Is EU unity strong enough to last?

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the leaders of 27 EU member states - without the UK - pledged their continued commitment to the EU and its common values. German Chancellor Angela Merkel once again called for a multi-speed Europe. If it had come earlier this approach could have prevented Brexit, some commentators argue. Others roundly reject the idea.

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Postimees (EE) /

EU leaders missed the boat

Europe would have been spared the current negative developments if its leaders had proposed a multi-speed Union at an earlier stage, Postimees believes:

“Until not so long ago the EU's key players Berlin and Paris tried to implement the model of ever-deeper integration in the face of growing resistance on the part of the member states. Now the EU leaders have decided in favour of a multispeed Europe in a bid to reform and strengthen the EU. That is all very well. Nevertheless one wonders what would have happened if this change of direction had taken place a few years ago. In that case it may never have come to the Brexit, and the nationalist-populist wave may never have taken on its current proportions. Perhaps Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and other populists would have been completely sidelined and not have become the political heavyweights they are today.”

To Vima Online (GR) /

Worse than Brexit

A multispeed Europe would be fatal, To Vima warns:

“The people of Europe are blatantly ignoring the developments that influence their future because they don't - or can't - understand them. How else to explain that Germany, France, Italy and Spain have spoken out in favour of a model that has nothing to do with a united Europe? ... Those who fear the consequences of the Brexit must be trembling in view of the plans for a multispeed Europe put forward by the leaders of the four biggest EU members. This plan is the opposite of deeper integration. ... It is the biggest victory of Euroscepticism in the 60-year history of the European Union.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

Time for a mea culpa from leaders

Instead of blaming Eurosceptic parties for the EU's unpopularity Europe's leaders should take a good look at themselves, Le Quotidien urges:

“If a guilty party must be found it must be sought among those who have been, or are now, in power. It wasn't the anti-European parties who decided to save the banks in 2008 and to perpetuate the current economic system as if nothing had happened. It wasn't the anti-European parties that bled the people of Greece dry. ... Perhaps it's time for the leaders of Europe to engage in self-criticism, admit that they have made mistakes - who hasn't? - and do a mea culpa. And above all it is time for them to show that the EU can't be reduced to clichés about austerity and it's being a paradise for lobbyists and multinationals.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Berlin and Paris must redesign the EU

The future of the EU lies in the hands of founding states Germany and France, Habertürk explains:

“Looking back one could say that the EU was built upon the German-French axis, and that there is a division of labour between the two countries: until the end of the Cold War France took the lead politically while Germany paid the bills as the community's economic motor. ... But when the Wall came down, Berlin became the capital not only of the new Germany but also of Europe. For historical reasons Germany wasn't thrilled to assume political and strategic leadership. France started to flag politically, and Britain became Germany's key partner. ... The Brexit decision destroyed this equilibrium. Germany must redesign the EU together with France. That's why the elections in France will decide whether a new start is possible for the EU.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

Core EU makes Eastern Europe compliant

The fear of a two-speed Europe has made Eastern Europeans willing to compromise, the Romanian service of the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle observes:

“When the issue was the redistribution of refugees, the Eastern Europeans prevented the member states from reaching an agreement. ... But now the 'hard core' of the Union will pursue its own initiatives which the Eastern Europeans can no longer criticise. ... The Western states have already taken the path of a 'two-speed Europe' to manage the common currency. At the same time this concept was a negotiating strategy vis-à-vis the newcomers: Old Europe acted like an employer who ups the pressure when he wants to impose cuts on the workers. First the idea of mass lay-offs is broached, and then after the unions have protested an agreement is reached whereby everyone remains but for less pay. That is exactly how it worked out in Rome, where 'a compromise' that everyone accepted was presented.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

Divided Union can't survive

The EU faces a dark future because of the strained relations among its member states, Efimerida ton Syntakton fears:

“The huge infrastructure of the EU doesn't seem to be stable enough. … Even the convinced Europeans have given up hope: because of the gaping inequality within the EU, the different speeds, the arrogance of certain powerful countries. How can states coexist if they hurl insults at each other? How can a union exist if there is no unity or cohesion among the member states? … A united Europe is supposed to be able to defend any of its members that find themselves in a difficult or dangerous position, for example under attack from an enemy state, at any time. It's a joke to talk about democracy and peace when at the same time you turn a blind eye to the existence of Turkish occupying forces in Cyprus.”

Delfi (LT) /

Marius Ivaškevičius still in love with Europe

The Lithuanian author Marius Ivaškevičius expresses his undying love for Europe in Delfi:

“Today, with a Europe that is under attack and being beaten from all sides, I react like a lover: I put all the shortcomings of this Europe in one balance tray and the question of whether I could live without it in the other. And not a single one of its failings weighs as heavily as the answer to that question. I wouldn't know how to live without it. So I won't join the chorus of those holding sermons to Europe and telling it how it should be and which new direction to take: Should it go less often to the club and more often to church, look the way it does and not any different, spend or save money, love some and not others? Like a true lover I am indifferent to these questions, particularly since those who are asking them are fond of ending their sentence with the words: If Europe doesn't do as I say, it is doomed. Forget it.”

Expresso (PT) /

Senility rather than vitality

Expresso sees no cause whatsoever to celebrate:

“Right now the EU is showing more symptoms of senility than vitality: The Europe Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann dreamed of is suffering from five maladies: the division between northern and southern Europe which are becoming increasingly evident (as Dijsselbloem's recent remarks have shown); the risk of collapse, which has grown exponentially with Brexit; a drift towards populism and authoritarianism that is gaining more and more support; a non-declared war [terrorism] which is claiming victims within the Union. … And finally the inability to take joint economic decisions to boost growth and solve the state debt crisis. The EU is moving towards unstoppable decline. And only the realisation that the world that would follow would be far worse than the present one can stop this trend.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

Two-speed Union becoming a reality

According to the declaration of Rome the countries of the Union "will act together, at different paces and intensity where necessary, while moving in the same direction." Gość Niedzielny takes a critical view of the idea:

“It's not as if the declaration of Rome were a minor issue. On the contrary, it openly presents the vision the community should adhere to, even if the way there has yet to be worked out. ... In any case we shouldn't give ourselves up to the illusion that this declaration clearly shows the way forward for the EU. What it does lay out is the two-speed Europe, which is so talked-about in the West. But in reality that has already existed for years. What we have now is a clear statement on how this division is to be deepened.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Eurosceptics in the majority

Hubert Védrine, former French foreign minister (1997-2002) and a pro-European, warns in an interview with Le Figaro that a majority of French citizens are disappointed with the EU:

“The biggest threat to the European project is internal: the people of Europe are turning their backs on it. Even if you don't count the real anti-Europeans like the National Front or the extreme left in France and just count those who are indifferent (60% of abstentions in the European elections), the simple sceptics, the disappointed, those allergic to the excessive, intrusive and exasperating regulation, they form a majority in almost all the countries of the Union. ... That's far worse, and far more crucial, than the flood of asylum seekers and migrants, Putin's provocations, Trump's insults and whims. Strangely this diagnosis, which may seem so evident, is not yet shared by all. And even those who admit it don't draw the same consequences.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

No wonder the British voted for Brexit

European integration has taken the continent down the wrong path and the costs now outweigh the benefits, The Daily Telegraph sums up:

“The euro has helped ruin economies. A complex, contradictory approach towards immigration has made it doubly difficult to handle the refugee crisis. ... Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, has called Britain's departure a 'tragedy' and, predictably, blamed it on what he regards as our country's tendency to pin every problem on Brussels. This is an inaccurate reading of British politics; he would do better to examine why Euroscepticism became the majority view. Britain's voters are not irrational. They took a long hard look at the costs of the EU project and its direction – and decided it was no longer for them.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Young don't want a return to the nation state

At least Die Presse is optimistic about Europe's future:

“Will the EU exist for another 60 years? No one can know for sure the answer to this question, but there is certainly hope - and it comes mainly from the younger generation. As most surveys in the different countries show it is above all the older generation that tends towards Euroscepticism. Among other things the Brexit vote in the UK, in which a majority of the young voted to remain in the EU, has shown this. And in the countries of Eastern Europe where anti-EU sentiment is very strong there is a younger generation that thinks European. Many of them have grown up being able to cross most borders unhindered: they have tasted the freedom of being able to study or start their first job wherever they choose in Europe. … This generation, which is gradually gaining more and more say in what goes on, won't allow nationalist blockers to take its freedoms away.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Prelude to the "true EU"

Although the declaration marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome won't have many concrete things to say it could mark a turning point in the history of the Union, Der Standard believes:

“Gone is all the naive belief in progress that characterised 1957. Seldom has such an important document laid out with so much insight the fact that things cannot go on as they are now. Rome wants to initiate the formation of a 'true Union' of states. The British are out and others could follow. Turkey will never get in. But a core of countries that want to engage in joint fiscal, economic and social policy is likely to emerge by 2027. And as anyone who is aware of the current state of paralysis in Europe, the course the US is taking under President Donald Trump and global economic developments (spearheaded by China) can see: the Union has no other choice.”

Diena (LV) /

Two-speed Europe endangers cohesion

For Diena the celebrations will be dampened by the recent discussion about introducing a multispeed Europe:

“At first it was expected that a special declaration would be passed in Rome confirming that all of the countries of the EU believe in its ideals. However, on the eve of the summit a series of contradictions between the EU countries have become apparent and the path to a rosy European future no longer seems so smooth. ... Unfortunately it seems that the so-called 'Old Europe' and the Nordic countries no longer want to live in a demonstratively united EU. At the same time a majority of the poorest countries in the alliance - in Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and the Baltic states - categorically refuse to see themselves as second-class citizens. Unless an at least half-way acceptable solution is found for this contradiction it could become a factor in the disintegration of the EU.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Africa is also crucial for Europe's future

De Standaard lists the enormous problems Europe will face:

“Impoverished Greece will remain stuck in a swamp for decades to come. There is still the possibility that Italy could implode. In Spain and Portugal entire generations of youths have been left behind without any prospects for the future. The medicine that has been prescribed is called profound bitterness. … But the other fundamental crisis hasn't been solved either. The closure of the Balkan route and the dishonourable deal with Turkey's unreliable President Erdoğan have only made the problem less visible. If this doesn't change, the rifts within the monetary union will only grow larger and the survival of the euro will become impossible. In the same way the huge differences regarding future prospects is inevitably leading to mass migration from Africa to Europe. Only if this gap is reduced is there any chance of stability.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Revive the Paris-Berlin axis

Germany and France could lead Europe out of its current crisis by acting in concert as they have done in the past, the Financial Times is convinced:

“France's weakness has left Germany exposed and the EU unbalanced. By default, Ms Merkel has found herself at once the continent's reluctant leader and its principal villain. ... There is no magic formula to fill the cracks in a fractured union. A Franco-German locomotive has less traction in an EU of 27 than six. But a restored relationship between Berlin and Paris would be an important source of confidence. It might also mark the beginning of a new 'core Europe' with the will and capacity to deepen co-operation. Hard as it is to be optimistic about Europe, it is time to temper some of the pessimism.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

How Europe can become a home

The Union may still one day become what it should be if Europeans feel at home and secure, political scientist Antonio Polito hopes in Corriere della Sera:

“Finally people are creating what has always been lacking: a communal public sphere, the beginning of a European demos, a European people and a political arena in which the citizens of every country are talking about the same thing at the same time. People are talking about Europe across Europe. The idea that inspired a few illuminated souls and which degenerated into the work of too many bureaucrats is now on everyone's lips - often cursed, yes, but just as often invoked as an ideal. ... Even after another 60 years the people of Europe probably still won't truly feel that Europe is their home country. But for the internal borders to be lifted one day they must slowly be replaced by new external borders. ... Physical and cultural borders: open, yes, but secure and guarded.”

