Pascale Joannin (Robert Schuman Foundation)
The EU is gradually losing credibility in the eyes of its citizens and, with the British referendum on the country’s withdrawal from the EU, the credibility crisis is deepening further. EU citizens know that even the most powerful Member States are not able to cope with current challenges, such as migration or climate change, themselves but the Union’s inability to deal with the immediate and current problems of unemployment and weak economic growth deepens skepticism among people. Experts therefore argue that after Great Britain has withdrawn, the remaining EU27 should stick together and deepen the EU integration. What are the possibilities to make the Union credible and popular again?
Any revision of the EU‘s primary law with the intention to strengthen the EU‘s powers to better achieve its goals is currently ruled out. The idea of returning to the original six founding states or to the idea that France and Germany should again join forces and initiate major changes are also two very unlikely scenarios. Maintaining the status quo and waiting for something to change or just happen currently poses a huge risk to the EU. What proposals to deal with this issue should the heads of state come up with during the current Slovak presidency?
The most important thing is to propose such concrete and immediate steps regarding the Eurozone, which do not require revision of the founding treaties. Among other things, it is important to stabilize the budgetary policies of Member States and avoid excessive budgetary adjustments in countries affected by the crisis by the restructuration of their public debt. Immediate steps on migration are vital as well, which are gradually being implemented. There is a need to reform the Dublin system and adopt new measures regarding countries such as Morocco, Turkey and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. A substantial financial assistance to Jordan, Lebanon and Libya is indispensable too in order to make these countries able to deal with millions of refugees.
These steps would definitely help but they are not enough to restore confidence in the EU. Therefore, it is high time to clearly explain to voters what the Union’s objectives are, what they can expect from it, as well as unequivocally answer at least some of the important questions that matter to EU citizens. These include, for example, whether we can expect more cooperation between Member States with an emphasis on preserving national sovereignty, without any further sharing of competences, or what is the future of the Western Balkans, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine in the EU. The Union must take a clear position, which will be more clear and comprehensible to its citizens.