Under the title “Success through Responsibility”, the chair of the German Council of Economic Experts and President of the RWI-Leibnitz Institute for Economic Research in Essen, Professor Christoph M. Schmidt, has published his thoughts on an intellectual and factual reconfiguration of the EU model.

GD – 12/2016

At its core is the consideration that decisions to increase competition through “globalisation”, that is, dismantling shelters and barriers to market access, were on balance worthwhile. This is the only way that better economic performance could be achieved at all. Even if the EU Single Market was a successful model – not only from a German perspective, although this would definitely be the case – there are opponents gathering everywhere. As Schmidt points out, there is a happy medium between walling off a country associated with economic downfall on the one hand and the altruistic self-sacrifice of the (few) remaining economic performers in the EU community on the other.  

Schmidt advocates a new division of responsibilities with “Brussels” ideally responsible for achieving goals associated with joint approaches such as foreign and defence policy, counter-terrorism, asylum access, climate policy and financial monitoring. In other areas – he mentions fiscal policy, labour market policy and social policy – is it more important for the Member States to be willing to take on greater responsibility and be more involved in how things are structured. This way, Member States would be able to sufficiently take into consideration the “preferences of their electorate” at subsidiary level and to clearly release the EU from responsibility for national affairs.  

Schmidt emphasises the need for a functioning EU-Europe while maintaining relevant national states. Based on the current situation and the opinion of many experts from the Brussels scene, this requires considerable restoration efforts to reorient the Brussels apparatus in terms of content and personnel. Currently, things are continuing to muddle along and according to the Swedish newspaper “Dagens Industri”, fixing the old problems would cause new ones at the same time. Observers are of the opinion that a clear course is being avoided just as much as vacuous policies are promised in the mainly cost-neutral run-up to a “substantially extended announcement of a change event”. 

The endless discussions over the “European Pillar of Social Rights” is a clear example of this. At the same time that there is a de facto collapse in the spectrum of services offered by existing national social systems, there is energy, time, words and effort being invested in thinking about predominantly legal extensions in such a way that the paper form of social-legal provision will improve “even more” in the future. If one were to at least report the attainable performance elements that actually are in place in many EU social worlds given national over-indebtedness, it would become clear that many promises in the area of social law have become economically unachievable, law or no law. This could indicate that the EU considers it beneficial in times of social catastrophes in many places to spread messages of edification for the distant, but undefined, future. Whether this really remedies the disappointment of citizens and disenchantment with the EU?