29 May 2019
Maastricht, reflecting on Europe

‘Europe should look after itself better’

‘People often say that the pace of European cooperation is too high,’ says Hylke Dijkstra, director of the master’s programme in European Studies at Maastricht University. ‘But the opposite is true. The changes aren’t happening fast enough.’ Dijkstra is disappointed in the EU. European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker’s agenda is a failure, he says. Public confidence is low and new players like China are superseding the old continent as a power factor.

Take the initiative

The EU should focus much more on the future to win back public support, Dijkstra says. And it needs to take the initiative. ‘Look at the Paris climate agreement, for example. If you really want to lead the field in the climate debate, you can’t just stand back and let a US president have a go, can you? In future, when you make a trade deal, you should require the other party to ratify and comply with the climate agreement. Then you’d be showing leadership!

In this respect, the EU response to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t give much reason for hope. They’re just standing by and watching as the deal slowly falls apart. Yes, you can say that Europe hasn’t looked after itself very well over the past decades. It’s high time this changed.’

By: Mark van der Linde (text), Philip Driessen (photos)