Brexit vote: How the EU must change

More than a week after the Brexit vote the British have yet to come up with a concrete plan for when to start official exit negotiations. The press puts forward a few ideas for a new order in Europe.

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Ouest France (FR) /

EU must focus on essentials, Tahar Ben Jelloun urges

After the Brexit Europe must define itself anew and cast off excess weight, author Tahar Ben Jelloun demands in Ouest France:

“The Brexit may well not be such bad news as people are making it out to be. It could even be a good opportunity for Europe to reinvent itself on a solid and coherent basis. The European family should slim down. ... Some countries joined core Europe without consolidating or enriching it. On the contrary, some - like Poland - quickly aligned themselves with American policy. Others closed their borders, faced with the distress of the migrants, and thus helped to tread Europe, its values and its principles underfoot. We must focus on the essentials, ban bureaucracy, put an end to wastage, empty talk and unfulfilled promises. Europe is a necessity, above all if it can freshen itself up in view of the challenges and the realities it faces, all the while remaining modest - and concrete.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

The EU doesn't need to be redefined, writes Peter Sloterdijk

After the Brexit vote many politicians have called for major reform of the EU. Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk argues that there is no need for that in a guest commentary for Handelsblatt:

“What we call 'Europe' has been a largely automatic process occurring independently of the declarations of will and mood swings of its members for the last 50 years or so. Europe's strength lies in the fact that it forms a system of cooperation based on the sharing of material advantages and common 'value'-experiences, without heeding the turbulences and moods of the day. This process-Europe will continue on its systemically defined course no matter what the 're-founders' and other dreamers have to say about its lack of unity on financial policy, refugees policy, security policy and other issues. … Europe's strength is based on the independence of its institutions from shifting moods. After the Catholic Church, the European Union is the first populism-proof entity in history. ”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Maximum social rights for all Europeans

If Europe wants to continue as a community of states the social standards in the different countries of the EU must be harmonised, Dnevnik points out:

“The problem does not lie in the dilemma between less Europe and more competencies for the individual member states or more Europe with supranational institutions. A little imaginativeness in the plan for a new Europe wouldn't hurt. If Europe is to remain a union it must be consolidated into a genuine community. This will require homogeneous directives on wages and minimum standards as regards public healthcare, as well as maximum social welfare rights across the continent. … There are at least two Europe's. In one of them people have not only jobs but also social rights, in the other people have lost their social rights and their jobs. There is an easy way to keep Europe together. Eastern Europe must be made attractive for workers from Western Europe.”

Večernji list (HR) /

No more countries will want the euro

After the Brexit and Greece's experiences last year there is little prospect of the Eurozone further expanding any time soon, Večernji list comments:

“A year ago the ECB refused to pay Greek citizens, workers and pensioners, money from their own private accounts until the Greek government accepted the reforms demanded by the European Commission. … No nation can allow itself to be blackmailed. Europe's nations adopted the monetary union because it promised protection from blackmail and attacks, equitable levels of monetary liquidity and the free and unhindered circulation of money. This promise was grievously violated a year ago, and after Greece and the Brexit it is unlikely that any of the eight states outside the Eurozone will choose to put their head in the noose called the euro.”

The Independent (GB) /

We need pan-European parties

The Brexit vote has shown that the EU will only survive if genuinely pan-European parties emerge, pro-Europe activist Niccolo Milanese writes in The Independent:

“The European Commission has become increasingly apolitical, able to launch legal proceedings but unable to intervene in public debate to stand up for Europe and its citizens. The European Parliament of course should play this role – but it is hamstrung by artificial political parties, which are not genuinely European, but more or less coherent collections of national parties. It is, by design, distant from the people it is supposed to represent. ... There should not be one political party, or one leader, speaking for Europe; there should be many. ... These need to be genuinely trans-European political parties, of the same dimensions as the European citizens they represent.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Will Europe degenerate into a commercial union?

The EU's relations with Britain after the Brexit will be decisive for the future of the Union, Večernji list believes:

“Many things depend on how the separation of Britain from the EU plays out, including the survival of the EU. The key question: will Britain manage to negotiate a sensible and beneficial trade agreement with the EU? If it does, that would mean the end of the European project, which rose from the ashes of World War II. If it does, there is no doubt that other rich and developed EU member states will follow suit. In this case the the EU would be transformed from a political union in which there are basic freedoms and the principle of European solidarity is continually stressed into a mere commercial union.”

