European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said a ‘functional federalism’ would protect the European Union’s shared values and way of life.
He was speaking at the annual Brussels Think Tank Forum on 22 April. The theme of this year's event was 'State of the Union 2013 – Federalism or Fragmentation: spelling out Europe's F-Word'.
President Barroso said a 'functional federalism' is needed to counter emerging threats to European unity. These threats include increased support for political extremes and national prejudices.
He outlined the Commission's proposals for greater economic union and cooperation, leading eventually to political union.
The Commission also plans to present a broad outline of its vision for the future European Union to allow a full debate by European citizens –ahead of the next European Parliament elections in 2014.
"A half-hearted attitude towards the project of European integration only serves to strengthen its opponents; to concede the political momentum to those on the side of nationalism and populism," said President Barroso. "Only by calling it by its name do we get a chance to debate the real issues, to make clear what is behind the word federalism."
"So federalism is in itself a concept with two faces: searching for unity whilst recognising, respecting and reconciling genuine autonomy. At its very core is the idea of unity in diversity. Now, what can be more European than that?"
"I am deeply concerned about the divisions that we see emerging: political extremes and populism tearing apart the political support and the social fabric that we need to deal with the crisis; disunion emerging between the centre and the periphery of Europe; a renewed demarcation line being drawn between the North and the South of Europe; prejudices re-emerging and again dividing our citizens."
"This is what functional federalism means in practice: we take one step at a time, yet we can only do that successfully if we have the larger context and a long-term vision in mind."