Kaufmann: Brexit means EU ‘has a mountain to climb ahead of it’

Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann [European Parliament]

A debate about the future development of the EU has raged across the continent since the UK’s Brexit vote. While many believe this is the beginning of the end, others, like Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann MEP, see it as an opportunity to start afresh. EURACTIV Germany reports.

euractiv.de interviewed the S&D group’s Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann (SPD), who is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs.

Kaufmann spoke to euractiv.de’s Manuel Müller.

Is Brexit the beginning of the end for the EU, or is it a chance for a rethink?

Brexit will undoubtedly have a weakening impact on the EU, as it means the loss of one of the most important member states. Nevertheless, I am convinced that this does not signal the fall of the EU. If the remaining 27 members act wisely, it could even mean a strengthening of the bloc.

What should the EU do now?

I think that it should now focus on its key issues. We have to do our best to consolidate the EU now. For me, that means making decision-making processes transparent and proving that the EU is capable of taking action. Many citizens have doubts when it comes to this aspect of the bloc.

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Would a European Convention be a good way of kickstarting this new beginning?

The EU is in a very difficult situation and I don’t think that the issue of “more” or “less” Europe should be the focus of a tug-of-war within a Convention. We need practical progress and we should use the possibilities afforded by the existing treaties first. People have to remember that we have three extremely important agreements to hash out in the next three years: the UK’s withdrawal agreement, what kind of relationship the EU and UK are going to have afterwards and an adaptation of the treaties once the UK has left. That means the EU has a mountain to climb ahead of it.

Does the initiative on the EU’s future direction lie just with the member states or can the Parliament contribute to it?

Certainly, it’s up to the national governments. But the European Parliament also has an important role to play. We in the constitutional committee are discussing the report put together by Elmar Brok and Mercedes Bresso on how the Lisbon Treaty can be better exploited. There’s a lot of leeway that already exists and which can be adapted under the current treaties.

We are also looking at a report penned by Guy Verhofstadt on possible changes to the institutional structure of the EU. We intend to discuss and adopt both at a plenary in the second half of 2016. In this way, the Parliament can make an important contribution to the ongoing European debate.

Towards the post-Brexit relationship

EURACTIV’s live coverage of the new UK government beginning to deal with the country’s exit from the EU unfolded like this…

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