Estonia’s permanent representative to the European Union Matti Maasikas said to ETV’s “Välisilm” that the legitimacy of the EU depended to a large extent on whether or not it could offer its members and population clear benefits.
Maasikas said that current developments like the rise of right-wing populism across Europe and criticism of EU institutions were caused by the fact that the new generation viewed the agreements and decisions of its predecessors critically. While arrangements like the free movement of people or the possibility to study in another country were taken for granted, other aspects of the union were questioned.
Austerity damaged the EU's image
The current mistrust towards institutions was also based on the fact that during the financial crisis, the EU with its calls for austerity demanded spending cuts and was the driving force behind shrinking pensions and other cutbacks on public service all across its member states, Maasikas added.
Explain the EU's work and its successes
This led to a situation where more than ever the European Union needed to make it clear that it could offer benefits to its members and their citizens. Maasikas pointed to the Schengen Zone as one of the core achievements, which he said brought its members hundreds of billions every year, but which wasn’t perceived as an everyday benefit by many.
Maasikas’ position fits in with plenty of opinions expressed at the 10th Lennart Meri Conference last weekend, where representatives of the EU as well as NATO and an impressive range of politicians, subject matter experts, and military commanders all pointed out that the economy and the fact that growth was harder to attain than ever before were the driving force behind the current climate of insecurity and fear.
One of the points many of the panelists agreed on was that the EU needed to develop its capability to explain its work, its treaties and arrangements, and make it very clear that it was actually succeeding in many areas.
Asked about the criticism of sanctions against Russia, Maasikas said that it was an interesting phenomenon that while politicians often criticized or questioned them at home, finding a consensus to keep them in place at the European level was a rather painless process.
Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn