The European Union can be proud of having the highest degree of human rights protection in the world. The promotion and protection of human rights is one of the guiding principles and objectives of EU policy, according to Article 2 of its treaty and the adoption in 2009 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights as a legally binding set of rules was a big achievement. Having the same legal value as the EU’s treaties, it strengthens the protection of fundamental rights by making them more visible for EU citizens and binding for EU authorities. However, this should only be seen as a start. A true integration of fundamental rights into the political life of Europe can only be ensured through Europe’s federal unification.
An uneven playing field
We believe that human rights should not be subject to the principle of subsidiarity. They are universal and must ensure the same protection and opportunities for all human beings. Unfortunately, this is not the case yet in the EU due to varying criminal laws and other standards applicable across the Member States. This is one of the main indications that we have yet to become a union of equal citizens.
In the EU today member states apply different criminal sanctions for the same crimes. One could be sentenced with, say, five years imprisonment for tax evasion in one state but eight or three years in other states. Furthermore, they would all be tried under different procedures. People are being treated differently and have either poorer or better trial or detention conditions, depending on the region they live in. The EU is split between regions that respect and guarantee gay rights, for example, and those that do not respect them fully. It is split between those regions that permit citizens to use certain drugs and others that punish the consumption of exactly the same substances.
t is also split into regions of varying gender equality. According to a 2017 report from the European Institute for Gender Equality, Sweden posted the best index score at 82.6 (based on a scale of 100), followed by Denmark at 76.8. Conversely, Greece ranked at the bottom with 50, followed by Hungary (50.8) and Slovakia (52.4). This is unfortunately the situation in the EU today, despite the major progress in creating the internal market and its classic four freedoms.
Moreover, there are still many restrictions in the EU about where citizens can live, work or own properties. It is absolutely natural for France to allow a Parisian to move and fully settle in Marseille without hindrances. By the same token, Latvian, Irish or any other EU citizens should have the indisputable right to move, work, invest or conduct their lives in Italy, Romania or anywhere else in the EU without restriction. However this is also not the case in the EU. For instance, there are still large discrepancies regarding the status of posted workers – employees who carry out a service in another EU member state on a temporary basis and who do not enjoy the full labour rights of the host state.
Image credit – Peter SchrankWe are thus convinced that only within a federal European republic would it be possible for the European citizens to move, work, settle, marry, establish associations, vote, run for office, seek justice or be sentenced in the same manner and without discrimination. Only in such a framework, too, would the rights for women rise to the same level of protection of rights across the European continent. Some fundamental changes should thus be introduced to remove the existing discriminatory situation in the EU – and those changes can only be achieved within the framework of a European federation with no variations per state or region.
Create a legal framework for all Europeans
A federal European republic would adopt its own civil and criminal codes applicable across all its territory. It would have its own administrative, family, inheritance and penitentiary laws applicable invariably for everyone. This joint legal framework would combine the best elements of all the legal traditions of Europe’s continental and common law. Such a framework would be the first step towards a union of universal rights and obligations for all.
All European citizens would have the absolute freedom to move, settle, work or study in any region within the federation without restriction or discrimination. European citizens would have the same choices in their private lives and families, regardless of their sexual orientation. Homosexual couples would have full rights to marriage, with all its entitlements, and full rights to adopt children to exercise their right to family life.
Possession and marketing of certain soft drugs would be legalised under strict conditions. Although the legalisation of those drugs would likely lead to some proliferation of their use, their consumption would be safer, better controlled and reduce many forms of criminality linked to illegal drug trafficking. It would also, to a large extent, alleviate the workload of police and judicial authorities, while reducing Europe’s prison population as well as the personal tragedies caused by imprisonment.
Women would have control over their bodies and the choice of abortion at the early stages of a pregnancy. Abortions are not our preferred option, but it is in the interest of society that this option remains legal and safe, though limited in its possibilities. The authorities would instead run campaigns of sexual education to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and especially at the young ages.
The same rules would also apply to the right to euthanasia. This varies considerably across EU member states today: active euthanasia, passive, assisted suicide or no form of euthanasia at all. The federal European republic should eliminate this variance by allowing all individuals the right to opt for euthanasia in case of prolonged or unbearable suffering.
State and church across Europe would be strictly separated. Religion is a personal spiritual affair with no relationship to citizenship. Marriage, divorce, death and the granting of names fall within the realm of the state, regardless of any co-existing religious customs and procedures. Any existing laws on blasphemy would be further abolished: no one could be punished for insulting a religion any more than for insulting any other subject of dignity. Religious symbols would be removed from the working environment of public buildings.
Minority groups would be treated with respect for their identities and needs. Minority linguistic groups would have the right to use and learn their own language, even if it was not one of the official languages of the federal European republic or its constituent states. Minority religious groups would have the possibility to use their own temples, schools, cemeteries and other sites, and to celebrate their own holy days. We would not support positive discrimination in favour of minority groups since all citizens must be treated in the same way. We would, however, support introducing certain incentives and programmes to support the development and better integration of the minority groups such as Roma people in the societies where they live in.
Finally, great emphasis would placed on eliminating the salary gaps between men and women for equal jobs, and on the elimination of any other form of gender-based discrimination in a working place. This is an objective that has miserably failed under many EU member states and could only be addressed within a federal European structure.
The deal clincher for a federal Europe
There are many good arguments for bringing Europe together as a federation: the need for a more integrated and robust economy, the requirement to compete with the emerging economies of the rest of the world as a unique block or the need for a joint and robust defence and security policy. However one reason may stand above all: the need for equal treatment, rights, freedoms and opportunities for millions of EU citizens.
As many of them are deprived of certain important rights and miss many opportunities due to the poor record of their national states, the federal solution might prove a boon for them, their families and societies. We should therefore make sure that a common rights and freedoms framework becomes a major argument for all of us who campaign for a federal Europe. This is a very substantial argument to be communicated to millions of marginalised and discriminated fellow citizens of ours.
This could also prove a convincing counter-narrative against the nationalists and illiberal populists who have poisoned the hearts and minds of so many poor, excluded and disoriented people.
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