Next Wednesday Commission President Juncker will present his last speech on the State of the European Union. It is not sarcastic to ask - what Union? When he and the college came into office four years ago, he presented this Commission as the “most political”, “big on big things” and the “last exit”. What an ambition! But what has been done? What shape has Juncker’s time in office left the European Union in? Certainly not in a better shape than four years ago, as inequalities in and between member states continue to rise. The far right continuously gains more and more influence, including within the governments of Austria and Italy. There is no solidary solution on the migration issue. Certainly, some successes will be listed, such as the European Pillar of Social Rights, the (Juncker) investment plan, some bits of a so-called better regulation, etc. Claims will also be made that public opinion about Europe and the European ideal is more positive now, despite the fact that anti-European sentiment has risen even higher.
What will not be tackled is the game changer! Thus, we will have to fight hard before and after the upcoming European elections. Until we break the nonsense narrative of the Stability and Growth Pact, that austerity is the cure, and until we implement a real strategy for sustainable development - which must be much broader than just environmental policies – we will not have risen to the challenge of creating sustainable societies, in each dimension: political, social, economic and environmental.
We have nine months to go to formulate our vision of the European Union and mobilize civil society together with the progressive family and the unions. There is a risk that we will have an even worse Commission college after the elections if we look at the current majorities in the member states and the Council. With all the dynamics in our societies, moving towards more radicalization and violence against those who are different, we have to do more than showcase our – however justified – advocacy points.
This time democracy is at stake! Is the democratically elected European Parliament in the hands of right-wingers and nationalists? A Commission President from the EPP who has congratulated Orbán on his election, whose party has opened the Pandora’s box and paved the way for what happened in Chemnitz by campaigning against “asylum tourism”? Unfortunately, Europe is not “too big to fail”, nor is our democracy. The anti-European and anti-democratic forces have gained ground and grown roots. The speed of the deterioration of the post-WW II system is accelerating. Big on big things! Yes on Europe and our democracy!