The world today holds no future for a European country that tries to function alone. This is now clear and accepted by all governments and nations of the continent.
It seems, however, that economic hardship, disappointments caused by Brussels and the debt crisis are encouraging disengagement on the part of our democracies. Selfishness, populism, extremism and mounting concern compete with one another as the process of integration is questioned and even challenged.
It is undeniable that integration was truly successful until the end of the 20th century. Devastated, disparaged and divided, Europe rebuilt itself within 50 years; the EU has become the world’s leading economic power and the continent has been reunified peacefully.
A grand common market is no longer enough
The integration process stalled as its political aspect was about to commence. It expanded too fast, according to incomplete criteria, which, despite what is written in the treaties, covered neither the political purpose of the EU nor the foreign and defense policies that are vital to ensuring our influence in the world.
European institutions have continued to focus on the complete dissolution of internal borders, but due to lack of democratic legitimacy, they have refrained from challenging fiscality, regulation and economic policy, domains which are jealously guarded by individual states. Outside of the Union, they have also failed to embrace the new challenges of globalization.
The EU launched the single currency, the Euro, but it has not established balanced budgetary and federal powers that would allow it to act and express itself with a single voice.
It is now clear that a grand common market is no longer enough for our States. Though they of course find greater strategic advantage in this, the means to implement common policies are lacking. From being the world’s leading export power, the Union is now becoming its leading import and consumer market. This is worrying in the absence of expedient policies in the domains of research, technology and the service industry.
Fundamental values have to be refashioned
Because the 21st century, an era of Continent-States, is one in which size does matter, European integration must resume as soon as possible by stepping up fiscal and budgetary convergence and by pooling the wealth of European influence abroad.
We might doubt whether the EU27 can make it. Some members confirmed this in their dubious attitude during the debt crisis. It is therefore vital to tighten the EU’s ‘hard core’ further. Naturally, we think of Germany and France, which, along with a few rare exceptions, consider themselves as the safe-keepers of the European project’s future. The latter should remain open to all, but its fundamental values have to be refashioned: greater discipline within a “Union that is increasingly tightly knit” with an accepted, natural solidarity between States.
European integration is the only means by which the global economic and political displacement of Europe can be avoided; our States must be strengthened through further transfers of sovereignty. With this they will be demonstrating their will to cooperate with their European partners, in a privileged and prioritized manner, in order to rise to the challenges they face. It is this will that is currently lacking and this lack that sows the seeds of mistrust.
This article has been published on the European-Magazine.com