A panel discussion at the Bled Strategic Forum on whether the EU is disintegrating following the UK’s decision on Brexit mostly agreed that the EU was not actually in a crisis, while it must refocus, deal with issues from a larger perspective and reconstruct its relationship with the UK.
Speaking at the panel “European Union: Integration vs. Disintegration”, H. E. Mr Lazăr Comănescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, said that there was a loss of perspective of a broader picture.
Mr Comănescu argued that “we need to talk about development and international cooperation” and that the EU should “deal with big things in a big way”.
Mr Nikola Dimitrov, Distinguished Fellow at The Hague Institute for Global Justice, the Netherlands, does not see the EU being in a crisis, as it is still by far the most successful project of political cooperation in history.
Ms Reva Goujon, Vice President of Global Analysis at Stratford, US, agreed that the EU was not in a crisis, but warned that its focus on economics went too far.
Ms Goujon said that there was a “fault line” in the EU between Germany and France, with the latter representing the south, adding that addressing that issue was very important for the future.
Mr Vijay Rangarajan, Europe Director in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK, argued that Brexit was not really a crisis. The UK is not leaving Europe, but it is constructing a new relationship with the EU, he added.
His view was shared by Dr Sabina Lange, Senior Associate Analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies, who said that the Brexit forced “us to think of new possibilities”.
According to Dr Lange, like-minded countries might seek joint interests, but the EU will survive as “we have lived through a succession of crises, including those with a security dimension”.
Mr Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, said that the EU should focus on peace, stability, prosperity and social justice, otherwise its integrity would be at stake.
Wondering what is “the glue for the EU”, Mr Nikolaos Xydakis, Greece’s Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that the EU was about peace, stability and social justice, arguing that Europe needed to be more socially-oriented.
Dr Žiga Turk, Professor at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, meanwhile wondered what the EU actually was, saying that it could not be based on things like human rights or a fight against climate change.
“It is not enough to build a viable state”, said Dr Turk, stressing that it was understandable that a majority of people build their communities based on instinct.