By Soumya Ghosh
The European Union, today grapples with a myriad of crises – waves of populist tide, foreign-exported terrorism, Russian aggression in the east and the migrant crisis. The culmination of all these factors can lead to a potential full-blown existential crisis for the EU.
Thus, it is quintessential to introspect the rationale behind the European Union’s inception. After the Second World War, from the rubble and battered out towns, which were scattered across the length and breadth of the European continent, an inexorable reality came into formulation. This was the political and economic unity of the European nations. The European continent, which was stymied by aggressive nationalism and ethno-nationalist conflicts for centuries, had finally charted a long-lasting plan to carve out European unity.
Addressing legitimate grievances
But the fruits borne out of this unity weren’t witnessed by a substantial percentage of the population. Today, they are espousing ideologies, which seek to derail the decades of progress.
Interestingly enough, to combat this, the mainstream parties have achieved a miraculous ideological synchronization. This has further expanded the scope of the Populists to expand their voter bases by painting the mainstream parties being beholden to Brussels. It serves as a euphemism implying that the mainstream politicians take their orders from a supranational body rather than the people who put them into office.
Ergo, it is the need of the hour to assuage the legitimate grievances of those voters who connect with the morbid dystopias of the populists. Furthermore, it is essential to analyze the reasons why a majority of British voters voted to leave the European Union.
To assuage these concerns, it is inevitable that the EU has to ameliorate its hierarchical structures. Even the most vocal proponents of pro-Europeanism don’t deny this notion. There undoubtedly exists a democracy deficit within the European Union. It can simply be enunciated by the fact by comparing the voter turnout rates of national and European elections. A thorough introspection of that will reveal a huge discrepancy arising due to the embedded notion that the EU is somehow not democratic with its relevance fading away.
The democratic deficit of the European Union
As the echo of a ‘Patriotic Spring’ espoused by the populists reverberates across Europe, it is undeniable that the European Union has to reform itself. At the very outset, the EU – to address the democracy deficit, must have direct elections of the powerful European Commissioner. Furthermore, whilst the Commissioner appoints his or her cabinet, there must be a more transparent public hearing session in the European Parliament itself. Moreover, via this medium the public can voice their respective opinions to the elected members of their respective constituencies. In the due process, this gives the process more legitimacy.
Through this medium, the public can voice their respective opinions to the elected MEPs (Members of European Parliament) of their respective constituencies, giving this process more legitimacy.
However, the problems aren’t just confined to the oft-cited ‘democracy deficit.’ For the EU to fully regain the reliability of the European citizens it must reform its transparency regulations. Lobbying in the EU should be forced to register itself under a new registry.
Moving towards a more integrated fiscal union
After the inception of the Euro, the EU probably became the only economic union to have a common monetary policy with divergent fiscal policies. This intrinsic paradox created a fissure, which exacerbated itself in the form of the Greek Sovereign Debt Crisis and the Eurozone Debt Crisis as a whole. To mitigate this, there must be more fiscal integration in the EU as a whole. There must also be more financial provisions under the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) to provide swift financial assistance to member nations in need.
The European Union must also solidify their existing banking regulations. They can do so by adopting the recommendations of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. The Basel III accord, in essence, helps increase the resilience of the banks in absorbing economic shocks by increasing banking liquidity and its risk management and transparency. These could be crucial for dealing with the Italian Banking Crisis.
Moreover, EU must address the increasing youth unemployment and the higher education concerns of various EU citizens. The European Commission must properly implement the Juncker Plan while the European Parliament must pass legislation to increase the budget of the Erasmus Mundus education program.
The European Union must also create a pathway for the limited devolution of power to the sovereign governments. There is also a need to pave way for more judicial reforms in the European Court of Justice.
The road ahead for the EU
As the elections in Netherlands, France, and Germany dawns upon the European continent, the pro-European Union forces must remain resolute to quell the rising tide of angry voices. The inception of the EU is one of the cornerstone reasons why an era of unparalleled financial prosperity swept across the European Continent via the medium of access of unfettered to the Single Market and the indispensable Four Freedoms (Services, Goods, People and Capital).
The noble intentions of the European Union over-time have been rejigged to the detriment of the common citizens. As the chants of ‘Wir Sind Das Volk’ (We Are the People) and tides of nationalism sweeps across the continent, it is imperative that the European Union ameliorates its existing hierarchical structures. As Euroscepticism slowly morphs into a mainstream political ideology, it is quintessential for the European citizens to repeat the old mantra of ‘United we stand and divided we fall’. They must sternly repudiate the tendencies of xenophobia, Euroscepticism, and isolationism espoused by the Populists.