Heti Válasz (HU) /

Eastern Europe will become more powerful

Eastern and Central Europe will have more clout in an EU without the UK, János Martonyi, former Hungarian foreign minister, predicts in the weekly paper Heti Válasz:

“The focus of the European integration process will shift eastwards; the geopolitical and economic importance of Central Europe will increase. This process could already be observed in the past: German reunification, the transfer of the German capital to Berlin, the unification of Western and Eastern Europe, faster economic growth in Eastern Europe, its growing importance as regards security policy. … The key issue now, as so often in the past, is Germany, the 'conditio Germaniae'. Following the exit of the British economic and security policy factors will force Germany to focus more on Central Europe. Germany's leading politicians are clearly aware of this too.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Romania must participate more in debate

Romanian President Klaus Iohanis has called on the parties to discuss how the country should deal with the Brexit vote. Romania must make it clear that the EU is important for the country's future, urges journalist Ion Ionita in Adevărul:

“The country should quickly decide what and who it supports in the debate about EU reforms - a debate that began immediately after the Brexit debate at the meeting of the six EU founding states. So far Romania has shyly kept out of the big European debates on the future of the EU. It has said nothing about whether it wants the euro or not. It has behaved like a little flag in the wind. This must stop. Would we be happy with a two-speed Europe? If not, what must we do to belong to the core group? … It's time to take action.”

Blog euinside (BG) /

EU integration will continue without the British

The EU leaders demonstrated unity and consensus at their first meeting since the Brexit referendum, which Adelina Marini sees as an encouraging sign for the future of the EU on her euinside blog:

“The EU will go on as before. It will continue discussing a multi-speed Europe, there will be more drama and crises and disputes - in the north and the south, east and west, old and new. The good thing about the Brexit is that it has reminded the EU of what it was founded for and how high the stakes are in this game. The summit meeting on June 28 and 29 will go down in history as the first summit at which the EU was for once completely and truly in agreement. The EU will go its way, with small steps, cautious and uncertain, until the psychological, economic and social differences between the member states fade. Then the steps can become bigger and bolder.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Brexit may divide Visegrád states

In the process of redesigning the EU the oft invoked unity of the four Visegrád states Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary may well collapse, the daily paper Magyar Nemzet points out:

“While Europe is poised for total reform after the Brexit the governments in Poland and Hungary are trying to capitalise on the dissatisfaction with Brussels that is growing across Europe: they are calling for a union of sovereign states and condemning the excessive powers of Brussels. … Meanwhile Prague is focussed on defusing the belligerent mood with constructive dialogue. … The faultlines between the Visegrád states will become clearly visible when they are forced to position themselves in the context of a two-speed Europe. If that happens major cracks are likely to emerge in the unity of the V4 as Slovakia, as a member of the Eurozone, will no doubt insist on being part of core Europe.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Only united action can control immigration

After the Brexit referendum Europe needs to make the advantages of EU membership clear to everyone, Berlingske urges:

“The EU's leaders must now find common answers to the challenges that are worrying the people of Europe. The flood of migrants from Northern Africa must be stemmed, otherwise it will only be a matter of time before Austria closes the Brenner Pass and Italy collapses. A principle of merit must be introduced so that migrant workers don't acquire the right to welfare after just a couple of weeks. European cooperation must be revised. ... What these challenges have in common is that they extend beyond national boundaries and can't be effectively addressed by single states acting on their own. For that very reason solving them will show the people that they are stronger together.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Please don't be angry with Britain

In an open letter to Europe The Guardian hopes for new relations with the EU based on constructive cooperation:

“You assumed that British pragmatism would triumph. We share your shock and anxiety. Tempted as you are, don't write us off entirely. Many Britons seek the closest possible partnership with the European Union, and it is more urgent than ever to continue cooperation through every viable means. ... Britain, once outside the EU, cannot and should not expect a swift return. It would be politically dangerous at home; it would require generosity on your part. But those facing Brexit with reluctance hope that one day we may rejoin the club. Please, bid goodbye in sorrow, not anger; and for all our sakes, do not bolt the door.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Time for a social and ecological transition

After the Brexit vote Europe needs fundamental reform, economists Catherine Mathieu and Henri Sterdyniak write on their blog with Mediapart:

“Europe must change. Both its institutional framework and the policies it adopts must be fundamentally revised. We believe that requires above all a change of policy that aims for full employment and concerted measures to reduce inequalities between states. In addition, the domination of finance over the economy must be questioned. We need an active industrial policy to bring about the ecological transition, bottom-up harmonisation of national social welfare systems, fiscal harmonisation that stops tax fraud by the richest and the multinationals. ... Only within such a framework can institutional progress be achieved and accepted by the people.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

