EU, time to move on

It’s only a month until European elections but Europe-related issues are conspicuously absent from our domestic political agenda. Greece’s politicians and the media are too self-absorbed to deal with EU issues, even though they have a direct impact on our lives. But the EU is at a crossroad. The integration project has come to a virtual standstill. The economic crisis adds extra strain because it prompts national governments to act alone. The European project can only move forward gradually and on a consensual basis. This, however, does not mean the pace must be set by the least ambitious member. In the current circumstances there is little room for maneuver. One option for the EU is to take small, tactical steps. But such steps usually boil down to nothing. A second option is to move forward at pace. Any countries wishing to do so and which meet the necessary prerequisites can move ahead by using the clause on reinforced cooperation. That should break the deadlock. It would set precedents and inject new momentum into the EU project. The eurozone is a reality and it could represent a model for a core of European nations. But if Greece really wants to belong to this European core, it must finally stop being the perennial weak link. Another issue concerns the so-called legitimacy deficit as reflected in referendums from time to time. Occasional no-votes have expressed public disapproval among most member states. But it was not directed against the EU vision per se. The vast majority of people support European integration but feel alienated from the existing institutions. Despite their significant differences, the states of the Old Continent have managed to craft a certain notion of common identity and vision. It is exactly this precious precedent which, despite occasional oscillations, gives credence to the project. If the EU is to have any future, it must come up with viable political answers to the issues that have for so long been swept under the carpet.