A plea to the rest of Europe: Reform or face further exits

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

The EU needs reform, including putting an end to the travelling circus between Brussels and Strasbourg every month. [Lars Steffens/Flickr]

There is obviously no time to lose in absorbing the new reality facing the UK and urgently working to unite and heal its divided communities. It is time for reform, writes Jean Lambert.

Jean Lambert is an MEP with the Greens/EFA group who has represented London for the past 17 years.

We will be coming together as progressives from political parties, trade unions, campaign organisations and grassroots groups to prevent the feared bonfire of regulations, stop a rollback on environmental protections, and resist the spread of racism, inequality and alienation.

As an unabashed Europhile, I plead with my European colleagues to learn the lessons from this tragedy. I believe fiercely in the founding principles and potential of the European project and desperately do not want other countries to follow the exit route.

Whilst we undoubtedly need to learn from the failings of the Remain campaign, we also need to make it easier to make the pro-European case in future.

The UK referendum acted as a lightning rod for people’s fears about the future. These fears are real and justified – and they are shared by people right around Europe.

I urge my fellow Europeans to treat this decision as a clear warning signal and to hear loud and clear the demand for change.

The EU needs to democratise. It’s time to seriously reorganise the EU institutions to make them work better for Europeans.

To start with that means giving the directly elected European Parliament more powers to initiate legislation, to amend and veto all Commission proposals. And it means ending the travelling circus that sees the European Parliament trek from Brussels to Strasbourg every month and which invites ridicule of the institution.

There needs to be more transparency. Council meetings should become fully transparent and there should be a compulsory and legally binding EU lobby register.

Alongside institutional change, the EU needs bold new policies to transform people’s lives for the better, all across Europe. EU politicians need to demonstrate they are listening to people’s frustrations – their opposition to TTIP, their dismay at the appalling handling of the refugee crisis, the desire for increased climate action and the calls to clampdown on tax dodging, to name just a few.

Results need to be tangible, effective and clearly communicated, and the benefits of the European dimension much better highlighted. Europe needs to reboot the way it works, to restore the balance of power between the institutions and to be more flexible to respond rapidly to the challenges it faces.

Europe’s citizens need to see progress towards a people-centred Europe – greener, more democratic, and which, crucially, constrains the power of corporations.

I urge the rest of the EU to take a long-hard look at itself in the light of the UK’s vote to leave. Only urgent reforms can offer hope to disillusioned people and stave off further fragmentation of Europe.

Archived: Britain votes to leave the European Union

The United Kingdom on Thursday (23 June) voted to leave the European Union, in a result that is likely to rock the 28-country bloc. Follow EURACTIV's live feed for all the latest developments, as they happen.

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