19th Feb 2019

Barnier: A revolution in integration only response to growing nationalism

  • Europe is the only continent on the planet that is to see its population decline over the next four decades (Photo: European Commission)

European leaders have again warned against rising 'populist' anti-EU tendencies across the block, but one commissioner has struck out and said that profoundly deeper integration, including an elected EU president, may be the only way to prevent paralysis and decline.

Citing the support for the anti-immigrant eurosceptic True Finns and the growing support from France's far-right National Front, internal market commissioner Michel Barnier on Monday (9 May) said he worried that by 2050, Europe would be "paralysed at home national populism and selfishness", diminishing the bloc to the status of a regional power.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"We need nations to bring citizens to terms with the European project. We need nations to combat nationalism," he said in a speech to Humboldt University in Berlin.

The solution, he argued, was to overcome the Union's notorious democratic deficit with, eventually, an elected president that combines the role of the head of the European Council and the European Commission.

"One day a future president of the European Union, whoever he or she will be, should both preside over the European Council and chair the European Commission," he continued.

However, he was careful not to suggest that the people exercise this democratic right too soon. The first step would see such a president appointed by a congress comprising MEPs and national deputies. Only "further into the future" could he or she obtain a directly elected mandate.

"For 60 years we have been building Europe for its citizens and in their name; but too often we have been doing it without them," he said, adding that the democratic mandate of the European Parliament was not sufficient.

"The gap between Europe and its citizens has gradually widened. The hard work done every day by the European Parliament – the only European institution which is directly answerable to the people – will not be enough to bring about reconciliation."

Barnier also wants to see a fusion of the positions of the chief of the eurozone group of states - currently held by Luxembourgish Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, and the economy and monetary affairs commissioner, currently held by Finnish liberal politician Olli Rehn.

He also argued for deeper integration in almost all other policy areas, calling for a common asylum system, a "common European diplomacy" that should be housed in a "European foreign ministry" rather than the existing European External Action Service, and common European defence.

This latter project would involve "A true military staff structure, systematically bringing together research efforts and resources, and favouring European products when purchasing equipment."

He would also like to see the creation of a European Civil Defence Force that could respond to natural, industrial and humanitarian disasters and a network of European consulates.

Noting that Europe is the only continent on the planet that is to see its population decline over the next four decades, he also called on the countries of Europe to develop a European population policy involving "a co-ordinated policy to boost the birth rate and provide support in childhood."

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

German, French MEPs tried to block #MeToo measure

A majority of MEPs accepted signing a declaration on appropriate behaviour - but some voted against. The opposition came mostly from centre-right German and far-right French MEPs.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  2. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  3. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  4. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  5. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  6. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  7. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  8. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us