Europe stands for the cooperation of friendly countries – and the European Union provides a structure for this exchange. Elected parliamentarians and experts from all of the member states come together in Brussels and Strasbourg to discuss policies that affect small and medium-sized enterprises as well as more than 500 million Europeans.
This exchange can only work if decisions are made in a democratic and transparent manner. The European Union has grown over the past decades and today unites 28 states. This also brings Germany closer to its neighbours. And yet it cannot be denied that Europe is in crisis – at the very least since Britain voted to leave the union. The VDMA therefore believes that the time has come to rethink the EU.
The European Union is often criticised by both citizens and the business community for interfering in lots of things but being unable to solve the really important problems. Some of this criticism is unfair and exaggerated, but some of it is justified. Friendship notwithstanding, all too often 28 nations are unable to agree on a common policy for Europe. Citizens and the business community then find it hard to understand why the EU is not taking action when everyone can see that action is required.
This is why VDMA is making some concrete suggestions for a reform of the EU. Firstly, we need more democracy in Europe. The European Parliament is directly elected by the citizens and should therefore be strengthened and able to propose legislation itself. Conversely, it should no longer be as easy for governments of individual countries to veto majority EU decisions. Secondly, we need more transparency in Europe. Every citizen should be able to understand which decisions are the responsibility of the European Union and which are that of the member states. Ultimately, people will only accept an EU that they understand.
Everyone stands to gain from a functioning EU – ordinary citizens and the business community alike. This is why it is so important that everyone gets involved in a discussion about the future of the EU. Because one thing is clear: There will be many challenges, now and in the future, that we can only deal with at a European level. No one country on its own can be successful in fighting climate change, meet the challenge of digitalisation or survive in the competition with economic powers such as China and the USA. That’s why it is high time to make the EU effective again, and a place where friendly states can support one another.
9 million people have taken part in the European student exchange programme Erasmus since it was founded 30 years ago