WEEKLY COMMENT 9-11-2017
By Barry Edwards
Relaunching the EU
The Centre for European Reform (CER) published earlier this week a report entitled ‘Relaunching the EU’. It has been written by the directors and research fellows at the CER and is a document that examines and analyses the problems of the EU and proposes solutions to reform how the EU functions without any treaty changes initially. It is well written and is comprehensive in its explanations causing the document to be 60 pages long. If you click on the link below you can read the report. I would recommend reading the introduction and conclusion about 8 pages;
If you do not have time to look at the report, below is a selection of extracts from the document that describe the main theme of the report;
“People often talk about the need to reform the EU, and lament the slow pace at which it changes. However, the prospects for reform over the next few years are particularly propitious. On the one hand, many European leaders recognise that the EU has never faced greater challenges. It needs to make itself more attractive to voters, improve its economic performance and modernise its institutions.”
“Having weathered its recent crises, the EU is ripe for a relaunch. This report suggests how the EU could better handle its neighbourhood and migrant flows. It argues that the Eurozone’s weaknesses can be fixed with some modest reforms. And it proposes a greater EU role in enforcing the rule of law, fighting corruption, tackling corporate tax avoidance, facilitating free movement and boosting the green economy. The report calls for more flexible EU structures: tiers of membership – with some members opting out of certain policies, and some non-members opting into others – would allow the EU to revive enlargement. In the long run, a tiered EU could help the UK to find a place in an outer rim. The report concludes with some recommendations on institutional reform.”
“For the past several years, the EU has suffered from weak and insipid leadership, as it has lurched from one crisis to another. But now, against the background of a somewhat improved economic situation, the combination of Macron’s enthusiasm and intellectual creativity, and Merkel’s authority and experience, bodes well for the cause of EU reform. The Union’s critics have often argued that it is too inflexible to adapt and flourish. Macron, Merkel and other leaders, including those running the EU institutions, must move quickly to prove the critics wrong and prepare to relaunch the Union. The initial signs are quite encouraging.”
It is in the interests of the UK and the major world powers that a successful EU emerges from this period of financial stress and participates fully in world affairs. It is vital that Europe provides that balance of influence around the world to counteract the growing concentration of power between China and the USA. The EU can only do that if it makes the necessary changes to how it operates and brings the people of Europe along with it. This report shows how this can be done and proposes the procedure to make that happen.
The research that the CER does puts it in a strong position to recommend the changes it proposes and I am sure the report will be well received by the leaders of the EU. The election of Emmanuel Macron as President of France and the potential departure of the UK from the EU have reawakened the urgency of the necessity to reform and the politicians do seem to openly recognise that this process must begin. At least, now they do have a framework to consider how they can plan the political pathway to achieving this ambition. From the comment so far that does not appear to be an easy task but the pressure of good lobbying from commercial interests and analytical comment may help to persuade the leaders to embark on discussions that lead to a solution along these lines.
The concept of the EU from its very beginning 60 years ago has never been accomplished before and its evolution to its current format is still experimental. It is not surprising that disagreement will occur from time to time as the union decides how it wishes to evolve and what the ultimate ambition really is. Bringing together countries and regions that have very different backgrounds was always going to be a difficult task and what has been achieved so far is beyond the expectations of many people. Looking back at European history must convince many people that the path Europe has taken is far superior to the endless conflict that existed previously. The world is becoming even more closely interconnected and the EU is evolving along this path together with everyone else, it is just the process for Europe is a bit more complicated than elsewhere. Coexistence amongst Europeans will eventually become harmonious, the exact format for that has not yet been worked out but the process is beginning.
That’s all for this week, more observations next week.