A DEMOCRATIC EUROPE
     
Speech by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, at the Humboldt University, Berlin : Democratic Europe - 10-point plan to put the EU on a new democratic footing (Berlin ).
Speech by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz, at the Humboldt Universiy, International Policies and EU Institutions, Berlin on 24-05-2012: Democratic Europe - 10-point plan to put the EU on a new democratinc footing.

Mr Vice-President
Professor Pernice, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted that you have given me the opportunity here this evening to put forward a number of ideas about 'democratic Europe'. These ideas are not intended to be exhaustive or even definitive. Instead, they represent an outline of my thinking, one that I intend to develop over the next few months - with your help. The speeches given at the Humboldt University have an important function, namely that of providing a forum for public debate about the future of Europe. That function extends beyond Germany to Europe as a whole, and the speeches on European policy given as part of the 'Unter den Linden' series have a high profile.

The ideas expressed in these speeches are taken seriously and they have led to significant changes in policy. As President of the European Parliament, I should like to thank you for creating this forum, because now in particular, at a difficult time for and in Europe, public exchanges of ideas are more important than ever.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin with a proposition, one which you will perhaps find shocking, or even alarmist, but one which I firmly believe is true:
the ideas developed by Greek philosophers and Roman lawyers;
the ethical concepts discussed for centuries by Christians, Jews and Muslims;
the achievements of countless revolutions;
the history we read about, sing about and see depicted in other works of art;
all the things which go together to make up the Western tradition;
in a word, what we call democracy:
all of this is in serious danger!
Freedom, equality, solidarity - in other words the system of democracy which enables people to shape public policy by means of their votes - all of this is under threat.
Democracy is not a condition - it is always a process. Democracies need work and they are constantly evolving under the influence of demographic and economic trends, technological innovations, the new media, globalisation and other events. These developments represent a challenge to all societies in all parts of the world. In my view, however, our European democracy in particular faces at least two very specific challenges.
The first challenge comes from the markets, about which we hear so much these days and which have been flexing their muscles during the crisis we have been facing for the last few years. This is not the time or the place to discuss whether these markets really are guided by an 'invisible hand', as the Scottish economist Adam Smith suggested, or whether they represent the interests of ruthless lobby groups. What is important, however, is that we have now got used to seeing rating agencies, for example, quite openly issue threats to individual governments, or to the EU as a whole.
Now it is perfectly acceptable for an individual or body to warn against a given policy decision, or to say that they regard it as wrong. Opinions differ, and that is just as true for economists as it is for the rest of us. However, the fact that a rating agency can make its own warning come true simply by downgrading a country's credit rating, thereby immediately making any new loan that country takes out vastly more expensive, is leading many people to claim that we are now being governed not by democratically elected politicians, but by market forces. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, a prophecy made by people, not gods, by people who - as the leading rating agencies' failure to spot the risks posed by sub-prime mortgages in the USA showed - do sometimes make mistakes and who, what is more, apply criteria about which we know nothing.

We must not allow the idea that policy-making is driven by these anonymous forces to become more firmly established, because that would call the legitimacy of our entire political system into question. People will ask themselves the obvious question: why should I vote when politicians have no say in what happens? That would be a dangerous development.

For that reason, it is my firm belief that the primacy of politics must be restored. If we are to win back political sovereignty, however, we need 'more Europe', because only an economic and political power backed by 500 million Europeans can survive in the 21st century. Without the European Union behind them, 82 million Germans, let alone 510 000 Luxembourgers, cannot hope to compete with the world's emerging regions. To put it in a nutshell, we can only safeguard our democracy with and through Europe. The reverse is also true: if Europe fails, democracy fails.
For me it is axiomatic that achieving that objective will involve changing the EU as we know it today. Not everyone who criticises the EU is a eurosceptic. Those who claim that are oversimplifying, as are those who use cheap populism to make political or economic capital. Apparently, there are writers in Germany who are very good at this ...
Ladies and gentlemen,
Recently the filmmaker Wim Wenders described the EU to me in a way which really made me think. He said: 'the European idea has turned into a bureaucracy, and now people see only the bureaucracy, and not the idea!' He is absolutely right. But does this mean that we should give up the idea, or try to change the bureaucracy? Do we want to give up the idea that together we can safeguard peace, do away with borders and defend prosperity on our continent? That, surely, is not what we want!
Let me now turn to the second challenge to our European democracy: since the crisis spilled over from the USA to Europe in 2008, our executives, that is to say our governments, have come to a remarkable conclusion: because the markets want to see prompt, decisive action, parliaments should be excluded from decision-making. This is the way the people governing us think. In some ways I can understand them, because in my days as a mayor I experienced at first hand just how awkward parliaments can make life for governments.
But, ladies and gentlemen,
parliaments must be exactly that: awkward! They must ensure that political decisions are subjected to public scrutiny, and they must discuss them, perhaps amend them and sometimes even overturn them, in public. For that, they need time. Yes, democracy and parliamentarianism need time, and if we no longer take that time it will mark a change in our social model. Then we really will have a democracy which bows to the will of the markets - and not, as I would like to see, markets which bow to the will of democracy.
The reality is different, however: as part of the effort to address the banking crisis, the German Bundestag has adopted aid packages worth hundreds of billions of euros with a minimum of debate. This may be justified in exceptional circumstances, but as a normal state of affairs it poses a threat to our political system. But this is the way things are in national parliaments. Ask Mr Kauder, Mr Steinmeier and Ms Künast - the days when parliaments rewrote legislation belong to the past.
And how are things at European level, what has become of parliamentarianism in the context of the European unification process? More and more powers have been transferred to Brussels, with the result that their exercise can no longer be scrutinised at national level. The German Bundestag oversees only the Federal German Government. But the Bundestag and other national parliaments cannot oversee the 27 Member State governments and a European executive, the Commission. That task can only be performed by a body set up for precisely that purpose: the European Parliament. That European Parliament has seen its prerogatives steadily increase and is now, under the latest Treaty provisions, in a very strong position. It is one of the most powerful parliaments in the world.
However, in the last two years, as a result of the trend towards summitisation, that is to say the endless series of meetings of the Heads of State and Government, more and more legislative decisions have been taken without the European Parliament being consulted. This is a throwback to the era of the Congress of Vienna in the 19th century. For the first time, the Council's 'arrogation of power' is leading to the 'destruction of democracy', as the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas so aptly put it.
Granted, the financial and banking crisis has on occasions forced the Heads of State and Government to take quickly and under pressure decisions which would normally have required lengthy parliamentary consideration. But is this so-called Union method - under which action by the EU governments is increasingly coming to replace action by Parliament and the Commission, really more efficient? Or does it merely represent a surreptitious return to the principle of unanimity, which the Lisbon Treaty had largely done away with? In what way is it efficient if the representatives of 27 governments sit down together and are incapable of reaching a compromise because they are so determined to protect their national interests? We have been admiring the results of this 'efficiency' for two years, years in which Europe has slipped deeper and deeper into crisis.
For that reason I say that we need to put European democracy on a new footing. I will illustrate my idea by outlining a 10-point plan which we have already started to implement in the European Parliament.
But first let me say one thing: the institutional debates which experts have been conducting so enthusiastically for years are necessary, but they are not an adequate response to the current crisis. We are constantly fiddling, adjusting, mending, or in some cases even demolishing and rebuilding from scratch. This is all well and good, but let's be honest: it does not provide the solution to any of our current problems. These are debates about complex issues, which we understand and which may even make us look like innovative thinkers. But they can also call a different image to mind: that of a house burning whilst the firemen argue about how fire engines should be designed in the future. It is hardly surprising that people should be so indifferent to this institutional navel-gazing.
No, by dragging out these institutional debates we are simply playing into the hands of those whose stated aim is to destroy the EU in its current form. The recent attempt to revise the Treaties, which was thwarted by the vetoes exercised by the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, and the so-called Fiscal Pact agreed in its place are both a striking illustration of this problem and a warning of what can happen.
For that reason I say that even without a new European Treaty, without a Convention and without a lengthy ratification procedure, we can build on the existing arrangements and put European democracy on a new footing. Let's make a start now!
1. Democracy needs a public
Whether in parliament chambers, on market squares or in chat rooms, public debate is the lifeblood of our society. Negotiations conducted behind closed doors and general mistrust of the public are destroying democracy. While there are apparently politicians who go as far as to publicly bemoan the fact that the voters still determine the outcome of elections, they are the exceptions. Let's take ACTA as an example: early this year the Internet community was up in arms because governments were engaged in top-secret international negotiations on future copyright rules - negotiations on an agreement with serious implications for people's everyday lives.
Once the issue had been brought to light, 2.5 million people signed a petition against ACTA and handed it over to - whom? To the Heads of State and Government, who had launched the secret negotiations in the first place? No, to the European Parliament. And since then, we have been discussing, openly, critically and objectively, whether we should ratify this agreement or whether we should fight it. The people directly affected are involved in that debate. I myself have argued with university students and set up a Europe-wide online chat room, and I use every available form of communication to ensure that the European Parliament can take a decision which properly reflects the facts. For precisely that reason, we in the EP intend to make even greater efforts to raise our public profile.
2. Democracy needs debate
To make an issue more visible, you need a debate. Not simply for its own sake, but in order to achieve the best possible result, because a debate highlights alternatives. I want to conduct this debate - in a dignified manner, as behoves a President - both inside Parliament and with the other institutions, the Council or the Commission.
Unfortunately, the European Parliament has a reputation as a body hooked on decision-making by consensus. Under the Treaty provisions as they stand, we are strong as a Parliament when we take decisions by substantial majorities. All too often, this rules out any form of political debate. This can change and must change: on day one of my presidency I decided to set the tone by inviting the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban to the European Parliament to debate his policies, which were hugely controversial throughout Europe. This was a great moment for European parliamentarianism, in that the head of the Hungarian Government was faced with the kind of opposition he had largely silenced at home.
We have also invited the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to explain his policies to the European Parliament, because a lot hangs on their success or failure - not just for the Italians, but for all of us in Europe. For that same reason I have also asked Prime Minister Marc Rutte to come to Parliament and talk about the situation in the Netherlands, because many people are concerned about developments in that country.
In short, I intend to use my period of office to make the European Parliament a more effective forum for debate, with the conscious aim of strengthening the institution as a whole and European democracy in general.
3. Democracy needs a proper division of powers
One aspect of our European heritage which we are always ready to invoke is the constitutional framework developed to oversee the exercise of national sovereignty: the model based on the division of powers, as embodied in the relationship between the legislature, the executive and an independent judiciary.
For years now, however, we have been transferring more and more sovereignty from national level to EU level, but what we have failed to do is transfer some of the key components of the model based on the division of powers. That is the real democratic deficit! This problem could be remedied by giving the European Parliament the unrestricted right to propose legislation. It wouldn't even be necessary to amend the Treaties - it would be enough for the Commission to give a political undertaking to support Parliament's proposals. That is pragmatic politics.
4. Democracy needs parties
I suspect that very few people in Germany have heard of the EPP or PES. In all probability, when they hear these abbreviations they think about a new braking system for cars or the latest computer software programme. In fact, EPP stands for the European People's Party, which is made up of the German CDU led by Angela Merkel, the Greek Nea Dimocratia led by Andonis Samaras, the French UMP and other similar parties; Sigmar Gabriel and Francois Hollande are leading members of the PES, the Party of European Socialists. We tend to see all these people as purely national politicians, but we are wrong to do so, as they are all already active at European level. To give just one example, look at the way the European conservatives, led by Angela Merkel, closed ranks behind Nicolas Sarkozy and the way the European Social Democrats did the same behind François Hollande.
From the outset I welcomed the way the French presidential election campaign took on a European dimension. This development will also have a significant bearing on the work of national parties, forcing them gradually to abandon their parochial outlook. I can well imagine, for example, that in the fairly near future the manifestos issued by sister parties across the EU will contain identical sections on certain issues which they have drafted together at European level. Only then will we be able to talk about genuinely European social or Christian democracy.
5. Democratic elections must decide something
This is fundamental, because the plain fact of the matter is that at every European election since 1979 the turnout has dropped because people believe that their vote is meaningless. This is unacceptable and it is essential, therefore, that in the run-up to the 2014 European elections the European parties should each choose a leading candidate, who would thus also be their candidate for the post of Commission President. After the election, the candidate who can command a majority in Parliament would become Commission President. Many people seem to be unaware of the fact that this arrangement will apply in 2014.
For the first time, therefore, a European election campaign will offer the voters a choice between candidates with differing programmes. This will foster a European debate on European issues which highlights markedly different approaches to policy-making at EU level. There is nothing more apolitical than the argument which goes 'there is no alternative to Europe'. In the context of European elections, a more pertinent question would be 'What kind of Europe do we want?' That is the very purpose of an election campaign, to determine our political course on the basis of partisan, informed debate.

