July 18, 2018
Many Member States are in crisis: the UK with Brexit; Germany with immigration; Italy, Spain and Greece with an incomplete Schengen; too much regionalism from the Visegrad Four; France being too French. What to do: leave the EU? Wait for the storm to pass? Or change the EU? These are things to think about during the holidays.
As I have said a thousand times, Brexit is like Guillver and the dwarves. A large country – the 5th most powerful in the world – is bound to the Union by 14,000 laws and regulations, and by 700 international trade agreements. Soft Brexit, hard Brexit, cliff-edge Brexit without a deal…none of this makes any sense because the UK cannot leave the EU without a negotiated agreement. The only solution at this stage is to extend the 2-year negotiation period that is currently set to expire on 29 March 2019. The Austrian Prime Minister has already made noises in this regard. Accepting 6, 9 or 12 more months of talks would effectively consign Brexit to oblivion, since it could only then take place after the European elections, after the arrival of the new Commission and after agreement on the next financial framework – in other words, never!
The painful issue of immigration is also an example of the EU’s inability to take decisions. Despite years of crises, shipwrecks, hot spots, and regional, national and international divisions, Schengen is still not in place. The recruitment of 10,000 border guards – always promised but never delivered – is now back on the agenda. Is it not necessary to appoint a ‘Mr Schengen’ like we appointed Mr Barnier as ‘Mr Brexit’, to turn words into action?
President Macron’s plan to secure the Euro is also colliding with obstacles of all kinds, obstacles that are first and foremost budgetary. No Europeanisation of public debt while the European Central Bank has for years been buying them up! No ‘Euro Parliament’, in effect a second Parliament, when all we need to do is re-shape the first one! And still no Social Europe, as if the Commission sees itself as the passive guardian of an ultra-liberal order sowing the seeds of its own disappearance. And then we have a trade war and an EU paralysed by Trump; stuck in a defensive (even ridiculous) posture.
When everyone comes back in September we will see the return of the Spitzenkandidaten, that disastrous system that kills leadership. But leadership is exactly what we need; we need a Commission that wakes up and understands that money needs to be invested and not stored. In using its monopoly of legislative initiative it must show audacity, not a comfortable but destructive conservatism.
This will to take the bull by the horns needs to extend to the way the EU is governed – too complicated, too opaque, too bureaucratic – so we can offer the British a sort of Plan B that would allow them to save face and feel more at ease, without having to leave the EU.
Daniel GuéguenDaniel Gueguen