposal of the European Commission.
Now, the European Union is about competences. According to article 3, paragraph 1, of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU, “the Union shall have exclusive competence in the following areas:
customs union; the establishing of the competition rules necessary for the functioning of the internal market; monetary policy for the Member States whose currency is the euro; the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy; common commercial policy”. All the other areas are left to the member states
There also shared competences, according to article 4, paragraph 2, of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU. Share competences include: internal market; social policy, for the aspects defined in this Treaty; economic, social and territorial cohesion; agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources; environment; consumer protection; transport; trans-European networks; energy.
The Treaties clarify that in case of shared competences “the Council may, at the initiative of one or several of its members, request the Commission to submit proposals for repealing a legislative act”. So, it is up to the member states to ask the possibility of abrogate legislations. There is any reference to citizens’ power to repeal EU directives or regulation. So it has to be supposed that, given a specific provision recognized to the countries by the treaties, a change of the same treaties will be necessary to introduce the referendum. So far, there is no the will to reopen the treaties by the side of the Member States. In case, it will be up to the Italian minister to try to convince the head of State and government to engage in such an exercise.
When it comes to the consultative referendum, the Five Stars want to substitute the European Parliament with the European citizens when legislative proposal are “divisive”. It means that in case of a clear majority, as it happened for the copyright reform, the EU Parliament can call for a referendum (to be voted with a majority of two thirds of the seats) and let the citizens decide. There is a problem: the European Parliament may approve or reject a legislative proposal, or propose amendments to it, but the Council is not legally obliged to take account of Parliament’s opinion. In fact very often the position between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU are different, and they have to negotiate.
If the Council is not obliged to take into account the position of the Parliament, why should be when citizens replace the Parliament? In any case, since the legislative procedure is described in the article 294 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU, introducing a referendum will require a treaty change. So, once again, the Five Stars are selling what they don’t have in the store.
Employment is a member states task
When it comes to jobs, by Treaties the European Commission “shall take measures to ensure coordination of the employment policies of the Member States”. Mind the text: “of the Member States”, not of the EU. So, to have full employment at home domestic measures are needed. In the case of Italy, perhaps a reform of the labor market would be required instead of a national income scheme. Any way, it is work for the Five Stars on Italy, not a EU business.
Migration and austerity are about member states
As already explained on this blog, austerity measures are the consequences of inter-governmental agreements. Can an inter-governmental agreement be changed by the European Parliament? The answer is “no”. And what about migration? In order to have a common solution, a decision needs to be found in the Council. It is up to the leaders to decide on this issue, and MEPs can do nothing. So, the political agenda of the Movement has a few points and many question marks.