June 6, 2011
In the last few months so many comments have been very negative about the performance of Europe. But let us be affirmative and not vicious.
It should be very clear that the stereotypes of the European Union are not legitimate.
On the contrary, the European integration process is a story of success. 67 years after the Second World War and 54 years after the Treaty of Rome was signed, the European Union encompasses 27 member states. Within its borders more than 500 million people live in an order ruled by values such as peace, solidarity, freedom and democracy.
However, regarding the success story of Europe, the Union is not at all costly for the average citizen. The annual budget for the whole European Union is about 141 billion Euros or slightly more than 1% of the annual GDP per member state. Per citizen this represents ONLY €282!
Europe is not at all the big machinery often depicted in commentary. The administration of the European Union comes to about 32,500 civil servants in total. This is the same number of persons employed for example by the administration of Munich, a medium size town in Germany!
However it is also a democratic body. The European Parliament is elected directly by European citizens. The European Council is composed of the democratically elected members of Governments and the Committee of the Regions represents all the elected Mayors and City Councillors. The European Commission is nominated by the members of the European Council.
Therefore, it is a very democratic structure.
Europe also delivers concrete results: Schengen, the Euro, the Single Market and consumer protection are among the many examples.
Although when we consider the successes of the past, the future will require great efforts too.
A new 21st century Europe is required. Since World War II, Europe has never been under so much pressure; externally by globalisation and the related developments and internally by a threat to democracy in Europe.
Globalisation, and the developments related to it exposed the limitations of the European socio-economic paradigm. The subsequent economic crisis undermined the credibility of the model that had been the framework for generating prosperity and hence sustaining the welfare state. Weakened, Europe had to therefore endure a shift on the international stage, where other global powers emerged. This process is undoubtedly leading to a new global order.
Internally, the recent decade has been very turbulent too. The ambitions of the 1990s, which led to the Treaty of Maastricht and laid the foundations for a political Union, seem to have been overshadowed by the recent democratic crisis. Popular support for Europe has reached its lowest level, judging from the turnout in the last European elections. It seems that the EU’s political structure became inadequate to respond to the hopes and anxieties of changing European society.
This is the reason for the Call to Europe Conference on the 29th and 30th June 2011 in Brussels, organised by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS). See the website for more details and to register for the event.Ernst Stetter