For those working within the Brussels bubble, it may be hard to imagine that EU citizens are shocked to discover that national parliaments have no say in big decisions such as the Brexit-trade deal or the EU-China investment agreement.
Federalist “EU only” decisions and endlessly expanding EU-competences are undermining support by the people and their national parliaments. Reform is needed.
Crisis after crisis, the EU gains more competences and a larger budget. Whether it is the financial crisis, climate crisis or the more recent pandemic – it appears federalists welcome every new problem as a justification for strengthening EU-powers. “Never waste a good crisis,” they say.
However, there is a limit to expanding the EU at the expense of national competences. Certain things are better dealt with at the national level. Already, the people’s support for the EU is eroding, especially after Brussels failed to deliver on crucial vaccine contracts.
With the departure of the United Kingdom, we have lost a member state that put a clear brake on oversized Brussels ambitions. Since Brexit, the EU has revealed plans and proposals for further European unification. But, how desirable is that?
How much Europe do we want? And what kind of Europe, and for what purpose? For too long, those discussions have been kicked down the road. But this road might be a dead-end street, with a crash against a hard wall coming up.
We need to slow down, urgently. A thorough reform of the EU is needed. The Dutch SGP-party and the ECR Group in the European Parliament are convinced that further European integration has no added value.
Why should the EU interfere with our minimum wage, for example? Did people ever vote for European debt and taxes? In that context, the megalomaniacal COVID recovery fund is a historic mistake. The plan is called “Next Generation” but equates to creating a mountain of debt to be passed onto the next generation of citizens!
This megafund also signifies that the EU is turning into a debt union, where member states guarantee each other’s debts. This discourages any incentive for sound financial policies in the member states.
Following this path, we will eventually end up as a transfer union, where large sums of money must constantly flow from Northern to Southern Europe to keep the eurozone together. That cannot be our goal, can it?
Serve the people
Brussels should serve the people, not the other way around. The EU should limit itself to cooperation on cross-border issues such as trade, migration and the environment. Those are fields with clear added value for all.
The EU should steer away from the ‘one size fits all’ policy approach because it is sometimes better for member states to cooperate rather than further integrate. A more flexible EU would allow member states to opt-out from select projects, making it perfectly reasonable to “agree to disagree” on certain deals or decisions.
A flexible EU means that a ‘coalition of the willing’ could cooperate, while other member states could choose not to participate. Within this framework, the role of the EU would be tailormade to the individual needs of the member states and ultimately serve the peoples better.
Proponents of further European integration point out that many of the challenges we face are clearly cross-border in nature. Take the COVID-19 crisis, for example. This pandemic affects all of us, but also raises questions about the degree of European cooperation.
Should the member states themselves remain in control of their pandemic response or should we push towards a Europe-wide approach?
We saw that the pandemic led to a reappraisal of national sovereignty. European internal borders were closed and even the liberal Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte noted that the EU had no added value in the acute fight against COVID-19.
Moreover, the EU faces numerous geopolitical challenges. The military, economic and political rise of China is weakening Europe’s position in the world. The undemocratic Chinese government is purchasing influence by funding mega-projects across the globe, including on the European continent.
Russia plays a complex international role. In Europe and the United States, Russia seems to disrupt countries elections with the aim of ‘divide and conquer.’
All these factors – Brexit, the COVID crisis, the geopolitical situation, international border issues, the climate and other cross-border issues require an answer. But the best answer is not always the one-way route of “more Europe” and “less national level.”
At the core of our objection to the Commission’s plans is the constant tendency towards further centralization of power that threatens the sovereignty of the member states.
A little more sense of reality is required here. A more flexible approach is needed because some questions may have multiple best answers. Temporary problems require temporary solutions, not handing over national powers forever.
New hope for Europe
Unfortunately, the EU institutions have not shifted the gears down. To increase excitement among citizens about its ambitious plans, the institutions signed up for a 2-year conference on “The Future of Europe”.
Already, the outcome seems fixed given that the major pro-European parties in the European Parliament were not very keen on the input of dissenting groups, such as the ECR Group.
That is why the ECR Group in the European Parliament, to which the SGP is affiliated, has launched its own conference under the working title “A New Hope for Europe’s Future”. The aim of this conference is to provide an alternative response to the centralist agenda of the Commission.
A realistic middle ground between a federal EU and no EU is that of a more flexible EU. The SGP strongly supports this line of thought. It is high time to consider the question: how far will we go with European integration? And if we feel we have reached a limit, what alternatives are there?
On Thursday 1st April, the SGP and ECR will discuss these themes in the Netherlands, asking, ‘How much Europe is needed?’. The Netherlands, as a founding father of the EU, knows about cooperation. Only by working together have we fought the sea and grown into a major agricultural producer of tulips, tomatoes, milk and much more.
But we are also a sovereign nation, with our own culture, beliefs, values and politics.
We advocate for European cooperation, for an EU where national democracies flourish and where civil society plays a vital and connecting role. An EU where healthcare, security, taxes and state structure are competencies at the national level. This way, we will enjoy a Europe that serves the people, not where people serve Europe.
Find more information on our Social Media Channels and website: www.ecrthefuture.eu. Join us to #ResetEU