Europe Day: controversy over proposed reforms

The press takes up the long list of reform ideas presented on Europe Day, which also marked the end of the Conference on the Future of Europe in Strasbourg. Is it realistic for members to amend the EU treaties and abandon the unanimity rule? And what to make of Macron's idea to set up a new European community including non-members?

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Radio France Internationale (RO) /

EU antechamber would have its merits

The proposed European political community is a good idea, writes journalist Ovidiu Nahoi in the Romanian version of Radio France International:

“Joining the EU involves a complicated and long process meant to ensure that the candidate country meets the minimum standards for democracy and a functioning administration. It should also have a workable economy to withstand competition in its domestic markets. There are serious fears that a hasty accession process triggered by widespread enthusiasm [as in the case of Ukraine], would not only be to the detriment of the candidate countries but also weaken the EU. ... So the establishment of an EU antechamber would certainly have its merits.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Watch out for the stumbling blocks

Reforming the EU treaties entails risks, Le Soir warns:

“Revising the treaties also means rolling out the red carpet for the sceptics, people nostalgic for the nation state and inveterate national populists. That is democracy. But a revision will not necessarily lead to more or a better Europe. The quest for progress entails the risk of regression. ... Quantum leaps can also be achieved through genuine political will within the framework of the existing treaties. ... So should we revise the treaties? Yes, if, as Emmanuel Macron says, the goal is 'very clearly' identified and defined, and the European project is strengthened in terms of peace, values, social protection and justice. ... But when opening Pandora's box remember: beware!”

Les Echos (FR) /

Tackle key issues immediately

Emmanuel Macron is also pushing for swift progress on EU policies that do not require revising the treaties, business paper Les Echos applauds the initiative:

“Phasing out fossil fuels, joint defence tools, food independence, etc. The Europeans will also have to consider funding new investments related to these priorities, with Paris pushing for a new European plan while Berlin puts on the brakes. All this against the backdrop of the adjustment of budgetary rules and a worrying economic context. These are key areas that will not wait for a very hypothetical revision of the treaties.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Brussels initiative not good for Denmark

On 1 June, Denmark will hold a referendum on whether to give up the country's defence opt-out. The push by von der Leyen's and Macron against the unanimity rule in the area of military cooperation is grist to the mill of those who are against the move, says Jyllands-Posten:

“The intention to make the EU's common defence and security policy more effective through majority voting was certainly expressed in good will, but from the Danish perspective Brussels has done us a disservice with this initiative just three weeks before the vote. In the original sense: this is an action that is well-intentioned but does more harm than good.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Proposals should be taken seriously

Some heads of state were probably glad that not many people took notice of the Conference, the Süddeutsche Zeitung suspects:

“For them, further modernisation of the EU would be more of a nuisance because it would probably go hand in hand with increased power for the European Parliament. ... However, the heads of state and government would do well not to let the proposals on health or climate policy, or those on the functioning of the EU, disappear into a drawer again straight away, but to deal with them seriously. ... Also to prove that the Conference on the Future of Europe was not merely what many claimed it would be from the beginning: pure occupational therapy.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Ability to take action at risk

Der Standard would also like to see a discussion of foreign policy:

“In view of the situation in Ukraine, which is threatening the entire continent, it would now be necessary to rethink the unanimity principle in EU foreign policy, for example. After all, the issue isn't military engagement but the mere political ability to act, which is massively endangered. However, we lack unity, insight, and a willingness to compromise. Ultimately we lack trust - trust that could - and should - be shown to our own allies in the 'peace project Europe'.”

El País (ES) /

Use momentum for a better migration policy

El País puts the emphasis on EU refugee policy:

“The European Union should use the reform momentum provided by the Conference on the Future of Europe to compare the differences in the way our continent treats refugees depending on their origin. ... The report talks about simplifying and speeding up the asylum procedure, standardising the criteria and setting up a single processing authority. ... This issue deserves its own strategic compass, like the recently adopted compass for security and defence. ... The EU should also introduce a humanitarian climate passport for migrants fleeing natural disasters or the destruction of their ecosystems. ... We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The antidote to Putin

Macron found the right tone, La Repubblica comments with approval:

“Macron's speech in Strasbourg came at the end of the Conference on the Future of Europe, but it also commemorated the victory over Nazism. And it seemed like a deliberate antidote to Putin's speech. ... A discourse of hope and inclusion, coupled with the idea of a European community of democracies which would make it possible to bring into Europe even those, including Ukraine, who have to wait years to become real members - but also to welcome back those who wanted to leave Europe, like the UK. Against this background, the warning that peace cannot be built on the humiliation of Russia is only consistent.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Europe remains attractive

The war against Ukraine and the repercussions of Brexit have shown the EU in a better light, L'Opinion says:

“On the one hand, for those inside the bloc the upheavals on its periphery are an important reminder that the European project, for all its shortcomings, is based on democratic values that remain attractive in the face of an imperialist Russia, a potentially Trumpist US and a nationalist China. On the other hand, they are also a promise that, like an old building, the European edifice will never stop being renovated.”