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Europe’s Future Is Up to Us

As 2019 begins, many in the Europe Union are no doubt feeling a sense of despair in the face of mounting environmental, economic, and political threats. But by focusing on four key priorities in the coming year, EU leaders could start to put the European project back on track.

BRUSSELS – Not far from my Brussels office, there is a large fresco with the inscription, “The Future Is Europe.” Once a deeply held truth among most Europeans, this belief is being increasingly challenged today. 

Of course, pessimism comes easy nowadays. While the damaging effects of climate change are playing out before our eyes, the United States’ choice of unilateralism, the rise of China, and escalating geopolitical tensions elsewhere are posing new challenges to European prosperity and security. So, too, does the spread of disinformation and terrorist attacks in the heart of our cities, as we saw again this Christmas season in Strasbourg, France. 

Yet this is not the time for defeatism. Now more than ever, we Europeans need collective action in defense of our values and a rules-based international order. This could be Europe’s moment, based on a more robust and decisive European Union, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently called for. To achieve this, Europeans will have to come together to tackle the challenges to our sovereignty, and to ensure responsive governance. That means asserting both national and European sovereignty in trade, defense, and the digital sector, lest China and the US end up imposing their own rules on us. And it means bringing national governments and EU institutions closer to European citizens. As Brexit and the “Yellow Vest” protests have shown, the fault lines cutting across European societies can no longer be ignored.

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