”The EU is at a critical point”, assured Angela Merkel before the latest EU summit.
”It is true that Europe has recently been shaken by all kinds of crises but as the same time it is my feeling that the best motto for the Bratislava meeting is that we must not let these crises go to waste.” exclaimed Donald Tusk, president of the EU council.
The EU is (at least in part) in an existential crisis”, lamented Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union speech.
What crisis is that, then?
Sure, the European economy is not great but after some rather dim years, it is officially deemed to be `staying the course`.
It may not feel like that for the millions of Europeans that are currently out of a job (and certainly not for the Greeks), but be honest – when did that ever count as a crisis for the EU?
The EU countries has had millions of unemployed for decades without it being said to threaten the existence of the European Union.
Well, it´s the refugees then. There´s a proper crisis for you.
For the refugees, it´s surely is and rather more than a crisis.
Almost 5 million Syrians have been forced out of their country along with Iraquis, Palestinians and others.
But again – that constitutes a crisis for them.
Not for the EU.
They did represent a crisis for the EU last year, when they were still able to take themselves to our shores.
They can¨t do that in greater numbers now.
The Turkey agreement took care of that.
Crisis over… for the EU.
Not over for EU member Greece obviously, being left alone to fend for 50-60 000 refugees. But the rest of the EU countries have very cleverly contained the problem to the south.
Also, the situation is building up to become an enormous problem for Italy. The Italian government may well further down the line decide to do something drastic about that.
That could well turn into a crisis for the EU.
But it isn’t at present..
Well, Brexit then.
The United Kingdom is leaving us, That´s a crisis, right?
To start with, they haven’t actually left so any potential crisis hasn’t materialised yet.
If the UK does decide to leave, well, it represents about 12 percent of the European economy.
With or without the UK, the EU is the largest – and richest – consumer market in the world.
Ah, but what of the political contagion!, and all the other EU countries that will ask to leave in the wake of the brexit!
Except it´s not happening, is it?
Sure, the French Front National feels encouraged in its´ wish to have France exiting as well, but they have been on about that since forever.
Brexit didn´t change a thing in that respect.
The same goes for Netherlands xenophobe Geert Wiljders – it´s nothing new that he wants to leave the EU.
Has he even started to collect signatures to force his government into holding a referendum?
Look around you, there are no followers to the potential British exit.
With the uncertain future that the UK is facing, who would want to?
Not even the populists are stupid enough to try convincing people, at this moment in time that exiting the EU would be a good idea.
If the vote of the British really had shook up the European leaders, as some like to claim, the leaders ought to be talking about changes to the EU, one would think.
But they are not.
The only proposal for reform has come from the Visegrad countries on giving more power to the national parliaments.
That wasn´t even dignified with a debate at the Bratislava summit.
With practically none of the heads of state enjoying a majority in their national parliaments, how could that count as a clever idea?
The EU right now?
Business, as usual.
Roaming, capital markets regulation, glyphosate ban…
Oh yes, and more cooperation in defence matters.
The Bratislava Declaration talked only about doing more of the same.
And a little extra on defense cooperation.
But wait, there is a crisis brewing: The rise of the populists all over Europe.
That is worrying on many levels.
Particularly, to the heads of state themselves.
Quite a few of them are heading towards national elections, without strong numbers in the polls.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has called a referendum on his constitutional reform for October and has promised he will resign if his side does not win and at the moment the opinion polls indicate that he might not.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has held two national elections and two votes in the parliament in 2016 without obtaining a majority (or a coalition) in order to rule.
He will have to call a third election and odds are he´ll lose again.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has his next national election in six months and has constantly been sliding in the public opinion for over a year.
The mandate for the French president Francois Hollande runs out next spring. He, and his governement, are at the lowest level of public support recorded for any French president.
And Queen of Europe herself of course, Angela Merkel, will face the voters in a year for now, with the lowest popularity score registred in five years.
On top of that, President Tusks mandate ends next summer, And a lot of people are growing tired of Mr Juncker, muttering about an early retirement.
An EU summit could look very different a year from now.
But I don´t see why that would constitute a crisis for the EU.