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Home Current Issue Comments Videofederalism


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  • Autore:

    Enrique Barón Crespo

  • Titolo:

    Member of the Spanish Congreso de los Diputados (1977-87), Constitutional Father, Former President of the European Parliament (1989-1992) and member of it (1986-2008), President of UEF-Spain

Videofederalism is the word that best describes the process that we are going through in Spain and Europe to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. In Spain, the conferencia de presidentes[1], has turned from being absent from our constitutional life into an active co-governance, a Sunday ritual without exception. In the European Union, in whose Council there are usually no absentees, an almost fortnightly meeting of the so-called multilevel governance is taking place. In both cases, the Parliaments have also adapted to the new situation.

Indeed, institutions are becoming capable of making decisions that for decades were considered impossible or utopian. It is not exaggerated to affirm that the virus is acting in our societies as a catalyst, a chemical agent whose effect is to generate a solution: solutions can be now searched and developed thanks to the internet and plasma screens.

Jean Monnet drafted with his team the Schuman Declaration, which started by stating that peace had not been possible, and whose final objective was the European Federation. Monnet stated in his memoirs that “men only accept change when confronted with necessity and they only see necessity during crises”. Another contemporary European of his, Albert Einstein, who also lived through these dramatic world times, considered that it is "during crisis where inventiveness, discoveries and great strategies are born."

Federalism is based on the will to share a destiny in a union, as the best system to guarantee peace, freedom and prosperity. It is born of a will for permanence rooted in the active and loyal cooperation between institutions and individuals who share the same values, ​​while preserving their respective integrity. It is not a theoretical debate or a method to negotiate based on differences, it is a flexible system that allows decisions to be made and applied together, and that makes it possible to maintain one's own preferences in a process of creative interdependence. Its essential features are subsidiarity, territoriality, non-centralization, constitutionalism, balance of powers and permanent negotiation. These are the terms that define the current political scene, in a situation of tension and challenge between freedom and economy. The mere command would not have been enough to implement the confinement; social self-discipline has been and is decisive. Policy makers at all levels must work to maintain and nurture it.

The question is whether this leap will be limited to the emergency situation, and we can resign ourselves to a generic appeal to the new normal. The failures at the beginning of the pandemic should not be underestimated; in Spain, after the period of political instability and crisis; in Europe, with initial reactions of withdrawal that called into question the internal market, Schengen and even the monetary union. Looking outward, the European Union has a global responsibility, as the multilateralism that the UN embodies is also enshrined in the EU Treaties.

The changes in attitude, after the initial reactions of retreating, are encouraging. In order for them to create a new normal, they need to become part of the institutional system as constitutional conventions. For the moment, the most positive sign of this general change in attitude is the multiplication of videoconferences at all levels, and the convenience of being on time to find a place.

Translated by Pilar Llorente

[1] The “conferencia de presidentes”, which could be translated as “conference or council of regional presidents” is the body of highest level of cooperation between the central government of Spain and the presidents of the Comunidades Autónomas, the Spanish regional governments, whose competences can be compared to those of the German Länder. The attribution of competences to the Comunidades Autónomas follows a federal approach, making Spain a highly decentralized State.




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