22nd Oct 2016


Our common path: EU cohesion, not trenches

  • Sobotka with German leader Angela Merkel

In recent years, the European Union has been plagued by several crises, from the financial to the migration situation, and now the crisis of confidence.

These events have laid bare the fact that the EU tends to be slow and wavering in coming to grips with its problems. Even the outcome of the UK referendum should be viewed as another symptom of the malaise we face as a community.

It is up to us alone whether, in these circumstances, we fall prey to doubts.

Another option is to join those who appear to be happy when the branch they themselves are sitting on snaps.

The final alternative is to use the current situation as an impetus to improve the way the European Union as a whole functions.

I am for this third option, as I am convinced that it is best not only for Europe, but also for the Czech Republic and its citizens.

That is why I and other EU leaders, at the June European Council, confirmed our shared commitment to continue building a safe, politically strong and economically successful Europe.

This process can be fruitful only if we manage to disconnect it from the crisis management to which the Union has often had to resort under pressure of events, and if we go back to a rational, systematic approach.

It is the scramble to frantically seek solutions to recurring crises, a strategy naturally fraught with mistakes and problems, that tarnishes the image of the European Union most in the eyes of its citizens and partners.

The European Union is, more than anything else, a community of states, and it is up to us to inject its future direction with fresh impetus.

Trust and cohesion

I believe that trust and cohesion are central to continuing European integration. These two ingredients are crucial if cooperation between member states is to be amplified. Our common path must be aimed at strengthening trust between member states, not deepening the trenches between the cliques within the Union.

Our citizens are increasingly pointing to member states’ inability to find common solutions to the key issues that are of direct concern to their everyday lives. We need to change that.

At the Bratislava summit this Friday, I will concentrate on two topics that are absolutely crucial from this perspective: first, prosperity and economic cooperation; and secondly, the Union’s internal and external security.

When it comes to ensuring security within the European Union, the main priorities are quite clearly the fight against terrorism, based on effective police cooperation and the exchange of relevant information, including that obtained by intelligence agencies, the prevention of radicalisation, and the stemming of financial flows used by terrorists.

Full control of external borders, a prerequisite for the efficiency of the free-travel Schengen system, is equally important.

A true global player

In addition to this internal dimension, we need to show the same intensity in addressing the external aspects of security.

The Union already wields highly effective foreign-policy instruments, such as the neighbourhood policy, development assistance and trade policy. To ensure the European Union’s acceptance as a true global player, it must be able and willing to engage in the protection of its citizens’ interests even beyond its borders.

We can pursue this goal by setting up a European Security and Defence Union and initiating a process geared towards the gradual formation of a European army.

The aim is not to compete with Nato, but to move forward with purely European security priorities in our neck of the woods, including the fight against terrorists and people-smugglers and our response to humanitarian crises and the disintegration of certain states.

Citizens rightly expect that the Union, besides keeping them safe, will help to ensure that they enjoy a decent standard of living. The financial crisis has stalled the process of economic convergence, both within and between individual member states, and this has long dented the economic and social situation of the Union as a whole.

As close to citizens as possible

Convergence, though, is a key objective that we should be pursuing as it addresses much of the turmoil we face today.

We already have a number of tools that we can use to promote convergence and economic growth, especially a smoothly running internal market with its four freedoms (free movement of goods, services, persons and capital), extensive support of investment, trade policy, cohesion policy, and its backing of research and development.

We advocate a digital economy and we are building an Energy union. A truly European approach entails the even-handed development of all four freedoms, and in doing so we need to resist the temptation to curb any of them, no matter how beneficial thus may seem in the short term.

We must respond to globalisation with keener competitiveness based on investment in education and innovation. All this must be accompanied by a functioning welfare state that guarantees cohesion and the permeability of society.

In Bratislava, we will be deciding how to change the European Union. And I will do all I can to ensure that the future of the Union is as close to its citizens as possible and comes up with answers to their real problems and concerns.

Bohuslav Sobotka is prime minister of the Czech Republic


Europe ready to tackle Greek debt relief

The Greek government has built and broadened alliances in EU institutions and member-states that acknowledge the need to restructure the debt and deliver another economic model for the eurozone.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion
  2. CEDECOpportunities From the Creation of Synergies at Local Level in the Energy Transition
  3. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  4. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  6. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  7. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  8. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  9. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  10. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  11. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes & Villains. Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away