Friday

15th Dec 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

"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.

Thousands march for Catalonia in Brussels

Around 45,000 people marched in support of Catalonia in Brussels to get the EU involved in mediating the conflict with Madrid. 'Europe must realise that it can still play a role in the Catalan crisis,' said self-exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont.

Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

EU summit leaders on Thursday will not reach any deal on migration, while Italy and the Visegrad Group countries confront each other on the Trust Fund for Africa. The debate on internal EU asylum relocation, however, remains off the table.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  2. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  3. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  4. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  5. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont
  6. French central bank lifts 2017 growth forecast
  7. EU leaders set to move Brexit talks on to next stage
  8. EU leaders confirm support for two-state solution

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  2. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states
  3. EU asylum debate reopens old wounds
  4. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  5. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  6. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  7. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  8. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat