Forward is the only way to go

The upcoming European elections find the integration dynamic at an all-time low. The progress made since the signing of the Rome Treaty is by no means negligible, though the same cannot be said about the bloc’s future prospects. The European Union’s overture to Eastern Europe exacerbated existing problems and added a whole set of new ones. Even before the onset of the financial crisis, there was a clear sense of public discontent at the neoliberal direction Europe was taking and the gradual demise of the welfare state, or, to be more precise, at high unemployment, low rates of growth, the democratic deficit and the EU’s reluctance to emancipate itself from America. These are the causes behind the rejection of a European constitution and the current wave of criticism being directed at the bloc. As Eurobarometer polls also tell us, the vast majority of Europeans may support integration, but they still feel alienated from EU institutions. What we are looking at is more of a crisis of political legitimacy than true Euroskepticism. The crisis simply aggravated European citizens’ concerns and stoked public discontent. It did not, however, question the concept of integration. The reason is that despite the differences inherent within in its borders, Europe has over the years managed to forge a sense of shared identity and a vision of a common future. European integration can only be achieved through consensus and a step-by-step approach. This, however, does not mean that the pace should be set by the more hesitant member states. As things stand now, the EU will find itself in a deadlock unless it takes a big, bold step forward. Forward is the only way to go. Those member states that can and are willing to move ahead should be taking advantage of the potential of so-called «reinforced cooperation.» This will help cut the Gordian knot and create a precedent and by extension a new dynamic. The eurozone is a fact and it can be used as an engine for progress.