Europe should strive for a common sense of purpose while seeking the way ahead

6 Jul 2017
Ref: 36/2017

When deciding on its future path, the European Union should seek a common sense of purpose along the lines of that which inspired its founding fathers and has hallmarked all of its major achievements up to date, stated the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on Wednesday.

In its resolution on the Commission’s White Paper on the Future of the EU, which outlined the five possible scenarios for how the EU could evolve between now and 2025, the EESC said it did not believe this common sense of purpose could be established by choosing between the scenarios proposed, nor did it think such a choice was an effective method of defining Europe's future development.

The Commission should instead look for answers in examples from the EU’s 60 years of existence, the EESC suggested.

“The EU is not starting from scratch. Therefore, the Commission should base its proposals on an in-depth analysis of the history of the EU – its achievements and shortcomings – as a valuable source for the future,” the EESC stressed in the resolution, mentioning the commitments made by Member States in the Rome Declaration as examples of a “positive and healthy starting point”.

The resolution, adopted at the EESC's Plenary Session in July, follows on from a request made by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who asked the EESC in April to seek the views of the EU’s civil society organisations on the future development of Europe. The resolution is the EESC’s first contribution to the current EU-wide debate on the future of Europe. The EESC has also held national debates with civil society representatives in 27 Member States.  Their conclusions will feed into an opinion on this subject later this year.

The resolution places a firm emphasis on a common vision of the future, which must be pursued if Europe is to move forward. The “blame Brussels” game - which too many have played and still play - has to stop, the EESC concluded, and it called for a joint commitment to be made by the EU institutions and by numerous stakeholders, including the social partners and civil society organisations.

The Committee said the EU needs comprehensive strategies and a cohesive approach to the way forward so as to focus on tangible results and strengthen public confidence. It underlined the need for a common mission and for strategic themes to be placed in a shared perspective so as to avoid “Europe à la carte or centrifugal trends” which are looming large.

A genuine debate about the future should focus on better sharing of political power across the board, and this depends on political will, the EESC argued. To this end, the traditional distinction between the national and European levels should disappear and European citizenship should be acknowledged alongside national citizenship.

However, the EESC is aware of the fact that differentiated integration may sometimes be necessary and that mechanisms for achieving this, such as enhanced cooperation between some Member States in specific areas, could help overcome obstacles or foster positive dynamics in the EU integration process; however, it strongly insists that there is a “need to promote convergence within the Union and to fight fragmentation and division” as a key element for preserving European integration.

The EESC has proposed that the European Parliament play a central role in determining Europe’s future direction, with help from national parliaments. The Committee advocates deeper integration, gradual steps towards political union with a strong social dimension, deepening EMU and more cohesive governance.

It has also called for the promotion of upward social convergence, an Energy Union with proper governance, a Digital Single Market and a legislative framework for fighting climate change, while stressing the need to address education and social matters more systematically across the Union.