The European Union has faced many challenges in its history — from rejection of the E.U. constitution in 2005, to threatened cuts in Russian natural gas in 2006 and 2009, to years of financial and economic turmoil, to the current refugee crisis.
All of these tests have one thing in common: The turbulence wasn’t caused by the European Union itself. This is especially true in today’s refugee crisis.
We are left to deal with symptoms of a world that is globalizing rapidly and making citizens anxious. The world won’t adapt to Europe, so Europe must adapt to the world.
A cavalier attitude toward E.U. constitutional principles not only undermines our cohesion, but also weakens us as a community.
To guarantee security, stability and prosperity, we must concentrate sovereignty in new areas to have a voice in managing globalization – instead of navel-gazing in a reactive and fragmented manner.
Making the European Union a scapegoat for current problems is the wrong approach. It’s the equivalent of sawing off the very branch we are all sitting on.
Trust in European cohesion is our elixir for survival, especially since our share of the world’s population is expected to decline from the current 7.1 percent to 5.3 percent by 2060.
At the moment, there is a major divide between promise and reality. The European Union can’t be effective as long as member states demand solutions only when they require assistance, but otherwise water down or sabotage proposed remedies. This political ambiguity is wreaking havoc on the entire system.
This is particularly clear in the refugee and migration crisis. Its causes – war in Syria and poverty in Africa – no doubt exceed the capacities of individual member states. The E.U. can respond to these underlying causes only with a common effort by all of its members.
At the same time, it took us more than a year to begin implementing a joint policy on migration. It’s obvious that such hesitation gives people a feeling of powerlessness, rather than bolstering confidence.
To conclude from the Brexit vote that the bloc must be reformed at its very roots, or be made a whipping boy, is not only far-fetched — it would also would raise long-term questions about Europe’s ability to act. We don’t need protracted internal hand-wringing but joint action, especially regarding Europe’s immediate surroundings.
E.U. member states have unanimously offered all countries of the western Balkans a concrete prospect concerning admission that continues to be valid – not because we are practicing a diplomatic form of social outreach, but because stability and security on Europe’s doorstep are in our interest. A European perspective could drive necessary reforms in the fight against corruption and organized crime in a region that remains fragile.
No one should succumb to the illusion that a permanent stop to expansion or a policy of cool negligence toward neighboring countries will resolve the challenges facing Europe.
On the contrary, the refugee crisis shows that the European Union depends on cooperation with its neighbors – and vice versa. We can only meet challenges such as these when we address the root of the problem and proactively pursue a common foreign policy.
Conversely, a close connection to the bloc and the advantages offered by the world’s largest single market don’t come for free. Not for neighboring states and prospective members, and not for countries such as Switzerland, Norway or, in the future, perhaps also Great Britain. Constitutional, economic and social reforms, as well as contributions to the E.U. budget, are part of the deal.
A cavalier attitude toward E.U. constitutional principles not only undermines our cohesion in this context, but also weakens us as a community and hampers our foreign policy in its advocacy of constitutional reforms.
So when we speak of a “we” feeling in Europe, we must also demand a “we” behavior. This means not only providing the European Union with the appropriate instruments, but also adhering to rules that have been jointly agreed upon.
A possible Brexit shouldn’t divert attention but can, in the best case, contribute to refocusing on what’s important.
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