Map: Devolving Europe - 1982 CoEvolution
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A contribution to the ongoing
Conference on the Future of Europe.
I am a retired Master Mariner and spent more than 50 years in the service of shipping industry. I have lived with my family on four continents and visited most countries in the world. Over the years I have seen widespread mismanagement at state government levels as well as unfair treatment of small nations and peoples.
I have had an interest in the concept of the Regions of Europe as a means to revitalise grass root democracy. I have published two books on the subject - “EU and the Regions” (1994) and “Regionalism for the 21st Century” (1999).
I have never been directly involved in politics nor have I ever been a member of any political party. I have voted in general elections since 1960. I am at most a concerned citizen.
There must be a better way of organising politics. My hope is that the ongoing Conference for the Future of Europe will find that “better way”.
Text on image: "Regions - the Future of Europe."
It is high time to bring Politics closer to Citizens and the Citizens closer to Politics.
Text on image: "The Conference. A contribution to the Conference of the Future of Europe 2021."
Regions of Europe is a concept that will strengthen the EU, the member states as well as regions and local governments.
It will also strengthen the citizens of Europe.
Text on image: "Regions - the Future of Europe. The concept of the Regions of Europe. Politics closer to citizens. Citizens closer to politics."
Time has come to rethink democracy. In this day and age, state politics appears to be slipping away from the citizens. And citizens seem to be slipping away from politics.
The Regions of Europe – the way I see it - is a concept that could help to improve democracy by bringing citizens closer to politics and politics closer to citizens.
Text on image: "Questions to ask. From top down? or From below up? Who owns Democracy? Who owns Politics? Who owns the State? Politics seem to have lost the popular root contact."
Dictionary: “Democracy is a political system of government in which people elect their leaders by voting for them in elections.”
It shouldn’t be more complicated than that.
But we see how certain state leaderships manipulate the process - through propaganda, media control or by manipulating constitutions and electoral systems - to suit those in power.
Text on image: "Conceptual confusion. Federalism. Regionalism. Branches of the same democracy tree."
Many different words and descriptions on the subject of regional self-government have circulated in the dialogue with states.
But only two basic concepts are useful - federalism and regionalism.
Federalism is limited by state-based constitutional restraints.
Regionalism is based on continuous negotiations and therefore more apt to adjust when circumstances changes.
Regionalism means more or less autonomous regions as part of a flexible and multifaceted political organisation.
Text on image: " The History. Treaty of Westphalia 1648. State borders and state sovereignty."
Exhausted after centuries of wars and conflicts Europe’s leaders met in Westphalia, Germany in 1648.
The Westphalian Treaty was a practical agreement. It established sovereign state formations – each one not to interfere in the other's internal affairs.
The Treaty of Westphalia would change the European map and, over time, the world map.
Text on image: "The History. French Revolution 1789. Concentration of politics and public administration. "
The new regime in France used the force of nationalism to centralise political powers.
The state claimed to be a nation.
From there we have the expression "state nation-building".
Text on image: "The spread of the new state. One language. One culture . One parliament. One currency. One military. One legal system. …and so on. Rapid expansion – 150 years from 1789."
The spread of the French model, on a Westphalian Treaty platform, went relatively quickly.
It took only 150 years for the new concept to spread to all corners of Europe and eventually to the rest of the world.
It is therefore fair to say that the “modern” state is not as old as many of us may think.
Text on image: "Regions pushed back into obscurity. Regions & local communities. The new State. The dominant region became the sovereign state."
Autonomous regions did not fit well into the new order - all powers to the state.
Many of the old Regions of Europe were pushed into obscurity.
Text on image: "Expansion at a cost. The modern state stands on a foundation of violence. wars & conflicts. The spread of the new state - a violent affair."
The establishment of the new state order in Europe became a violent affair.
Europe became a battlefield.
Text on image: "Enough is enough! The Schuman Declaration 9 May 1950. No more wars from the soil of Europe! The Birth of the European Union."
Jean Monnet, a French economist, and Robert Schuman, a French politician, presented on the 9th of May, 1950 - the Schuman Declaration. They proposed a model for peace and cooperation in Europe. That date can therefore be called the birthday of the European Union.
What was said between the lines in the declaration was: no more wars should start from the soil of Europe. The goal was to make interstate wars in Europe impossible.
Text on image: "The road to the European Union. The Treaty of Rome 1957. Schengen 1985. Maastricht 1993. Amsterdam 1997. Nice 2001. Lisbon 2009. The steps from Coal & Steel to Lisbon."
The latest treaty of the EU was Lisbon 2009, 12 years ago. EC (European Community), formally becomes EU (European Union).
These treaties - Rome, Schengen, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon - were created in order to make future inter-governmental wars and armed conflicts in Europe impossible.
These could very well be “The Steps” the founders were talking about in 1950.
Text on image: "My generation – born during WW2 – is probably the first generation in Europe, since the time of Caesar, that has not been called out to kill or be killed in the name of the state. An astonishing achievement of the European Union! No more wars from the soil of Europe.”
A unified and coherent Europe must be seen seen as the solution for peace and prosperity in Europe.
The states must somehow be made to continue to engage in constructive dialogue and peaceful cooperation.
This is in line with the visions expressed in the Schuman Declaration of 1950.
Text on image: "The EU democracy problem. European Council. EU Council of Ministers. EU Parliament. EU Commission. Committee of the Regions. Two Captains on the same ship."
For the past ten years, since the Treaty of Lisbon 2009, the EU has not focused enough on the visionary principles of the 1990s.
The EU institutions have been busy making the EU work as intended, despite the disruptions caused by some of the member state governments, financial crises and hibernating state nationalist ambitions.
Some member states have seen power slip away and become reluctant players on the EU playing field.
Text on image: "The Democratic Deficit. - 1 EU Council of Ministers. 2 EU European Parliament. 3 EU Committee of the Regions. 4 EU Coreper. 5 European Commission. 6 State Parliament's EU Committee. 7 State Government. 8 State parliament. 9 State political parties. Final EU-decision. - The Citizens. Too high for the citizens to bite over."
The decision-making process leading to a final EU decision can be compared to a hamburger. A hamburger has layers of bread slices, meat patties, cheese slices, lettuce leaves and tomatoes.
Layer upon layer upon layer ....
It takes nine layers of decisionmakers before the citizens will get their final EU decision.
In addition, several decision-making bodies have rather poor transparency into parts of the process.
Not surprisingly, this extensive decision-making system is sometimes referred to as the "Democratic Deficit".
Text on image: "Lesser Democratic Deficit. - 1 The EU Parliament. 2 The EU Committee of the Regions. 3 The EU Commission. 4 The State Parliament. 5 The State political parties. Final EU-decision. - The Citizens. The EU's democratic deficit significantly reduced."
Instead, let us assume that we trust the European institutions.
We already have elected politicians in the European Parliament.
Let us assume that the majority of these are wise individuals who collectively make good decisions.
Five democratic institutions for the citizens to get their final EU decision.
Now we have a decision-making "hamburger" that the citizens can handle.
The EU democratic deficit has been significantly reduced.
Text on image: "In search of a balanced Europe. EU Regions of Europe. The State. The Regions. Together - for a more balanced Europe."
Stronger and more active regions in the EU political process could be a more balanced and democratic Europe.
Text on image: "Trust in democracy on decline. Born during decade. The alarm bells should sound at full volume! Percentage of people who say “it is very important" to live in a democracy."
The trust in state-based democracy is declining among all age groups.
Frustrations with anti-democratic and autocratic tendencies in some parts of the world could in all probability result in more popular unrest, violence, demonstrations and protests in the streets and city squares.
The EU peace project depends on stability and trust in the system.
The concept of the Regions of Europe can help revitalise democracy since political decisions are taken as closely to the citizen as possible in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.
Text on image: "And the opposition grew… Who owns Democracy? Who owns Politics? Who owns the State?A seemingly eternal problem. Autocrats - Dictators - Deep State."
There has been a worldwide increase in authoritarian state nationalism and a declining confidence in democracy as well as a general lack of confidence in international legal agreements and obligations.
Some groups want to prevent the EU from becoming stronger at the expense of the state.
The risk of a setback for the EU project is now tangible.
Text on image: "At the cross-roads… This road? Make my State strong again. Or this one? Al pubic powers emanates from the people. We the people. A Europe of strong states or a Europe of the People?"
The citizens of the European Union appear to be at the crossroads.
Either we support the idea of the strong state and choose to believe state nationalistic slogans like "Let's take back control".
Or we can restore confidence in a more citizen-oriented popular democracy at all levels of political decision-making - local, regional, state and the EU.
Text on image: "One road forward. The European Union. The State. The Regions. Regions of Europe – EU of the citizens. "
A decentralisation of state functions - to regionalise - could compensate for the diminishing influence and sovereignty of the state.
With enhanced political participation for the regions, the state and its regions together on one scale and the EU on the other could form a more balanced Europe.
Stronger and active regions in the EU processes could therefore be seen as part of the future of a new and more diverse Europe.<
Text on image: "Another possible road ahead. The European Union. The Sovereign state. Back to the good old days! The Regions. The Regions – back into obscurity?"
"Let's take back control!" and “Make my state great again!” exclaims EU sceptics.
They dream of the good old days when the sovereignty of the state was the rule.
If these forces continue to be strengthened, the regions may again risk being pushed back into the obscurity of history.
Text on image: "Back to square one. The sovereign state scenario – history to repeat itself."
Europe and the EU are not in chaos yet.
But there is a risk that Europe may return to being governed by its historic disparate principles of sovereign states.
Back to square one.
Text on image: "Climate and nature under threat. Climate sceptics vs. Climate alarmists. A tug-of-war with the future of the Earth in the balance."
Can we trust the state and the state system to solve our climate and environmental problems?
Climate sceptics and climate alarmists are facing each other in a tug-of-war over our future.
Recent history suggests that the state, and the global state system it built over the last 150 years, may not be the best political organisation to look after nature for us.
Maybe it is high time to bring both nature and the climate closer to the citizens. It is time to give the citizens the empowerment to decide how to use and protect their neighbourhoods, towns, cities and regions.
Text on image: "Sudan – the last northern white rhino. The rhinos survived millions of years on earth but did not survive modern man."
We are probably facing the largest mass extinction of wildlife since a meteor struck and formed the Chicxulub crater near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico 65 million years ago.
The upcoming risk of mass extinction seem to be happening because of the inability of the global state system to take the necessary action to protect and preserve the earth's nature and fauna.
Text on image: "Corruption and abuse of power. 60% of all states have corruption problems. Half of the G20."
There is no doubt that widespread corruption is a serious obstacle to positive development in many parts of the world.
Text on image: "High-tech warfare. "The environment has long been a silent victim of war. Military activities destroys what people have built."
Military activities have always destroyed what communities or individuals have built. Homes, public buildings, hospitals and other infrastructure are often put in ruins.
The world state governments spent in the year 2016 a staggering 1686 billion US dollars on the military.
Since then, the global military expenditure has gone up. Not down.
Text on image: "A dangerous power game. States with nuclear weapons. By invoking the Westphalian state sovereignty, nothing or no-one will be able to stop a state using them."
Within the European Union, only France and the UK had nuclear weapons.
But the EU collectively posed a strong deterrent to the use of these weapons.
This meant that Europe for all practical purposes can be called a nuclear-weapons-free zone.
One of these two nuclear states has now left the community.
By invoking the Westphalia sovereignty, it will be free to use its super-efficient weapon systems at will.
Text on image: "Diversity of languages and cuItures. Low estimates 6000 and highly 8000 peoples and nations and cultural regions. Language and culture on Europe's agenda for decades. "
Leading figures in the EU and the Council of Europe have made it clear that cultural diversity in Europe is the foundation on which Europe must develop.
But there is reluctance in some states to accept and support regional diversity in the fields of language and culture.
Text on image: "A possible scenario. 6 winners? 6994 losers? Eradication of the small languages has intensified."
A language mass extinction, a lingocide, in the world is at our doorstep. This happens quietly and almost unnoticeable.
Why do we not see more widespread protests against the demise of linguistic and cultural diversity?
Text on image: "The European state has a size problem. Too small for the global challenges. Too big for the soft values: Language, culture, traditions. State politics is losing influence on many levels."
The state has a size problem - it is too big and too small at the same time.
The time has come to adjust the various task of the state to more realistic and efficient levels of society.
Text on image: "Politics closer to Citizens. Citizens closer to Politics. The Tools: The Principle of Subsidiarity. A positive attitude and good will. A way for politics to re-establish popular root contact."
The Principle of Subsidiarity can be used as a tool to decentralise politics and thereby bring politics closer to the citizens.
By applying the principle of subsidiarity at the levels above and below the state, the door opens to a stronger and deeper more profound popular root contact in politics.
Text on image: "Subsidiarity - who does what? EU. State. Region. City/Municipality. Local community. Family/Individual. Many layers of willing decision-makers."
The principle of subsidiarity is a broader concept, which is more philosophical than bureaucratic.
It is a philosophical principle based on the insight that a society consists of many layers of potential and willing decision makers and that political decisions should be taken as close to the citizens as possible.
This philosophical view is expressed in one of the reports presented by the EU prior to the Maastricht Treaty 1992.
“Subsidiarity cannot be reduced to a set of rules and procedures; it is primarily a mental attitude.”
Text on image: "The Treaty of Lisbon - 2009. Yes. No. Maybe. EU subsidiarity today. EU. Member state. Formally added as Article 5 – Treaty on the European Union."
Many state governments see devolution of the state as a threat to status quo. A dominant governance of the EU institutions is firmly held by the member states.
As a result, a practical definition of the Principle of Subsidiarity has found it difficult to pass the system.
Subsidiarity has therefore been vaguely defined in an EU context.
It therefore, in most cases, only applies between the state and the EU and not further down in the system.
Text on image: "Principle of Subsidiarity – a better way. EU Subsidiarity tomorrow. EU Member State Regions Cities Local levels. One important ingredient - the good will – is necessary."
The idea that political decisions should be made as close to the citizens as possible ought be self-evident to everyone.
The same reservations on which issues to be dealt with in Brussels or in the state capitals can also be applied to the relationship between the EU, the state and the regional and local levels.
Decisions that can be taken at regional and local levels should be taken there.
The Treaty on the European Union states: RESOLVED to continue the process of creating an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.
Text on image: "Logic of the Geography. In an open society, human activities are shaped according to the Logic of the Geography. State borders – obstacles to social activities."
Many state borders have its origins in colonisation, military conquests and political power struggles.
This has caused many state borders to be obstacles to free human social contacts and activities.
In an open society, human activities are shaped according to the Logic of the Geography.
The Logic of the Geography is a natural geographical direction to which people feel orientated and connected.
Text on image: "Let the negotiations begin... The EU, the State, the Regions, Local levels. A Constitutional Court could mediate disputes and legalise results."
All negotiations should begin with determining the rules of the game.
Text on image: "EU Committee of the Regions - CoR. Areas of interest. Health care. Education. Labour market/Employment. Social policies. Economic and social cooperation. Transportation issues. Energy. Climate / Environment. Possible areas considered for consulting CoR."
The Committee of the Regions shall be consulted in areas considered important for the citizens of the regions and the local communities.
With these areas competence the EU has provided the parties with a starting point for the negotiations on subsidiarity ensuring that political decisions are placed at the best and most efficient levels in a multifaceted political organisation.
Text on image: "Criteria for optimal regional division. - 1 Historical borders. 2 Administrative considerations. 3 The need to rationalise existing structures. 4 Costs. 5 Demographic considerations. 6 Environmental considerations. 7 The need to minimise social disturbances. 8 Increase accessibility of public service. 9 Economical logic. 10 Development potential. 11 Cultural and linguistic realities. - Points to be weighed in for a successful outcome."
During the 1990s, when the enthusiasm for bringing back the regions into the political arena was at its highest, a number of criteria for a regionalisation circulated in Europe.
These are issues that could be relevant to consider for a successful outcome of the subsidiarity negotiations.
Text on image: "Subsidiarity in practice. - Police/Law enforcement. Military. International contacts. Schools/Education. Protection of the Seas. Participation in media. Culture & Languages. Health care. - Determine the best level for political responsibility."
What could subsidiarity in practice look like if applied to some common and important areas of society?
These are examples of public and political functions that could be suitable for negotiations in accordance with the Principle of Subsidiarity.
Text on image: "Regions in Sweden. Eight EU regions - "Riksområden". -1 Upper Norrland (SE33). 2 Central Norrland (SE32). 3 Northern Central Sweden (SE31). 4 Eastern Central Sweden (SE12). 5 Stockholm (SEII). 6 Western Sweden (SE12). 7 Småland and the Islands (SE21). 8 Southern Sweden SE22) - Registered in the EU - the NUTS classification system."
There is a regional division in Sweden which, thanks to the Logic of the Geography, reasonably well corresponds with the old provinces.
It is the regional division that the state government already registered in the EU within the NUTS classification system.
The historical regions and Sweden’s EU regions -“Riksområden” - are geographically close.
One wonders why the state has made an effort to break up the historical regions and replace them with non-political bureaucratic regions.
Text on image: "The proposal - Ansvarskommittén (The Committee of Responsibilities). Well researched and a well EU-adapted report. A good starting point for negotiations on future regions in Sweden. The Chairman of the Committee of Responsibilities handed over the report in February 2007 to Sweden's Minister of Interior. The most elaborate and EU-adapted investigation."
The most elaborate, up-to-date and EU-adapted investigation ever made in Sweden was handed over to the responsible minister in 2007.
The report was produced by the appointed Ansvarskommittén - the Committee of Responsibilities.
Because it is so well documented and well written, it can be retrieved from the state government’s drawers where it has been sitting for the last 13 years.
It could form the basis for negotiations about the future of the regions in Sweden and a more efficient distribution of public responsibilities.
Text on image: "The proposal - Ansvarskommittén (The Committee of Responsibilities). - 1 number of regions - six to nine. 2 number of inhabitants -one to two million. 3 each region should have a university with focus on research. 4 each region should have a university hospital. 5 each region shall be responsible for regional labour market. 6 all state authorities and agencies must follow the same regional division. - Politics closer to the Citizens. "
The Committee identified four conditions for addressing these challenges:
It is precisely these points this presentation on the Regions of Europe has addressed.
Text on image: "Regions – no further obstacles. EU Maastricht Treaty 1993. Treaty of the European Union. Sweden's NUTS 2 regions - "Riksområden". The proposal of the Ansvarskommittén. The necessity of decentralizing. After conclusion - a tax reform to reflect the outcome."
There does not seems to be any further obstacles to get started with a regionalisation process in Sweden.
What remains is to dust off the investigative report and use it as a basis for negotiations based on the Principle of Subsidiarity and the concept of the Regions of Europe.
Everything is in place and the only thing that is missing is the positive attitude that the EU mentioned in its inquiry from 1992:
“Subsidiarity cannot be reduced to a set of rules and procedures; it is primarily a mental attitude."
Text on image: "Democracy with grass root contact. EU Parliament. EU Committee of the Regions. State parliament - Chamber 1, Chamber 2. Regional parliament. Local government. State parliament. Citizens vote on five occasions. "
There is a way forward is to restore confidence in the democratic system, as this presentation has tried to show.
The method is the Regions of Europe.
The tool is the Principle of Subsidiarity.
The legal foundation is included in the EU Maastricht Treaty of 1993 (Treaty on the European Union).
The necessary attitude for a successful outcome is found in an EU inquiry from 1993: "Subsidiarity ... is primarily a mental attitude."
By allowing citizens - preferably through personal vote where possible - to cast a ballot five times.
Then the citizens could have a full democratic dividend - an improved grass root contact with politics.
Politics closer to the Citizens.
Citizens closer to Politics.
A visionary dream? Perhaps. But sometimes visions drive politics forwards.
Text on image: "Regions - the Future of Europe. Epilogue. Politics closer to citizens. Citizens closer to politics."
This presentation has described a forward-looking political organisation based on the concept of the Regions of Europe and the Principle of Subsidiarity.
This concept places every political and public decision at the best and most efficient level.
The state will also find its place in this new multifaceted political organisation.
Now it is up to the member state governments, with the support from the European Union, to accept what seems to me to be the inevitable; the untouchable sovereign state has done its part in history.
It is time for change - for the sake of peace, climate and environment.
For prosperity and for cultural diversity.
A debate on a regionalisation of Sweden has been going on for more than a quarter of a century.
It's time to put the spade in the ground and let the negotiations begin!