Thursday

23rd May 2019

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.

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

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

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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.

Voter turnout will decide Europe's fate

European voter turnout is in deep crisis. Since the early 2000s, the share of voters in national elections has fallen to 66 percent on average, which means that the birthplace of democracy now ranks below average globally.

Can Tusk go home again?

The opposition may not be able to defeat the rulling PiS without him, but if Donald Tusk wants to go home again, he will first have to remember where he came from.

Europe's far-right - united in diversity?

Europe's far-right is set to rise in the next European Parliament election. This vote will not yet allow the populists to build a majority. But it may become another milestone in their process of changing European politics.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us