Spain should lead the way against Euroscepticism

As the President of the Council of the EU, can Spain lead the way to a more united European Union?

Aug 5, 2023
The Spanish flag flying on a building

It's been a while since the anti-European rhetoric, so common during the 2008 financial crisis, stopped being heard in Spain, but that's not the case for other European Union countries. While Hungary continues to indulge in inflammatory messages against Brussels, Spain has become one of the most pro-European countries in the Union. This is good news for those supporting greater integration among Member States - especially during Spain's presidency of the EU Council - and a fortunate coincidence that should not be wasted. Considering Spain's significant political weight in the Union, it is their responsibility to develop measures to curb Euroscepticism, a challenge that may not have been a priority for others but could have enormous consequences.

The priorities of the EU Council Presidency, presented by the government of Pedro Sánchez, focus on urgent challenges such as the energy crisis and the need for a fairer migration system that respects human rights. However, institutional reform is not among them. It might not be the most attention-grabbing topic, and it raises much suspicion among some Member States, particularly those from central and eastern Europe. Nevertheless, institutional reform holds the key to ending Euroscepticism.

The main cause of this social unrest is the lack of trust in European institutions. It's not surprising given that understanding the functioning of the European Union is complex, even for those fully dedicated to it. The impact it has on our society is not well-known either, and citizens are often unsure about how they can contribute to its development. This lack of knowledge breeds distrust, further widening the gap between the citizens and the institutions. However, to bridge that gap, we need to reform the European Union.

There are numerous proposals on what to improve and how to do it, such as giving the Parliament legislative initiative power, making the Commission more efficient and effective, creating more channels for citizen participation, starting with electoral law reform (already approved by the European Parliament), and abolishing the right to veto, so that no individual state can obstruct joint progress. There are many, perhaps too many proposals, but what is lacking is political will.

The significance of institutional reforms cannot be underestimated. By addressing citizens' concerns and enhancing the efficiency of European institutions, the EU can regain the trust of its citizens and counter the growing Euroscepticism. This will not only strengthen the European Union as a political project but also consolidate the benefits it brings. It's not enough to recognise the importance of reforms; there must be a firm political determination to act. Institutional reform cannot be merely an academic debate or a secondary issue on the political agenda. It must become a fundamental priority to ensure the future of the EU. And if there is one country that can lead this reform and foster the necessary cohesion to achieve it, it is Spain.

While France and Germany have always led the European political agenda, Spain is perceived as an actor that could have much more influence in the European Union than it currently does. As the fourth-largest economy in the Union, Spain has the capacity to confront the resistance that will undoubtedly arise against these proposals. It won't be an easy battle. Many Member States are still very reluctant to the idea of institutional reform. However, it is crucial to remember that the European Union was conceived as a project in constant evolution. We cannot afford to remain anchored in the status quo. We must move forward, adapt to a constantly changing world, and make the European Union a living reality that responds to the needs of its citizens.

During its presidency of the EU Council, Spain has not only the opportunity but also the responsibility to lead this process by presenting a more ambitious agenda. It's time to demonstrate a firm commitment to a more efficient, democratic, and transparent European Union. By doing so, Spain will not only defend the interests of its citizens but also those of all Europeans.

Article by Clara Panella Gómez - Candidate for the European Elections 2024