Let us face facts: the European project is in trouble. With the growing threat of terrorism, the refugee crisis, lacklustre economic growth and unemployment, the turmoil in Europe is unprecedented. Added to these, the Brexit vote deeply questioned the very meaning of Europe.
The other 27 member states of the EU have two options (this was the subject of my debate with Jean-Claude Juncker at the Jacques Delors Institute last week): either we give up and leave the European project to a slow but certain death, or we transform the EU.
Reasserting our European identity also means coming to terms with the fact that there are borders — that Europe starts and stops somewhere.
Too often the EU has appeared to be preoccupied with unnecessary regulation. Transforming Europe also means that member states must henceforth focus on the essentials, primarily defence and security — in Europe, of course, but also in the neighbouring region of the Middle East. The French army is already doing more than its fair share: it cannot remain the de facto European army forever. France expects Europe to implement a common security strategy, with fully operational border guards and an electronic system for travel authorisation of the kind already operated by the US.
Finally, transforming Europe means making a clear choice to foster growth that does not only depend on the European Central Bank’s monetary policy. Europe must finance new projects and invest in digital and environmental innovation more than it does already.
These sectors must be enabled to grow and to face competition from countries that have no scruples about protecting their own industries. The time for naivety is over.
For this reason, the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) cannot carry on as they have been. If the EU is to grant market access to American companies, there has to be reciprocity.
The European market must not be a social jungle, where people are set against one another. Nor can it be a tax jungle. It is unacceptable for multinational companies to do everything in their power to avoid paying tax in the countries in which they make profits. The recent ruling of the European Commission on Apple’s tax affairs was courageous and welcome, therefore. At the same time, member states must progress towards common European tax rates.
We cannot build a “United States of Europe”— each country has its own history, language and culture. But we can construct a sovereign Europe, a federation of nation states, strong and unashamed. We will not be the generation that buries the European project. We owe it to our young, who, for the most part, remain deeply attached to the European project. So are we.
Valls Wish List
Unified tax rates (striking at Ireland and Brexit)
More tariff protections
More government spending, especially on environmental projects
A Sovereign Europe
A Federation of Nation states (all having to do the same thing at the same time)
Common defense system and an European army
Fully operational border guards
Hey, let’s just do all that and not call it the United States of Europe.
The main thing Valls got correct was “Too often the EU has appeared to be preoccupied with unnecessary regulation.”
Ironically, Valls proposed regulation in at least a half-dozen areas. and it won’t stop there.
What about agricultural tariffs to preserve the French way of Life? Valls wants to keep those for the sole benefit of French farmers at the expense of everyone else.
Great Nannycrat Transformation
Brexit happened precisely because the EU has been progressing along the lines Valls wants. Citizens are fed up in the UK, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Austria, Greece, Portugal and France, over various things.
Politicians like Beppe Grillo and the five-star movement in Italy, Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, and Victor Orban in Hungary feed off nonsense like Valls presented.
In Austria, anti-immigration presidential candidate Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party (FPOe) is ahead in polls. The election, scheduled for October 2 was rescheduled to December 4 due to problems with glue.
Problems with Glue
There are problems with glue all right.
Ireland is upset over taxes, the UK, Hungary, France, and Austria over immigration, Greece and Portugal over austerity, and Italy questions the Euro itself.
Valls did not address inane work rules in France, Greece, and Italy. Will those go away with more glue?
Instead of addressing obvious productivity issues, Valls concludes the EU needs an army.
The entire EU project is at risk of becoming unglued precisely because politicians like Valls, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, and German chancellor Angela Merkel want to force more glue and more regulations into the system when the eurozone cannot remotely agree on a banking union, bailouts, a currency union, or a fiscal union.