The Hague must support Berlin

The Netherlands should side with Germany after a Brexit to counterbalance the dominance of the French, the former liberal-conservative EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein writes in De Volkskrant:

“Britain was always a counterweight to the Paris-Berlin axis. And that was in the interest of the Netherlands. The French don't like competition. That's nothing new: things were like that even before Rousseau. Competition leads to the law of the jungle. It bypasses the state, and that's unacceptable to France. The Germans don't share such feelings. But they're less focussed on the market than we are. What's more, in controversies with France they always get the short end of the stick. ... The Netherlands must now side with the Germans and bolster their self-confidence, so that they can stand up to the French. The Scandinavians and Baltic countries support us in this, but not the Mediterranean countries.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Room for two Europes in EU

After the Brexit vote Europe should opt for a two-speed EU, diplomat Antonio Armellini urges in Corriere della Sera:

“The mantra of ever closer integration in the EU applies only for some, not for all. The referendum has demonstrated this. So it makes no sense to continue talking of a community of states all pursuing the same goal. It is time to acknowledge that there are two Europes in the EU: a Europe that seeks political integration (the Europe of [ex-EC commissioner] Altiero Spinelli) and a second one focussed on the economy and single market (the Europe of Margaret Thatcher). A Europe with supranational tendencies on the one hand and a strictly inter-governmental Europe on the other; clearly separated and yet permeable, parallel but not in conflict. … Accepting this reality means tackling the awkward issue of making a series of revisions to the EU treaties. But to believe after all that has happened that this can be avoided seems highly improbable.”

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (PL) /

Strengthen EU economy through free trade

The EU must strengthen free trade to preserve peace and prosperity and curb nationalism, economist Lars Christensen demands in a guest commentary for the conservative daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna:

“The free circulation of goods, capital and labour is a major achievement of the EU. Any breaks with this would have a very negative impact on all Europeans - both those who are in the EU and those who aren't members. Therefore it is vital to prevent nationalism and protectionism from gaining the upper hand once more. Only in this way can peace and prosperity be preserved in Europe. It is clear that the current nationalism is the result of stagnation after the crisis of 2008. This is why the liberal-democratic camp must pool its strengths and forge a common plan for growth with free trade and economic reforms at its centre.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Organise Europe along nation-state lines

Saving the EU after the Brexit vote will require among other steps an end to the free movement of people, economist Charles Wyplosz writes in Le Temps:

“That would be heartbreaking, and many would see it as a step backwards or even a denial of certain fundamental ideals. However razor-wire has already gone up in many places and the Schengen Agreement has been partially suspended. Apart from this example there are many other issues that irk if not the governments, then at least the voters. Very often the governments cynically use Europe as a way of being obliged to adopt measures they know are unpopular. Renationalising these competences would be painful for many, but a Europe with more modest ambitions may have better survival chances than the current version. And who knows, maybe Britain wouldn't have to leave at all.”

El Huffington Post (ES) /

Don't let the economy bury our morals

What Europe needs now if it wants to make a fresh start is to renew its commitment to moral standards and social prosperity, El Huffington Post comments:

“How can we be for integration with so many societies in which xenophobia is undeniably spreading and when the far right is no longer an anomaly in the parliaments? The answer is not easy but we must recover the dimension that, out of pragmatism, has developed with less vigour than the economic dimension. Europe as a moral construct, as an affirmation of freedom where social prosperity is not reduced to the role of a dispensable commodity. We must reaffirm the need for our generations to take on the legacy of the men and women who fought for the European identity. We must re-establish the European Union. New languages, new commitments, new moral and economic challenges. New leaders, please. … Europeanism is a biped: economy and morals. Or it is not a living being at all.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

EU leaders humiliating Cameron

Writing in the Diário de Notícias Bernardo Pires de Lima criticises the truculent stance of leading EU politicians towards the UK:

“Until the exit negotiations are completed Britain remains a full member of the EU. … But EU Commission President Juncker, EU Parliament President Schulz and EU Council President Tusk are already treating Britain like a pariah and hurling loose comments. The EU Commission President in particular is forgetting his responsibilities as custodian of the treaties. The way they humiliated British Prime Minister Cameron can only mean one thing: these three want the referendum to be binding and irreversible - opening up the worst wound in the history of the EU. This is simply wrong. History has shown that referendums don't have to be irreversible and that there are ways to negotiate statutes without endangering EU membership.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

No European superstate, please!

