If Europe was stronger…

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

I would happily agree to transfer more powers to the European Union if in exchange they protected my interests more strongerly and efficiently than national institutions can provide, writes Ivailo Kalfin.

Ivailo Kalfin is a Member of the European Parliament for Bulgaria and a former foreign minister and chief negotiator at the time of Bulgaria’s accession to the EU in 2007.

"The State of the Union address that president Barroso will deliver next week give us the opportunity to reflect once again what Union we would like to have as politicians and as ordinary citizens.

Politicians are not managers. Politicians are elected, while managers are selected. Politicians should keep track of the global picture and provide long term solutions. Politicians are expected to be leaders and this is what I miss at both national and European level. Crisis management alone, without a clear and comprehensive vision for the future cannot generate public support and can easily lead to frustration with politics.

The next European elections should not be about crisis management but about the future. We often hear people saying the EU has probably lost its underlying rationale – the reconciliation after WWII and being mobilised against the enemy next door – the communist block. Now the enemy is no longer there and the new generations do not care much about the lessons of the last war. But if this is the logic, then the EU should collapse – something that exists only in the imagination of nationalists like Nigel Farage.

Actually the lesson from the past is well kept and has to be reminded as often as possible. Sixty years ago the youth were going to war. Today they go for the Erasmus exchange programmes. Sixty years ago the economy was in ruins, now the EU has the largest economy in the world. Sixty years ago and even much more recently European citizens were fighting against dictatorships. Now the EU guarantees developed and deeply rooted democracy to her nearly 500 million citizens. These are achievements not because of the good work of the national governments but because of the existence of the EU – the synergy between the dispersed national efforts. So, the EU is not about post war or about next door enemy. It is about potential to respond to the demands of its citizens.

EU is about power. It is about potential. In a globalized world, the national solutions hardly work. And if years ago the economic and political powers depended on the industrial revolution, later on the free trade and the common market, now the powers can be hardly imagined without the financial strength. Hence, if Europe has to be stronger, it needs a stable common currency, consolidated financial markets and sound financial institutions. But it also needs the institutions, the budget and the level of centralization to maintain this currency.

Yes, Europe has its current difficulties. This is because the EU leaders created the single currency as a political project. When the negative economic shocks hit, the missing links have to be urgently created. In the meantime short-term urgent solutions are sought. But we shouldn't depart from the priority to build a strong and influential union that will better preserve the interests of its citizens in the globalized world.

Can we protect the citizen private data and oppose the US for their PRISM program? Can we properly regulate terms of trade in the international commercial relations? Can we create the conditions for the development of the largest economy in the world? Influence is about power. I would happily agree to transfer more powers to EU if I have in exchange a protection of my interest which is stronger and more efficient than the national institutions can provide.

The size of the bottles with olive oil, the shape of the cucumbers or the speed limit on the highways can perfectly well be decided by the national authorities. But I expect the EU to create the rules that maintain the financial stability, to stimulate the competitiveness, to protect better the EU interests in the international relations. This means more decision making powers, more discipline and a higher budget. This is the type of Europe I need – not to solve all my problems but to be able to defend my interests. Therefore, single currency, banking union, fiscal union, the social pillar matter to me. The EU can be much more efficient in these areas than any national government.

This is what we need to communicate to the citizens. The EU is there to make us part of the largest economy of the world, to set and protect high democratic and social standards and to efficiently defend my interests on the international arena."

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