Belgium – Brussels – Europe seems almost to crumble over the large number of crises. The Brexit, Greek debt, TTIP, problems with ratification of the EU- Ukraine-treaty and CETA, as well as a number of eurosceptic politicians entering national governments.
This is not a very positive mid-term review of the EU-politics.
But let us realize that we are dealing with practical problems of current cooperation. The EU in total has a wonderful track record: More peace, security, freedom of expression and adequate work and food.
These goals have been achieved during more than 60 years. The problem is that too much people take these benefits for granted: as if peace and prosperity naturally will also remain without the EU.
The reality is that we cannot and should not throw EU cooperation overboard. Do not believe those political arsonists who set the EU House on fire and then do not know how to control the fire or rebuild the house.
The British already face great uncertainty in anticipation of the end of its EU-membership around 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May preliminary asked for a guarantee so UK residents would be allowed to continue live in the EU: a very clear “no” was the answer from the EU: “first start negotiating, then we will see about your rights”. Businesses in Britain are in limbo: If the EU imposes import tariffs on British products, this will hurt British companies even more.
It is clear: without the EU, we all lose a lot. Not only does the EU facilitate trade on the continent, it is also a tremendous cost saving that Brussels officials are doing the work for officials in 28 EU countries. Only the EU has the power to stand up to mobile operators and abolish its roaming charges; Only the EU has the power to stand up to foreign multinationals who try to avoid paying reasonable taxes; Only the EU could agree with Turkey on managing the refugee influx. And only the EU has the power to introduce a free InterRail card for 18 year olds in so many countries.
Handle with care
The EU is a good thing. It needs to be handled with more care. Most importantly, a feeling of solidarity should return among the governments of the EU countries. Too often we see the attitude of “every man for himself”. But this attitude does not bring anyone further in the long term: like cyclists facing headwind, we know that it is better to form a group instead of facing the wind alone.
So, the EU-agreements should be fairer for everyone. Leaders should comply with the agreements, who says “yes” in Brussels cannot say “no” back in the Member State. It is bad for EU-credibility when leaders agree that diesel vehicles must emit less harmful substances, but in the meantime do otherwise. Also, it does not look good if Member States compete with each other on secretive national tax deals with multinationals.
The founding fathers of the EU had a Christian vision of sharing, trusting and reaching out to nations in need. I am reminded by this, every time I see the EU-flag with its twelve stars: its design was inspired by a Biblical description of the holy virgin Maria surrounded by twelve stars.
Although Christianity might be in decline, and the EU may face problems, I am of the opinion that solidarity should remain. EU-countries must stand together, right now there is even an urgent need.
Anyone can see that Russian power and influence is growing. The new American president Donald Trump seems not to bother about helping Europe or NATO.
So the EU itself must provide a solid defense, internet safety and peace. That goes for the European continent, but also for nearby Ukraine and the Middle East.
A bishop from Iraq, whom I invited to Brussels for a conference on Christian persecution, told me he was impressed by the terrorist attacks on the Brussels airport and subway. “Madam, we see such attacks three times a day,” the Bishop told me.
I do not want Europe to become such a world. Amid the worldwide problems, the bickering about the EU looks futile. let us realise: EU countries are prosperous and peaceful because we removed barriers for people and business.
Only through European cooperation, we maintain that peace, security, freedom of expression, enough work and food.