European Union

Improve, Show and Tell

A protestor holds a placard which reads "YES 2 EU" to demonstrate against the European Union (EU) referendum result, outside The Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Saturday, June 25, 2016. The U.K. voted to quit the European Union after more than four decades in a stunning rejection of the continent's postwar political and economic order. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
Just say yes: A protester supports the European Union in a demonstration after the British referendum.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The European Union should reform areas like security, borders and single market rules – and also present its achievements more effectively, writes a member of the European parliament.

  • Facts


    • The U.K. voted to leave the E.U. on June 23.
    • Recently the idea has spread that the E.U. has lost its “narrative,” the basic foundations of its mission.
    • In 2013 and 2014, Ukrainian demonstrators’ call for a closer relationship with the E.U. lead to violent clashes.
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Brexit, tabula rasa in Great Britain – is it all over? The mist is slowly lifting in Britain after the state of shock brought on by the referendum result.

But what about the European Union? Is it tabula rasa here too? Not at all! For me, it is absolutely clear that there cannot be a “carry on as before” attitude for the E.U. and its institutions.

Neither should we invoke emergency measures like setting up a convention, holding lengthy debates about contract changes or scheduling crisis summits.

The process of change that we need might be a bit like open-heart surgery: On the one hand, the European apparatus must continue to function to guarantee reliability and confidence in internal and external processes. On the other hand, we can only convince our fellow citizens about the European Union by concentrating on the main problems facing us and providing solutions for them.

These include the security of our external borders, the fight against terrorism, sensible rules for the single market, especially for the digital sector and establishing trade agreements with non-member countries: Close cooperation is called for between police, public prosecutors, courts and secret services, automatic exchange of data and perhaps even a European FBI.

Europe also has to learn to explain itself lucidly to its people. Why was it possible for opponents of Europe to communicate a simple message to their followers and slander Europe? Because in recent years, the erroneous idea had spread that the E.U. had lost its “narrative,” the basic foundations of its mission, making its achievements seem hardly worthy of mention. And for far too long, no attempt was made to challenge this idea.

In view of the fragile global security situation, the challenges to economic policy and socio-political developments in many regions of the world, there can be no doubt of the need for a united, democratic and strong Europe. Europe as a guarantor of peace and freedom is more than just a tired post-war inheritance, which lost its relevance at the end of the Cold War ended, only to be heard in cliché-ridden soapbox speeches.

Or is the fact that people were prepared to die on the Maidan Square in Kiev or other places in the world, holding a European flag in their hands, not testimony enough? Can there be a more credible narrative? Why shouldn’t it be possible to campaign for the virtues of the European Union – also with simple, popular messages – and secure a commitment to Europe?


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