a) The Union to-day
In the past 60 years, the EU has evolved from the European Economic Community with six countries (EEC) to a market of 500 million inhabitants and an increasingly centralized Union with 28 countries and 24 official languages.
“Brussels” wants the EU to further integrate and continue to expand geographically. The common market for goods, services, capital and people shall be strictly implemented. The crises of the Euro and the economy shall be overcome, and future similar crises shall be avoided by a common fiscal and economic policy, including a common economic government, common taxes and transfer payments for wealthier to less wealthy countries.
A common foreign and defence policy shall enhance the international and global influence of the EU. New candidate states are waiting at its door, for example in the Balkans (Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia), the Ukraine and Turkey – all this without the citizens in the EU being asked for their opinion.
b) More Democracy?
Further steps toward more democracy are being discussed, especially a democratically elected EU Commission as well as a European Parliament solely responsible for all aspects of legislation.
However, this will require a new EU constitution. A first attempt to set up such a constitution, in 2003/9, proved to be difficult and ultimately led to the Lisbon Treaty. In France and in the Netherlands, the project of this new constitution was rejected by the citizens in referenda, which, however, were thereafter largely ignored.
If things go on as up to now, it is very unlikely that any EU-wide referendum will take place in the future on any major issue of the EU, such as the distribution of power between “Brussels” and member states (common European economic government, transfer union, common foreign and defence policy) or the admission of new member states.
A large majority of politicians at EU and member state level in fact brace themselves against such referenda, which are said to be not suitable to resolve complex issues, yet presumably also because the politicians would lose some of their influence and because of the risk that their decisions could be rejected by the citizens (see box “Direct and Representative Democracy”.
Apart from the elections of the European Parliament every five years, all major decisions, including the appointment of the EU government (Commission), are thus, as up to now, likely to be taken by EU politicians in this "top-down" or “business as usual” scenario.
"Brussels", i.e. the great majority of the EU's political, economic and administrative elites claim this scenario "more of the same" to be the only feasible and realistic path for the future of Europe.
Given the present serious disagreements among member countries, it seems however that this ever closer Union can hardly be implemented, simply because member countries would probably not be able to agree unanimously on the constitutional amendment, which would be indispensable.
a) The USA as Example
The scenario “more of the same" could in the longer term lead to the United States of Europe, which, as the USA, would distinguish itself by a large common market and common policies in the areas of economic and social matters, foreign affairs and defence.
In accordance with these ideas, the USE should, as a new global power, play a significant political, economic and military role in the world. In the USE, the European Commission, the EU Parliament and the EU Council would have considerably more influence than today, as the USE’s executive (president and government) and legislative government branch (parliament with two chambers). The citizens would elect the parliament and the president, which would take all the important political decisions. The president could, e.g., as in the USA decide practically by himself on war and peace.
Considering the many different European languages and cultures, an alignment of European nations along the lines of the U.S. federal states is likely to be difficult. More realistic for Europe is a more decentralized, subsidiary confederation, in which member states could better preserve their cultural and political identity.
b) The New Constitution
The USE would be based on a new constitution. This new legal basis would have to define, in particular, the tasks, composition and election of parliament and the president, as well as the role of member states and of the Union.
The new constitution could be elaborated according to the EU procedure used in 2003/9. Given its enormous scope (and the not very convincing experience in 2003/9), however, a more democratic process involving the citizens would be desirable.
This would imply a general election of a constitutional assembly (to draft the constitution), and, at the end of the process, a popular referendum on the constitution, in each country, as a condition for its membership in the United States of Europe.
In general, referenda at the USE level would however impede the decision-making mechanisms of the new global power (and are not possible at the USA level as well).
The USE is said to be a long-term option only, even by most of its supporters.