Does The EU Still Have An Important Role To Play?

The EU is often presented as a land full of bureaucrats who spend their time drafting new regulations to stifle the independence of member states. But the truth is very different.

From war to peace

The EU is made up of countries that previously fought bloody battles against each other causing the deaths of millions of people. Wars between the different regions of Europe date back as far as anyone can remember and were responsible for untold suffering and bloodshed. Such clashes have of course been replaced by a commitment to build a successful economy and peaceful society that supports more than 500 hundred million citizens. Instead of armies of innocents battling each other nation states now meet to ensure dialogue and democracy prevail. The EU system of administration may, at times, seem a little bureaucratic but it provides solutions without conflict for its diverse population.

There are of course challenges as countries worry about a loss of sovereignty when it comes to making their own decisions. Sharing a common currency, ensuring frictionless trade and the freedom of movement also cause concern, particularly at a time when nationalism is making a threatened return in some areas. It is also difficult to manage the level of diplomacy needed to make decisions that affect 28 nation states when tensions are heightened within and between countries. And it is always difficult to explain how the EU works, as its various institutions are confusing and difficult to understand.

Meeting the challenges

Migration too triggers anxiety, as the EU encourages member states to open their borders, which causes friction and frustration. Not least because national politicians fear a backlash from more populist voices, as they grow in popularity and presence.

Economic inequality is a problem too, as the rising wealth gap between rich and poor widens beyond comfort. The push towards globalisation has benefited some parts of the region but disadvantaged communities in other areas, which prompts the rise of nationalism. Short-term solutions are not readily apparent and the EU’s relatively low level of economic growth causes strain at a time when the refugee crisis weakens mainstream political parties.

The greatest threat however may come from within as the most ardent critics are determined to trigger disruption in an attempt to reshape the agenda. As a result, the only certainties are that the status quo will continue to be challenged and the EU must reinforce its commitment to peace and democracy. It must also develop a new cohort of young leaders at every level and new leadership at the top committed to addressing the issues faced by member states.

So, the EU has brought peace and stability to a democracy of member states over recent decades and it must once again develop a collective vision for the next 50 years.