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European Union: think positive

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European Union: think positive


In this edition of U-talk, Jacqueline from the Netherlands asks:

“Because of all the issues that are out there now: the euro is one of them, immigration is another, it seems that all the blame and negative criticisms basically falls on Europe and the European process. I think it’s a real shame and I would like to know why it seems that nobody is able to do a better job at marketing what Europe has achieved in a better way?”

Grégory Vanel, Professor at the European Advanced Institute of Management, Lyon responds:

“Hello Jacqueline, it’s true that the institutions of the European Union have found it difficult to publicise the success the EU has had, beyond the traditional peaceful relations between France and Germany. I mean, think about the Airbus, food self-sufficiency, the Erasmus program with its university cooperation; so this isn’t a new problem, in fact it’s linked, in my view, to a number of things that are very difficult to resolve.

“In particular, we have huge institutional complexities: it’s very difficult for a layperson to navigate between European Parliament, the European Commission, the EU Council and European Council.

“Then there is a democratic deficit that’s been growing since the failure of the proposed European Constitutional Treaty in 2005 and that raises a number of problems, particularly in countries like France or Hungary for example, where you have extremely powerful sovereigntist movements.

“Moreover, the EU sometimes suffers because of member states’ difficulties to transfer their sovereignty, especially in financial matters. And you should know the European Union’s budget is very low: it’s only 1% of the EU’s GDP as a whole, which is relatively small compared to a country like the USA.

“There are also some other important things to note: often member states exploit the difficulties they face with their own internal policies, and so they then make them the problem of the European Union.

“Most importantly, I think the EU is struggling to choose its model: it has systematically hesitated for 40 years, between an intergovernmental model on one side, and a federalist model on the other. This raises problems concerning the nature of the decisions that are made and how they should be taken.

“Nevertheless, we mustn’t forget that the founders of the European Union have done very well, since they’ve done everything they can to resolve the difficulties within the Union which would be helped even more if the EU had more power.

“And as such, I’m not sure that the media coverage of the EU’s successes, would be a good thing, in fact it could have a negative effect. If we take the current debt crisis, I think the solution is to give more powers, to further strengthen the European Union.

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