State of the union
- Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case: Javed Sheikh's father moves CBI court against Amit Shah, ex-DGP; wants them arraigned
- Editors body slams Arvind Kejriwal for 'irresponsible' media remark, says it is a sign of 'weakness'
- Seven-storey building collapses in Mumbai
- Goa court grants permission to Tarun Tejpal to meet his ailing mother
- Arvind Kejriwal alleges whole media is sold, backtracks later
The deeper significance of David Cameron's speech, though, lies in its eloquent analysis of the anomalies that plague the EU project. Three key structural challenges that face the EU were highlighted. First, it is clear that the difficulties of the eurozone are currently driving fundamental change in Europe. The EU is changing to help the currency — and that has profound implications for its constituents, whether in the single currency or not. In order to ward off the notion of a "two-speed" Europe, member states outside the eurozone urgently need safeguards to ensure that their access to the single market is not in any way compromised.
Second, there is a crisis of European competitiveness, as other nations across the world and the rising powers of the East leap ahead. Taken as a whole, Europe's share of world output is projected to fall by almost a third in the next two decades. There is little doubt that a penchant for excessive centralisation and bureaucracy is stifling business and discouraging enterprise within the EU.
Most fundamentally though, there is a gap between the EU and its citizens that has widened in recent years. Europe continues to be perceived as an elitist project. Unsurprisingly, there is a growing frustration, with the EU being seen as something that is done to people rather than as acting on their behalf. People are increasingly outraged that decisions taken remotely mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or that their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent. As technocrats strive towards fashioning an "ever closer union" as the answer to the continent's fiscal woes, the truth is that this delusional vision remains far removed from the wishes of ordinary citizens.
The long-term answer lies in a leaner and less bureaucratic union that is able to respect the diversity of its member states. Such a reformed union will need to be flexible, promote competitiveness and accept a much greater role for national parliaments without insisting on a broken, one-size fits all approach. The promise of a referendum in Britain has highlighted these underlying sentiments with clarity. The truth is that for a majority of ordinary citizens, the EU is a means to an end — prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond — not an end in itself. But it remains to be seen whether the bureaucrats in Brussels will be prepared to listen to this unequivocal message.