What unites and what divides the Europeans?

With their votes in the European elections next week, citizens can send a signal for the future of Europe. Will they vote for pro-European forces who want cooperation, or will they opt for those determined to dismantle the union? Europe's media discuss ways in which Europeans could benefit from the expanding community.

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El País (ES) /

A continent of role models

Frank Appel, CEO of the Deutsche Post Group DHL, shares his positive vision for an ever more integrated Europe in El País:

“The Austrians have found an intelligent way to guarantee that enough affordable new homes are built in their capital. The Swedes have introduced a nationwide CO2 tax. The Estonians can teach us a lot about how easy digital administration can be. Several countries could take inspiration from the German career training system. The Dutch have created a fair and sustainable pension system. ... The continent's true potential can only be realized once the countries, regions, cities and individuals all across the EU actively commit to seeking solutions that have proven successful beyond their own borders. This is the necessary dimension of the EU. And I am convinced that this it will be a first step towards a United States of Europe.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The EU has to be about more than money

The EU must not confine itself to economic policy, Salvatore Rossi, former head of Italy's central bank tells the Corriere della Sera:

“What's behind the growing dissatisfaction, the doubts and the revolts of so many Europeans? It's because the economy is not everything. I say this - and I'm an economist. It's not enough anymore just to think about the economy, finances and the euro, Europeans' purses in other words. We should not get rid of the massive institutional and legal superstructure that has fostered Europe's economic and financial integration. But it cannot only be fear of the catastrophic consequences of destroying what exists that keeps dissatisfaction in check. People must be offered prospects that go beyond the financial aspects of life.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Foreign language skills are key

Although they have good English skills, a report has found that only one in four Swedes speak German and only one in ten French. This is far too little, a disappointed Göteborgs-Posten writes:

“For the tourists this is not a big deal. But it's a shame that Swedes find it so difficult to communicate with the Germans or the French beyond ordering in a restaurant. If you don't understand the language it's harder to understand the country and its people. Language is the key to information. ... Of course it's possible to get news and analysis about France and Germany in English. ... But if you speak German or French you don't have to rely on interpretations - you can interpret yourself, and this independence is extremely valuable.”

Die Presse (AT) /

EU must increase its autonomy

The EU must take its future into its own hands, explains Die Presse:

“Now that the US is slipping away as a partner for the EU, its wealth and relative defencelessness are sparking the interests of China and Russia. Can the Europeans do anything about this? Yes, by doing everything in their power to increase their strategic autonomy: economically-speaking, by finalising the banking union to prevent the Eurozone from falling hostage to debt-accruing populists; internationally-speaking, by keeping relations with Britain as good as possible after Brexit and through a finely woven web of trade deals; and internally-speaking, through a savvy alliance of liberal, pro-European forces after the European elections.”

Duma (BG) /

Citizens just want fairness

In an interview with Handelsblatt EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker said that Europeans had lost their "collective libido" for each other because they don't know enough about one another. Juncker is the one who doesn't know enough, Duma counters:

“Even if we did know everything about one other, the collective libido wouldn't increase unless this knowledge were to be applied where the decisions are made. Is it really so difficult for Brussels to understand that in both old and new EU member states, citizens want a good life without being too dependent on capital, for example? And that pan-European rules are welcome as long as they apply equally for everyone?”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Europe following its usual pattern

The risk of Europe disintegrating is nothing new, historian Timothy Garton Ash argues in La Repubblica:

“To be sure, the spectacle of a once-great country reducing itself to a global laughing stock, in a tragic farce called Brexit, has silenced all talk of Hungexit, Polexit or Italexit. But what Orbán and co intend is actually more dangerous. Farage merely wants to leave the EU; they propose to dismantle it from within. ... For anyone who takes a longer view, these mounting signs of European disintegration should not be a surprise. Isn't this a pattern familiar from European history? ... Each time, the new post-war European order lasts a while - sometimes shorter, sometimes longer - but gradually frays at the edges, with tectonic tensions building up under the surface, until it finally breaks apart in a new time of troubles.”

El Mundo (ES) /

The disappearance of a civilisation

Things are looking pretty bad, El Mundo concludes:

“The elections will take place on 26 May in a Europe of yellow vests, rebels, neo-fascists and nationalist-populists. It is the new plague that is out to destroy the continent of reason, where the only ones who don't know what Europe is and don't see themselves as Europeans are the Europeans themselves. In this region, which the Americans see as a spa they need to protect with their soldiers, 400 million citizens are being called on to elect 751 MEPs, among them 54 Spaniards. The survival of the EU is on the cards. [Former President of the EU Parliament] Josep Borrell made the prediction: 'If we don't construct a more integrated Europe it will disappear as a civilisation vis-à-vis the US and China.'”