From Grexit to Brexit

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

Frustration often spilled over into violence in Athens at the height of the Grexit debate. [George Laoutaris/Flickr]

The economic crisis, the threats of Grexit and Brexit and the death of Schengen are all failures of the EU. To survive, the bloc must learn to solve the root causes of its problems, writes Ernest Maragall.

Ernest Maragall is a Catalan MEP for the New Catalan Left (Greens/EFA).

The conditions that have now been set out for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union can be described quite simply as ‘less Europe’.

The direction of travel is clear, and we are now witnessing the gradual reappearance of state borders within the European Union.

“If Europe cannot defend us, we must defend ourselves” – that increasingly seems to be the populist rallying cry across the continent.

Many of Europe’s current problems can be traced back to the historic error of putting economic union first, in the hope that it would lead to political union.

That’s why the economic crisis has led to such political division with Europe, seemingly placing the bloc on the road to disintegration.

It was widely said during the negotiations with Greece that Europe was at stake, not Greece alone. If Europe’s answer to a member state in trouble is punishment or exit, what kind of commitment to Europe can we expect from any country? Today we can say again: it’s Europe, stupid, not Brexit!

How much less Europe is acceptable in order to keep the UK, when what’s necessary is more, and better, Europe?

History will be our judge, and it’s not yet clear whether this period will be seen as the start or the end of the EU, or indeed its turning point.

But this history is still being written and we can still influence what will be said. Let me suggest that the following might be an appropriate paragraph in a history book about Europe in recent times:

“…while thought of as a driver of closer integration, a common currency without fiscal and economic policies divided Europe into debtors and creditors. The creditors imposed their will upon the debtors, as if any debt could be created without symmetrical credit, and brought the entire EU economy into recession.

“With poverty and unemployment blighting the EU, any new immigrant was eyed with suspicion, whether they were refugees fleeing conflict or not. Migrants, numbering less than 1% of the EU population, knocking at its doors, led to the reappearance of internal borders, while the EU disappeared.”

If we respond to the prospect of Brexit as the EU is doing now, then who will be the next “red card” holders: Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark…?

The EU must demonstrate its ability to solve the root causes of its problems, and either start building a united and democratic Europe, or simply assist in its disappearance.

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