How do you see the EU in 20 years time? 50 years? 100 years? The upcoming vote at the end of May will be perhaps the most important elections in the history of the European Parliament. Citizens from across the EU will have a chance to decide the future direction of Europe, having a real impact on the world that coming generations will grow up in. We’ve already set out summaries of some of the party manifestos in these elections, and short profiles of the different candidates for EU Commission President. You can also vote in our Debating Europe Vote 2014 for the party that you support.
Franziska sent us a video question asking politicians if they have a vision for Europe. How do they see the EU in 2050, and what sort of Europe would they like their grandchildren to grow up in? We took this question to a selection of MEPs from different parties, starting with Mairead McGuinness, Vice-Chair of the Centre-Right group in the European Parliament.
Next, we talked to Wolf Klinz, who is a German MEP sitting with the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament. What was his vision for Europe?
I hope that Europe will continue to grow closer together. I do not see the ‘United States of Europe’ [in the future], nor do I think that this is a desirable development. I think the ‘unity in diversity’ that we have in mind is a good approach. We should try to keep our national identities while moving closer in areas where we really need Europe to have a say in the world.
Currently, we represent 7% of the world’s population and 20% of the world’s GDP, but both percentages are shrinking fast. While our population is shrinking, emerging markets like China, India, Mexico, Brazil, Russia and South Africa are moving ahead. In 25 years’ time, our share of world population and of GDP will be much lower. Therefore, I think if we want to be heard and participate in the decision-making processes on a global basis, we have to speak with one European voice, especially when it comes to foreign and security policies, climate questions, but also in energy questions and transport questions.
We also spoke to Struan Stevenson, a British MEP who sits with the Conservatives. Like Klinz, he doesn’t believe in a “United States of Europe”, and would prefer to see a loose union of independent nations cooperating with one another for the common European good:
That’s an interesting question… because recently a poll carried out in all twenty-eight member states discovered that in only four countries were more than 50% of people in favour of EU institutional leadership from Brussels. So, twenty-four out of the twenty-eight member states now appear to have become increasingly eurosceptic, and in some cases outright anti-EU.
The lowest result was in Greece, where only 14% of people declared support. But there were also very low levels of support in Spain, Germany and the UK as well. So, clearly there is a gap beginning to emerge between the perception of the European citizens of what the EU is doing and what it’s trying to achieve and the perception of the European elite, who are calling for further and deeper integration. I think there is a need to close that gap, or Europe could be facing a catastrophic future.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is correct in saying that the way to deal with this is to seek major reforms of the way Europe is working now… Wresting power away from the army of bureaucrats and giving it back to the stakeholders. Giving the European Commission the responsibility for the framework, but devolving power away from the center. That’s the kind of way we need to reform the EU.
Of course, some of you are going to respond that you hope the EU doesn’t exist in 50 years time. When we spoke to Stuart Agnew, an MEP from the UK Independence Party (UKIP) who sits with the Eurosceptics, he said much the same thing. What did he think Europe should look like in 2050?
Definitely democratic nation-states trading with one another, playing sports with one another, but not being corralled into this political union which is exemplified by the euro. The euro is an absolute disaster for most of the countries that are in it and it is reducing the standard of living for people in Southern Europe day-by-day; and too few people realize that this common currency isn’t working and we’re going to see much more rioting against it. People don’t like to have a lower standard year-on-year.
My children, I think, will struggle to get to the standard of living that I and the Baby Boomers got. Look at the prices of housing for start; it’s so difficult for them. We are also concerned in our country about levels of immigration; as a consequence of being in the EU, we can’t control it. The population in our country is growing. We don’t know when these people are going to arrive; we don’t know where they’re going to go. We don’t know what their medical and criminal records are. That is creating terrible social tensions in my country and is one reason why our party is getting so popular, because we need to take control of this. So, I think the future for the continent of Europe looks pretty grim under this political structure. However, it is the wish of the most of these countries that they wanted and until they realize that is a symptom of their problems, their lives will get worse.
How do YOU see the EU in 50 years’ time? What about 100 years? Will life be better or worse in the future for Europeans? Will we have a United States of Europe, or will the EU collapse or change into a looser grouping of independent nation-states? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.