EU in its 60 years birthday is facing critical problems to which is called to provide answers in order to maintain cohesion and to prevent centrifugal trends of its Member States.

Some of the main challenges EU is facing at the time being, are different levels of competitiveness between northern and southern countries, low development rates of less than 2% per year in the EU, high unemployment and debt crisis of South European countries, different attitude of Member States towards regional conflicts, refugee flows in M. East, Ukraine, N. Africa, democratic deficit and strengthening of Euroscepticism and the extreme right.

EU was built based on the collaboration of Franco-German axis, where after 80 years of military confrontation between France and Germany and their allies from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and the two catastrophic world wars, led to the first peaceful European Treaty on Steel and Coal in 1951. Based on this agreement, the Ruhr area, which both countries claimed for over a century and gathered the mining and raw materials for their war industry, has entered into joint control with peaceful purposes of France, Germany and 4 other countries which established the ECSC.

In the later European pathway, Germany drawing conclusions from the 100-year history of wars, mainly due to its Prussian authoritarianism, followed a policy of multilateral cooperation in the European area, mainly by the Ostpolitic of Villy Brant, who in 1970, entered into a working relationship with the Eastern countries and  East Germany, which also joined the UN in 1973. Similar multilateral cooperation policy was also followed by subsequent German leaders, who in collaboration with France and in particular with the European Commission leadership under Zak Delor since 1985, boosted the European structure, along with the member countries of the European South and democratic governance institutions such as the European Parliament, the Committee of Regions, the Economic and Social Committee, establishing  as such its own resources for financing of the CAP and policies of structural funds for convergence and social cohesion of the Member States and EU regions.

Unfortunately, after the global crisis of 2008 which hit Greece and countries mainly in southern Europe, the route of the European integration was halted and got negative characteristics. Today, we have a new situation in Europe, where Germany has an annual trade surplus of more than 200 billion euros and France depicts an annual trade deficit of 80 billion euros, while in the other countries of South Europe there are large trade deficits. As Keynes wrote in it’s General Theory in 1936: “Less competitive importing countries in order to meet the demand are led to have high public debt”.

EU’s Lisbon Treaty as in force since 2009 has incorporated the Charter of Fundamental rights and provides for the right to work and a decent life for all citizens in a Europe of sustainable development, virtually is non-existent, since it supports no adequate policies to achieve these goals. EU’s budget, despite the expansion with 10 new countries in 2004, remains low at just 1% of EU GDP, not being able to turn EU from unified market to unified social and public space.

EU’s democratic deficit becomes more evident when there is no provision for approval of the Treaties by referendum in all EU member countries.

In international agreements negotiated by the EU in 2009 with 46 countries of the world of  CETA, N. Africa, USA / TTIP, etc., the European agri-food sector of  S. Europe is being sacrificed  in favor of industrial products and services of the Northern countries, while  public power is assigned  to multinational companies through corporate courts. The example of non-protection of the feta cheese, the 5th EU flagship product among the 3000 EU PDO products, highlights the magnitude of the European institutions’ discrimination against our country and other countries of Southern Europe.

At EU economic policy level there is a weak France and almost complete domination of Germany with a punishing attitude of Merkel-Schäuble over the South European partner countries and our country. That is a reset of the arrogant attitude of Germany which Europe experienced during the two world wars. This attitude, whether continued will be suicidal both for Germany and Europe.

There is need for the EU to be exempted from the IMF custody and to promote our country’s and other European countries debt impairment, in order to promote territorial and social cohesion within the Union, as well as the principles of fair trade and equal cooperation on international relations against the neoliberal deregulation of the markets and the economic protectionism and nationalism of Trump and Eurosceptics.

In terms of EU’s foreign policy, EU fails to have a common position in a series of important issues. This is obvious through the inability to integrate the Western Balkans in the EU, the opposition of France and Germany in the Bush war against Iraq in 2003 and the participation of European Eastern countries in this war and the current refusal of Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and other countries to accept relocation of refugees in their countries, against the decision of European Council. EU requires the deepening of the Single EU Foreign Affairs and Defense policy and the constant promotion of rules and principles of Equal Rights and Peace in international relations.

The four objectives of the Joint Declaration of Rome on 25.03.2017, for a unified market, social Europe, strong in the international arena and with secure borders, will remain empty content if the EU does not promote a new win-win cooperation framework of multiple identities (and not on multiple speeds). It’s Nations and Regions need to move beyond the limits of the common market to strengthen the EU’s budget and the participation of European local and regional social movements into progressive solidarity policies, of a social, democratic and federal direction.


Author:  Giorgos Emmanouil

  • Member of Naturefriends Greece
  • Member of the Coordinating Committee of Organizations and Citizens Network STOP CETA TTIP TiSA