Tibor Navracsics, the minister of regional development, said Europe’s very existence is dependent on its citizens, so EU policymaking must better represent the European people as well as reflect the agendas of its institutions. Speaking at a conference on Monday, Navracsics said EU institutions must overhaul the way they think, and integration must no longer be seen as an “elite project”.
Regarding current debates on migration, market protection, and energy, pressure is building for decisions made at the European level to represent the opinion of European people, he told the conference organized by the Századvég Foundation to discuss the findings of its Europe Project research in 2022. The minister said Brexit was a warning sign that must not be ignored, which went to the heart of the identity of European integration. It was also a signal that EU institutions must rethink the future of Europe together with its citizens, he added. The question of whether Europe can exist without Europeans is “absurd”, yet nascent European integration after the second world war was an “elite project” which was not based on the cooperation of citizens but of states, he said. The migration and climate crisis, the war in Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis have “created tension points” within the bloc that now impact the everyday life of citizens as well as the ties between member states and the EU, he said. The next generation will be the first since the second world war to face worse financial and career opportunities than their parents, he said. “So Europe is living through hard times — but this should not speak against it, but for it,” he said. The past 70 years of European integration have shown that “all hurdles and crises can be vanquished if European institutions look at what connects rather than what separates them,” he said. He said participation in European Parliament elections had been falling gradually, indicating that Europeans were not especially politically engaged. Voters saw EP elections in which the turnout was 30-40% as of “secondary interest”, he added. The 2019 election, however, saw a turning point, as the euro and migrant crises of previous years were topics that appeared to concern citizens living in countries with different geopolitical backgrounds. Now the two most important topics are migration and climate change, he said.
Kinga Kenyeres, the director of organizer Századvég Konjunktúrakutató, said the institute’s Project Europe gauged the opinion of people for the 8th time this year. The survey included 38 countries in the EU and the Western Balkans, and included the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway.