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4th Dec 2022

Stop dreaming of integrated EU utopia, says Tusk

  • Tusk (r) warned against further integration, while Juncker called on fellow Christian Democrats to stay away from populism (Photo: The European Union)

More integration is not the answer to the current crises faced by Europe, EU Council president Donald Tusk has warned.

He said on Monday European politicians were “confronting reality with all kinds of utopian ideas”.

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“A utopia of Europe without nation states, a utopia of Europe without conflicting interests and ambitions, a utopia of Europe imposing its own values on the external world, a utopia of a Euro-Asian unity," he told an event marking the 40th anniversary of the conservative European People's Party (EPP) in Luxembourg.

The former Polish prime minister warned that those advocating for stronger and quicker European integration fail to understand the voice of the people.

"Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe do not share our Euro-enthusiasm," Tusk said.

"Disillusioned with the great visions of the future, they demand that we cope with the present reality better than we have been doing until now."

Less than a month before the UK's referendum on EU membership, Tusk warned: "The spectre of a break-up is haunting Europe and a vision of a federation doesn't seem to me like the best answer to it."

Instead, Tusk called for the EPP to get back to its Christian Democratic roots, and reconcile differences within the European Parliament's largest party to counter extremist voices.

He said Europe needs a synthesis of values, such as open borders and solidarity with refugees.

"We will either understand that the views of [German chancellor] Angela [Merkel] and [Hungarian prime minister] Viktor [Orban] are compatible with each other and only together can they provide a full answer, or people will search for other radical and brutal recipes for how to solve the crisis," he told fellow EPP members.

Tusk however did not provide a vision for reconciling those differences, with Orban often criticising Merkel publicly and giving fuel to her domestic political opponents.

Merkel has been struggling to stick to her welcoming policy towards asylum seekers in the face of growing criticism. Orban has been calling for reinforced external border protection and has built a fence to keep migrants out.

Juncker warns of populism

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker hit a consolatory tone with those opposing the EU's migration policy, such as Orban, of distributing refugees across the continent.

He said they should not be labelled populists.

"Not everyone who does not agree with certain aspects of the European refugee policy and the proposals made by the Commission is a populist," he said.

But the veteran Luxembourg politician warned fellow EPP members not to try to imitate populist forces, as voters would choose the "original" populists anyway.

"There must be a clear line of demarcation between the EPP and the extreme right-wing forces in the European Union... and that needs to be made clear repeatedly," Juncker said.

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