It goes without saying that the past few years have been a turbulent and ground-breaking period for the European Union, be it unexpected election results or political and economic turmoil all over Europe.
While many acknowledge that the EU has undoubtedly succeeded at its goal of preserving peace across Europe, a goal that has been part and parcel of the EU’s ethos since its inception in the late 1950s, not long after the end of the Second World War, the way by which the EU goes about fulfilling its other functions have certainly been of a questionable nature as of late. The EU ramped up a good deal of criticism throughout the Eurozone crisis which saw half of the European economy being brought to its knees, as well as the European migrant crisis which saw an unprecedented amount of refugees travel across the Mediterranean Sea.
The response of the EU to these events being that it took too long to act upon the grievances of European citizens or did not achieve the desired outcome by doing so. With all this being said, the EU was generally being perceived as serving the interests of the establishment, rather those of ordinary citizens and this sentiment was transcribed into one election after another. These episodes could clearly be viewed in the legislative election in Austria last year which ended with a far-right victory, together with the result of the recent French presidential election and Italy’s recent general election. The pinnacle of this sentiment was without a doubt displayed in the referendum held on whether or not the United Kingdom should exit the European Union, with a majority of British voters opting to leave the EU.
In light of these events, it has been generally accepted that while one must acknowledge the positive measures which the EU has implemented and the benefits which are entailed in membership of the EU, such as free trade, the removal of custom barriers and non-tariff barriers, together with guaranteeing the fundamental four freedom of the free movement of capital, services, people and workers. By means of these benefits, the EU continues to give its citizens the opportunity to live, work or study in any of the 28, soon to be 27, member states. While taking these beneficial measures into consideration, the success of the EU must be given the merit and praise which it deserves, but due acknowledgements must also be given to areas where the EU has failed or could have done better.
One is not saying that the EU is in dire need of a radical overhaul from top to bottom. If it is determined to work towards preserving European unity and the survival of the European project though, this is not impossible. Alas, it can only be done by addressing its flaws and facing its weak points so that the EU can continue to fulfil its objectives. After all, these are the pillars upon which it was founded to uphold and improve. A refocusing of itself may well drive it to establish its main hallmark of strengthening the lives of the many, not just the few.
Written by: Jacob Callus