The European Union is riddled with overlapping problems. The euro currency crisis, diverging policies on Russia and Turkey, irregular migration patterns, rising nationalism, terrorism and Euroskepticism are just a few — not to mention the Brexit. With all of these issues piling up, it’s little wonder that some EU leaders have judged the European project to be on the brink of its demise. As Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, put it in 2015, “the failure of Europe is a realistic scenario.” But just as many have assumed the Continent’s collapse to be a reality, two political figures have offered much-needed optimism for Europe’s future.A Shared Vision for ReformThe wide array of proposals that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron laid out in recent speeches are not only comprehensive but also strikingly similar. On Sept. 13 in Strasbourg, France, Juncker presented a timeline for a more unified, robust and democratic union. Among several initiatives intended to further this goal, the most notable were the conclusion of new free trade agreements, digitization and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. He also suggested that European Parliament elections offer a transnational ticket. Beyond the Continent’s internal policies, Juncker called for the creation of a cybersecurity agency, the establishment of an EU defense force and the accession of the Western Balkans to the bloc.Nearly two weeks later, the newly elected Macron echoed the need for the European Union to become more democratic and sovereign. During a keynote speech at Sorbonne university in Paris, the French president presented himself as the chief architect of the European Union’s development. By his diagnosis, the Continent reacts far too slowly to emerging issues, including far-right nationalism, isolationism and anti-immigration sentiment. His prognosis: a revived and integrated Europe. A European border police force, a European asylum and immigration authority, a European prosecutor against terrorism, a European intervention force and a European civil protection body would all represent strides toward his vision of the Continent. To make the European project more meaningful in the hearts and minds of its citizens, moreover, Macron stressed the need to reform the bloc’s overbearing bureaucracy, in part by reducing the number of EU commissioners from 28 to 15.Where the two leaders’ suggestions notably differ are in the economic orientation of Macron’s proposals and the motive behind them: to garner German support. The French president has argued that the European Union’s macroeconomic decisions ought to be better coordinated with enterprise and insolvency laws, and that European social funds should be established. In addition to reducing unemployment, particularly among youths, Macron also aims to close the gap between minimum wage structures across the Continent.
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