Hollande's proposal for an 'European Avant-Garde'

Friday, August 7 2015, 14:40, analysis by mw Hoai-Thu Nguyen

Against the backdrop of the Greek debt crisis, French President Hollande embraced the idea of introducing a government for the Eurozone, complete with its own specific budget and a parliament to which it would be accountable, in an opinion piece published in Le Journal du Dimanche on 19 July 2015. According to Hollande, “what threatens us is not too much Europe but a lack of it”[1]. While the Eurozone has a common currency, both fiscal and economic policies are mainly regarded as areas of national sovereignty of the Member States, an arrangement that has been often criticized. Sharing a common currency was a choice the 19 Eurozone Member States had made because it was in their interest and no government so far has taken the responsibility of leaving, Hollande said. The next step would be an “avant-garde” of those countries that wanted to in a more strengthened organization.

Hollande’s proposal is a homage to Jacques Delors, former European Commission President and one of the founding fathers of the Euro, who turned 90 on 20 July and who has early on advocated for an “avant-garde” or a pioneer group of Member States that would be further integrated than other Member States in what he called a “Federation of nation states”[2]. Such an avant-garde would remain open to all other Member State to join at a later point in time. While the role of the European Commission would not change much in such a scenario, Delors suggested the introduction of a special Council of Ministers as well as a special bicameral parliament consisting of both MEPs from avant-garde Member States and MPs from the national parliaments of such countries.[3]

Considering the recent power struggles during the Greek debt crisis and the profound imbalance of powers between different Eurozone Member States that was displayed in the current intergovernmental setting, maybe a proposal for a more supranational arrangement does not come as a complete surprise. Nevertheless, so far the French proposal remains rather vague, especially concerning the new parliamentary institution. It is not entirely clear what role a Euro parliament would play in this scenario and what powers it would receive. Would they be similar to those of the European Parliament under the economic dialogue of the European Parliament or would they go beyond? What kind of accountability mechanisms would be needed to “ensure democratic control” of the Euro government? How many members will the Euro parliament have and what would its relationship with the European Parliament be? Furthermore, would the creation of a separate and parallel representative institution for the Eurozone but partially consisting of some members of the European Parliament not undermine the institutional unity of the latter and lead to a further division between Euro and non-Euro Member States? And last but not least, how could it be explained to the citizens that there is yet another parliamentary organ to represent them, while many already have problems identifying with the existing European Parliament?[4]

This is, of course, all subject to the overarching question of whether Hollande’s plan will actually find sufficient support in the other Member States.


[1]F. HOLLANDE, Ce qui nous menace, ce n'est pas l'excès d'Europe, mais son insuffisance“, Le Journal du Dimanche, 19 July 2015, available at: http://www.lejdd.fr/Politique/Francois-Hollande-Ce-qui-nous-menace-ce-n-est-pas-l-exces-d-Europe-mais-son-insuffisance-742998 (last visited on 5 August 2015).

[2]J. DELORS, “Europe needs an avant-garde, but…”, Bulletin of

Centre for European Reform, Issue 14 October/November 2000, available at: http://www.cer.org.uk/publications/archive/bulletin-article/2000/europe-needs-avant-garde (last visited on 28 April 2013).


[4]In a Eurobarometer of 2014 only a third (34%) of Europeans say that they tend to trust the European Parliament, while more than half (53%) do not. See: EUROPEAN COMMISSIONS, Special Barometer 415 – Europeans in 2014, Report March 2014, p. 47, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_415_en.pdf (last visisted on 5 August 2015).