How do we relate to Europe after the British referendum ?

Please find the minutes of the conference wich took place on 28th November 2016 at the Economic, Social and Environmental Comittee on the subject « How do we relate to Europe after the British referendum ? ».

Although we have never been so interdependent, the British referendum has increased the risk of Europe falling apart. It has revealed a threefold crisis, affecting all European countries: a crisis of identity, of confidence between Member States and the people of Europe; a crisis in our economic, environmental and social development; and a crisis of our national and European democracies. So what common destiny do we see for our future?

When it comes down to it, the results of the British referendum have given us reason to look inwards, while taking on board the different opinions of other European countries. What is at stake with this crisis of identity and the challenges of building a European identity? What do we want for ourselves? We will structure our debates in three stages: What are we prepared to share within the European Union? Within the Eurozone? How can we revive European democracy?

Today, the citizens of EU-27 consider internal and external security to be a priority concern, in a context of increasing threats (Russia, Islamist terrorism, etc.). Does this mean we should yield to the temptation of retreating behind national boundaries, or secure the EU’s external borders to create a union of security? Should we consider free movement of people an outdated freedom, or a freedom linked inextricably with the others? Will transforming Schengen into an area of real security and freedom help bring Europeans together around a project not confined to the Eurozone?

Meanwhile, the accelerating pace of change (globalisation, demographic, digital, energy, ecological, etc.) is a source of not only risks but also opportunities, provided we work together on creating the means to reinvent our development model. Is it right for the internal market to be a place of national rivalry in today’s context of globalisation? Are we prepared for social and fiscal convergence, for common standards in strategic areas? What future can we offer our youth to ward off the risk of a “lost generation”? If we accept that the Member States are largely responsible for our education and training systems and labour markets, what could we, or should we be accomplishing together?

Brexit is seen by some to have triggered the momentum needed to break the deadlock in the first circle, the Eurozone, ossified for years behind red lines, while asymmetric clashes and competitiveness gaps threaten the EMU. National opinions differ, so what can we do to reach a compromise to effectively consolidate an economic and monetary union capable of seeing through a political investment policy aimed at promoting sustainable growth and tackling unemployment? How can we reach an agreement on a banking union, a fiscal union and an economic union? And how can we reconcile our strengthening of the Eurozone with the need to also strengthen the second circle, the EU-27?

Finally, Brexit has revealed a crisis of our national and European democracies. Would a form of participatory democracy allow Europe’s citizens to take a more active part in restoring representative democracy? What can we do to make it possible for them to choose among genuine long-term options? What role might a European civil society still under construction play? Which governance reforms are needed to democratise post-election practices in our national and European democracies and restore faith?