Le Monde (FR) /

How Europe became French

Europe has increasingly employed French ideas in the wake of the financial and economic crisis, Arnaud Leparmentier points out in Le Monde:

“After ten years of crisis, Europe is unrecognisable: 'De-Germanisation' and 'de-Anglo-Saxonisation' are ongoing. We have seen the emergence of a politicised ECB that has revved up the money press, a Eurozone which demonstrates financial solidarity, Greece's membership of the monetary union maintained, the rise of the Christian-Social politician Juncker to head of the Commission, the end of austerity, an aggressive competition policy that is forcing Apple to pay taxes in Ireland, and the revival of a European defence union against the background of America's disengagement. ... These changes have been initiated by François Hollande, some even go back to Nicolas Sarkozy. Whether they are good or unrealistic, French ideas are making a comeback.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Nation states don't stand a chance on their own

The Wiener Zeitung explains why Europe must stick together in a dangerous world:

“With Donald Trump there is a US president in the White House who doesn't like the EU (and doesn't understand or want to understand it). With Vladimir Putin there is a Russian president in the Kremlin who wants to destroy the EU and openly supports political forces that are trying to achieve this. And with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan there is a megalomaniac president in Ankara who has completely lost touch with reality. In this geopolitical context Europe is under threat, but at the same time it must act as an antipodal force. Only a united Europe, not individual nation states, can do this, a fact that many citizens have understood. The seemingly unstoppable advance of the right-wing populists is stalling.”

Blog euinside (BG) /

Individual members will lead the way

The EU will have to restructure cooperation among states if it wants to continue to function, blogger Adelina Marini comments:

“The concept of 'everyone is moving in the same direction but some are opting out' which has prevailed until now is being replaced by its opposite. Unity will no longer be sought at any price. The opt-out right will become an opt-in right. As no one wants a change in the EU treaties at present, the EU lawmakers will have to resort with growing frequency to the instrument of enhanced cooperation. ... That will give those member countries with a faster tempo the possibility to move ahead without having to wait for corresponding amendments to the EU treaties. The transitional phase will see major upheavals that are not immediately perceptible but which will create the basis for renewed discussions on the future of the EU - possibly on its 70th anniversary.”

republica.ro (RO) /

Solidarity only works in good times

It's not just the fault of Eastern Europe that more and more people want less Europe, columnist Radu Crăciun writes in the blog portal republica:

“The countries of Eastern Europe are not the only ones with identity and integration problems. Scepticism regarding further integration can also be found in the Western EU states. ... This scepticism has driven the rise of nationalism in Central Europe, which has also been fuelled by the fact that in all these decades the political class has been unable to create a European identity capable of gradually eclipsing the strong national identities that still exist across the continent. The Europeans' enthusiasm for integration has steadily waned while the politicians' short-sightedness remained constant. ... That went unnoticed for as long as Europe flourished. The national divergences grew stronger when the economic crisis struck. The solidarity that worked in the good times ceased to function in the bad times.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Europe could sink into war

Europe's differences in values do not bode well for the future, economist Lászlá Árva writes in Magyar Nemzet:

“In Europe there are currently at least four major value systems that are diametrically opposed to each other. Added to that is a group of corrupt politicians who only think about enriching themselves and their families, and who spend their time manoeuvring between the individual value systems. ... The contrasts between value systems have been exacerbated by the economic crisis that has been changing the world since the 1970s, commonly known as globalisation. ... The dilemmas faced by the EU will be hard to resolve in a peaceful way. From 1861 to 65, bloodshed was also unavoidable in the US. History teaches us that it has never been possible to create and maintain a supranational organisation in a peaceful way.”