Populists and those seeking to retain national sovereignty will never be able to demonstrate that the advantages of living in an EU country are not both immediate and sweeping. Within the Union’s countries, for example, one reaps
the benefits produced by the community’s budget, a multiplier of scant national budgets; one can access economies of scale to employ funds in a more efficient way; and one can promote best practices, which are easily exported from one country to all other member states so that their citizens can ensure that the advantages are passed on as soon as possible. More generally, the added value provided by membership in the European Union amplifies the actions of the individual member states.

The prospects open to the EU budget are worth considering. At the moment, the budget amounts to approximately 1% of the European Union’s GDP, a very small proportion when compared to other federal budgets. In the US, for example, the federal budget is equivalent to 20% of the country’s GDP. Of the 1% of EU GDP that constitutes the European Union’s budget, 80% is currently returned (through a variety of cost items) to the states that provide it. However, the net redistributive impact is rather limited, For every €1,000 difference in per capita income among citizens of the Union, the EU budget only reduces the gap by €11 (a ratio of 1.1%). By comparison, according to a
recent study by Feyrer and Sacerdote, the balancing effect of the federal budget in the US amounts to 40% (35 times more). The macroeconomic stabilisation of the EU's budget is also very limited. An average per capita income reduction of €1,000 in a given year is only compensated by €8. In order to gain some perspective as to what our goal might be, the US federal budget covers €253, the equivalent of a stabilising effect that is 30 times larger.

Everyone keeps promising less taxes and more growth, an impossible recipe given our levels of public debt and the likelihood of an increase in interest rates over the next three years. So we have to work together to increase the meagre 1% community budget by earmarking it to cover projects capable of improving growth in countries with ever-increasing spending restraints. This objective would also serve the interests of austere Germany (which has to keep exporting to other European countries, the destination of the majority of its exports). Ultimately, we could arrive at a European tax regime, linked to the distribution of debt throughout the euro region.

The best guarantee for virtuous countries is centralised political management. No one need fear a European minister of the economy with a German passport.

The window of opportunity to take historic decisions such as these is provided by the almost simultaneous elections in France, Germany and Italy on condition that truly pro-European figures are voted into power. In France, this has almost miraculously taken place; in Germany, we consider Angela Merkel (certain to win the political elections in September) to be the best representative of German Europeanism, though she has at times shied away from the role. Italy, however, is just one big question mark...

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