60 years after the signature of the Rome Treaty, it is time to take stock and chart a new course. Upon invitation of the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano, under the auspices of the De Gasperi Foundation, today Viviane Reding debates the future of the European Union, in the presence of 5 other representatives of the founding Member States. Among them a former President of the French Republic, Valéry Giscard D’Estaing. On this 60th birthday, the former Vice-President of the European Commission calls for celebration of past accomplishments and exploration of new horizons.
She declared: “60 years ago, the Founding Fathers brought Peace to this continent by replacing battlefields with common institutions, giving rise to the biggest economic and trade power in the world”. According to an IFOP poll taken after the ‘Brexit’-referendum, the share of citizens deeming their country’s European Union membership ‘a good thing’ shot up between January 2014 and July 2016, by no less than 19 percentage points in France (reaching 67%), 18 in Germany (81%), 10 in Belgium (75%), 9 in Spain (81%) and 4 in Italy (59%). Viviane Reding sees in these developments proof that Europe delivers tangible benefits to citizens: “60 years after Rome, our Union keeps on moving forward to meet Europeans’ expectations, to ensure their security and their freedom, as illustrated by the reinforcement of our external borders. Enough with the double discourse of national governments, who put the blame on Brussels for its failures, while claiming credit for its successes. In 2017, marked by the end of Roaming and the 30th Birthday of Erasmus, let us be proud of our unity, let us celebrate all together our diversity. Europe belongs to you. We are all Europe!”
Additionally, a 2016 Eurobarometer poll shows that European citizens believe the EU should do more in the fight against terrorism (82%), against unemployment (77%) and against climate change (67%). Viviane Reding considers that the EU should be given the capacities to meet these high expectations, and she makes concrete proposals: “Let’s create a Europe of Security and Defence, with a European CIA, a European Public Prosecutor and joint defence-capabilities. Let’s reinvent a Europe of Prosperity with a budget worthy of that name, a Europe of Liberty where European funds are conditional upon the respect of EU law and values, and a Europe of Democracy with a directly elected President.”
To make this happen, the lawmaker puts forward the idea of a Europe of concentric circles, as already proposed back in 1994 by Wolfgang Schäuble and Karl Lamers. Reding, from experience and realism, champions neither an idealistic leap towards the United States of Europe, nor a nightmarish return to a Europe of nation states: “Europe should coalesce around a core group of Member States, who are ready to move on towards a real political, social and fiscal Europe, accompanied by other Member States willing to move forward in a significant yet limited number of areas, and surrounded by a ring of friends, sharing much but not the institutions. Enough with Europe à la carte! Time for a Europe of commitments, where countries either ambitiously embark upon a political Europe, or limit themselves to a single market - and stick to their choice! Luxembourg, from Joseph Bech to Pierre Werner, has always been one of the engines for European integration. We shall remain in the vanguard, true to the European spirit!”
Concluding Viviane Reding stated: “Not all roads lead to Rome. Let’s take the high road that will see future generations celebrate the 100th birthday of an ever more visible and efficient Union. Nothing less depends on it than their sovereignty, their freedom to be governed by their own rules and their capacity to master their own fate.”