The British people’s vote for Brexit merely reinforces the political logic that has become an imperative. On the one hand, people want to be consulted, while on the other, Europe is summoned to change. François Hollande believes that, “the vote of the United Kingdom is putting Europe to the test”; Alain Juppé holds that, “we must write a new page, a new chapter, in the history of Europe”; the leaders of France’s National Front, but not they alone, are calling for a referendum on France’s membership in the EU and in the euro. Throughout Europe, debate along these same lines is underway.
A few days ago, we wrote on the Terranova Foundation site: “The referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union will lead to a shock that is more political than economic. It will be difficult to contain demands for similar consultations. Meeting these demands by ‘more Europe’ will only heighten the distance between the peoples and European construction. To think that referendums could on the other hand legitimize the status quo would also be a mistake. We propose responding to the democratic need not by a ‘all or nothing’ approach but by a process of democratic ownership that helps to legitimize European integration and to imagine future possibilities.”
This method of democratic ownership of Europe and the euro has to be taught. Referendums “for or against” won’t cut it. The federal leap now acts as a foil for probably a large majority of Europeans. But a public domain does nevertheless exist in Europe. Articulating what today are the sites of democracy, the EU Member States, with the need, for some subjects, of a supranational legitimacy is the alternative to the invention of the European citizen. But it is the method that counts. And all the levers of participatory democracy, of broad national and transnational debates, including through citizen juries, must be mobilized to take stock of the current state of Europe and propose reforms that will render it more democratic. This could lead to concrete advances such as a parliament of the euro zone or an extension of the European Parliament’s powers. It is also the way to reverse the trend towards the breakdown of Europe.