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Is the European Union doomed?


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Is the European Union doomed?

This is the final episode of ‘The Network’, euronews’ hard talk with a matrix of newsmakers. The
headlines:

Nearly 60 years on, the European Union is in what many see as its deepest crisis yet. Can it survive the threat of a Brexit, and the continuing danger of a Grexit?

Can it survive a migrant crisis and terrorism threatening the Schengen open internal borders, and deep divisions among EU members on democratic and social values?

On top of that, a molasses-slow recovery with still-high unemployment has boosted populist movements as voters question the effectiveness of mainstream parties.

Have Europeans taken too much of the EU’s accomplishments for granted? Or could they be better off with full sovereignty back, their national destinies in their own hands?

Wired into this edition, here in the European Parliament with as usual Chris Burns asking the questions are:

-Birgit Sippel, a German member of the Social Democrats, or S&D in the European Parliament

- William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth, the new Deputy Chairman of the UK Independence Party, or UKIP, and

-Sophie In’t Veld, Dutch MEP and a member of the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats or ALDE

Chris Burns:
“First question to you all, is this the perfect storm that could split the EU apart?”

Birgit Sippel:
“I wouldn’t say it was a storm, I’d say it was a big challenge, and after the financial crisis what is important is that we are fighting to find common solutions for the situation, because if we do not I’m quite sure this will have negative effects for all of our citizens in very different areas of politics.”

Chris Burns:
“OK, well, you’re saying if; your answer is it’s not going to work. William?”

William Dartmouth:
“Well, it isn’t going to work simply because the European Union establishment have sought to impose a federal European superstate on the peoples and nation states of Europe without popular consent. There are two manifestations that I’d like to go through very quickly; imposing the euro, and the fact is that Greece cannot function in the same monetary zone as Germany.”

Chris Burns:
“OK, Sophie, are you pessimistic as well, or should we say sceptic of its survival?”

Sophie In’t Veld:
“I’m optimistic, because if we look at where we came from, when we decided after two devastating world wars, and again after 45 years of Communist dictatorship, to reach out to one another and choose a common destiny, we Europeans were able to do that. So if we were able to do that then, we’re able to do it now.”

Chris Burns:
“OK, that’s exactly it, a lot of people are not old enough to remember these wars.

William Dartmouth:
“OK, can I just say something, we had peace in Europe because of NATO. The European Iron and Steel community didn’t even begin until 1956. This is the sort of rubbishy argument we’ve been hearing in England for years and people are fed up with it.That’s why we’re going to vote to get out.”

Chris Burns:
“If the EU breaks up could we see conflicts between regions where there are ethnic tensions, in eastern Europe for instance?”

Birgit Sippel:
“I think first of all I need to say that I believe young people who know what it means to live in peace, having in mind that around Europe we have lots of wars and people do realise that they are happy and we do have peace in Europe, not because of NATO but because we have the EU, because member states do co-ordinate, and a united European Union is the only basis to find solutions for all the really big challenges in the world.”

Chris Burns:
“Sophie, what about this nightmare scenario where conflicts break out in central and eastern Europe amid demands by different ethnic groups? Could we see a replay of Ukraine?”

Sophie In’t Veld:
“This is not about NATO or the EU, it’s about the big challenges of the world in the 21st century. Look at the global economy, look at the internet, look at the conflicts in Syria, Libya, the middle east, look at climate change, look at the refugees, look at terrorism. It is an illusion that a divided Europe could give a proper response to those challenges. Together we are much stronger, safer, and better off.”

William Dartmouth:
“We can certainly respond to those challenges through the UN, through the G8, through the G20, and through a multiple of other international organisations without having a European superstate.”

Chris Burns:
“OK, but what about if the EU was no longer negotiating these big international free trade agreements? Then what happens? Some people don’t want these…”

William Dartmouth:
“It’s much more difficult to negotiate a free trade agreement for 28 nation states rather than merely one, and that is why, for example, Switzerland has got a free trade agreement with China, Australia has a free trade agreement with China, New Zealand has a free trade agreement with China, Iceland has a free trade deal with China, and the EU doesn’t.”

Chris Burns:
“Birgit, how concerned would you be if there was a breakup of the EU? Europe would be divided and conquered by larger forces?”

Birgit Sippel:
“Oh, I’m completely of another opinion to my neighbour because we do need the EU, and in the global village we need to find global answers. One single member state cannot deal with all the challenges. We do need European answers and only if we find European answers then can we ask others to take their responsibilities.”

Chris Burns:
“Sophie, if we see the end of the EU that’s probably the end of the euro. How much do you fear currency devaluation, competing currency devaluations, like we saw before the EU?”

Sophie In’t Veld:
“It’s fairly obvious that we are much better off in a strong European Union able to face the challenges, and that includes a common currency, but my neighbour here, you know, if you want to tell the British people that they are better off with their interests represented in the United Nations where there are other states like Russia for example, well, you know, you have every right to tell them. I think the Brits are better off as part of the European Union.”

William Dartmouth:
“We have…there are less than nine point…less than 10 percent of MEPs come from the UK. Until November of last year we only had 8.24% of the votes in the Council of Ministers, and in the records kept, since 1996, look, I’m sorry to give them but these are facts, you’re trying to say they’re not true… Since 1996 even under the Blair government, the British government had 70 proposals…had tried to block proposals 72 times, and on each and every occasion they have failed. The fact of the matter is we are having things imposed on us, we don’t like it and that’s why we’ve had enough.”

Chris Burns:
“Sophie…”

William Dartmouth:
“And let’s talk about benefits, we can’t even change our benefits without going cap in hand to…”

Sophie In’t Veld:
“It’s funny…The fact that you keep shouting underlines the point I was trying to make, that you seem to think that power is about blocking things. Britain has been an incredibly influential in the EU, not because it tried to block things but because it had good ideas, because it was able to find allies for their ideas, because they got majorities, that is why Britain has been influential.You think you should always get your way? No, this is a democracy, you don’t always get your way.”

Chris Burns:
“Let’s go to Birgit…”

Birgit Sippel:
“I would like to underline that the EU is not working on the basis that one or the other member state is determining what should happen or not. it’s a question of democracy. We have to co-operate, we have to see what is the situation in our own member states, but then directly we have to see what is the best solution for all the member states so that no-one is left behind. We have to improve the situation for all 500 million citizens of Europe, and if we, if Europe should tear apart I think the consequence would be competitions between all the member states, and that would water down the standards we already have.”

Chris Burns:
“Very quickly in conclusion, how can we prevent, or speed up the breakup of the EU? Sophie?”

Sophie In’t Veld:
“Well, what I think is that what is speeding up the breakup is the complete paralysis in the Council when Heads of Government come together. They should finally take decisions and also act when it comes to terrorism, when it comes to refugees, if it’s about the economy and free trade, about climate change. That is the best way to move Europe forward, be stronger and face the challenges of today.”

Chris Burns:
“William…?”

William Dartmouth:
“It ought to go back to what was originally planned and what people thought it was, namely two words only, a Common Market.”

Chris Burns:
“OK, Birgit?”

Birgit Sippel:
“The original idea was to create good living situations for all citizens all over the European union, and I think what we have to do now is to step away from extremist positions, take away all the emotions and sit down together and look for real solutions in real life.”

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