17 - 23 June, 2012
15 YEARS AGO
The Turkish Prime Ministersays he is preparing to engage the EU in a robust dialogue over their stalledaccession bid |
AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN
Towards the end of the 1990s it became apparent that eight central European countries were to become full members of the European Union. The EU had managed in the past to incorporate more than one member state at a time, but now it was eight plus the two Mediterranean island - states. A lot of people in the 'old' EU countries had to feel the cost and pri-marily the agricultural sector. The huge subsidies that the EU farmers had been receiving had to be slashed in order thatthe newcomers would get something. Naturally EU farmers said 'no'. On top of that there was strong internal resistance within the newcomers, against this pan-European project. At the end however, history had its course.
Closing borders behindclosed doors
The European Union is on the edge of collapse; the singlecurrency is about to fragment once more, and politicalleadership at the top is in stalemate, petrified and ineffec-tual while the new opposition circles. Detractors get loud-er while defenders are quivering and meek. Or, at least,that’s how some would like to see it. That the EU is facing a crisis – or series of crises – a finan-cial and banking crisis, a debt crisis, a political crisis, ishardly under dispute, even the staunchest advocates of theUnion have conceded that, while those that preach the endare rubbing their hands with glee; the battle lines aredrawn. It’s a fun time to be a polemicist. The standard response to current happenings in the EU isthat ‘more Europe’ is needed if we are to extricate ourselvesfrom our present situation, a concept that raises the angerof the Eurosceptics, who rant and rave about the course of mistakes and mishaps that have led Europe to this point.Instead of more Europe, they say, it is time, not just to rollback on commitments, but to abandon the idea of theUnion altogether.At the last Strasbourg plenary, MEPs were more than a lit-tle agitated. The financial, banking and debt crises need tobe resolved now, too much time has been wasted. TheEuropean Commission and Council have not heeded the warnings of the EU’s elected officials. Greece, Spain, andother teetering economies have been let to rot by the slow-ness of decision-making and by the complex, inner politi-cal workings of the institutions. Of course, those that scoff at the concept of more Europe argue that this simply equates to more labyrinthine bureaucracy and politicalgridlock. Those that take the opposite view, for instance,the forceful, impassioned reasoning of Guy Verhofstadt,argue that more Europe is a kind of philosophy, a return tothe spirit of solidarity that led to the creation of a unitedEurope in the first place. This is not a sentimental point,though; in times of crisis, solidarity is always preferable toabandonment.Aside form the financial crisis, the immediacy of whichhas magnified the more Europe debate, the EuropeanParliament is also up in arms about Schengen, the free-movement agreement. National governments have shutMEPs out of the co-legislative procedure, meaning thatmember states can effectively apply or disengage from theagreement, even countries that are not a part of it, such asthe UK, will be able to take part in debates and discussionsgoverning the agreement’s future, elected members of theEuropean Parliament will not.As much as the internal market, free movement of peopleis a fundamental right of EU citizens. Taking it away fromthe main democratic institution of the European Union isnot only a slap in the face of European democracy, but alsoa puts a central principle of the EU in the hands of elec-tioneering governments and politicians keen to exploitimmigration and xenophobia for political gain.More Europe, and commitment to European solidarity,is not necessarily the extension of powers to a centralisedbureaucracy; sometimes it is about standing-up for therights we already have, and making sure that we keepthem.
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