This question should be answered in the context of a global world view. The European Union is composed of 28 countries. A trade union connecting these countries defines an internal market in Europe that makes its own conjuncture and allows itself to disconnect for a certain time from global conjuncture.
Nineteen countries of the EU have introduced the euro as their common currency. The introduction of the euro has caused many problems, which will be discussed later in this article. Despite these issues, the euro, along with the U.S. dollar and the renminbi, is currently one of the three most important currencies in the world.
The security that the EU has caused should also not be underestimated. In its history, Europe has never had a period of peace lasting more than 50 years. Today, Europe has had 70 years of peace, and most Europeans cannot imagine any violence between European countries.
Furthermore, the EU promotes democracy. Presently, two Eastern European countries show autocratic tendencies, but there are also reactions that criticize and hinder such tendencies.
Now we come to the question in the headline above: Is it possible to empower the EU? If the answer is yes, it is necessary to explain the obstacles to such empowerment. Those are described below.
1. The economic trade union connects the European countries in one economic bloc. This makes the countries depend on each other. Stronger countries thus claim that they are suffering due to the bad performance of weaker countries. However, these stronger countries forget that one powerful reason for their economic strength is that they are able to do business in a larger economy. The overall economic performance of the EU is not really a disaster. There are some strong-performing countries and some black sheep. The solution lies in finding tools for achieving better balance in this situation.
2. Because EU countries all use the euro, they have an additional interdependency. This interdependency is strong because certain parameters must be kept in place to ensure that the euro thrives. Recall the never ending discussions about Greece. It is important to recognize that the Greek economy accounts for only 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product of the eurozone. This small country did more damage to Europe than it would have if the European countries had been as strong and connected as the states of the U.S.
3. All states of the EU are members of NATO. Thus, these countries are connected in a large society and cooperate to help any member country threatened from the outside. This is surely also a guarantee that the countries will likely not have disputes with one another. Presently, there is a dispute with the new Polish government, but, with luck, the dispute will be resolved soon. A year ago, the Polish government asked for NATO to have a stronger presence due to the violence between Russia and the Ukraine. Now the new government is concentrated only on itselfs and does not consider foreign affairs. This nationalism is disturbing the EU.
4. The EU is promoting democracy. Much needed is a common understanding of law and order and that the rules defined by the EU are necessary. These are preconditions for the functionality of the EU.
Collectively, the aforementioned points raise one issue: The EU works only if common behavior and common rules can be applied in all countries of the EU. How can that be done?
All four points above also have one idea in common: if there were a common approach by all countries to the above mentioned issues, the EU would be much stronger, and questions about its long-term existence would never be raised. Some ideas have been proposed that seem like steps in the right direction. One of these is giving the European Central Bank the task of managing the euro.
For all the above mentioned subjects, member countries must give up some of their sovereignty. At the present time, it seems to have become even more difficult to repair even a few of the design weaknesses of the EU. Some longtime members of the EU are now changing their democratic constitutions and moving toward autocracy or nationalism. Hungary has been moving in this direction for some years, and now Poland, since its last election, is strongly and visibly pushing toward autocracy and nationalism. In France, it was only possible to stop the successes of the nationalistic Front National in the second round.
The different EU countries have very different approaches toward Syrian refugees. Every European country follows its own agenda in this respect. Here, it would be advantageous for the EU to make itself clear. Additionally, journalists should help to inform society and not always to ask: “Will the EU brake on that subject?” This question makes uncertain people even more uncertain.
To assure the long-term existence of the EU, member governments must relinquish some of their sovereignty and establish organizations that will apply common rules to all member states and that will have the power to punish if the rules are not followed.
At the same time, it is necessary to more clearly inform the world of the advantages of the EU. This must be done as soon as possible if Europe intends to play an important role in the world economy over the next few years.
I hope this article opens up a discussion that will develop a road map to improve process, to finally set action in motion and to repair the design mistakes that were made when the EU was established.