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EMinS ASKS: EXITS, ARRIVALS AND CHANGES - A THREAT OR AN OPPORTUNITY FOR REINVENTING THE EU? part I

07.03.2016

The EU is currently facing multifaceted changes. The global environment is rapidly changing, starting from the instabilities in the Near East and the north of Africa, refugee crisis and terrorist threats, to the emerging (economic) powers in Asia and the development of a multipolar world of global stakeholders. On the other hand, EU is facing some major challenges from the inside, such as crisis of trust among its citizens, growing populism and Euroscepticism, lack of solidarity among its member states and calls for multispeed Europe and “exits” from the Union. However, this is not the first time the EU is facing such crisis, the 80s were as well filled with intense debates from which, in the light of the need for reforming the European Community and declining popularity of the European vision, emerged the Single European Act and an even stronger Union.


EMinS discussed the opportunities that the recent challenges posed to the EU and the role of candidate countries from the Western Balkans in ensuring a stable, prosperous and influential Europe, with Jo Leinen*, President of the European Movement International and MEP.

 

  • The crises that the European Union (EU) faced throughout the last year, with the Ukrainian, Greek and refugee crises, as well as the terrorist threats, showed a surprising lack of solidarity and unity among the EU Member States for an efficient joint and coherent reaction on the EU level. What could, in your opinion, be the best solution for the EU to develop more united and coherent responses?


Indeed there are a lot of challenges and stress on the EU, and maybe too much at the same time, because EU is not a state with one government but an association of 28 states and 28 governments which makes it complicated in itself. Yes, we are in a worrying situation that we see nationalism and egoism getting bigger and the common European idea being a bit in defensive. Nevertheless, in the last 60 years of European integration we had these problems before. I am still convinced that there is no credible alternative to the EU.

In my opinion after these crises the EU will be stronger than before, because every crisis, whether it is terrorism, migration, or the financial crisis before, needs not less but more Europe.  

Although we are struggling now and it is taking too long, at the end of the day we will manage to give answers and solutions to these big challenges. So, in my opinion after these crises the EU will be stronger than before, because every crisis, whether it is terrorism, migration, or the financial crisis before, needs not less but more Europe.

 

We are developing new policies, new instruments, and sometimes even new institutions to deal with these issues. Five years ago, Frontex, the European border management was a bit an illusion. These weeks we speak about new capacities for FRONETX to secure our borders and to control the illegal immigration with which the mafia is earning billions of Euros. Everybody agrees that we need it, so we develop a European border-management system that had not been in place before. In times of crises we enhance European integration. 


  • Along with all these crises EU is undergoing an important process of strategic reflections and preparation of the EU Global strategy on the foreign and security policy. What are the biggest changes and chances that the Global Strategy will bring to the EU and future member states?


I welcome very much the initiative of Madam Mogherini to prepare the debate and later the decision on the Global Strategy of the EU. We cannot afford to be always inward looking. Europe is a global player and we need to look outwards to our neighbourhoods and to other parts of the world. The [European] Neighbourhood Policy is of course the first foreign policy that we have to do, and this goes along with the process of enlargement to candidate countries, but as well special assistance and association programs to countries that are not candidate countries.

 

We have to renew the European Neighbourhood Policy to make it more focused on the special needs of different countries.

We have to renew the European Neighbourhood Policy that was launched ten years ago to make it more focused on the special needs of different countries like Moldova, Ukraine, the Caucasus states, and then of course for countries on the other side of the Mediterranean and also in Africa. Looking beyond the EU can bring the awareness that EU is necessary for peace, and that we can increase stability. The Western Balkans are a prominent example with the objective to overcome past conflicts and to create long-lasting peace. And by becoming a Member State of the EU, there is no more place for border issues, ethnic conflicts or discrimination. This reconciliation process happened before in other regions of Europe, not least between Germany and France. This is the core of the European idea, and I am sure that it will happen as well in the Balkans. 

 

(Interview conducted by Ms. Tara Tepavac, researcher at the European Movement in Serbia)

 

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*Jo Leinen is Chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for the Relations with China and Member of the Committees on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO), Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the Environment (ENVI)


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