Brussels – On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, experts warned of the frequent crises hitting the European Union.
Experts say these crises represent an “existential” threat to the EU at a time when it is going through and seeking to recover from an unprecedented divorce from the United Kingdom.
New European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani said on the eve of the anniversary that the “European project has never seemed so far away from the people as it does today.”
The year 2017 is one of all dangers, as the EU has to negotiate the divorce with London, and control the ascension of anti-migrant parties in Germany and France that are skeptical of the European unity’s efficiency.
European leaders and members have long lived by the slogan of Jean Monnet, one of the EU founders, who said: “Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”
Today, however, fears are that the union may be fatally weakened.
Stefan Lehne, scholar at Carnegie Europe, told Agence France Press: “The problem is not that we are facing one major crisis, bit several very dangerous and complex ones.”
“We can no longer guarantee that the EU will get out of these crises unscathed in 2017 and 2018,” he warned.
The former Austrian diplomat said that the EU will at least survive as a unified market because of the rational economic foundations on which it has been built.
However, some people still have faith in the union.
A European studies researcher at the University of Luxembourg recalled other crises such as “the “empty chair crisis” adopted by General de Gaulle in 1965 and 1966 and the late addition of the UK to the Union in the 1970s in wake of the oil and monetary crises.
“Crises hitting the union today threaten the deep meaning of the European project,” he said.
“Peace is still the main focus, but away from that, what sort of economic and social model do we want in Europe?” he asked.
For a decade, the “beautiful idea” of the EU, which was born on the ruins of the World War II, has never experienced peace as unemployment is still high, growth is slow due to the 2007 and 2008 financial crises, and southern countries are facing a debt problem that has created popular discontent.
In 2015, Greece was close to leaving the Eurozone due to austerity measures.
Europeans also failed in stopping the Syrian tragedy and the Ukrainian conflict, which caused sharp tension with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Throughout all this, terrorist attacks have “radically changed the security environment across Europe.”
Divisions were further deepened with the arrival of 1.4 million refugees in 2015 and 2016 through the Mediterranean. Some countries called for banning their entry, while others, like Germany, opened their doors wide to receive them.
“Never before have I seen such fragmentation and also such little convergence in our union,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said last year, while noting that it is passing through an “existential” crisis.