As Europe’s leaders gather in Portugal to put the finishing touches on the new, slimmed down, Reform Treaty, it might be helpful if they all pretended that the last 50 years of European integration had never taken place. Let’s then imagine what Europe needs to do to confront its most pressing challenges, especially if it were able to do so without the political constraints of 50 years of EU deal-making and ramshackle institution-building.
On top of that, let us make a major leap of imagination and suppose that even though this scenario of the EU at “Year Zero” means we would not have a half-century of intra-European cooperation to draw on, the nations that today make up the EU would nevertheless be keen to adopt far-reaching joint policies.
Let’s suspend our disbelief, then, and try to imagine what Europe could and should be doing to tackle some of the most far-reaching and obstinate policy challenges that will determine whether the next 50 years are as constructive as the last. Or, to put it another way, let’s look at our problems in the light of the EU’s existing mechanisms and its potential for creating far-reaching new policies, and then let’s ask ourselves why the EU isn’t realizing its own potential and delivering the goods.
Broadly, we see three areas in which Europe’s policymakers at both the national and EU levels can do better: global challenges where Europe could show greater leadership, the creation and strengthening of human capital within the EU and worldwide, and improvement in the effectiveness of the EU’s own political machinery.