25th Oct 2016

Parliament chief: 'the EU is not in a good state'

  • The European Parliament - powerful but not very loved by ordinary people (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has admitted that some of London's concerns about the EU are valid and that it is no longer acceptable to dismiss those who are critical of the EU as simply being eurosceptic.

In a press conference to mark the new year Schulz said he shared some of the "unease" with the EU that UK prime minister David Cameron outlined in a widely-reported speech earlier in the week.

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.

"This unease with the EU as it now is, is something that I share. I think there are many people in Europe who also have this unease" said Schulz. "And that's why I would really recommend that we don't label everyone who criticises the EU as a eurosceptic."

"The EU is not in a good state. We have to do better."

As flaws he pointed to the economic developments that have lead to more "social injustice" and a democratic deficit which he said was not so much to do with the European institutions themselves but rather with opaque EU decision-making

"Why do EU institutions meet behind closed doors. Everything that happens behind closed doors is anonymous and leaves open great room for interpretation." He suggested this only prolongs the practice of member states blaming the EU when things go wrong and taking credit for positive developments.

Much of the legitimacy criticism about the EU concerns the future role of national parliaments when issues considered to be the core of a sovereign state - such as budget policy - are increasingly being decided in Brussels.

Schulz suggested the EU should focus on what individual states cannot do on their own and at the same time be more willing to delegate to the local level. "We should be quite ready to delegate some of the smaller issues to member states."

"I would like to discuss that in this parliament," he said.

The German politician indicated he had undergone something of an epiphany since he first came to Brussels 19 years ago.

"When I first came here I was convinced we would have a united states of Europe. I really saw it as a kind of United States of America on European territory."

Since then he has realised "we are not going to make Texans out of the Germans or Californians out of the French."

The EU's democratic legitimacy issue is increasingly flagged by politicians. In his speech, David Cameron said there is a feeling in Britain, but also elsewhere in Europe, that the EU "is done to people rather than acting on their behalf."

But while there is awareness of the problem there is little agreement on what to do about it. One diplomat recently noted that politicians stress the central importance of democracy and involving national parliaments but in summit statements the issue regularly appears in the "and finally" part.

Spain's Socialists ease Rajoy's path to power

The Socialists agree to abstain in a confidence vote later this week, meaning conservative leader Mariano Rajoy should be able to form a minority government after 10 months of deadlock.

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. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion