What today characterizes the European Union is the economic crisis, antipathy of the European citizens and the internal separation depending on country’s priorities and interests. But, we should be aware that today’s focus is not on the priorities of the EU as such, and that those priorities are only one section of the action plan and linkage under the starry sky of the EU. Although the initial creation of this organization may not fully interact with today’s activities, we should not forget its mission, vision and what this organization represented in it’s more than 50 years of existence. Also, many of the challenges today are caused by internal insufficiently defined or inappropriate external relations, and many are results of global trends and changes. And most importantly, which is the way to embrace the life cycle of this organization in positive direction.
The strengthening of mutual relations and cooperation among the Member States, acting according to the principles of democracy, human rights and rule of law, the enlargement in compliance with the Copenhagen criteria by promoting economical, social, cultural and political development and international relations, and continuing commitment to the vision through modernization and adaptation, are part of the priorities in the long run. We can say that these are the objectives for fulfilling organization’s vision of a European community where the movement of people, goods, services and capital will be free. But, today’s the challenges are not due to lack of vision or specific goals. They are clearly indicated in the Treaties according to which the EU operates on a voluntary and democratic basis. These Treaties are brought at different times depending on the specific challenges and conditions for EU`s role, and the historical momentum in the European continent. Most recently it was the Lisbon Treaty which introduces many changes in the activities of the EU institutions and their effect. For example, with the imposition of the quality majority voting in many new areas and the changes of the possibilities to block decisions, the Members States become more relevant in the decision making process. Also there are the propositions for permanent Presidency of the European Council, newly created High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and changes in the way of appointing the President of the Commission, as modifications that will bring efficiency and effectiveness of the EU on a grater scale.
And, with giving co-decision power in the hands of the European Parliament and highlighting the subsidiary principle in the decision making process, EU is becoming “Union for every citizen”. So, with the Reform Treaty, the EU is adapting to the new, bigger role through equipment of the Union with stronger powers that improve democratization and effectiveness. Additional modernization was made with the 2020 strategy as a plan for smart, sustainable and inclusive economy within the EU. It is a bottom-up inclusion of every affected actor on every level (from civil society and member to EU`s bodies) for achieving objectives on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy, by 2020.
And, although this upgrade, with its political and economical influence and operation, was in depth defined and welcomed by all Member States, the Union is in front of one of the biggest threats ever. This is not due to the lack of visionary, but due to the lack of executives with a vision. Executives that can have a vision of a certain future and keep the focus on the mission, so they will cross over all of the manipulating, discouraging, and destructive tendencies of several streams in Candidate countries which are in transition, but also in highly developed Member States. They would be the forward momentum stated by the first president of the Commission Walter Hallstein as the necessary condition for continuity. Their attention should be pointed to several points.
First, is the more precise budget discipline and crisis management so the current most dangerous challenge can be regulated more efficiently. Such problem should not be solved with decision making for larger rescue packages and additional threat of inflation, but with strategies that will help countries to restore from their own crisis. This issue should not be regarded as a crisis of the Union, but as an economic challenge to certain States that needs to be resolved gradually and isolated to the extent that it causes less domino effect. The origin of the situation is not on supranational level, so it should not be solved as one. On the other hand, the Union is like a chain, it is strong as the weakest link, i.e. every State enjoys the benefits of the Union, as it is responsible for compliance with the Treaties, from which EU derives as an entity.
Also, one of the five key aspects of the Reform Treaty is the enhancement of EU`s role in the world. That brings us to the second point, the future of European integration. And the maintenance of this process is even more important than to resolve the crisis itself. Integration, whether it`s deeper or wider, is the driving force of the EU`s mission and its stagnation would be a real failure that can lead to the never expected scenario of withdrawal of a country from the Euro zone or end of the Euro itself. The EU now needs to be stronger than ever and to take in consideration all of the countries of the European continent, not as challenge or threat, but as an opportunity to re-energize integration processes and restore the leaders focus on the main intentions for EU`s creation.
The forward momentum will be the agenda for growing out of the crises leadership arranged by EU`s executive visionary, because to be an EU Member State is a recognition for achievements in national development and regional cooperation, and dedication for a contribution towards better society and stronger unity by prevailing prosperity, peace and stability. It`s their responsibility to keep their reputation, so the EU can fulfill its role as a global actor.
*The article was selected as best entry essay for the Centre for European Studies Academy 2012