On January 1, the Dutch government took over the six-month Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union. Following the directions conveyed at the EU summit last December, the rotating presidency should ensure the adoption by June of a European regulation to strengthen control of EU’s external borders and, ultimately, the possibility for Frontex to intervene on-site to secure the functioning of the Schengen area. A t the same time, the governments of all 28 EU Countries are expected to resolve on the Commission’s new proposals on the reform of the Dublin system regarding asylum procedures in the EU and illegal immigration. The Netherlands are requested to submit proposals on euro zone reform, including economic and fiscal governance, external representation of the area in bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, and the creation of the banking union through a Europe-wide deposit protection scheme in case of bank failure, to June’s European Council. Finally, probably in June or in September the United Kingdom will hold a referendum to decide on its EU membership.
Thus European governments have six months to provide strong and convincing answers to the two most pressing and thorny European issues. These are: immigration and free movement in the Schengen area, and the management of the single currency in the euro zone”.
The two major crises of 2015 – refugees and the Greek debt crisis -, highlighted the present limits of Community integration, which delivers positive results when the wind blows low but deteriorates to the point of collapsing during tempests. It does not work that way. People are likely to first distance themselves from European institutions and then from their own governments.
What is the solution? The key word is “centralization”, namely a form of concentration that is at the same time thematic and geographic. The EU should drastically reduce its scope of intervention and focus on essentials, while those Member Countries that fail to implement positive, crucial solutions at decentralized level for the benefit of all, risk being suspended from the EU. In fact this solution already exists in the case of banking crises. The Single bank resolution became operational in the euro area on 1 January 2016. If the European Surveillance Authority (ESA) signals the serious crisis of a bank, the Resolution Committee will order the bank’s resolution, involving first its shareholders and other banks, who are the first called to pay damages. Thus a lesson was learnt from the Greek crisis. It is to be hoped that from now on banks and other forms of financial institutions will be more cautious and will think twice before granting loans to insolvent private or public bodies and governments.
Generalizing this approach is the way of the future.
It could be adopted also to solve the refugee crisis, and instead of sending Frontex border guards to Countries that fail to comply with their responsibilities for the protection of external borders, it might be smarter to simply suspend these Countries’ membership to the Schengen area in case the violation of fundamental duties were ascertained.
Only six months are left – a year at the most – to relaunch Europe by prescribing a centralization therapy.
If not, the end of the Union may become a possible option, since the principle of a multilateral European organization constitutes the common good to balance contradictory national and regional European forces. The alternative is the resumption of a system based on bilateral alliances and coalitions between European nations and peoples. We need to warn against this scenario, as it envisages permanent instability, requiring a stronger presence of the American superpower on European soil.
Before this scenario, let us cry out: Europe, be focused!