Is Europe Day a cause for celebration?

Where does the European Union stand today? Does it need to change? Could it even be that it has had its day? On the occasion of Europe Day on 9 May commentators examine Europe's past. They ask where their countries would be today without the EU and look at reasons to celebrate.

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Hotnews (RO) / 10 May 2017

Without the EU Romania would have failed

Commenting on 9 May 1950, the day the EU was founded, Hotnews web portal speculates on where Romania would be without the EU:

“What would things look like here if we had missed out on accession in 2007? Where would the millions of Romanians have gone if they had had neither freedom of travel nor the right to move freely in all 28 EU member states? Who would have curbed the excesses of the Romanian politicians? … And what money would Romania have used for development (even if we failed to use a lot of the EU funds that were put at our disposal)? We all know the answer. If we weren't in the EU we would be in the same state as our neighbours, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine - partially failed states, trapped in a grey zone and at the mercy of the imperial ambitions of Russia, which wants to regain its influence in Eastern Europe. None of those who are attacking the EU today can come up with an alternative. Because what alternative is there?”

El Huffington Post (ES) / 10 May 2017

May 9 as Peace Day

May 9 should be declared a public holiday across Europe, MEP Florent Marcellesi from the Group of the Greens demands in his blog with El Huffington Post:

“Because May 9 is not a public holiday, it is completely invisible. And things that are invisible don't exist. Hardly anyone knows that in a historical speech delivered by the French foreign minister Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950 Germany and France decided to end their hatred and fratricide. … Forgetfulness of the past, combined with fear, fuels right-wing extremism in Europe. Let us not forget that the European project grew out of the ruins of fascism and nationalism. … The pragmatic reader should know that the European average of 12 public holidays per year (14 in Spain) leaves plenty of room to add this holiday. Moreover, after years of crisis the act of establishing another public holiday (as Portugal did) would be a strong gesture.”

Protagon.gr (GR) / 09 May 2017

The best political and economic environment

The EU is the best thing that could have happened to the Europeans, Protagon also stresses:

“Not a single European is living a worse life today because his country joined the European Union. … Despite its problems the European Union still offers the best political and economic environment in the continent's long history. It looks like it could take some time before people prioritise their European over their national identities. Perhaps that day will never come. But it doesn't have to. It will be enough if the day comes when the majority of Europeans see the world with the same eyes and above all with their mutual interests in mind. That will be the new Europe Day.”

Aftonbladet (SE) / 09 May 2017

Joint defence is better

The EU is the right format for counteracting attacks on democracy, Aftonbladet states, in response to the cyber attacks on elections:

“A democratic infrastructure is crucial in times of information wars and cyber attacks. This cannot primarily be the task of the military. ... It is also about developing technological initiatives and assembling diplomatic powers. It is about Europe presenting a united front and showing that actions have consequences. ... Economic sanctions are also worth considering here. For example the EU would be able to stop the Russian gas project Nordstream if Russia were to meddle with the German elections, as it did in France. Measures like these are probably the only language Russia understands. The EU is probably the right format for discussing joint strategies and closer cooperation on this issue. Not least because the 2019 EU elections will almost certainly be a target.”

Jutarnji list (HR) / 10 May 2017

EU must prove its worth on a regular basis

The EU needs to be stronger than ever before in order to defend its right to exist, observes Jutarnji List:

“Once upon a time national elections in an EU member state were important in deciding policy decisions within the EU. Now, however, the European Union's very survival can depend on them and this is not about to change any time soon. Because Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and other populists and extremists of their ilk will be back again before long, perhaps even stronger and more powerful than before. So the European Union will be forced to prove its worth on a regular basis. This will not be possible without a return to the unity, honest solidarity and strict observance of its founding values. We must not forget that the project for the unification of Europe has secured peace across most of the continent. Wars broke out in those parts of Europe which the process of unification bypassed, such as the Western Balkans.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) / 20 April 2017

Equal pay for equal work!

Journalist Péter Techet backs Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern's demand that the countries of Eastern Europe change their taxes and wages policy, arguing in the daily Magyar Nemzet that this is the only way to create solidarity in the EU:

“According to Kern the EU won't be able to function in the long term as long as the East lives on money from the West - in Hungary more than 90 percent of investment stems from EU funding - and at the same time pursues a taxes and wages policy that represents a threat for the Western European welfare states and the wage levels there. … The Orbán government, for example, is pushing for a less integrated EU because it wants to ensure that Audi keeps on paying its Hungarian workers a third of what it pays for its German workers. Kern wants everyone to receive the same pay for the same work. … If the Eastern European member states continue to reject the welfare state, the only option will be a two-speed Europe.”

Maaleht (EE) / 13 April 2017

Talk of disbanding the EU is dangerous

Commenting in Maaleht the liberal MEP Urmas Paet is surprised by how openly people are talking about the collapse of the EU:

“Even if we only consider it in theory, the dissolution of the European Union would be a highly risky process - particularly for states in a geopolitically complicated situation like Estonia. Yes, the EU is facing several complicated problems: the fight against terror, the refugee crisis, aggressive behaviour from Russia, slow economic growth, complex relations with Turkey, difficult negotiations with the UK, a realignment in relations with the US. But this is no reason for the Union to break apart, because the member states' chances of solving these problems won't improve if they are on their own. … Those who would most benefit from the disintegration would be the non-European major powers that never liked the fact of the European Union's existence. Because the EU as a whole is a global rival.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) / 12 April 2017

EU needs new balance of power

The EU member states must reach an agreement to restore political equality among themselves, political scientist Maurizio Ferrera urges in Corriere della Sera:

“On the basis of the EU treaties all member states are equal. The decision-making powers were allocated according to the size of the population of the individual member states. However, the reforms that were introduced during the crisis have worked to the advantage of the coalition of Northern European countries, with Germany at their centre. Moreover, the informal practices of the EU Council are often brazenly asymmetrical. ... Certainly, the EU treaties need to be amended sooner or later. But without a new political and cultural pact between those who represent and steer the peoples of Europe, it will not be possible to make a single institutional step forwards.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) / 10 April 2017

Europe's division begins on the Oder

The biggest danger facing Europe is that a conflict could break out between Germany and Poland, philosopher Marek A. Cichocki argues in Rzeczpospolita:

“One of the major threats for Europe in the coming years is an ideological escalation between the state on the one hand and the societies [in the individual countries] on the other. In this respect Polish-German relations are hugely significant and play a key role. Because if someone wants to divide Europe he will most certainly start by trying to turn the Poles and the Germans into irreconcilable enemies. Precisely because relations between these two countries are so sensitive. In Poland in particular it is very easy to raise the peoples' hackles and incite distrust and feelings of dislike or even hostility vis-à-vis Germany.”

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Der Standard (AT)
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Le Monde (FR)
The Times (GB)
Times of Malta (MT)
La Stampa (IT)
El Periódico de Catalunya (ES)
Corriere della Sera (IT)
Wiener Zeitung (AT)
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH)