On 8 November Janis Emmanouilidis discussed with our guests how the EU27 could exploit the current window of opportunity to re-energise the integration process and regain the trust of the citizens.
The 8th Brussels Wednesday Social hosted by METRO AG in cooperation with European Movement International (EMI), EuroCommerce and Handelsblatt Global was attended by over 150 guests from politics, business and civil society.
A Summary of the Evening
"There is wind in the EU sails, but our Union isn’t stormproof"
There is a renewed sense of optimism in Europe. Surprisingly enough, disruptive events such as Brexit or the rise of populist movement turned to be unifying factors around the European idea. However, the European Union is not stormproof. And storms will come, said Mr Emmanouilidis. A win-win package deal could be the answer. But how should it look like?
Mr Emmanouilidis argued that only a “win-win package deal” covering the economic, social and security dimensions and migration can overcome the differences and red lines among the EU27. The most important feature of such package would be the need to strike the right balance between the solidarity and security camp. Moreover, it would require differentiation among Member States, while avoiding the creation of a closed “core Europe” at the same time. Strong arguments speak in favour of such a deal, for example, the commitment of the German and French governments to implement reforms and put the EU back on track. However, there could be also important obstacles in the way, such as a new German government with three parties with very different ideologies or the influence that populist ideologies are having in national politics. Indeed, the fear of the future (“Zukunftsangst”) leads to anti-cooperative forces to which Europe is very vulnerable.
Therefore, European leaders have no time to lose, as the current window of opportunity will only remain open until the end of 2018: “A new deal will require strong political will and courage. This is what leadership is about”. Indeed, the discussion with the audience drew an interesting picture on how citizens perceive current leadership in the European Union. Growing gaps between elites and citizens and the inability of traditional parties to provide answers to new challenges were also addressed.
Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce, emphasized in his closing remarks the collective responsibility to work for a better future within the EU and the challenges that protectionist tendencies are posing to move towards further integration.
The evening concluded with lively conversations between our guests over the culinary delights offered by METRO Cash & Carry Belgium.