Immediately after the Brexit referendum the foreign ministers of Germany and France have called for a more closely-knit EU. Gość Niedzielny is livid:

“Emotions have not yet cooled after the referendum and already Germany and France have put an ultimatum to the other states: either we create a superstate with a government, army, joint intelligence services and common visa policy, or it's auf wiedersehen and au revoir. Clearly this document presenting this vision of a United Europe must have been worked out long before the Brexit referendum. ... It's hard to understand that the EU elites have learned nothing from the British vote. It's as if the office holders in Brussels, Germany and France were just waiting for the Brexit to get rid of a member state that opposed further integration.”

Pravda (SK) /

EU must become more caring

The EU must change in many areas after the Brexit, Pravda demands:

“If the EU wants to emerge stronger from this crisis now is the time for bold political visions. … We need an EU with higher living and human rights standards. If the capital is multinational its politics can't just be local. … The Union must improve workers' rights, reduce income gaps, raise working standards, harmonise the social welfare systems to bring salaries and pensions in alignment. It cannot be that only international investors come who demand subsidies but pay minimal taxes and salaries. We face the choice: either we leave the EU in a state of uncertainty which drives one member after another away amidst the lying slogans of populists, or we change it to ensure it works to everyone's advantage.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Baltics left alone without Britain

The Brexit faces the Baltic countries with a security problem, Neatkarīgā explains:

“Russia's aggression in Ukraine will no longer be the focus of the EU's interest because all the resources will be concentrated on Britain's exit from the EU. And come the autumn Brussels may ease the economic sanctions which were extended shortly before the referendum. … Russia's economy is in crisis, not just because of the EU sanctions but also because of the oil and gas prices which once again plunged after the Brexit vote. … If things go on like this and Russia doesn't resolve its own problems it may start seeking an enemy to divert attention from this. Russia has already repeatedly used the Baltic states in its battle against external enemies. … It has a fertile breeding ground for this here.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Brexit must take place fast

The EU and Britain must engage in Brexit talks as quickly as possible, Die Presse urges:

“Britain's departure sets a dangerous precedent for the Union. If the EU allows itself to be emptied like a shelf at a supermarket and the British secure privileges at rock-bottom prices even after they leave, other members will head for the exit as fast as they can. For that reason the Brexit must entail costs for Britain. Otherwise the desire to hold up Europe's second largest economy as a deterrent example will remain nothing but mindless wishful thinking, because the EU would only be shooting itself in the foot. The goal must be a balanced, calmly worked-out compromise. And so as not to scorch too much earth, the negotiations should start soon. Someone other than Cameron must assume leadership, if possible before the autumn. It's time for Boris Johnson to step up and shoulder responsibility.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Offer the British a chance to Bremain

Since the British clearly have no plan for the Brexit scenario the EU should adopt a more conciliatory stance with them, Berlingske recommends:

“The chaotic British debate about what to do after the shocking majority for 'leave' shows that the Brexit camp didn't have a clue what it would do if it won. … A number of governments - not least major player France - have serious problems with a Eurosceptic population. Once the thickest smoke has dispersed and emotions have grown calmer the EU leaders should consider dropping the confrontational course vis-à-vis the British and reaching out a hand for a new agreement that would allow the UK to stay in the EU. This could include promises for concrete changes in the cooperation framework that satisfy the critics and apply for all member states. And that, naturally, would require that the British go to the polls once more.”

Revista 22 (RO) /

Core Europe to the fore

A two-speed Europe is unavoidable, fears the weekly Revista 22:

“In the near future we will see an institutionalisation of the inner core of Europe, with its own parliament, common budgetary and fiscal policy, and finance ministry. This region will likely consist of the six EU founding states, joined by Austria, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Slovenia. The Visegrád states [Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia and Poland] will form an anteroom that will be integrated as soon as the economic data allows. The role of institutions like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will grow considerably, in order to oversee programmes aimed at minimising the distance to the EU core. ... The consequences of the Brexit will be felt most on the margins of the Union, in poorly developed states like Romania and Bulgaria.”

Le Vif / L'Express (BE) /

Europe must be there for the people

Lawyer Etienne Dujardin lists in Le Vif/L'Express the steps that must be taken to put the EU on a new course:

“The people are not against Europe, they want another Europe: a Europe that offers protection for the economy, social welfare and migration, and that is not afraid to protect its roots and its identity. A Europe that sends new cultural impulses, that resolves obstacles in education, that pools energies for research and development. ... The English have fired a last warning shot. The European project can be saved; but it needs a new model of governance and must not forget that it is there for the people.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Take top dogs down a peg

As a political project the EU can only survive if it is democratised, predicts the Catholic daily Avvenire:

