Kallas, Kasemets, Maasikas: EU is strong, no upside to losing the euro ({{commentsTotal}})

Flags of Estonia and the EU.
Flags of Estonia and the EU. Source: (Erik Prozes/Postimees/Scanpix)

Speaking on Vikerraadio's "Reporteritund" ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, Siim Kallas, Keit Kasemets and Matti Maasikas agreed that despite its prblems, the EU remained strong as a union.

"Currently, the majority of people do not doubt the EU in its current or future endeavors," said former European Commissioner Siim Kallas. He noted that according to a Eurobarometer survey, support for the EU was very strong if one left a few isolated countries out. "The financial crisis is in large part over and we don't hear anything from the Greek prime minister about leaving the EU anymore either," he noted.

Kallas recalled that in 1957, the most important idea in Europe was that war would never happen again and that a common economic space should be established. According to the former commissioner, the most important issue facing the EU today is security and that a corps should be established — not one led by the generals of 27 or 28 member states, however, but with a simpler system of some kind.

He noted that European security forces could be of help in managing the migration crisis if they were able to be rapidly deployed between Turkey and Greece or near the Libyan border, for example.

According to Kallas, the EU's strength was based on the rule of law, which ensures a certain security to individuals. In his opinion, the subject of nations restoring their individual currencies was no longer a relevant one either, and were the union to lose the euro, life would get significantly worse.

The former commissioner found that Estonia must note that the EU is not "they," but rather Europe and Estonia must be talked about in the context of "we." He also noted that it was always worth solving problems alongside fellow member states rather than opposing them, citing Finland, Lithuania and Slovakia as examples where working on their own did not work out in their favor.

Kasemets: EU not merely a single market

Director of the European Commission representation in Estonia Keit Kasemets also cited recent Eurobarometer statistics according to which 77 percent of survey respondents in Estonia supported or rather supported the EU.

"The EU's domestic market is a very unique value — goods, people, services and capital can move freely," Kasemets described. "There is nothing else in the world like it."

At the same time, Kasemets found that the EU was much more than a single market even if certain issues were perceived differently. "That is how it has always been in the EU, and the debate over the future has united member states," he said. "All states have said very clearly that they want to remain in the EU."

He noted that debates over the future of the union were clearly the responsibility of member states which could not be directed by EU institutions. "This is the shared decision-making power of government leaders," he said.

Kasemets acknowledged that expectations and promises regarding the EU have sometimes been greater than the results in reality, such as on the subject of youth unemployment. At the same time, however, this issue did not exist in a number of member states. "This issue is one for member states to solve on their own; the problem arose from the fact that youth have grown up in a positive world," he explained.

Kasemets likewise found it unlikely that member states would want to abandon the euro in favor of their own national currency. "The euro has changed countries' economic policy," he noted. "The economic environment is better for both business-owners and the state. 70 percent of Europeans favor the euro; even in Greece the level of support is over 50 percent."

Maasikas: There are more pluses than minuses

Special Representative to the EU Matti Maasikas said that Brexit has forced the 60-year-old union to reflect on what everyone had to lose, however support for the EU has increased following the U.K.'s decision to exit the union. "Eastern European states also understand where they belong — they understand that the EU is much more than simply a marketplace," he commented.

Maasikas admitted that it cannot be said that everything is just fine in the EU, and that the U.K.'s decision to leave was a big blow, however he highlighted that the EU has developed uniformly.

He said that migration was a problem in Europe, however whether or not it would continue in the long term was difficult to predict. "If one wants to inlfuence things, one must participate in its shaping — then one doesn't have to expect any unpleasant surprises," he explained. "Estonia is interested in being as integrated as possible with the EU."

Saturday will mark the 60th annivesary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which will be celebrated with a summit of the heads of state and government of EU member states in Rome. A declaration regarding the future of the EU is also scheduled to be adopted during the summit. The European Commission has formulated five possible scenarios for development to be discussed by European leaders.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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