Dis­cus­sion on fu­ture of Europe

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - 60 YEARS OF EUROPEAN UNITY - Joe Der­mody ■ Con­tact: Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Ire­land (01) 634 1111 eu-ie-info-re­quest@ec.europa.eu www.euire­land.ie

Ire­land has more ba­bies per head than al­most any­one else at 1.92 per wo­man – just be­hind the French at 1.96. The EU av­er­age is 1.58 with Por­tu­gal in bot­tom place at 1.31 (2015 fig­ures).


As we cel­e­brate 60 years of Euro­pean unity, it is im­por­tant not only to look back on what has been achieved, but also look for­ward to where the EU should go from here.

To be­gin this de­bate, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has put for­ward a dis­cus­sion pa­per — the White Pa­per on the Fu­ture of Europe — which looks at the big chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties for Europe in the com­ing decade and sug­gests five pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios for de­vel­op­ing the EU post- Brexit. ( see panel be­low). The hope is the white pa­per will be a ba­sis for a broad dis­cus­sion among po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, cit­i­zens and any other in­ter­ested groups.

New tech­nolo­gies

The need for this dis­cus­sion to­day is clear, and not only be­cause of the UK’s de­ci­sion to leave.

New tech­nolo­gies bring ever greater pos­si­bil­i­ties for Euro­pean cit­i­zens, but raise new ques­tions for gov­ern­ments — how should we reg­u­late self- driv­ing cars trav­el­ling be­tween EU coun­tries, for ex­am­ple? Mean­while, au­to­ma­tion is al­ready dis­rupt­ing tra­di­tional labour mar­kets. On top of this, though the econ­omy is re­cov­er­ing, long- term and es­pe­cially youth un­em­ploy­ment rates in Europe make it clear this re­cov­ery is not yet felt evenly.

The grow­ing threat of cli­mate change can­not be dealt with by any coun­try act­ing alone, nor do its ef­fects stop at na­tional bor­ders. The same is true of in­sta­bil­ity and war to the south and east of the EU and the re­lated mi­gra­tory pres­sures.

At the same time, the EU must face long-term trends in terms of its rel­a­tive de­cline among world pow­ers — emerg­ing na­tions will push EU coun­tries from the top ranks of global economies, and by 2060 no EU coun­try alone will have more than 1% of global pop­u­la­tion.

Our pop­u­la­tion is also age­ing fast — by 2030, the me­dian age in Europe will be 45, much higher than any other con­ti­nent.

Fi­nally, in light of rekin­dled na­tion­al­ist rhetoric, the EU needs to think about how to de­liver on the ex­pec­ta­tions of cit­i­zens, re­build trust, and find agree­ment be­tween mem­ber states.

Em­pow­er­ing cit­i­zens

The five op­tions in­cluded in the white pa­per rep­re­sent pos­si­ble ways for Europe to re­spond to these chal­lenges.

They range from re- cen­tring the EU on just the sin­gle mar­ket, to op­tions for some or all coun­tries to move for­ward to­gether on var­i­ous is­sues. For its part, the com­mis­sion has not rec- om­mended one op­tion above the others — the ball is very much in the court of na­tional lead­ers and Euro­pean cit­i­zens.

The de­bate on these op­tions may seem dis­tant, but we should take it se­ri­ously: the ‘ ab­stract’ choice be­tween a sin­gle mar­ket- fo­cused EU and our cur­rent path might make the EU eas­ier to un­der­stand, but also means your rights to med­i­cal care abroad or to car­ry­ing your pen­sion with you to another coun­try are no longer guar­an­teed, and the EU rules cover­ing air qual­ity across bor­ders dis­ap­pear.

Mean­while, ad­vanc­ing com­mon so­cial pro­tec­tions among eu­ro­zone coun­tries could mean Ir­ish cit­i­zens work­ing in another eu­ro­zone coun­try have more cer­tainty in their rights, but rules might dif­fer in com­plex ways in other EU states.

On the other hand, if all 27 coun­tries were to agree to take big steps for­ward to­gether, com­mon rules and en­force­ment could re­move that prob­lem with tak­ing your self- driv­ing car on a trip across Europe. But any such moves might be viewed neg­a­tively by those who feel the EU is too dis­tant.

Seek­ing opin­ions

There are plenty of ways to have your say. The com­mis­sion is gath­er­ing cit­i­zens’ views on­line at: www.ec.europa.eu/com­mis­sion/give-your-com­ments

It is also or­gan­is­ing events in Ire­land for cit­i­zens to dis­cuss these and other Euro­pean is­sues — the next event is in Dublin on May 22, with another in Kilkenny on June 1. You can also con­tact the com­mis­sion’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Ire­land on the de­tails be­low or your lo­cal elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Democ­racy at work: The ‘Fu­ture of Europe’ white pa­per in­vites Euro­pean cit­i­zens to in­di­cate which of five sce­nar­ios they would see as the best strate­gic di­rec­tion for the EU to work to­wards.

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