United in disunity: European leaders celebrate three years of no progress in Sibiu

“Frankly, only the date on top of the Leaders’ statement can tell us what year it is. Three years after the Bratislava summit 2016, which followed the Brexit referendum, we find ourselves precisely in the same spot: we’ve wasted valuable time, the window of opportunity to deliver a Europe for citizens, and by citizens, came and went. We need European solutions urgently, not least to stop the more far-right and illiberal forces from rising to power. The alarm bells have been ringing for years now, will EU leaders ever wake up?”, comments Christopher Glueck, President of JEF Europe.

After the dismal outcome of the Brexit referendum, one could have been excused for believing that such a historical turning point would have lead to a deep rethinking of the European status quo. In March 2017, thousands took the streets in Rome to call for further European integration - for a European Federation! President Juncker’s State of the Union Speech and French President Macron’s Sorbonne Speech in 2017 - calling for a stronger, united and more democratic Union - seemed to mark a new start for Europe. The excitement has faded away by now. Resources were wasted on Leaders’ summit after Leaders’ summit, with President’s Tusk unable to unite European Heads of State and Government around anything more than generic commitments to the EU. But which EU? The White Paper on the Future of Europe, and the ill-constructed debates and discussions around it, provided nothing more than a shiny Parliament appearance for many European leaders. Three years after the Bratislava summit there is no substantial change to the Leaders’ non-vision for Europe. It feels like the Sibiu Declaration could have been written just then - three years ago - with the only difference being that today we have different European leaders sitting around the table.

With the rise of new destructive powers across the world, the challenges of adjusting to a fast-paced and fast-changing world around us and new threats that we are not even yet aware of, European integration has never been more urgent. In the last three years we have been hearing about constant new challenges – an ever changing economy and world of work, climate change and worrying global trends, the spread of fake-news, threats to Europe’s security – and yet, no new solutions have been proposed by European Leaders to successfully address these challenges. Today in Sibiu, we find them comfortably sitting in the echo chamber of the same old status quo rhetoric.

“While institutions and EU leaders keep fighting 21st century challenges with 19th century tools and wasting resources on half-baked solutions that cannot be made to last, we European federalists have been screaming out - loud and proud! - the solution for the past decade. The only way forward is through deeper and more democratic integration. The Commission’s contribution to the Sibiu debate is correct: Europe is not yet a federal state. This is precisely why it’s failing at defending its citizens security and prosperity. We need a federal Union, because the only way we can successfully address European challenges is through new, ambitious European solutions – and that requires political leaders to take a step forward in the political integration of the European Union,”  concludes Glueck.