The future of Europe

By George N. Tzogopoulos
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 7, 2016
Adjust font size:

The EU is encountering an existential crisis. President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker has correctly pointed out that grouping has become too distant from the problems of ordinary people.

This reality is not new. The EU has been almost always an affair of elites and the cognoscenti. In good years, citizens didn't pay serious attention to the modus operandi of Brussels because they were enjoying high growth rates and prosperity.

But in difficult times – as during the ongoing economic and migration crises – it's different. People in several member-states have started to challenge the efficiency of the EU, disagree with decisions made by unelected bodies and often express their disappointment and frustration.

Attention is currently turned towards internal initiatives at the EU level aiming at creating new momentum and save the European project. The Bratislava Summit, which took place without the participation of the U.K. after its Brexit vote, confirmed the will of European leaders to act and move forward.

The process will be difficult. The acknowledgment of existing problems does not entail the finding of tangible solutions to create confidence among citizens, principally the younger generation.

If there is a politician whose role will be crucial for the transformation of Europe in the coming months, it is surely German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A few hours before flying to Bratislava, and immediately following her visit to Paris where she met with French President Francois Hollande, Merkel went to Potsdam to give the keynote address at the "M100 Sans Souci Colloquium."

The aim of this annual international conference launched in 2011 is to bring together leading journalists and thinkers from inside and outside Europe to exchange views on its future. Managing editors of media organizations such as the BBC, Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News and Germany's Bild and Spiegel discussed how the EU should act in the fields of economy, foreign policy and the media. Subsequently, journalist Roberto Saviano received a prize for his investigative work in relation to Italian mafia.

Being an invited participant, I had the opportunity to join the debate on the future of Europe and also listen to Merkel's speech. The chancellor characterized a priority the continuous evolution and development of the EU.

This development will have to be based on four pillars. The first is prosperity, the second competiveness and innovation, the third a generation of a wave of enthusiasm and fourth is security. The German leader believes Europe can achieve much more if it is united, especially regarding rising nationalism, radicalization, and terrorism, as well as to better respond to challenges such as Brexit, globalization and climate change.

It seems that Berlin – in cooperation with Paris – seeks to set the basis for a stronger common defense union. While such a plan could hardly be implemented before Brexit due to U.K. objections, an opportunity has now been created. According to a paper recently prepared by the defense ministries of Germany and France, a joint headquarters, from which operational small battle groups will be coordinated, and a single budget for military research are proposed.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen wants a "Schengen of defense." This initiative certainly appeals to Germany to combat the Islamic State and play a more active role in European foreign policy.

In spite of expressed ambitions in defense, the lack of a real vision is evident. Steps boosting further European integration are significant, but they do not provide specific answers to meet the demands of most European citizens.

Chancellor Merkel is right in saying more time is required and that no tangible results can be immediately produced. Nevertheless, the public patience is waning and their anger is often reflected in electoral results, even within Germany. The governing Christian-Democratic party, for instance, recently suffered a painful defeat in the local poll of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Developments in other countries also cause skepticism. Italy might reach a political deadlock if Premier Matteo Renzi loses in the referendum on EU membership. Austria could soon have an extreme right-wing leader after the second round of the presidential election. Spain has failed to form a stable government in the last 10 months despite two national elections. Greece is struggling to implement the bailout terms required by Germany and the IMF. And Hungary is expected to send a strong anti-EU message in the referendum pegged to the refugee crisis.

This period is the most difficult, complicated and unpredictable since Angela Merkel took power in 2005. In the rest of 2016 and the first part of 2017 she will have to show that – along with European elites – she is able to influence European public opinion in the direction she desires.

George N. Tzogopoulos is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from