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We should renew our pledge to EU, and decide what it is that we want from the Union


Police on patrol in Rome yesterday as European leaders arrived to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the EU’s founding Treaty of Rome

Police on patrol in Rome yesterday as European leaders arrived to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the EU’s founding Treaty of Rome

AFP/Getty Images

Police on patrol in Rome yesterday as European leaders arrived to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the EU’s founding Treaty of Rome

European integration was a project created by the people, for the people. It was a movement of a generation who came together to proclaim 'never again!' after a half-century of horrific war. With the Treaties of Rome on March 25, 1957, the EU's first six members consigned the ghost of Europe's past to the history books, leaving them as a cautionary tale for future generations never to repeat.

On the 60th anniversary of that fateful date, we are marking the birth of the European project anew. With a changing and uncertain world around us, the time has come to renew our vows, and reaffirm our commitment to a united future - in which all citizens and all member states are treated equally.


Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: PA

Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: PA


Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: PA

Of course, it is regrettable that, shortly after the celebration of our 60th anniversary, we will receive the divorce letter of the UK. The implications of this decision will be felt nowhere more than in Ireland. Ireland will be part of a new Europe of 27, which must act resolutely to meet the expectations of its citizens.

For this we must seek new answers to an old question: Where do we go from here? We do not have those answers, as they are not ours alone to give. Europe cannot be instructed through executive orders or dictated in 'splendid isolation'. This is a question that has to be taken to the people.

For too long there has been a gap between what people expect and what Europe can deliver. We do not pretend that Europe can solve all problems, but nor should we entertain the notion that individual nation states can achieve everything alone. Ireland has benefited enormously from its membership of the EU, whether in development of its infrastructure or its ability to create employment, and Europe has benefited from Irish membership. Now is the time for an honest debate about what we want from our Union.

We could carry on as we are; not resting on our laurels, but focusing all our energy on delivering on the big issues, on our positive agenda of completing the internal market, the digital single market, creating an energy union and a capital markets union.

We could go the other way entirely, and choose an EU 27 focusing only on the single market. But Europe is far more than a market of goods and money. To say otherwise is to betray the values we fought for, on battlefields and soapboxes over centuries.

As a third scenario, we could allow some member states to forge ahead in areas already framed by the treaties, leaving the door open for others to follow when they are ready. This is already a reality today, with varied groups of countries already set to either create an EU patent court or harmonise their laws on divorce and property regimes for international couples or set up a European public prosecutor to fight fraud against the EU budget. These examples of enhanced co-operation show that we do not need everyone to go forward at the same speed, but we do need everyone pulling in the same direction.

Another variant could be for the EU 27 to do a lot more, all together, in a small number of areas where our actions really add value and where citizens expect us to act. This would effectively mean more of 'doing less' in areas where member states cannot agree or are better placed to deal with the issue alone.

Finally, member states could also go full throttle and decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board.

These five scenarios are all feasible. They will be hotly debated by national parliaments, governments, civil society, people from all walks of life. In reality, Europe's future is most likely to be etched in a sixth scenario, of your own design.

Europe has a date with democracy in 2019 and from now until the elections we want every voice to be heard. Our future has to be designed and owned by us all. When it comes to the EU, it has always been too easy for leaders to say what they do not want. Now they need to organise debates that reach every corner of Europe to decide on what it is they do want.

Whatever road we end up following, the future is ours for the making.

For 60 years Europe achieved the unachievable: a stay in the everlasting European tragedy of war and peace. But this Europe is not a given. Europe always was and remains today a choice. And the choices we make today, tomorrow, in two years from now, have to be guided by a full understanding of their implications, not for us, but for the generations to come.

Because we will be judged not for what we inherited but for what we leave behind.

Jean-Claude Juncker is President of the European Commission

Irish Independent