New driver or new drive for Europe?

Finally the new French President has taken office and has presented, yesterday, his list of ministers that will make up his new cabinet, a mixture of centre left, centre right and liberals, politicians and representatives of civil society. This depends however on what one’s understanding of what civil society is, as cabinet positions mainly went to people with a business or academic background. What is missing in the long list is a ministerial portfolio for youth and associations. It is, nonetheless, an attempt to overcome traditional political divides and to find a broad majority to bring about much needed reforms.

Macron gave a clearly European dimension to his campaign, which was more than the symbolic playing of the European anthem on the evening of the elections. He is following this up with his first state visit to Germany which should underline the attachment to Franco-German cooperation in and for Europe, reflected in the main theme of their conversation, namely possible changes to the EU treaties to allow further integration in the Eurozone. Although Germany still has its national elections coming up on 24 September, with hopefully a committed  European as new chancellor, the current German chancellor and the Minister of Finance have not come back to the new French President with the hoped for signals. It’s the same old tune: all Members should first carry out “their” reforms and then new steps could be envisaged.

Again the narrow paradigm of the Stability and Growth Pact and its rules is presented as the overarching law, although the European Treaties stipulate territorial cohesion, not of the Member States, but of the entire Union. Conservatives seem not to have heard the message of populist voters and BREXIT. There may be those who believe the Stability and Growth Pact is necessary in some parts of society, but those who feel left out and let down by globalisation and European integration expect results.

Thanks to the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) and the European Pillar of Social Rights positive developments may be ahead. The window of opportunity for delivery is short however, as the next European elections are only two years away. Any legislative initiative should not be postponed and the proposals of the French side should be not only studied, but taken into account for a real European relaunch and renewal. Managing the EU is not what citizens expect, it is about common ambition and mobilisation. At least the vote on Hungary is a necessary step in upholding European values, which cannot solely be left to #PulseofEurope demonstrations. There is a new driver, but not yet a new drive!



This editorial has appeared in the Weekly Round Up of 19 May 2017.

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