Saturday

25th Feb 2017

Van Rompuy sets out minimalist EU vision

  • The EU in the near future is neither set for a great federalist leap nor a 'retrenching behind national borders', believes Van Rompuy (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Europe needs to shift its focus from open borders to "protection", while avoiding interference in areas where national governments can better act alone, EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has said.

Speaking on Tuesday (1 July) at the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank, Van Rompuy laid out his vision for the next five years and on what challenges his successor will have to face.

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.

"Building Europe is not about grand design and master plans but about finding concrete solutions to immediate problems," Van Rompuy said.

In his view, neither a great federalist leap nor a "retrenching behind national borders" are likely to happen, rather the established method of "building Europe with small steps, each step seeming too small and too slow to address the mounting challenges that we could face far better together."

He noted that for the first time, and in order to accommodate British concerns, EU leaders last week said the concept of an "ever closer Union" as enshrined in the Treaty, does allow for "different paths of integration".

He said EU leaders at a summit on 16 July will exchange views with the next European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, on the working programme for the upcoming five years.

"Of course this looking-ahead exercise comes at a very specific moment. Not only at the start of a new five-year cycle, but also as our countries are finally emerging from what for many of them was the worst economic crisis in a generation, and as public disenchantment with politics has spread," Van Rompuy said.

On the rise of euroscepticism and the sucess of populist parties in the recent EU elections, he noted that opinion polls and surveys suggest a broader disenchantment, not only with EU institutions, but with national institutions also and with politics in general.

"I take no comfort in this sad fact, but it seems to indicate that this is not only about Europe, but maybe a wider crisis of politics that begs deeper questions – question of society, of culture, of the relationship of citizens with public authorities in all their dimensions."

He also saw a fault in the EU focusing too much on opening up - lifting borders, allowing for investments, workers and companies to move freely - while neglecting the people who are not "movers", who want to feel protected and "at home."

Van Rompuy, who in his spare time writes haikus, a Japanese form of poetry, added: "As human beings, we need both. A space in which to fly, and a nest we can call ours."

"Europe, the great 'opener' of opportunities is now perceived by many as an unwelcome 'intruder', the friend of freedom and space is seen as threat to protection and place".

He said it is essential for the EU to protect not only businesses, but also employees, not only those with diplomas and languages who can move around, but also those who stay back home, the workers who fear competitors for their jobs.

"Where national authorities are best-placed to provide care, people expect that the Union does not get in the way. Indeed, there are cases, where precisely because of its scale, the Union must tread softly. Not disrupt, but respect familiar places of protection and belonging – from national welfare choices, to regional traditions and identities, all the way down to local cheese".

Failure to deliver on this will result in an even bigger success of eurosceptic and populist parties in five years time, he warned.

Focus

EU leaders to review 'Spitzenkandidat' process

EU leaders have said they plan to review the process for choosing EU commission presidents in the future after having found themselves left with little room for manoeuvre following a parliament-pushed process.

'Haiku Herman' quietly leaves EU stage

EU Council chief Van Rompuy is ending his five-year term true to his nature, with no glam or pomp. But his legacy is significant, particularly in the eurozone crisis and its institutional follow-up.

MEPs set to approve Canada trade deal

The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the EU-Canada free trade agreement, which would start being implemented in April.

France's Macron issues Brexit warning

The centrist presidential candidate tells talented Britons to come to France and warns against giving the UK "undue advantages" after Brexit, in a speech in London.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations