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The European Union is in trouble. And I’m not talking about the economy or euro now… The trouble goes deeper than that. The idealistic project sketched in the post WW2 years with great visions had slowly and little by little started taking the shape of a political union. However, despite more than half-a-century of inching closer and closer, it becomes more and more obvious that Europe is not yet ready for such experimenting. When things go tough, you play for your own (national) team anyway. As a commentary in the International Herald Tribune accurately noted, “to save the EU, Europe must believe in it”. That does not seem to be the case.
Angela Merkel started openly calling not only for a multi-speed Europe but she also mentioned the need for a genuine public European identity. The latter has been one of the main problems with the EU for at least the last twenty years. There is no more “permissive consensus” that European citizens had given to their political leaders in the fresh post-war years when the European idea had been born. While now the people themselves want to be and need to be part of the process – somehow the democratization of the EU through direct elections to the European Parliament or referenda failed to bring Europe closer to its citizens. The statesmen of EU member states are not sharing a common vision and their electorate feels neither European, nor understands the benefits of further integration. The image of the EU has been continuously suffering. As the Eurobarometer surveys show, the trend is clear: the EU conjures up an increasingly negative image, the trust in European institutions is waning. No need to talk about a declined level of optimism about prospects for the future.
With euroscepticism on the rise, the gap between the Brussels elites and the citizens does not get any narrower and under the current circumstances, feels even more difficult to overcome, as the communication with the citizens from the EU remains largely an ineffective rhetorical exercise. Eurosceptic political parties are getting points, to detest the EU is becoming more and more modern.
I am progressively going through a transformation from an EU-enthusiast, over to an EU-indifferent, not even Eurosceptic! Barring a miracle coming from above, the EU project might be killed from below.