The Reform of the European Union: Not If, but When!
Guest post by Laurentiu Rebega, MEP from Romania in the European Parliament
This week I organized a conference at the European Parliament where the main speaker was Dr. Ted Malloch, who is very familiar with Europe. At the same time, Dr. Malloch analyzes European problems as an outsider, with a critical, objective eye.
When Ted saw this title, he smiled and asked: ok, ”not if, but when”, however, can we give a specific answer to the ”when” question?
Well, we can’t give a brief answer like ”tomorrow”, or ”in five months”, or ”one year”.
Instead, we can observe that the European Union’s problems change from one day to the other.
I am not talking here about good change, either!
In every dynamic system, “change” (you can read it as real “reform”) has a “window of opportunity”.
Let’s imagine a car that speeds down a straight lane. At some point, the lane curves. There is not a fixed, pre-determined moment when the driver has to start turning. He or she can start turning slowly sooner or, can turn suddenly very fast. However, the longer they postpone, the greater the risk. There is a moment after which the turn can no longer be made and an accident is unavoidable.
For almost five years now, since I became a Member of the European Parliament, I have been preoccupied by the deep failures of the European Union.
I will outline the worst ones here.
First, the centralizing bureaucracy which uses an enormous amount of resources and, on the other hand, dramatically delays taking simpler measures.
Second, institutional incapacity: the European institutions are not calibrated to face realities on the ground.
Third, horizontal fragmentation between Member States tends to establish a de facto inequality in which large and/or developed states take discriminatory decisions against the small ones.
Fourth, vertical discrimination: the best prepared work force and development hubs tend to concentrate in already rich countries.
Fifth of all, political sclerosis: the mainstream leaders and parties no longer stand for the citizens’ real problems and are inclined to replace political decisions by managerial decisions.
There is little democracy, so to speak.
I want to be clear: I do not want the abolition of the European Union, altogether.
For decades, the EU has brought prosperity and stability to Western Europe. For ten years, my own country, Romania, has enjoyed important advantages as a member of the EU.
In short, the functioning of the EU has produced beneficial consequences that can no longer be removed from the European citizens’ way of life.
A disappearance of the Union would dramatically affect the income of most Europeans.
Practically, Europeans would become new migrants of an overturned world.
There is an urgent need for reform, foremost in relation to the malfunctions emphasized above.
National states are the safety net of this reform.
They can alone ensure reconciliation with the needs of their citizens and, at the same time, they can revive the European project with the vision and the enthusiasm that characterized the era of the founding fathers in 1957.
Sovereignty and subsidiarity are the principles we need to return to in order to reform the EU.
However, there is one more unanswered question: what is the interest of the United States in all this?
During the Cold War, the US saw Europe as a battlefield and supported the Western side.
Subsequently, the enlargement of the Union has created opportunities for America as well.
Henry Kissinger once said there was no interlocutor if he wanted to talk to “Europe”.
In fact, the Union is a result of this situation. If America wants to be the leader of a better, freer world, it must act in favor of a better European partnership
The EU needs to reform and urgently. The time is now.
If it does not, it will disappear and will trigger a range of negative consequences.
Is the world prepared to manage 500 million Europeans whose prosperity would be shattered? New hostilities and conflicts?
Economic cooperation and prosperity in a peaceful Europe — depend on America.
Laurențiu Rebega is a Romanian politician and since 2014, a member of the European Parliament (MEP).