Two very significant events took place in the European Union in March. On 25 March, the EU celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which started the process of European integration. On 29 March, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, triggered Article 50 confirming the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU. Britain will leave the single market, the customs union and the European Court of Justice.
Elsewhere, too, we see converging trends for less Europe. There is rising populism, nationalism and euro-scepticism, fuelled by concerns about migratory pressures, globalisation, social alienations, economic inequality, and terrorism.
Faced with these looming difficulties, the 27 heads of state and government meeting in Rome on 25 March sent a clear and strong signal to the European citizens and the world: “Europe is our common future.” More, rather than less, Europe is needed. They adopted the Rome Declaration setting out a joint vision for the years to come. “We will make the European Union stronger and more resilient, through even greater unity and solidarity amongst us and the respect of common rules.”
For the EU, this is an opportunity for renewal and political consolidation:
- There will be a lengthy and difficult negotiation with the UK but then for a new relationship
- The UK’s departure does not mean that the EU will fall apart. For Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, if there is a positive effect of Brexit, then it is a wake-up call for EU leaders to get their act together. To keep Europe together, he believes, is a complete overhaul of the union is needed.
Times of change create risks and opportunities. Join us for our panel discussion European at a Crossroads at the 2017 FERMA Forum when experts from different sectors will consider whether Europe will take a new direction or find itself at a standstill.
CEO of FERMA