What Do We Really Want from the EU?

European citizens should think more about their demands when talking about the EU. Here’s why.

These are not the best of times for the European Union. There’s a financial crisis; an immigration crisis; a crisis of trust, and who knows what else. In a nutshell, the EU is in trouble.

What is more difficult to comprehend is the malignancy and the “I-told-you-so” attitude of so many politicians, commentators and European citizens. The poignancy of the negative feelings is really remarkable. That is why I would like to do something unusual for this blog and address these skeptics. My objective is to provide a merciless, subjective and heavily normative critique of the complacency of those that seem to prefer a European future without a European Union.

In order to do that, I need to make an important observation. Homo Sapiens has not evolved substantially during the last 60 years. That being said, the claims that a new war on the European continent is impossible seem strange. It was not the tanks and airplanes that destroyed Europe during World War II, it was the people in them. What is more, our physical and genetic ancestors have waged war on one another for at least two millennia on this continent. In fact, the only longer peaceful episode in recent history has been the period of European integration. It’s true that NATO and the dynamic of nuclear deterrence also played a part. But it was the cooperation of European elites within the European Community that cemented this security pact.

Nowadays many believe that wars are part of the history, but not of the future. Others think that wars may be a useful instrument of foreign policy. What unites them is the lack of any wartime experience. This virus of complacency and ignorance is widespread. It has caught up with politicians, journalists, and all kinds of experts. The McDonalds rule is their flag, although it has already been broken. This virus makes them think that states are well equipped to solve emerging problems using the classic instruments of intergovernmental cooperation. The problem with their narratives is that this type of cooperation has recently failed spectacularly – with the UN Climate Change Conference failing to agree on new rules for climate change mitigation, WTO failing to agree on the completion of the Doha round, and the G-20 failing to agree on anything except for the summit menu. These are not just incidents; these are symptoms of the limitations of the classic forms of international cooperation.

Someone might argue that if the EU were so successful, it wouldn’t have experienced its recent crisis. That is true. The EU is not perfect, and we are now bearing the fruits of the lax rules of the Economic and Monetary Union. But it is much better than any other form of cooperation especially given the small economies of many Member States. This issue of economic efficiency is usually not discussed by euroskeptics. The truth is that without the European Union economic life in Europe would definitely slow down, and businesses know that. This is the problem of some anti-EU parties: their constituencies will actually suffer from any possible withdrawal from the Union. That is why they prefer to grumble about the EU without taking a meaningful step towards resolution of their grievances. Referendums should be held in each and every Member State that feels the need to take a different path to prosperity. The United Kingdom should be particularly encouraged to conduct a referendum on its EU membership. The European Union is not a club of convenience; its success depends on the high motivation of its members.

The European Union is not at a crossroads. It is a well-functioning and unique mechanism for political integration. It’s up to its users – the European citizens, to use it properly. It will deliver results only if we command it to do so. That is why from now on I would like to hear more demands, and less chaotic criticism when discussing the EU.

4 responses to “What Do We Really Want from the EU?

  1. The peril of a disintegrating Union is real and terrible, but the complacency of those who would seek it is matched by those aiming to prevent it, and I fear you are overly sanguine in regard to referendums.
    I disagree strongly with the “lax rules” theory. I hear this frequently from former colleagues (generally alongside complaints about populism that I find particularly aggravating), part of the Merkel “homework” narrative. Believing that the only really effective monetary tool is a central bank interest rate, I can’t see how what rules could have obviated the deleterious effects of a suitable rate for the core economies on those that were distorted by it. The complacency that you rightly attribute to those who ignore foreign and security risks has also been the signal characteristic of eurozone policy making and, I would venture, in the preparation and implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. The former may already have led to an economic downside that risks canceling out the benefits of the euro and thereby adding to the effect of the latter in undermining the perceived democratic legitimacy of the Union.
    The UK is just a precursor: anti-EU sentiment in other countries is not that far behind. If the UK voted itself out, others would be tempted to emulate it. Far better to aim to render the EU more acceptable to a UK public as a means of ensuring wider adherence.
    My demand is that the EU throw out its self-justifying attitude of infallibility and proceed to a mea culpa on the euro like the one that was finally forthcoming regarding priestly paedophilia.
    We are stuck with the Treaty, but if the EU sincerely starts trying to lead the citizen horse back in front of the political cart, then perhaps one day its flag could even be flown at Number 10 by popular demand…

    • Вихър Георгиев

      So should we abandon the euro to save everything else?

      • If I recall correctly, Soros opined at Davos time that the euro will be saved at the expense of the Union. I’m not so sure now that the fate of the euro is still within the EU’s grasp. But I’m fairly certain that saving what is still possible to save of the euro will require a more frank assessment of its shortcomings and that that will be the key to limiting the effect on the Union of whatever transpires.

      • Вихър Георгиев

        This would be a monumental change and it would have all kinds of consequences. But if it’s really unavoidable, some politician will have to say it publicly at some point before the process of transformation can start.

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