Europe is in deep trouble: the economy is mired in recession; unemployment is breaking records; populism and nationalism are on the march; emerging powers are leaving the EU behind on the international scene. At last week’s State of Europe roundtable organised by our partner think tank Friends of Europe, key decision makers, business leaders and opinion formers debated how Europe can escape from the doldrums.
We confronted speakers at the conference with questions on the way ahead sent in by Debating Europe commenters.
From Germany, Karsten asked:
After the Second World War, the overall aim of Europe was to avoid another war at any cost. What today is the driving force behind European integration?
Here’s the reply from Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation:
In her answer, Bernadette Ségol said Europe’s great achievement had been bringing peace and that should not be forgotten. Now however there is a need for a greater emphasis on economic integration and the strengthening of Europe’s social model.
We put this question from Francesco in Italy to Conny Reuter, Secretary General of Solidar, a European network of NGOs working to advance social justice:
What would be the consequences for the international order of a failure of the European project?
Here’s the response:
Conny Reuter stressed the importance of working to avoid the emergence of Europe’s old demons of populism and extremism. He warned that the risk of conflict returning to Europe could no longer be discounted, so greater efforts are needed to protect peace and provide hope for the future.
Pietro from Brussels is concerned that:
In the past few years, we’ve seen a shift toward a situation where a few member states have the strength to shape the decisions and policies implemented in other countries. Do you share these views?
Here’s the reply from Emma Bonino, Vice President of the Italian Senate:
Emma Bonino said if some countries are asking for money, the others will want to know how it will be spent. What Europe needs, she said is to develop a shared European sovereignty for the common good. That would enable Europe to maintain a significant voice in world affairs that individual member states cannot provide on their own.
What do YOU think? Can Europe inject new vigour into its economic and social integration amidst all the austerity? Are the EU’s institutions up to the job? How can Europe keep its voice in world as its share of the global GDP declines? Let us know your thoughts in the form below and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.