During May 2017 some of the myths about the EU fell apart.
But it still has real problems, like huge youth unemployment and voter concern about open borders.
- National elections: anti-EU candidates trounced in national elections. The clear victory of pro-EU Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 second round of French elections followed a similar win for pro-EU parties in earlier Dutch elections and was followed on May 14 by the collapse of the anti-EU party in Germany’s most populous state. The widely-touted belief in the UK and US that the EU is disintegrating is plain political nonsense
- The EU regained its ability to do trade deals. It’s been true over the past year that deals the EU has agreed – with Canada, Vietnam and Singapore – have been taking an eternity to get confirmed. Sometimes, this had been because the EU required each of its 28 members to decide individually – giving each the chance to veto a deal.
But a May 16 decision from the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, has severely limited the grounds for allowing individual countries’ objections.
With Japan, several SE Asian countries, and the South American Mercosur federation (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay) all actively chasing EU deals, the European Union is now by far the worlds most actively pursued potential trading partner. And it’s still extending concessions to poorer countries: as from May 19, Sri Lanka has been reinstated into the EU’s duty-free GSP+ programme.
- Even the Trump administration has given up decrying it. For months after Trump won the US Presidency, his team kept saying they want to negotiate trade with countries one at a time – and that the EU was doomed to fail.
By late April, though, after Angela Merkel reportedly told Trump eleven times in succession that Germany would not negotiate separately with the US, America was even talking about reviving negotiations with the EU over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – which everyone thought the US had abandoned.
The real questions the EU has to deal with aren’t the likelihood of imminent break-up. They’re:
- Dealing with the irrational, anti-trade and loutish behaviour of the US President
- The EU’s sluggish economy
- The effectiveness and widespread unpopularity of policies on immigration, the Euro, open borders and trade policies
- The continuing emergence of populist parties throughout the EU: unable to gain power, but often creating pressures to abandon the past 50 years’ EU consensus on trade
- Continuing threats to national stability of terrorist attacks