What will this Europe of 2024 look like? As I have said, Europe’s unity is the basis of this overhaul. The European Union in 2024 will be brought together on two pillars, in my view. The first represents the values of democracy and the rule of law. They’re nonnegotiable, there can be no cherry-picking. On values, there can be no two-speed Europe. They are the catalyst for our unity and freedom. And in this respect, I want to pay tribute to the ongoing work by the Commission in recent months, and in particular that of Frans Timmermans.
The second pillar is the single market, which is still the best guarantee of our power, prosperity and attractiveness. The work of simplification undertaken over the past three years by the current Commission must be continued and broadened. I’d like us to resume the European debate we initiated before the British vote.
The 28 of us need a simpler, more transparent, less bureaucratic Europe! If the vitality of the law is Europe’s strength, the profusion of standards sparks its rejection. Together with business leaders, NGOs and citizens’ panels, we should gradually review European rules to check they are appropriate, understood, useful.
The single market — simple, effective, protecting — must become, once again, an area of convergence rather than competition. The same goes for its external mirror image, namely trade policy. I hear the ambitions put forward by some, but I say to them: “Careful, I’m ready to follow you, but only if this trade policy is radically updated, radically changed. I don’t want new trade talks with yesterday’s rules, which have led us to the absurd situations we have today on the agreement between Europe and Canada.” We need to have transparent negotiations and we need the trade agreements to be implemented. We need environmental stringency in our trade debates. And we need reciprocity, by creating a European trade prosecutor tasked with verifying adherence to the rules by our competitors and immediately issuing penalties for any unfair practices.
In order to work better, this European Union cannot escape the issue of its institutions. We won’t be able to continue with a Commission of nearly 30 members, as if they each had to take care of their country’s interests. That’s neither the meaning nor the spirit of the European project. A 15strong Commission will have to be our goal, and in order to make progress let us be simple: the major founding countries should give up their commissioners, for a start! We will set the example. This will enable us to bring together skills rather than fragmenting them.
This EU of the market and law has a remit to open itself up more widely in a few years’ time. Why? Because this European Union — based on values and this single market, simplified and overhauled in this way, closer to our citizens and more stringent on trade — is a Europe whose borders are not finalized.
When they fully respect the acquis and democratic requirements, this EU will have to open itself up to the Balkan countries, because our EU is still attractive and its aura is a key factor of peace and stability on our continent. They’ll have to respect the conditions stipulated, but securing them to a European Union reinvented in this way is a precondition for their not turning their backs on Europe and moving towards either Russia or Turkey, or towards authoritarian powers that don’t currently uphold our values.