By Jan Zahradil
The fastest growing economies today are in the global south and east, while countries in Europe have grown slowly – if at all – over the last ten years. Looking to the future there is a substantial risk that the economies in the EU will continue to grow slowly even after the primary causes of the economic crisis have disappeared. The expectations of low European growth will affect investment decisions, which in turn will affect future growth of our continent. There is a real risk that insufficient investment will develop into a permanent low growth circle.
The old answers to Europe’s growth problems are not working: the top-down, centralised bureaucratic model is an outdated vision. The idea that more political integration, more subsidies and more regulations will solve Europe’s growth problems is a myth. In thrall to this myth, politicians around Europe have implemented policies which have been detrimental our to economies and also to the political system itself.
In pursuit of centralised economic policy, our leaders, to take but one example, have created a crisis-prone monetary union that stockpiles systemic risk. The single currency continues to dampen growth as countries in southern Europe struggle with high debt and low competitiveness. In that environment, it is unwise to compound the problem by increasing the red tape and raising the administrative costs of employment. The only result of such policies will be to stifle innovation and even lower growth.
In pursuit of a centralised political system, the federalist political parties have succeeded in undermining the very democratic institutions and values they set out to protect. The increasing scepticism towards politics we witness across the continent is directly attributable to the gap that has been created between citizens and their representatives. Taking away the power from nation states to create their own laws is anathema to a true democracy and alienates citizens.
The real challenges that Europe are facing today are a concern for the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe. The alliance's upcoming Brussels Summit on 22 March will be a timely moment for politicians and high-level experts to debate truly pragmatic solutions to these challenges, and present an alternative vision of a reformed EU as a community of nations, where the EU’s democratic legitimacy derives principally from its member states.
If the EU is to recover the trust that has been lost, politicians must look beyond the discredited idea that “more Europe” is the answer to the problem that it itself created. Brussels’ default response of more regulation and more complicated legal structures will not bring back growth and prosperity or generate political cohesion. We need a Europe that gives control back to the member states, empowers communities, and gives its citizens as much freedom and control over their own lives as possible. It is in this manner that we will craft a Union that generates economic growth and fosters genuine democracy.
Jan Zahradil is an MEP and President of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE).
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