Saturday

27th May 2017

Opinion

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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

Eastern states stake claim to EU leadership

Central Europe is "the most successful and stable region of the world," according to Hungary's Orban. Europe "should listen to us Poland's Szydlo added.

Nato needs a European 2%

Europe needs to take care of its on security, but not on Trump's terms, with the 2 percent of GDP mantra flawed as a model.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Ukip's last electoral stand

Nigel Farage's anti-EU party is unlikely to win any seats at the 8 June elections. After the loss of his charismatic leadership, the party is just a rag-tag of third raters.

Respecting human rights is good business

Trade policy creates economic welfare, but it could also be an unmissable opportunity to protect the environment, human rights and ensure sustainable development across Europe and beyond.

Development serving the purpose of migration control

While the EU is sacrificing development aid to serve short-term migration interests, it is important to realise that enhanced border controls will not solve the root causes of forced migration and displacement.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus
  2. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  5. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  6. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  8. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  10. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  12. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey