domingo, 16 de outubro de 2016
A new beginning for Europe
A new beginning for Europe
The crucial task is to strengthen Europeans’ trust in integration itself.
By TOMÁŠ PROUZA 10/16/16, 6:04 AM CET
As most people know, this year brought about a major change for the European Union.
Before June 2016, member states strived to address the challenges they were facing in a common European framework. Now, for the first time, a member state has decided to leave the common project.
The British people will have to deal with both their own initial surprise about the result and with the fact that they were not prepared for it. The European Union, on the other hand, will have to cope with the fact that in the future it may no longer hold true that one does not leave the same boat whilst it is underway. Furthermore, the European Union will have to clarify where it wants to sail to in the future.
It is evident that despite the apparent uniqueness of the island country, Brexit and the way the British people have reached this point is more a symptom than a cause of the current condition of the union. A series of crises — starting with the financial crisis and followed by the eurozone debt crisis, the war in Syria, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as well as terrorist threats, and above all the migration and refugee crises — have weakened the essential principle of every democratic political project: the trust of its citizens in its capacity to solve the fundamental problems they are facing. The crucial task for the political representation of the EU27 is precisely that — to strengthen Europeans’ trust in integration itself.
The European summit which took place in mid-September in Bratislava was the first important step in this process as political representatives tried to construct a serious diagnosis of the current state of the union. Furthermore, they agreed on concrete measures which, if properly implemented, should bring the union closer to its citizens again, making it more comprehensible and operational where truly necessary.
The union should be able to guarantee our safety and economic prosperity
According to this agreement, in the future, the union should focus on areas where it can bring added value and where the citizens expect it to play a strong role. The union should be able to guarantee our safety and economic prosperity. Hence, it should focus its activities on the areas of internal and external security and support of economic and social development.
Based on this agreement, we should take steps leading to full control of the external borders, a fully operational European border and coast guard, better cooperation of intelligence agencies, and deepening of defense cooperation as well as steps for an active trade policy, investment support, and the completion of the single market.
Nevertheless, these specific measures are not the most important result of the summit. The key conclusion is that the remaining member states, the EU27, have expressed their will to continue with European integration. This consensus confirms the fact that the member states regard the current model of European integration as the best way to further the cooperation of nations on our continent. At the same time, it is based on the understanding that national states cannot face today’s challenges, such as terrorism, illegal migration or the negative impact of globalization, on their own.
All of the previously mentioned measures should contribute to maintain and strengthen the unity of the European Union at a time when one of its prominent members has decided to leave. For the Czech Republic — a medium-size and strongly export-oriented state in the center of Europe — unity, and practical cooperation within the European Union, is a key interest as a guarantee of stability and prosperity.
On that account, we keep saying that in the near future we will need to take pragmatic steps in order to restore trust in the integration process. Therefore, we should not dream about currently unachievable aspirations of super-integration nor claim that we can strengthen the union by returning to its intergovernmental decision-making stage. The problem we are facing now is not an insufficient legal framework, but a lack of confidence. Faltering confidence that we are heading in the right direction is also sometimes accompanied by insufficient courage to use the legroom that the current integration framework offers us.
the Commission is particularly crucial. It must play the role of an independent mediator between the national interests of member states, not deepen trenches across Europe and aspire to politically control the union.
In order to be successful in achieving our plans, we need collaboration between the member states and EU institutions. It is obvious that the integration process is not possible without strong institutions. It is equally clear that EU institutions must act in a way that supports the unity of the union. This unity will work only if each actor adheres to its role as defined by the treaties. In this regard, the Commission is particularly crucial. It must play the role of an independent mediator between the national interests of member states, not deepen trenches across Europe and aspire to politically control the union. It must be an institution that works for all member states, helping them implement their agreements but also consistently supervising that they respect the treaties and fulfill their obligations.
Some argue that the process that we started in Bratislava is not ambitious enough and includes nothing but small steps. Significantly, the politicians who share this assessment have strikingly conflicting ideas about the future of the European Union. The Bratislava declaration is an evolution rather than a revolution. Yet, under the current circumstances, this is the best possible approach. We do not need to completely destroy the European house if only the roof is leaking. Many aspects of the union work well and casting doubt on them would have deep economic and political impacts.
The success of the Bratislava summit will be assessed only in the light of how we succeed in fulfilling the political agreement which was reached there. If we implement the specific commitments from Bratislava, we will make an important step on the path towards a union which addresses the real problems of its citizens and acts precisely where the joint forces of the 27 member states can achieve the best results while not excessively interfering in the lives of Europeans. If this is the case, the Bratislava summit will go down in history as the moment when united Europe began to breathe again.
Tomáš Prouza is Czech State Secretary for European Affairs