EU’s future: A third way forward for Europe

There is a widespread realisation that the European Union has missed its date with the future. Faced with a financial crisis on an unprecedented scale, the Union’s political leaders have responded by establishing an increasingly esoteric technocracy.

Never before have the divisions between European citizens been so pronounced – between citizens of the north and the south, but also within member states, between those who have suffered the impact of the crisis and those who, on the contrary, have gained from it – nor have they been so neglected by political leaders who have continued to pursue short-term objectives.

In a time of growing unemployment and inequality when Europe is increasingly marginalised in world affairs, the future of the EU has been left to hang on the outcome of national elections. Instead of seeking to restore meaningful integration, governments have continued to indulge in mutual recrimination.

In the south, the prevailing sentiment is that Europe is marching to a German tune; and in the north that it is too influenced by the countries of the south. In an opinion piece published in late July, the German Finance Minister [Wolfgang Schäuble] pointed out that the ECB, the European Commission, the OECD and the IMF are respectively headed “by an Italian, Portuguese, Mexican and Frenchwoman.” It is this type of debate that is sinking the EU. The time has come to call a halt and return to the basic question: what kind of Union do we need?

To date, the predominant response to this has been: the intergovernmental union for economic and monetary policy established by the Lisbon Treaty. This is the union that emerged from the compromise agreed in Maastricht in 1992, to the effect that competencies which have a direct impact on national sovereignty (i.e. economic and financial policy making) can be transferred to Brussels, but only on condition that they are managed in cooperation with national governments.

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