6. Democracy needs civil society
I am delighted that we now have elements of direct democracy in the EU. April 1 saw the introduction of the European Citizens' Initiative - for the first time, citizens from different countries can join forces and ask the Commission to put forward a legislative proposal. This development merely reflects the way things are in Europe, since we have long had European works councils, multinational concerns and multinational non-governmental organisations. They all have the potential to ignite campaigns for or against a given proposal or plan and to get people working together.

Because I believe that civil society has this power I recently signed, together with Ulrich Beck, Helmut Schmidt, Jürgen Habermas, Umberto Eco and others, a call for the introduction of a system of European voluntary service, through which lived experience of what European integration actually means could be passed on to young people. I regard this as important, because for the older people among us the experience of European wars was all the motivation we needed to build a united Europe. You, as young people, are quite rightly calling for a new, forward-looking rationale for European integration. A rationale which harks back only to the past is no longer sufficient. The onus is therefore now on European and national institutions to support the development of a European civil society - whether by introducing a system of European voluntary service, by stepping up exchanges between pupils, trainees, students and journalists, or simply by listening very closely to what civil society has to say to us.
 7. Democracy needs the media
One positive side effect of the crisis has been greater curiosity about our neighbours in Europe: when do people in those countries retire, how much youth unemployment and state debt do they have, how competitive are their economies. Suddenly, our newspapers and news programmes are full of reports and items about our neighbouring countries. Although I am not happy about the way some events have been reported, the coverage has brought home to us that the outcome of a national election affects all of us in Europe. What better illustration of this idea could there be than the forthcoming elections in Greece, for which the whole of Europe is waiting with bated breath?
Alongside this, a new trend is emerging, encouraged by the development of social media: exchanges of information and ideas via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, which see borders as an irrelevance and which have the same significance for young people as reports in Der Spiegel, Stern or in other newspapers and magazines once did for us. In future, these new social media may come to have a major influence on the way issues are singled out for attention at European level, as the controversy surrounding ACTA showed.
It is clear, therefore, that we have taken a significant step towards the creation of European public opinion. We can already say that such a thing as European domestic policy exists, a development which the media have covered very effectively.

8. Democracy needs fundamental rights
All these new developments should not lead us to neglect the constitutional basis for our democracy. After all, the most important element of a democracy remains the protection of each individual's fundamental rights. For that reason, the protection of fundamental and human rights is part of the raison d'être of the European Union. The high level of protection of fundamental rights and, for example, the abolition of the death penalty set Europe apart from other regions of the world. We can be proud of these achievements and I would like us to be less self-conscious in proclaiming them sometimes.

The right to protection against unjustified state restrictions on our freedom, fundamental social and economic rights and the right to protection against discrimination: all these are enshrined in the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights and are enforced as laws by the CJEC.
The European Parliament also protects citizens, even in circumstances when national parliaments can no longer do so. Let me give you one example: the European Parliament demonstrated its power when it considered the SWIFT agreement on the transfer of bank data in the context of combating terrorism. The 'no' vote by MEPs on SWIFT prevented the introduction of provisions which would have given the US authorities the right to access sensitive financial data concerning Union citizens. No national parliament went against its government in an attempt to scupper a deal negotiated behind closed doors. The European Parliament's decisive intervention thwarted an agreement which was strongly influenced by the ideological US approach to security, but which disregarded the principle of the protection of fundamental rights which we, as MEPs, have a duty to uphold on behalf of the citizens of this continent. And that is what we did: we said yes to measures to combat terrorism, but no to Big Brother-style invasions of privacy.
For that reason, I feel I must contradict the Federal Constitutional Court. This case gives the lie to its suggestion that fundamental rights cannot be properly safeguarded at EU level.
9. Democracy needs hope
I know that hope is a very emotive word, but it is only emotive for those who are, by comparison with others, comfortably off.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In recent weeks I have been to Greece twice and to Spain. In both countries I spoke to people who have been badly affected by the crisis and by the radical, but necessary, austerity policies implemented in response. These are not wealthy people who have quickly transferred their money to Swiss bank accounts; no, they are primarily young people, the elderly and members of other particularly disadvantaged groups.
In parts of southern Europe, youth unemployment has reached 50 %. However vital reform may be in those countries, it has created a feeling of hopelessness among young people which scares me. Their lack of prospects is threatening our entire economic system.
In a report published this week the International Labour Organisation talked about a 'lost generation' in the countries of southern Europe. That is something that a democracy simply cannot accept, since the European democratic model is one based on solidarity and social democracy. A democracy in which people are protected against the most serious risks they may face in their lives and which gives them a second chance when things go wrong. The lifeblood of this democracy is the creativity and enthusiasm of its people, above all young people, and their feeling that they have a stake in its future. And because Europe now faces stiff competition from other emerging regions in the world, that creativity is our only defence against decline in global terms.
For that reason, more efforts are needed in the area of education and training, at regional, national and European level. It is clear that the money required will have to be saved elsewhere. However, I see scope for savings in the EU budget, for example in the area of agriculture. I will make precisely this point in the forthcoming budget discussions.
Let us be clear about one thing: in calling for more money for training and lifelong learning, I - as a trained bookseller - am not thinking primarily of the possible economic benefits. The venue for my lecture today should in itself remind us of Humboldt's philosophy of education as an end in itself, almost as a means of developing our potential as human beings to the full. I endorse that philosophy of education and I see it as an integral component of our European democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In making my tenth point I want to raise a particularly intractable issue, that of the institutional reform which the EU must undergo in the medium term.
One thing is clear: if not everyone wants to be a part of this reform process, the results of which will be more transparency, more democracy and more efficiency, the likelihood is that a group of Member States will move ahead on their own, as has already happened in the context of Schengen or the euro. What point am I trying to make?
10. Democracy needs institutional clarity
Although I am not claiming for a moment that every German is fully conversant with even the smallest detail of the German legislative process or German electoral law, there is no mistaking the fact that many people know little or nothing about the structure of the EU - a level of ignorance that is ultimately damaging. How many of you here today could name the Presidents of the four main European institutions, the Commission, the Council, the Court of Justice and Parliament.

It is my firm belief that if Europe is to be genuinely democratic it needs institutional clarity in the medium term: a European government, what today we still know as the Commission; a parliamentary first chamber, the European Parliament; a second chamber, consisting of the national governments, what today we still know as the Council; and a European Court, which oversees the protection of fundamental rights at European level. As I have already said, the first steps towards the creation of this new system will be taken when the next European elections are held in 2014: the Commission President will come from the party or coalition which has a majority in Parliament.
All these European institutions are not superior or subordinate to their counterparts at national level, but rather work with them, on the basis of sincere cooperation and a clear division of responsibilities. However, the election of the Commission President will give the holder of that office a new role: he or she will be the de facto head of the European government. Before being elected, he or she will have to put a manifesto or government programme to the voters. The automatic result will be that the election campaign serves as a forum in which the political priorities of the new EU government are thrashed out.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have created an institutional structure which is more than a federation of states, but less than a federal state. I can see no 'United States of Europe', along the lines of the United States of America, emerging on the horizon. But this is by no means a bad thing. As a young man, I dreamt of a 'United States of Europe', which at that time I saw as the ultimate objective of European integration. However, with the passing years I have learnt just how strong national identities are and I can no longer imagine that we in Europe would ever stop feeling like Germans, Belgians, Frenchmen or Poles - and quite right too.
After all, our national diversity and our specific experiences are what constitute Europe's wealth. The nation state will never completely give way to a united Europe, and national identities will never be completely subsumed into a European identity. We will remain hybrids, with regional, national and European aspects to our identity. If we ever begin to lose sight of this, football is always there to remind us.
It is also clear, however, that European integration has long since passed the 'federation of states' stage, and has created a supranational structure. At this point we can either look at the narrow constitutional definitions of 'federal state' or 'federation of states' and bemoan the fact that the EU has got stuck somewhere between the two, or we can recognise that structure as a hugely creative and innovative response to the challenge of political governance in the globalised 21st century, a response to global challenges which no nation state acting alone can meet any longer.
Our response is this: supranational sovereignty; the pooling of national sovereignty in order to win back to the power to shape policy and take action, since a Union with 27 Member States, 500 million citizens and the world's largest and most prosperous internal market can do so much more than one single country can.
We Germans in particular often forget that. We think of as ourselves as a heavyweight, but in the future world political arena we will be no more than a flyweight. We would perhaps be able to hold our own in the face of trans-continental competition for a few years yet. But where would we stand at the halfway point in this century, at the height of the Asian-Pacific era? Today, Germany has 82 million people, and that number is falling - China has 1.33 billion people, and that number is increasing.
The world around us is changing at breakneck speed. If we do not respond, Europe will be condemned to insignificance. That is the challenge facing us.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The European Union represents an attempt in the globalised 21st century to protect our social model against the impact of the emergence of new powers. An attempt prevent Europe's decline. An attempt to protect our democracy.
We live in a society in which the press is free and the courts are independent, which makes provision for the sick and the retired, and which offers more people than ever unrestricted access to education and the chance to build a career. We live in a society characterised by parliamentary democracy, political participation, equal opportunities, guaranteed civil rights and the world's highest social and environmental standards. We have abolished child labour and the death penalty. We have created a society which has the individual at its centre.
That is the society in which I want to live. That society can of course become freer, fairer and more inclusive. But we have made a good start, drawing on the lessons of the catastrophe which overtook Europe in the middle of the 20th century. I want my children and subsequent generations also to have the opportunity to live in a Europe which has learnt its lessons.

There is no guarantee that we will be able to keep Europe together as an alliance. But that this something worth fighting for every day, and my hope is that we can fight for that better Europe together.
Thank you for your attention.