Will the EU crumble under the pressure of internal disputes and conflicting interests? Will right-wing populism bring about its collapse? Or will Europe get its act together and create a new and more stable architecture? Commentators discuss their views on the future of the Union.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”