The glass half full!
Since the signature of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957, we have enjoyed 60 years of relative peace, democratic consensus and until recently, prosperity for most EU citizens. But perceptions have changed. The EU is facing uncertain times and citizens are waiting for answers. The election of President Trump and the British decision to leave the EU have created uncertainty and fears on the eve of important elections in France, Netherlands, Germany (and possibly Italy). These have the potential to accentuate the already burgeoning populist sentiment. There is a need to find solutions, to trigger a new dynamic for citizens - in particular the young - and to reignite belief and trust in the European project. An important part of the solution is more Europe rather than less, a Europe that creates growth and jobs for all.
Communications are key. More must be done to highlight the positive role of the EU and show its concrete benefits. Politicians and civil servants must be better equipped to rebut campaigns based on lies and exaggeration, rather than facts. Of course, it is not easy because with the multiplicity of social media platforms, false stories quickly proliferate and the truth can become overly simplified. For example, it is difficult for the EU Trade Commissioner to explain the benefits of a 1,000 pages+ treaty which has been negotiated over the span of several years, and to rebut every piece of misinformation that could jeopardize the ratification of the deal.
A new President of the Parliament was also elected this week as well as new vice-presidents and chairs of Committees for the rest of the mandate which will run until 2019; precisely when the Brexit process could be completed. New coalitions are being formed between parties bringing a new dynamic in the EP which we hope will work at reinforcing the European Union.
Many challenges ahead, but we prefer to look forward with optimism. The glass is half-full. Honestly.
Paul Skehan, Director General*
*in his capacity as permanent representative of Skehan sprl