The Guest Blog

Guest post by Dan Luca, Senior Director at EURACTIV.

Are we playing with fire and do we hate the European Union like it is not ours? Do we really not want to have this community structure any longer?

I am positive and I believe in the European construction, but I must bring you bad news this time. We may not have a European Union in five years… You can say that is not possible… But who thought five years ago that Brexit would happen or Donald Trump?

The hypothesis of a possible EU disaster can be demonstrated. The simplicity of this theory scares us. Let’s look at it mathematically…

Between 23-26 May 2019 elections are held for the European Parliament. Practically, in 27 countries, simultaneous elections are held to designate MEPs for the next 5 years. The European level has very little influence and decision power. I remember the year 2009 when I was on the electoral list, and on the evening after the elections we gathered the results with the PES President, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, to see what the Left did. We noticed that the EPP won… and then again imposed Barroso as President of the European Commission.

We risk having an anti-European movement in the next European Parliament. Everything will begin on May 26, 2019, when in some countries, like Poland or Hungary, maybe even Italy, anti-European forces (with inter-governmentalists together) will send an anti-European majority of MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg. From other countries, the EU will have anti-European MEPs, but not the majority. We pull the line and get to something like 52% pro-Europeans. We say we have won and continue the European dance calmly.

But there will be planned or spontaneous backstage movements. Some MEPs will suddenly change their membership of a group and even a doctrine. For various reasons: they do not like the leader of their party in the country, they are no longer favorites for the re-election, or they want to be against the system, it’s the cool power… Some examples are useful: Monica Macovei joined the Parliament in 2014 on the EPP list and is now at ECR, those responsible for Brexit. Another example, even louder: Lauren?iu Rebega – brought by the Left in Parliament, visibly clinging with the French National Front…

Yes, you realize that the fragile majority of pro-Europeans can erode in the 2-3 years after the 2019 elections, without any further elections… There is a possibility that the year 2022 will be the year of crossroads… With a European Parliament formed by the majority (even at the limit) of the anti-European, everything will be blocked… the European engine will die… definitively, unfortunately.

What can be done? The desire to criticize the EU constructively leads to disaster. Let me give you an example. Green NGOs engage in an agonizing struggle to raise environmental legislation. Let’s say they fight for 40% and end up at just 30%. NGOs will say “The EU is not ambitious,” so a negative message that catches fantastic media and gets to the ordinary citizen (often disoriented by the EU) transformed into the signal “EU does nothing”. And the man on the street votes for a populist, anti-European party on May 26, 2019… And after the electoral disaster, without the EU, we will not even have 30%… than everything has collapsed. What are we doing? The dilemma is big… Are we criticizing and destroying everything? Should we change the approach?

The problem is that we criticize a European project that no-one really defends… as somebody said the story of the war does not catch up with the younger generation, and the confidence in politicians is not too high. In addition, we now have the notorious sarcasm of the Anglo-Saxons, encouraged by Brexit and Trump… The micro jokes fuel a disaster on the macro level…

I almost forgot… The EU also has external enemies, not just domestic… Russia, Trump/ America, and I let you decide about China… or Britain even??

What to do? Some suggestions, like a citizen…

  • We need a clear European project. The momentum in 2019 is beneficial. What kind of European Union do we want in 2040? Borders, Security, Migration, Euro budget, Economy, Trade, Institutions… Vision and reality, not bureaucracy and closure… Positive, inclusive, responsible messages…
  • The EU is diverse, so we need a management of this diversity. Vote by majority in the Council, without north-south or east-west conflict.
  • Credible leaders with the power to move the European project forward. The Merkel-Macron axe is not bad, but we need to strengthen it. As was the Kohl-Mitterrand machine in 1991.
  • Quickly treat image issues (symbolic at many times) from Brussels. I do not think the Selmayr file is helping the European project. I do not speak legally, but ethically. If we lose 1% of pro-Europeans because of this, the risk is huge…
  • Penalizing the double message, especially for MEPs. A few hundred of them will enter the electoral campaign and explain their impotence due to Brussels bureaucracy… Really?
  • We will have about 10,000 candidates for the future European Parliament. How can we know what they really think about the EU? The electorate needs to know…
  • Philosophers, opinion leaders, experts from the 27 European countries – is the European project so bad? Choose between yes or no … it’s hard!
  • What role can the 100,000 citizens from euro-Brussels play? Many are now involved in local politics in the neighborhood where they live (Belgian local elections)… It is good, but they have much greater potential, especially at a time of crisis…
  • To the 3,000 industrial federations I strongly recommend that they also communicate their European vision through the 2019 Manifesto or another campaign document. Design strong arguments for the EU and communicate them from the beginning of 2019. It will help you with the new Parliament and it will help the EU too!
  • In a few days the congresses of the European parties Will we have a discussion focused on “winning the EU” or “winning the doctrine”? Can we combine?

The list stays open… but we have to hurry…

Dan LUCA has been active in Brussels since 1997. In 2001 he began working for EURACTIV. He now teaches at several European universities in Brussels and Romania.

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