“Of course it is a political project in the tradition of Western democracy, but very few pieces of this democracy remain. ... There is no wide social base behind this tight political circle. The hegemony leaves the losers of globalisation behind, recognising only those who have internalised its radical values. ... The European crisis can be overcome by restructuring and expanding this hegemonic project. While not authoritarian, it has taken on sinister and invasive traits. It must be open to national differences by seeing national and local patriotism as an enrichment rather than a threat and appreciating the great intellectual and achievements and ideals that have sprung from Europe.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Paris could become a new financial capital

To ensure the prosperity of its economy the EU must repatriate its financial institutions from London, economist and essayist Édouard Tétreau writes in Les Echos:

“Continental Europe cannot exist as an efficient market, a flourishing economy and a community of sovereign nations if it continues to finance itself offshore like a Mafioso. The US finance centre is in New York, not in Nassau on the Bahamas. So the new European Union must make a point of relocating its financial capital to its own territory. ... France, Italy and Germany have particularly good chances with Paris, Milan and Frankfurt. It will be up to [President of the Île-de-France Region] Valérie Pécresse, [Paris Mayor] Anne Hidalgo and the future president of France after May 2017 to make the tax conditions in Paris better than the existing ones in London, so that this relocation can take place.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Search for meaning begins in Germany

Germany should be a driving force in the renewal of the EU, Deutschlandfunk urges:

“The striking thing is that Berlin is actively taking part in shaping the future of the EU. Without wasting a minute, it is at the same time trying to avoid adopting too shrill a tone. It's enormously symbolic when the founding states of the precursor organisations of the European Union stroll over the lawn of Villa Borsig, the guest house of the German foreign minister, and at the end come up with a joint resolution outlining a Europe of various levels. That comes down to an admission that the new EU must develop at varying speeds and intensities rather than seeking to move ahead in a unified way. Furthermore, it is a kind of admission that Europe finds Germany a more cosy place to reflect on its purpose than many other countries.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Europeanised Berlin must take the lead

Germany must play a central role in the construction of a new EU, Naftemporiki advises:

“Many Europeans believe their voices don't count, that no one assumes responsibility in the EU institutions, that the EU exists purely to serve the elite and the Brussels bureaucracy. Can this crisis be seen as a chance? The powerful of the EU, above all Germany, must take the lead in the post-Brexit era. But further 'Germanisation' of the EU with monolithic monetary obsessions will lead to its disintegration. … The democratisation of the EU and the 'Europeanisation' of Germany is the path of political consensus that can end separatism and give the vision of European integration new impetus.”

Gazeta Polska Codziennie (PL) /

Union will be weak vis-à-vis Moscow

Gazeta Polska Codziennie is particularly worried about the political consequences of the Brexit, and in particular the future stance of the EU vis-à-vis Russia:

“Brexit is very bad news for Poland because it means that of the four biggest EU states the one that has the most realistic perspective on Moscow is leaving the Union (Germany, France and Italy aren't really looking properly). It's clear that without London the EU will be far weaker vis-à-vis the US, China and above all Russia in future. The EU will no doubt extend the sanctions against Moscow once more this week, but in practice the Brexit will mean this will be the last time. As of January 2017 they will either be lifted or at best suspended or restricted.”

Le Point (FR) /

Push through Brexit fast

In both British camps, Brexit and Bremain, there is a lack of responsible leading figures, the liberal MEP Sylvie Goulard writes in Le Point:

“To present Boris Johnson, a former pupil of the elite Eton boarding school, as an anti-establishment candidate is impossible. To praise Cameron as a genius is to mistake a lack of coherence for leadership. … And they are continuing as before. Ever since the results were announced the winners have been toying with the idea of not being too 'hasty' (Johnson). David Cameron has announced that he doesn't intend to immediately invoke the EU treaty's article 50 exit clause, thus acting as if his partners were insignificant here. Do they realise how far removed this casual stance is from the true sense of responsibility and respect for words one would expect of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council?”

The Independent (GB) /

Don't bully Britain now

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Parliament President Martin Schulz are adding fuel to the fire with their calls for a quick Brexit, The Independent complains:

“This is not a wise course for EU. One of its greatest problems, not just with the British but with the peoples of all member states, is its democratic deficit. To adopt such an attitude towards an expression of democratic opinion is foolish. Any suggestion of bullying is likely to encourage anti-EU sentiment in other EU countries rather than diminish it. Britain needs to have good relations with its European neighbours whether it is in or out of the EU. Similarly, it is in the interest of the EU to maintain the best relations possible with a large, rich country off its coastline. Mr Juncker and Mr Schulz should wind in their necks.”

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