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IEP Lunch Debate with Elmar Brok: “Europe at the crossroads: solidarity and effective transformation towards new horizons”

Elmar Brok and Katrin Böttger

At the IEP lunch debate on 26 April 2012, Elmar Brok, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, spoke on the internal and external challenges of Europe’s future. Brok focussed in particular on Europe’s respon­si­bility to formulate financial and political strategies perpet­u­ating Europe’s stability. In the context of the debt crisis, he appealed for more solidarity to be incor­po­rated into European solution strategies, defined by two key factors:

First, Europe must not withdraw from its respon­si­bility to spread and grow common European goals. Consis­tency in European domestic affairs is needed now more than ever, partic­u­larly in light of the recent emergence of several nation­alist parties across the continent. In the first round of the presi­dential elections in France, the right-wing extremist candidate Marine Le Pen achieved the best ever result for a Font National (FN) presi­dential candidate, gaining 18.5 percent of the vote. Similar devel­op­ments have been observed in Ireland. The Irish Repub­lican party Sinn Féin enjoyed the support of 30 percent of those questioned in a recent opinion poll. Germany seems to have avoided this plague, however. No German nation­alist parties gained enough to influence the forming of a majority. Despite these alarming devel­op­ments, Europe must maintain a strong sense of political respon­si­bility. Europe’s greatest duty is to remain stable.

Second, trans­parency of political decision-making must improve. So far, solutions have only built upon the idea that “Europe has to save money”. Instead, the Fiscal Pact must be completed with further, more complex elements. This package will consist of several individual compo­nents. First, in struc­tural policy, growth-oriented projects must be supported finan­cially, and cannot fall victim to austerity measures. By improving the infra­structure and the educa­tional system, these projects should be able to exist sustainably. These projects, moreover, must be imple­mented pragmat­i­cally and efficiently. It does not make much sense for the European Commission to submit a long-term reform plan for the growth within the Single European Market in May 2012 at a time when Europe does not need general programmes with outcomes measurable only after decades of imple­men­tation. It is more important to foster specific projects, which would make a positive psycho­logical impact on the economic devel­opment. Maintaining the balance between economy and democ­ratic power is, therefore, Europe’s greatest challenge. While it was important to maintain the stability criteria in the last decade, invest­ments in education, infra­structure and trade must take precedent as Europe moves forward.

European foreign policy must take similar steps, explained Brok. Globally speaking, the European Union and other Western powers consis­tently endure skepticism regarding their inten­tions in foreign policy. Common solutions must be developed, partic­u­larly in reaction to the Arab Spring and the lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. First and foremost, Europe must stand for its values in these matters.

Brok concluded by presenting three scenarios for Europe’s future. In the first scenario, Europe ignores problems and challenges, leaving them unsolved. The second scenario, on the other hand, describes a withdrawal of member states in favor of nation­alist politics and, therefore, a withdrawal from inevitable global devel­op­ments. Brok concluded by describing his third and preferred scenario imagining a Europe united by the redis­covery of its power to overcome a crisis.