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25.07.2017

DO WE NEED MORE EUROPEAN INTEGRATION OR LESS?

The Vice President of the European Parliament and a professor for Economic Policy voice their opinions on the topic.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (FDP),
Vice President of the European Parliament :

"The EU is a unique project aimed at maintaining a liberal society and social market economy. Over the course of the past six decades, the member countries have created an area of peace, justice and shared rules and written an economic success story. At the same time, the EU also faces enormous challenges. Massive conflicts are smoldering in our immediate neighborhood and the economic and social crisis in Southern Europe has not yet passed. Right-wing and left-wing populists are undermining our liberal democracy and Brexit could unleash disastrous consequences.

The imminent debate on the future of Europe is thus also a chance to get Europe back on course. But this can only be successful if the EU delivers what the citizens have every right to expect. Abstract discussions about "more" or "less" European integration will not help with that. The European citizens want a European Union that functions well and serves their interests. For this reason, we should shift our focus towards areas where Europe offers an added value: the safety of our external borders, protection against terrorism, growth and social solidarity in times of globalization and digitalization, the opening of new markets through free trade agreements, fair distribution of refugees and the simplification of complicated EU structures. There is also no doubt that not all states want the European integration to progress at the same speed. If every state can decide for itself when and how much sovereignty it wishes to pass on to the European level, we will not have a European superstate, but rather a more flexible Europe, whose members willingly implement a joint legal structure and consequently adhere to the resulting obligations.

We need to address the criticism, concerns and fears voiced by the citizens in a constructive manner, and without giving way to fearmongering. The majority of German citizens and those from other EU states support the European idea, as many recent elections have clearly demonstrated. Our task is to remind us all, again and again, that Europe is only as strong as its people and its economy. Their free development is what ensures our prosperity and our future. The EU represents the setting that the nation states alone are no longer able to provide. Europe is not an end in itself, rather it is the best means to upholding a liberal society and a social market economy."

 

Prof. Dr. Andreas Freytag

Prof. Dr. Andreas Freytag,
professor for Economic Policy at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena:

"In the debate about the European idea, we are often dealing with positions on both ends of the extreme. For or against, more or less? Good or bad European? These opposites unnecessarily intensify the debate and obscure the view on the question that is truly important: How can we find the "best" Europe?

European decision-makers have only recently begun to realize that the theory of an "ever closer union" is outdated. After all, the people want solutions that solve problems, not gesture politics. And they insist on national idiosyncrasies - consciously or unconsciously.

This becomes particularly clear when having a look at the interaction of centralized monetary policy and decentralized fiscal policies. For example, hardly any French citizen would get the idea to regard the German regulatory policy with its ideal of stability as a suitable economic model for France. And a state-dominated, Keynesian model would be less than ideal for Germany with its over a million medium-sized companies. A harmonized fiscal policy would fail to comply with at least one of the two policy-making approaches and would turn the people against Europe. In light of this, the European monetary union will continue to be put to the test.

This means it is time for a reorientation of the European integration. It is no longer reasonable to defend an excessive and unduly bureaucratic "acquis communautaire."

Instead, the European integration should include the right to choose. Based on the single market with its four freedoms as a shared platform for all members, the citizens of every member country should be able to decide on the elements of European integration they deem attractive in accordance with their own preferences: the defense union, the Schengen area, the monetary union, the social union - those who want to join in are welcome. Others remain on their own or join in and leave as they wish. Instead of using force, such subareas would then have to prove their worth in competition. Under these conditions, every member state would need to be able to instruct the European Commission to evaluate a respective integration approach and make an offer.

The result would be a European Union with overlapping spheres, a "Europe à la carte." This may be complicated in the beginning and seem like a nightmare for many committed "Europeans", but it would be good to think in terms of alternatives. The way the EU is currently presenting itself and the way it is perceived, it might very well be the case that this solution will be our last resort in a few years.

The European integration started out as a wise peace project, driven by foreign trade and with the single market at its pinnacle - and it is more than safe to say that the often defamed trade is a cultural masterpiece. Everything else is an added benefit which can clearly not be commanded. It is time for this realization to hit home."

Further Information

VDMA European Office   |   VDMAimpulse 04-2017: "Brexit - an accident continuing to happen"   |   VDMAimpulse 04-2017: "The days after Brexit - a scenario"   |   VDMAimpulse 02-2017: "The future of europe: Five options, no alternative"

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Contact
Eike Radszuhn, VDMA European Office.