The European Union is a project which has brought progress all throughout the continent, unifying people under a common banner and values. Benefits coming from said project range from a giant economic stimulus through the free trade between member states, to regulations on foodstuffs, protecting consumers from hazardous substances.
In the past years, a confluence of events around Europe have given rise to voices of opposition; voices emboldened by a rise in populism and new opportunities to push their ideas to the general public. Those who are in favour of the European project react in many different ways; some ignore the criticisms, others lash out against them, while some attempt to dialogue with their opponents. Taking a clear look at this disapproval of the EU, three outcomes are likely; There is a risk that the EU will falter, weakening because of the lack of local support, a chance that nothing will come of it, and a possibility that the European Union will strengthen itself and solidify its place on the continent in a more permanent manner.
In truth, the opinions held by critics have always been there. People will always find ways to criticise something they are sceptical about. However, now that these so-called sceptics have so publicly voiced their opinions, the EU can tackle its opponents strategically, differentiating between those with genuine concern and those making noise who will continue opposing the project no matter what. To do this however, the EU must accept the fact that some of its criticisms are valid, and in fact can help aid the Union to become more efficient, less bureaucratic and more representative of European values and needs.
Many valid criticisms have been made, such as that of bureaucracy within the Union. An example of this is the monthly office transfer of the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg. This is estimated to cost around a hundred million euro per year, and if addressed correctly could allow the EU to redirect these funds into other ventures. Had it not been for France blocking the vote, this practice would have already been ended. Now it is possible that there is no way of fixing this occurrence and others similar to it without hindering the democratic process of the EU. However, it is still something which should be addressed and worked upon, perhaps finding a solution not previously thought of.
Another area which the EU should work upon is that of the migration crisis. This catastrophe, which has led to the deaths of thousands, has caused many to turn against the EU, blaming it for the problems brought by the huge influx of illegal immigrants. While the crisis itself is not the fault of the European Union, the way it handled the situation brought doubt about its competence to those hit harshly by it. If the Union could take on a solution to this problem by listening to sceptics and those who are loudest about it, it can start bringing these people, many of whom are ‘one issue critics’, on board with the project whilst simultaneously saving thousands of lives.
As previously mentioned in the article written by my colleague Andrea Pavia, Healing the Union, the EU has already taken many steps to start answering myths and false ideas about the project. If it also tackles the just and truthful criticisms, it could start paving the way for a more permanent and effective role within the continent. After all, the people most likely to locate flaws and areas of possible growth are those who do their best to find problems in the EU to criticise it.