In a survey by the American Pew Research Center conducted in mid-June, it is said that Europeans have become more favourable toward the European Union. Even British voters, who narrowly elected to withdraw from the EU in June 2016, have improved their views of the organization. On the other hand, while only few citizens are eager to see their country leaving the EU, many of them want the chance to have their voice heard through referenda. Also, citizens claim that their national governments should take decisions about migration and trade.
Of course, the growing support of citizens for the Union is good news. Actually, this tendency coincides – certainly not by accident – with the more pro-Europe attitude manifesting itself in recent months at the European political level: see my Editorial of June.
On the contrary, the opinion of the citizens – consulted by the Pew Research Center – regarding migration and trade ask for a comment. For example, both subject matters clearly represent topics member states are not able to handle alone. Moreover, ‘trade’ essentially is an exclusive competence of the EU. As follows from the doctrine of the Court of Justice, it is only to the extent that subject matters covered by national competences are included in a trade agreement, that member states can claim to be a separate contracting party.
That said, certainly, national governments must have their say in what has to be done and decided about migrants and trade. However, the final decisions have to be taken at the EU level. The Council is the obvious platform here.
What is more important, though, are two things. First, politically the moment seems ripe to reflect about further steps in the process of EU cooperation. In fact, such discussions – and the results thereof! – are pretty urgent. Here we refer to the ‘Future of Europe’ discussion, introduced by the White Paper of Jean-Claude Juncker of March this year. Second, citizens want to be involved in those discussions.
Both findings can bring about a positive impulse to bring the European integration process forward. It is now up to our politicians to do what is necessary. They have a responsibility, not only to act but also to communicate properly with their citizens about new steps to be taken.
With this positive note, the TEPSA team wishes you excellent summer holidays!
Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary-General