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Readers of my previous articles know well my opinion: I am in strong favour of a united and democratically controlled Europe. For this, I have many reasons for which there is not sufficient place to repeat them here.
I would recommend, as I have done before, to all interested in the topic to read the excellent book by Guy Verhofstad “Europe’s Disease”.
I believe the Europe we have now is unsustainable. It is a heavy structure without foundations. The most important lack, and, I believe, the main reason for dissatisfaction, is the lack of democratic control. Yes, there is a parliament, but no, the parliament does not appoint nor control the executive. As a result, we do not know who is in charge. And as a further result, people do not know who or what they should vote for if they are unhappy about decisions, or rather the lack thereof.
An aggravating factor is the need for unanimity for all but unimportant decisions. And it is the important decisions that matter, not the trivial ones. I believe most will agree that it is unrealistic to assume 27 people, let alone 27 groups of people representing different cultures, languages, political views and agendas could ever agree on anything – other than trivial matters – in unanimity. Therefore, wheeling and dealing in obscure backroom meetings are required, rather than public debates in parliament. This, of course, aggravates the feeling of unease by the people of Europe.
What is next? Possibly, Scotland will hold an independence poll, and possibly Scotland will leave the UK and join Europe. This, I believe, would be a good thing. There is of course a substantial risk for conflict in Northern Ireland. And, we have to see what will happen in the upcoming elections in Spain. It is hard to gauge what will happen in France and the Netherlands, but I assume the right wing “exit” parties there represent only a small, if vocal, minority. However, Greece could be the next country leaving Europe, for reasons I wrote also earlier.
The current Europe cannot be remedied due to the lack of visionary leaders and the lack of foundation. Possibly Brexit is a wake up call to our politicians, but I doubt it. I believe Europe will gradually disintegrate, which may seem like a bad thing. However, I am sure that once this process has gathered momentum, leaders will emerge who will start building a new Europe. This new Europe is likely to include only a small number of countries, let us say Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany of course, and possibly France. We may only hope they will then build a real Europe, with a real parliament who appoints and controls a real, responsible, executive. And just as in France there is not one minister for every province, we do not need each country to be represented in the executive.
I am certain that, in the long run, Brexit is an opportunity – for us, Europeans. And the UK? I believe the population who voted “leave” has been largely misled. For the UK, or for what will remain of it in the longer run, Brexit is clearly a bad thing. It is very likely that not very much will change for them, as they – and we – will still need all kind of agreements in order to continue to do what we are doing and have been doing for over 40 years. This in turn means that they still will need to “pay” – just like Norway or Switzerland. In other words, they will have to live with decisions made in Brussels, without much influence on the decision-making. If this happens, it would be an historic irony, as decisions would be made about them, without them. In the Czech Republic, we still say “o nas, bez nas” for such situations. This refers to the Munich agreements of 1938 where Czechoslovakia was absent and the initiative taker was … the UK.
Maarten van Leeuwen
Group Managing Director
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