Saturday

23rd Feb 2019

Opinion

A coalition of the willing has to bring Europe back on track

The shock waves of the Irish No are still being felt across Europe. But however bitter the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty is, Europe has to look ahead.

The challenges Europe is facing are too big to be blocked by one single Member State. European citizens and businesses deserve better than a perpetuated institutional crisis.

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

  • "Core Europe has always been inevitable" (Photo: SME UNION)

The defeat of the Reform Treaty marks a turning point. More than ever before we have to ask ourselves what people expect from Europe. Where should Europe stand in 10, 20 or 50 years? And how should it look?

There are two conceptual approaches on the table. Some, most importantly the UK and a few others, want the European Union to be little more than a free-trade area. "Make the four fundamentals of the internal market – the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital – perfect and that's fine", is their credo.

Others advocate advanced political consolidation of our continent. They call for a stronger political framework allowing the European Union to develop an active strategy for globalization and to be a real global player. Although far from being perfect, the Lisbon Treaty would have been a further step into this direction.

This chance is gone. Now it is time to get back to work.

A strong and united Europe is vital

Whatever the reasons for the Irish No, one thing is crystal clear: In the near future, it will certainly not be possible to reach consensus on either option – an integrated political European Union or a loose free trade zone – with 27 Member States. The underlying philosophies simply differ too widely.

At the same time, a strong and united Europe is vital. One needs only to look at the Balkans to understand that an enhanced role of the European Union in the field of foreign and security policy is desperately needed.

Moreover, 15 and very soon 16 out of 27 EU Member States share the euro as their common currency. Thus, factors like inflation, exchange rates or macroeconomic stability have become common issues which affect each and every citizen. But while interest rates are rightly decided upon by the supranational ECB, economic and social governance in the true sense of the word is still missing.

Most EU citizens want more Europe, not less. This was also the key message transmitted by hundreds of lorry drivers and farmers demonstrating at this weeks' European Summit in Brussels against soaring oil and energy prices.

Whether national governments like it or not, European citizens expect concrete answers and solutions to their everyday problems. But how can Europe overcome the current stalemate?

I am deeply convinced that the time has come for a courageous step by those who want to go for a more integrated European Union.

Core Europe has always been inevitable

One of Europe's fundamental values is individuality. Individuality could also be the way out of this dead end.

Just like there are two groups of countries within the EU Schengen agreement or like there are Members and Non Members of the Euro area, it should be possible that certain countries form a group that works closer together.

Nobody should be obliged to participate in this core group. At the same time nobody should be able to object to this process either. Each and every Member State would have to decide whether it wishes to be in or out, whether it wants to be part of a pure economic community or also a joint political entity.

Yet despite different speeds, the renewed EU must not become an exclusive club for a few countries. Latecomers have to be able to join the core group as soon as they want to and are ready.

A core Europe has always been inevitable. The only question was how it would come about.

Apart from the Euro and Schengen, the old Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty offered opt-outs in some areas in order to satisfy countries that were unenthusiastic about further integration.

As this has not worked, a fresh start is necessary. The time is up for mini-compromises and mini-solutions. We need a coalition of the willing to get Europe back on track.

The author is President of SME Union (Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Union), the business organization of the European People's Party and Honorary President of Eurochambres - The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Viktor Orban of Hungary and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski seem to share the idea that the rights of some may come at the expense of the rights of others, and public institutions should serve the majority, and not all citizens.

Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?

There can be no more excuses for business. They will be held for responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the risk of human and labour rights through their supply chains.

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

Why Brussels' toxic lobbying culture must end

What is revelatory about the study by Corporate Europe Observatory is the sheer number of embassies, committees and advisory groups that lobbyists can target: from the Council all the way down to standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed.

News in Brief

  1. May to meet Tusk on Sunday at Arab summit
  2. Report: Russia offered Italy's Salvini €3m for EU election
  3. EU and US could 'quickly' clinch mini-trade pact
  4. Belgium to gather evidence on Syria 'foreign fighters'
  5. Dozens of Tory and Labour MPs threatening to quit over Brexit
  6. UK will struggle on free-trade deals, EU says
  7. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  8. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations

What does Poland want from the EU?

We propose several changes to the EU, derived from the political philosophy behind the current Polish government, and what Poles expect from the EU - this could be seen as a manifesto Poland wants the next European Commission to tackle.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

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. Brexit and Orban in spotlight This WEEK
  2. Swedish activist urges EU to double climate goals
  3. EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe
  4. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  5. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  6. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  7. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  8. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us