The future of Europe: a Polish perspective: Krzysztof Szczerski argues the need for the European project to be rooted in the will of the citizens and firmly established upon loyal co-operation of the states.

AuthorSzczerski, Krzysztof

Contemporary Europe needs to respond positively to the problems that preoccupy citizens of its member states. It has to become, yet again, an answer, not a question mark. Europe must not multiply doubts; it has to dispel them. For we, as advocates of European integration need an efficient Europe, a Europe which provides answers to the Europeans, rather than one which poses more questions to them.

In order to make that happen, we need to have four unities and four freedoms secured within Europe. It is an absolutely necessary precondition to ensure that Europe will be able to become an answer again, an answer founded on the tradition of European integration.

The above-mentioned four unities are as follows: the unity of law, the unity of institutions, the unity of the market and the unity of the budget. We have to defend these four unities in the process of EU reform. Any kind of division in the acquis communautaire, any kind of division in the institutions, any kind of division in the market and any kind of division in the budget is contrary to the idea of European integration.

We can and we should enjoy the four freedoms within the framework of the same law, the same set of institutions, the common market and the common budget. The freedoms referred to above are as follows: the freedom of employment (the movement of persons), the freedom of trade, the freedom of services and the free flow of capital.

The problem faced by the European policy today is that the four unities as well as the four freedoms are subject to serious political pressure. For what we are seeing in Europe now is a double loop of populism. There is the populism of the peripheries, which in some European states is supported by several per cent of voters. In some countries it is almost able to come into power, but so far it has not been capable of forming systemic coalitions. Nevertheless, it has made its presence felt in most European countries.

Destructive populism

At the same time, however, we are also witnessing another type of populism: the institutional populism, the mainstream populism that has already acquired legitimacy. Its representatives, due to being part of the mainstream, enjoy the right to legitimised statements. This sort of populism is equally or even more destructive for the unity of the market, institutions, law and the European budget, because, unlike the populism of the peripheries, this kind of populism is considered acceptable and reformist in its nature. This kind of populism, though, includes ideas that jeopardise the unity of law, institutions, the market, the budget or the free movement of persons, services, trade and capital. These activities are undertaken in the name of countering an alleged social dumping in the market, or simply in the name of protectionism and national interests, contrary to the idea of the common energy security, to name just one example.

Therefore, it is important for us to remember that we must defend the four unities and four freedoms not only against the populism of the peripheries but also against the mainstream populism, which has entered European politics today as part of the mainstream European debate and starts to assume legal forms, as demonstrated by the posted workers debate. In order to save the four unities and four freedoms, we have to respond to challenges in four areas.

The first is the political sphere. I believe in Europe based on representative democracy and responsive governance. This entails a Europe in which those in power and European institutions alike bear greater responsibility vis-a-vis European societies that...

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