Paul Dransele sits down with Yves Pelle, leader of the new pro-European group from Brittany who are contesting in the 2014 elections.
M. Pelle is leader of Parti Breton, one of the parties composing the list « We will make you Europe ! » with Mouvement Bretagne et Progres (Movement for Britanny and Progress) of Christian Troadec. The Project for a Democratic Union met him for an interview about the European elections.
PDU: the list “We will make you Europe!” of which your party is a member is openly in favour of a federal Europe. What would be the advantages of a federal Europe for your region, Brittany?
Pelle: Historically, Brittany, like other territories with a strong cultural identity, has always been attached to the idea of a federal Europe. This tendency was emphasised here by the need to rebalance a horizon blocked by a Jacobin and centralising French state. Brittany needs to open its economy to the world and Europe is the only entity capable of having an influence in international treaty or competition rules negotiations when facing powerful blocs like North America or Asia. Brittany is a region based on the sea due to its geography, and the continental French bloc does not give Brittany all its chances to develop in this direction – contrary to states like Denmark, for instance, which controls shipping freight giants such as Maersk.
Europe is also for us the possibility to better defend our rights, our culture and our language against a French state too keen on national standards and which has difficulties in recognising the differences expressed by minorities.
In which domains could a European cooperation be beneficial?
When you look at what happens on the international stage you can only remember that a federal Europe is our best guarantee to preserve a hard-gained peace. It is also the possibility for us to benefit from a vast economic space organised around the same rules and rights. A dream from which we are still far away.
A federal Europe is also the way to have coherent policies in terms of energy, defence,competition, finances which the current Europe of nation-states does not yet enable. Finally, only the EU, with its 500 million citizens, will be able to carry European voices in a world whose population will reach 10 billion in 2050.
How do you imagine the organisation of a federal union ? Your manifesto seems to be organised around a Europe of regions – does that mean citizens would vote for regional MEPs? What about the European executive? Would it be elected by the Parliament or directly by the citizens?
On the basis of the French experience we are not in favour of the election of a providential man, saviour of the Nation. Nevertheless the federal Europe we desire needs to be incarnated by representatives elected directly by European citizens in a Parliament. An assembly of regions would be constituted to act as a Senate. The elected majority would elect nominate a Prime Minister while, inspired by the German constitution designed by the Allies in 1945, a President could be nominated to guarantee the continuity of the federal state.
As we believe the current democratic deficit is fuelled by the distance between the citizens and their representatives, we advocate a strong regional devolution. Regions are a perfectly coherent space easily recognisable by their inhabitants. But freedom will have to be given to each region to determine its own way according to its history, to its identity and to the will of its people without imposing a model.
What response do you give to those who argue against a Europe of regions and point the imbalances, including economic imbalances, which could come from such an entity?
European policies, which are rarely discussed, resulted on the contrary in the improvements of life standards in the poorest territories. Who could deny that Brittany did not benefit from the agricultural common policy or from the European Regional Development Fund? The rebalancing of economies inside Europe will happen progressively if social, fiscal and economic policies are harmonised. The world is not perfect – wealth differences exist and they will remain between the territories. But we trust Europe will continue its territory-planning policies to rebalance these differences. Again, the European level is the only logical one to implement these policies.
Brittany possesses a strong cultural identity. How will you justify the same process for regions whose cultural identity would not be as strongly marked?
As I already said, do not conceive a federal Europe as a uniform model like France currently is. We believe power devolutions will need to be operated according to the desire of the people. A federal Europe only makes sense in its diversity and when the desires of its citizens are recognised, including minorities. The principle of subsidiarity will need to be applied. All regions don’t have the same desires and maturity. Far from being incompatible with a federal Europe, it is the key for the success of such a project.
PDU: How would you convince the citizens of a country as centralised as France of the necessity of adopting a federation?
The reality principle will slowly make its way in a country like France, whose centralised organisation is an exception in Europe. One look at the current debate on local authority reform will convince you the French model has reached an end. What is true for the economic model is also true for other domains such as defence where we are becoming more and more aware that military intervention requires collaboration with foreign countries. The military intervention in Mali mobilised multiple means from numerous European countries.
What’s more, citizens now realise that 80% of the legal texts affecting their lives are decided in Brussels. There only remains to take the last step: accepting the institution of a federal state which will only come to confirm a de facto situation.
Without being overly optimistic, one might believe that citizens will realise populist and autarkist discourses don’t lead anywhere and that constructing is better than destroying. Our party is resolutely inscribed in a process of construction of a European federal state where people from Brittany will fulfill themselves, create and develop in a prosperous and peaceful space.
Image: ‘Drapeau Bretagne’ courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.