Europe at a crossroads

Europe at a crossroads

In my 5 years as Member of the European Parliament, I have gained far-reaching insights into how the Brussels bubble works and how policies are made at European level. Whether during my work on committees, in trilogue negotiations with the European Council and the Commission, or simply in the course of day-to-day communication in the corridors of the Parliament - the flood of information is overwhelming. As Chief Whip for my group, I was responsible for shaping the opinion of the ECR and learned how the views of individual countries differ on European issues. And I also learned that, from a German perspective, a Spanish Conservative is considered to be rather left leaning, this is also the case for many German Conservatives as well.

The European Parliament is the compromise with which we live.

The EP is the compromise with which we live: The EP is based on consensus. Compromises are made on a daily basis when draft laws have to be negotiated in committees between different parties, political groups and countries, as well as with the Council and the Commission. However, a compromise is the lowest common denominator on which one can agree and often not the best solution. And it is the citizens who then have to live with the consequences of this European law.

The elections for the next European Parliament will be taking place between 23 and 26 May 2019. These elections will determine the future political development of the European Union. Manfred Weber, who heads the CSU/EPP list, goes as far as to say that these elections will determine our destiny.

Europe's citizens will decide not only which parties and politicians will represent them in the future but, above all, they will decide whether they want to cede further sovereignty from their countries to the EU in order to pave the way for the EU Superstate. They will vote on whether the EU can grant itself more powers in the future: whether there will be European taxes, a European finance minister, a European army and a transfer and banking union.

Or the voters will opt for the opposite and thus for the opposition parties, which do not want to go down this road to "more Europe" and an "ever closer union". These parties, often collectively referred to as populist or nationalist, are enjoying strong backing in almost all EU Member States. This is due to the fact that, for many Europeans, the EU was unable to honour its promise of greater prosperity. For many, it has been quite the opposite: southern Europe in particular has been suffering for ten years from the aftermath of the euro crisis, which has left monumental damages in its wake. High unemployment figures, loss of income, cuts in social benefits and, of course, the emigration of highly-qualified young people are creating a lack of prospects and frustration.

Ulrike Trebesius, Member of the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019.

Brexit will cause further problems, because the withdrawal of United Kingdom, an important net contributor and trading partner, and thus also of an important voice against EU centralism, will be felt particularly strongly in the remaining north-western EU States. The northern States will have to shoulder the considerable load of the transfers to the south and the traditional subsidies, e.g. in the field of agricultural and cohesion policy. If the economic situation in northern Europe then also deteriorates, public confidence will slump here too. In Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, this development has been observed for a number of years: here too, the forces that are critical of the current EU are gaining ground.

This is exacerbated by the imbalance in the EU, which is already noticeable in the European Parliament as a result of Great Britain leaving, in favour of the southern European countries.  The Visegrad States have no intention of letting the EU or Berlin get in the way of their refugee policies or of giving up their newly won freedom gained after the end of the Cold War, the precious self-determination, to Brussels without a fight. In Austria, a young Chancellor is standing up to the old political system by simply changing his country's politics for the better.

Almost all these constellations will have more influence on the European Union than the Parliament itself.

The European Union is at a crossroads: Its fate will probably be determined by the euro or by the economic situation of the individual countries. Will German voters continue to believe that no other country has benefited as much from the euro? Will the frustration of the French with President Macron be further stoked by the "yellow vest" movement? Will the Italians stick to their reform promises?

The aim of this brochure is to help assess the current situation of the European Union objectively on the basis of economic data and, at the same time, provide a political outlook.

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