The EU is indispensable, as a look at the world situation shows. But this has not yet reached the citizens. The Union needs reform to fix its most important problem.

It’s true: the European Union is challenged like rarely in its history. Unless all signs are correct, the elections to the European Parliament on June 9th will primarily strengthen the right-wing populists. The migration pact has been passed, but migration is anything but under control. Deep fissures run through the continent over the issue of aid to Ukraine. And there is no lack of fundamental challenges either.

I am all too aware of this; I have discussed the EU’s deficits more than once. Nevertheless, I am still a deeply convinced European today and counter the critics and skeptics of the European project: In a globalized world, the EU is simply indispensable and has no alternative for citizens and companies! It is an unprecedented model of success. And we should do everything we can not to jeopardize their successes.

To come to this conclusion, it is enough to look at reality. The EU has proven itself to be a brilliant peace project since its founding. There have been and are no wars between its member states. A look to the east shows that this is anything but a given today.

Equally important is that in a world with eight billion people, the EU with its 450 million citizens offers the necessary base to have sufficient global influence. No EU member alone – not even Germany – would be able to assert its interests in concert with the major players USA, China and soon India.

Prof. Dr. Klemens Joos teaches at the Technical University of Munich and has been an honorary professor of business administration since 2022. He is a board member of the European Academy of Bavaria and a recipient of the Bavarian Order of Merit. Joos is the founder and managing partner of EUXEA Holding GmbH, a group of companies with 18 companies.

With reference to the economic dynamics in the USA and China, the EU has for some time been accused of paralyzing rather than stimulating the economy. Here too it is worth taking a look at reality. Not least for economic reasons, the British left the EU and thus took part in an experiment under real conditions. The results are more than sobering.

Because where is the promised boom in the British economy after Brexit? Where are the prophesied free trade agreements with other states or regions? Instead, 50,000 new customs officers had to be hired to deal with the consequences of the exit from the internal market and thus from the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

I also do not accept the widespread accusations of snail-paced behavior against the EU. For comparison, the United States took over 100 years and a civil war to complete its unification process after its founding. In comparison, the EU is moving at high speed.

In my opinion, another point is more serious: a false perception among large parts of the population, but also among parts of the elite in the member states, about the central importance of the EU for all citizens and companies. In my opinion, the reason for this is an insufficient engagement with the EU.

De facto we already have the United States of Europe. An example of this is the enormous loss of importance of member state politics: 70 to 80 percent of member state laws have their origin in the EU. Most citizens and companies are not even aware of this.

The result can be seen in the current election campaign for the European Parliament. The EU’s existential questions, such as its ability to defend itself in the event that Donald Trump becomes US President again, or the relationship between the economy and ecology, hardly play a role. The reasons for that are complex.

The European elections consist of national ballots in the 27 member states. So there are 27 member state election campaigns. This increases the tendency of politicians to focus primarily on member state politics in the European election campaign. In addition, the language problem makes it difficult for an EU public sphere to emerge in which European issues could be debated. Accordingly, the majority of the media has little interest in “Europe”.

The big bang for the EU today was the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, which significantly shifted the balance towards Europe. The EU Parliament is now an equal decision-maker with the Council, and the unanimity principle has been abolished in key policy areas such as justice, agriculture, domestic and foreign trade. Since then, decisions can be made with a qualified majority, which limits the sovereignty of member states in many areas. If the German Federal Minister of Agriculture wants to prevent a regulation today, it is no longer enough for him to veto it. Rather, he must strive for qualified majorities.

To be successful in Brussels, it is more important than ever to understand the complex decision-making processes. The President of the EU Commission, her eight vice-presidents and 18 EU commissioners, 27 heads of government, 705 members of parliament and more than 300 member state ministers are involved there. In addition, there are over 30,000 EU Commission officials who have considerable influence.

In addition, there are no government or opposition factions in the EU as there are in member state parliaments. Every EU Commission project requires a “new” majority in the EU Parliament and the Council. The informal trilogue, in which decision-makers from the Council, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament meet unofficially to negotiate details, plays a crucial role here. Although this process is not officially anchored in the EU treaties, 89 percent of all regulations, legal acts and directives are decided in the informal trilogue and thus after the first reading.

Nevertheless, it is actually clear to everyone involved that the EU in its current state would not be able to cope with a further increase in complexity as a result of the accession of further states. A reform that would make the EU more democratic and efficient is inevitable.

The principle of unanimity – for me the mother of all EU problems – should be completely abandoned. And the European Parliament should appoint the heads of the EU Commission instead of the member states and be given its own right of initiative.

This won’t happen overnight, but I have no doubt: the EU will pave its way into the future. Because it is not only too big, but above all too important to fail – for citizens and companies in a globalized world.