Europe without Brussels, remaking the EU without the Brussels Bubble. What would Europe look like in 2020?

Summer has arrived and everyone is looking forward to enjoying their holidays! Even though outside is stiflingly hot, I keep getting distracted by a simple question: what if Brussels were not Brussels anymore? I mean, that Brussels bubble, that political one which seems to bring so many problems? Well, it’s a tough question… We can only imagine!

Since 2008, the European Union has been dealing with the largest economic crisis in its history. If the EU manages to get through it safe and sound, it will have proved its reliability and viability. If not, our EUtopia may be the answer. However, the economic facet of the crisis is not the only one, because, as everyone can see, the EU does not look pretty to its citizens. Only 31% trust the Union, while the majority does not feel represented and thinks that there is a great gap between politics and normal life. As far as we can see, we are surrounded by Euro-scepticism and criticism, but little has been done to improve the situation.

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The Palace of Nations, Brussels, Belgium. | Photo: The library of congress; free of copyright

But that was in 2013. Now we are talking about our European Union, our 2020 EU! What has changed since then? The EU has come closer to its citizens and become theirs, the Brussels bubble has disappeared and, even though there are some common laws, we look more federal and independent as states.

How has this happened? The main driving force was the increased role of the younger generation, who understood that they had an enormous part to play in creating the future Europe and took the initiative to cooperate. With wide internet access making international communication simple, the people of Europe were able to learn and build upon the mistakes of the past. They drew up a new strategy. Unlike the ‘official’ Europe 2020 Strategy, Our Europe 2020 Strategy was conceived as an effect of citizens’ involvement, of awareness. But maybe you don’t remember the Europe 2020 Strategy. It was a growth strategy for 2010-2020, aimed at boosting employment, innovation, education and social inclusion, and tackling climate change. The strategy, which set goals for the EU as a whole, as well as for each member state, failed to become reality, because it was too idealistic. Instead of this, we initiated a ‘step-by-step’ strategy, adapted to each country’s needs. This was revised every year to ensure that it continued to work properly.

The new strategy carried in its core the simple reasons why the Union was formed in 1993: preserving peace, creating stability, spreading tolerance and democracy. Twenty years on, in 2013, when the reconstruction began, it seemed that the EU was far from being stable for as long as there was a power struggle among the political classes. So, it was decided that there should not be a political elite at Brussels but a technocratic one, composed of elected economists, researchers, sociologists and psychologists. The crucial factor was that the specialists knew what would benefit the Union as a whole, as well as the separate member states. The body of social scientists was then able to predict the impact of the proposed changes on individual members of the population. People such as Brian Cox or George Soros became involved in developing active citizenship and are now part of the technocratic elite who rule the EU. This was founded on the idea that if you have the knowledge, you have the power – you just need an approach that suits the whole population. This was progress!

By making the Brussels Bubble disappear the feeling of marginalisation and under-representation vanished.

When the Brussels bubble disappeared, the feeling of marginalisation and under-representation vanished. One of the first innovative moves was the transition towards direct democracy, using the internet and mobile phones to gather information via polls and referendums. Citizens felt secure, convinced that we were really involved in the decision-making process and that Europe was really ours. Since 2013, the change has become more tangible, bureaucracy has been reduced and efficiency has increased. The people are far more satisfied by the current leadership, with an astounding 68% expressing trust in the EU.

The enlargement process was restarted, more countries began to respect and implement the norms and ideals of the EU and were allowed to enter. The Union overcame its tolerance problems with Turkey, which was finally admitted in 2015. This happened when the Union campaigned for solidarity and tolerance across all states. Disinformation was reduced and citizens could make up their own minds when they voted on the Turkish accession. The referendum had one of the highest turnouts recorded, with nearly 80% of EU citizens making their way to the polling stations. Turkey entered in a landslide victory with 78% of voters supporting its inclusion. Seeing that the Union was ready to make this step, Turkey decided to reciprocate and made a compromise by recognising Greek Cyprus and coming to a settlement with their age-old rivals. On the other side, both countries accepted the situation as it was, thinking that this tacit conflict had lasted for too long. Iceland became a member state even faster, after only four years of negotiations. The path leading into the Western Balkans, opened by Slovenia in 2004 and extended by Croatia in 2013, was continued through to Montenegro and Serbia, although this process was slower than planned. We expect the last chapter of negotiations to be closed for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania within the next two years. And their accession cannot come soon enough, bearing in mind that they applied for full membership five years ago. At a glance, I can add that we have two more possible candidate countries – Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. They claimed their European status long ago, but it took longer than we thought to make up a personalised accession strategy for these Eastern countries, which were previously members of the Eastern Partnership.

So, we are now in 2020, with a technocratic Brussels and a European Turkey. There are still many problems to be solved, but at least we have managed to involve our citizens. High quality education and reliable information have made things much easier and allowed everyone, from teenagers and working adults to the retired and elderly, to become truly involved in what was really their own business all along.

How is your Europe 2020?

Cover Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; CC BY 2.0 (Flickr)

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