European Union head pushes integration
Barroso was appointed president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, in 2004 and was reelected in 2009. Before his tenure at the Commission, Barroso served as Portugal’s prime minister from 2002 to 2004.
Rejecting scholarly speculation that the project of European integration is losing steam, Barroso pointed to recent steps taken by EU institutions and by European citizens that showed a continued resolve to strengthen the EU and weather the crippling debt crisis.
“The reality is . . . reports on the so-called ‘death of European integration’ are greatly exaggerated,” Barroso said. “I recognize that for our friends abroad it may not always be easy to understand Europe, its decision-making process — and through this integrated capacity Europeans make very important decisions. But the good news is that, in the midst of the deepest crisis in its short history, the European Union is still alive and better [off] than many seem to think.”
Noting that critics, often termed “Euroskeptics,” try to portray pro-integrationist arguments as the only alternative to solving the debt crisis, Barroso made the point that integration is the best among many alternatives that the leaders of Europe could adopt to save the monetary union.
“It is not the only alternative — it is, I repeat, the best — and we need more Europe today,” he said.
In a world of continent-sized players, Barroso argued, no European country can seriously hope to exert influence and to preserve its standard of living without membership in a union representing all of Europe. But the values of peace, democracy, tolerance, justice and rule of law that lie at the heart of the Lisbon Treaty, which functions as an EU constitution, also speak to the value of European integration.
The history of integration has always proceeded in steps — some are bigger, like the Treaty of Rome, and others smaller, like the Maastricht Treaty — but now Europe is in great need of a “very big leap forward,” Barroso said. He explained that this leap ought to result in a genuine economic and monetary union that has banking, fiscal and political functions.
Barroso argued the solution could lie in a “democratic federation of nation-states,” which could reconcile member states’ autonomy with the capacity to act decisively and respond to economic problems. Such a step would need the support of Europeans, he acknowledged.
In an interview with The Daily Princetonian following the lecture, Barroso added that future steps toward political union need to be better explained to European citizens and that European leaders need to be held more accountable.
Despite doubts about the EU’s viability, Barroso said, there is still much support for the union both in Europe and abroad.
“[The EU] is still very much in demand by its own citizens and, I want to remind you, by the rest of the world,” Barroso said. “The European Union remains, more than ever, an indispensable partner for a world economy in stability and prosperity.”
The EU’s value as a single market and trading partner, support of free markets, democratic model and leadership in sustainable development were just a few of the assets that Barroso said made the EU an indispensable partner.
Barroso also told the ‘Prince’ he is enjoying his trip to the United States so far and that he is impressed by the University.
“I am always enjoying coming to the States; I was in fact living two years here as a visiting professor in Washington D.C.,” Barroso said. “But Princeton . . . I came here some years ago with the [politics] department . . . and now I came here because precisely, Princeton, I’m sure you agree, is one of the best universities in the world.”
The talk, entitled “European Union: An Indispensable Partner,” was sponsored by the Wilson School, the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, the European Union Program and the Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society.