The former Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, was in charge of conducting the latest edition of the European Breakfasts that CIDOB organises regularly with the support of Abertis and the Europe for Citizens program. On this occasion, the challenges that the new European Commission will have to face were the main focus of his speech.
Firstly, Letta highlighted the contradictions that we are living in the current period, characterised by increasingly global issues yet agendas that remain domestic. In this sense, when EU decisions are taken, the 28 member states build 28 different stories to suit their national press and agendas. This trend makes it impossible for the creation of a European story and thus citizens cannot perceive a common framework or develop a global vision of the Union.
Referring to some of the EU’s key moments -Bretton Woods, Maastricht Treaty, Financial Stability Board after the fall of Lehman Brothers- Letta believes that the G-20 meetings in Brisbane and St Petersburg after the start of the crisis were an important missed opportunity to build this new European tale and to become the natural place to discuss these global issues.
With regard to the new European Commission, the former Prime Minister said that its priority would be to avoid a new crisis -which would be the third in seven years-, and highlighted three aspects of the new team led by Juncker:
· The new European Commission will have the largest presence of former senior officials from the 28 member states of its history.
· It will be the Commission with the highest level of legitimacy ever.
· And, at the same time, it will be the most German-influenced Commission so far.
Moreover, he also identified the major challenges that must be addressed:
· Rebuild public trust: Europe should be a platform of opportunity, not only a series of duties and obligations.
· Juncker Investment Plan (3 billion euros): it is essential to invest in the energy sector -for example in gas interconnections- and in employment generation for youth.
· Promote a new Competition Act that allows mergers in Europe.
· Work for a more efficient and less bureaucratic Europe.
· Reach an agreement on the TTIP.
· Stop focusing the debate between pro-austerity and anti-austerity: Europe should keep fiscal discipline but also bet on growth.
· Regarding Foreign and Security Policy, Letta underlined that Russia is back and the United States are no longer gas-dependent; Europe must speak to Russia with a single voice.
All in all, to Enrico Letta it is obvious that we need a more united Europe: if we want to keep European values (Human Rights, Environment, Labour Rights, Democracy), if we want to stay influential, we must be more united; Europe is no longer the centre of the world and it should be able to gain competitiveness in order to continue leading the world according to the principles on which it was forged.