Bigger role for member states is a dead end
The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Koenders, has asked the readers of a newspaper (Algemeen Dagblad) to write down their wishes for Europe in the future. Contra President Trump, he thinks the EU has a future. For him it all begins with a stronger role for the member states.
For me, this is a dead end. For over twenty years the member states are at the steering wheels of the EU, much more than the European Commission. Policies often took the form of agreements between member states, each managing their own business. Especially in the Euro zone this has led to disastrous results. The “strict” budget and state debt norms have been violated time and again. By the major states of Germany and France in the first place, later by Portugal, Spain and Greece. Italians banks will be rescued with state money, contrary to European rules (see my blog about Banca Monte dei Paschi, December 14, 2016). Member states use to pick and choose whatever suits best their interests, e.g. subsidies for farmers and weak regions, and giving room to foreign companies that are happy to withhold taxes from other member states.
A selective program
In my view, small countries like The Netherlands, Europeans need cooperation. We are fully connected to the world; a large part of our money is earned through international trade (e.g. 2nd largest exporter of agricultural products and services in the world). Autarky never was a good option and will be even less so in the future. However, the present EU is too comprehensive and has too many member states of very different backgrounds and political views. Its institutional structure, though praised by some as “sui generis”, is becoming unworkable and anti-democratic. In the economic domain a free trade zone would be the first step, including the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland. This implies the free movement of goods and services, but the free movement of capital and people should be restricted. In the defence domain cooperation inside NATO is for the time being the most practical thing. Member states should start paying much more than now; Trump is right in this respect. Cooperation in other fields should be organized with a limited number of neighbours, e.g. for transport with Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and the UK. Financially, the Euro has caused deep divisions inside the EU and brought southern member states on the verge of bankruptcy. An alternative must be developed for states that have a healthy economy and similar views on budget management. It could be a ”Neuro” for Germany, Belgium (Flanders), The Netherlands and Austria.
This is the core of my program. Comments are welcome.