Saturday

22nd Jul 2017

Opinion

How the EU can thrive in the time of Trump

The eurozone crisis, and the migration crisis that followed in 2015, shook the foundations of European integration to the core. After the so-called Brexit vote in the United Kingdom on 23 June, people started asking existential questions about the survival of the EU. When the citizens of a member state decide to leave the Union, we really cannot continue pretending that everything is all well and good.

To solve the situation, the leaders of the 27 member states chose a method that has been used in the EU before – they declared a so-called reflection period at the informal summit held in Bratislava on 16 September. They reaffirmed the desire to move forward together. Indeed, support for the EU did increase in most, if not all, of the 27 member states in July.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Nobody is sure how Europe will fare under the presidency of Donald Trump (Photo: Jeso Carneiro)

The 27 countries should come up with a new, convincing vision of the future by the end of March 2017 for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which laid the foundation for the EU.

To achieve this vision, the concerns and needs of citizens must be the centre of our action. People are scared of the threats of migration and terrorism, they miss the feeling of safety, which the EU and its member states can provide, especially if they manage to maintain control of its external borders and succeeds in improving cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Economic security has improved a little in comparison to the peak of the euro crisis, but more needs to be done, in particular improving the single market.

However, the concerns of the people have deeper roots and cannot be healed by a few decisions taken in Brussels. These concerns include globalisation, job security, migration, sovereignty and corruption.

The EU is resilient enough

History never repeats itself. However, we can see some similarities between the fears and concerns of the 1920s and 1930s following the First World War, which ended the previous period of globalisation, and the present day.

The victory march of globalisation has stopped and entered a slowdown stage, of which the extent and duration are impossible to forecast. The idea of restoring borders between states and continents is increasingly more popular, at least in democratic Western countries.

The anti-globalists are sensing their strength and have targeted the EU; for the EU with its free cross-border movement of goods, capital, services and people is the most authentic manifestation of globalisation on the European continent.

For decades, integration was a mostly positive phenomenon for European citizens. When problems occurred, stating that we were looking for a Europe-wide solution was usually accepted by the people. These days are gone and Brussels is now painted as the source of problems, not solutions.

The near future of the EU will probably be determined by the following trends: insecurity about the relationship with its most important strategic ally, the US; a painful adaption to 27 member states; strong anti-EU pressure on governments; the political impossibility of major integration steps; and the weakening of solidarity among members.

This makes achieving the goals of the Bratislava Declaration very difficult. Fortunately, as proven by the management of past crises, the EU is resilient enough to not let the political capital invested in the European project over generations go down the drain.

Listen to national concerns

All repairs begin with the acknowledgement of the problem. Let us suppose that the leaders of the 27 EU member states have done this with the Bratislava Declaration and the repairs can start.

First, national political elites must find the courage to explain the importance of EU membership and its positive aspects with the same conviction, or passion, as the opponents. If not, then… the fate of David Cameron should serve as a warning.

Second, everyone, including the EU institutions in Brussels, has to understand that the slogan “we will look for a Europe-wide solution” does not do the trick anymore. This means that the European Commission and the European Parliament have to listen to the national concerns with a particularly sensitive ear.

Third, those, who would like to take advantage of the exit of the United Kingdom have to accept that the time is not right for new integration steps.

Fourth, we must do everything we can to restore solidarity between member states. In addition to managing the current crises this probably also means a more nuanced interpretation of EU rules. Brussels cannot risk breeding even more tension. Restoring solidarity also means reviewing and interpreting these rules together, this means an honest discussion on the lessons learnt from the migration crisis between all member states.

Prepare for Trumpworld

Fifth, we must prepare ourselves for the so-called Trumpworld, a situation where the commitment of the US to the European continent may weaken. Nobody is realistically working towards the establishment of a European army, but strengthening of EU defence cooperation is on the table and it merits support. The EU will certainly have to take a fresh look at its enlargement and neighbourhood policies.

Sixth, trade. Agreements between major trade powers focus less on lowering tariffs (there isn’t much left to do), and more on the creation of standards, a regulative environment. It remains to be seen whether the US as the biggest economy in the world will pull itself out of this process. But while the US is reflecting, the leaders of the EU should use the time for a new, honest discussion on globalisation with its citizens and for negotiations with other partners. Work on the agreement with Japan has recently progressed well.

Now for the seventh and last point. Big crises have the potential to change balances within the EU. In some sense, the departure of the UK gives more weight to the German-French engine that lost some of its momentum after the big enlargement of 2004. But smaller member states will have an ever bigger role to play for the future of our Union. Responsible action for the common good, for our common Union strengthened by solidarity is a must for all of us, big or small.

Matti Maasikas is deputy foreign minister of Estonia, which takes over the presidency of the European Council in July.

Foreign ministers hold cloistered talks on EU future

EU foreign ministers will this weekend gather in a monastery near Vienna for what could prove to be key talks on the future of the EU, amid deep divisions on the fate of the bloc's constitution.

Focus

Malta aims to 'restore faith' in EU

The Mediterranean island will take the six-month EU presidency on 1 January, with migration and security as main priorities.

Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive

Candidates from all political families should be presenting their vision on where the Union should be headed. European socialists want to keep the Spitzenkandidat procedure for future elections.

Greece needs a new plan

Two years into its third bailout, Greece needs to combine the necessary fiscal targets with a new vision. This can be done in the context of the ongoing industrial revolution.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  2. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  3. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  5. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  6. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  7. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  8. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  9. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices
  11. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  12. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law