The EU does not have to change its dream – it has to live it

The recent elections in the United Kingdom, Poland and Spain have led Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission, to state that “there is a need to rethink the EU project”. She was backed up by the Italian Prime Minister who declared yesterday that “the wind from Greece, the wind from Spain, the wind from Poland, do not blow in the same direction, they blow in the opposite direction. But all these winds say that Europe must change”. I want to say one thing: don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater – the debate should be on the EU we want and not about whether the EU should exist or not. So what are the changes we want to see?

We certainly don’t want changes that question the EU’s basic principles. Yesterday UK Prime Minister David Cameron discussed with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker a possible new “deal for the UK”. David Cameron said that changes to rules on welfare benefits were an absolute requirement in any renegotiation. According to Euractiv, “he wants to force EU migrants to wait four years before accessing a range of welfare benefits in Britain, and to win the power to deport out of work EU job-seekers after six months”. He has already faced opposition on this point from other EU countries such as Germany and France. This is certainly not the kind of change in the EU that we want to see.

We want to move forward with a more social Europe; it is time to work on greater social convergence in the EU. For that reason we want EU leaders to implement what is already written in the treaty such as the social clause, which states that “the Union shall take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health”. We will continue to push for the roll-out of social standards across the EU and the inclusion of those most excluded from society in the priorities of the EU project.

There is a meeting of the college of Commissioners on 3 June and a meeting of European Heads of State on 25 June. We call on these key policy-makers to ensure that Europe lives up to the spirit of its word by making concrete proposals for improving the social situation in the EU, rather than allowing negative rhetoric to diminish the European project to a pipedream.

Let’s engage,

Pierre Baussand, Director