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Before the enlargement of the European Union...

[This editorial is also available in Ukrainian.]

Future enlargement of the European Union is presented as inevitable and unavoidable on the grounds that predatory powers are lurking on Europe's borders who would be only too delighted to weaken it.

In response to this pressure, proposals to reform the European institutions are multiplying, with a de facto consensus that they are essential.

The European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs, then a group of Franco-German experts, and finally a group of eminent European personalities grouped together in a "Manifesto", have presented their proposals to amend the European treaties.

All these suggestions are interesting. But are they likely to be accepted? Are the Member States capable of reforming the European treaties? Unfortunately, nothing is less certain.

After all, the European Union needs everything but an institutional debate with an uncertain outcome. And while an overhaul of the treaties is clearly necessary, it first needs to better demonstrate its added value in its day-to-day activities.

Even before discussing hypothetical institutional changes, reforms could be made to the way the European institutions operate, which deserves clarification and new practices.

It is in the economic sphere that the European Union needs to step up its efforts. The growth deficit may have a major social and political impact. The demographic deficit could lead to Europe's decline faster than any economic competition. It also raises the question of more pro-birth policies as well as the issue of immigration. These are urgent matters for the Commission, which should be concentrating on these objectives, for which it must be acknowledged that it knows how to work well.

The geopolitical challenges are considerable, as wars draw ever closer to Europe and the international architecture of 1945-1950 crumbles by the day.

The European Union's progress in the areas of foreign policy and defence cannot be achieved without the involvement and commitment of the Member States. This is Robert Schuman’s legacy to us.

To deal with the worsening international situation, the European Union's external action should be independent of the Commission and all the services that contribute to it should be attached to a joint diplomatic service reporting, initially, to the European Council. This would give the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy greater prerogatives. The current holder of this post, Josep Borrell, has indeed demonstrated that a strong European voice can be heard as long as it is unique.

After all, the bickering between institutions should be set aside in the light of the seriousness of the international situation.

If it really wants to be the legitimate embodiment of the citizens of Europe, the European Parliament must accept that its powers of representation will one day be truly democratic, and that a Member of the European Parliament will account for the same number of citizens in Malta as in Germany. Unfortunately, this is far from being the case. But this would give the European Parliament greater legitimacy, particularly in relation to the European Constitutional Courts, and they would then be freer to focus on issues of sovereignty such as foreign policy and defence. In the meantime, it should not interfere in the resolution of the major strategic issues that Europe faces and that engage the responsibility of the Member States.

For its part, the Commission should not meddle in foreign policy and should stop adding to the confusion of interests with the Member States, which have a duty to organise themselves, particularly at the democratic level, the difficult transition from excessively dispersed national policies to essential European cooperation. By encroaching on the prerogatives of the Member States, which are resisting these intrusions, the Commission is detracting from a common foreign and defence policy.

The Member States, for their part, should devise new forms of closer cooperation on these fundamental issues. A defence council? A body responsible for their collective security? An intergovernmental agreement strengthening their solidarity? Several solutions may emerge as a matter of necessity.

Many of these developments would involve changes to current practice rather than treaty reform. A number of them have been identified regarding European governance. They would help to make European policies more effective and, above all, through the clarifications they would bring, they would strengthen the feeling among citizens that they belong to an effective political entity that carries weight and exists on the international stage.

Even before a revision of the Treaties, it is therefore a genuine review of detail and changes in the day-to-day practice of European responsibilities that could best prepare the European Union for its eventual enlargement.