European leaders met in Sibiu, Romania for what should have been a re-energising moment for the future of Europe but what turned instead into a questioning of the Spitzenkandidaten process. European leaders failed to respond to some clear challenges across the EU. The Sibiu Declaration is a compilation of 10 principles stressing the importance of the Union remaining united in the global context. Behind the official declaration there are talks about moving away from the Spitzenkandidaten process, however. The media report that a number of European leaders, including Macron – no surprises - are seriously engaging in talks to re-envision the process through which the President of the European Commission is appointed.
The Spitzenkandidaten process is not a solution for the democratic deficit in the EU. Nevertheless, the decision to exclude representatives of Civil Society Organisations from the meeting in Sibiu coupled with the attempt to undermine the Spitzenkandidaten process is a clear signal. The signal that EU leaders are very reluctant to actually deliver more participatory democracy as a response to Brexit.
Two years ago, European institutions and leaders agreed to thoroughly analyse the reasons behind Brexit and find solutions to move the EU project forward by responding to the demand for protection and better responsiveness by the institutions expressed by the many left behind by a globalisation process that seems to be out of political control.
The analysis falls short. On the anniversary of the end of WWII, citizens do not feel reassured but worried. Nationalism is rising, fuelled by the lack of action to tackle inequalities and to fix broken social mobility mechanisms. Social inequalities in Europe and the world are only broadly mentioned in the final Declaration that commits the Member States to fairness. The 10 points of the final declaration are so vague that one cannot disagree. But at the same time, who is going to be convinced by them?
Creating jobs is one thing, creating decent work with living wages another one. And when citizens see that a system is not really delivering, they turn away from it.
The final declaration of the Council has dodged the real challenges. The ones that would change the Future of Europe for good – more participatory democracy, fewer inequalities. For a society that is fully sustainable. Sustainable equality is the keyword for our future! There are solutions out there that the next European Commission must adopt. To start with, the final acknowledgement of the role of civil society as intermediary and thus as an interlocutor, as enshrined in article 11 of the Treaty. It is not a matter of consultation nor communication, it is a matter of dialogue. And as for the policies to be implemented – here is the blueprint that SOLIDAR proudly contributed to. The next President of the European Commission should make it the guiding light for making our society sustainable for all!