In this op-ed, ALDE Party acting Co-Presidents Senator Timmy Dooley and Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP take the chance to reflect on the current challenges and the future direction of European integration during the 30th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty.
The 30th anniversary of the Maastricht treaty is a reminder of the successes of European integration and the need to move the EU forward, write Timmy Dooley and Ilhan Kyuchyuk.
The Treaty on European Union is turning 30, and there is no better opportunity to recall how much it changed our continent for the better – as well as the challenges it needs to overcome for future generations.
The Treaty on European Union, signed in Maastricht on 7 February 1992, was a major step forward for European integration. By introducing EU citizenship, expanding the competencies of the European Parliament and envisaging the European single currency, it democratised the Union and prepared it for enlargement waves in 1995, 2004, 2007 and 2013.
The Treaty also recognised European political parties as entities that “contribute to forming a European awareness and expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union”. This bold statement enabled the creation of a European political and civic space, which remains crucial for strengthening European citizens’ common goals and identity. It also paved the way for the ALDE Party – The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe to become the pan-European political family we are today.
The 30th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty is a moment to reflect on current challenges and the future direction of European integration. The latter needs to be addressed in close relation with European citizens, making the most of the ongoing Conference of the Future of Europe (COFOE).
Throughout the Conference, we have built on the potential of both our member parties and individual members, engaging with citizens in our Hans van Baalen Town Hall meeting series.
Our aim for these town halls and the entire COFOE process is to foster a genuine, participative mechanism with concrete outcomes and reforms. Following COFOE, liberals look forward to working at the European level to establish a Convention on the Future of Europe to implement the conclusions of the Conference.
Now more than ever, the crisis at the Ukrainian border reminds us that the European Union needs more unity. A strong, coherent European voice must have a seat at the table and be heard, loud and clear. For this to happen, we must institutionally reinforce the European External Action Service and enhance the competencies of the High Representative of the EU, who should act as an EU foreign minister.
For the EU to be a strong player on the global scene, we must not concede our fundamental values within and outside the Union. The Hungarian and Polish governments, with their lack of respect for EU accession conditions and constant undermining of European unity, need to feel the power of a common EU position. The conditionality mechanism linking the allocation of EU recovery funds to the respect the EU rule of law principles should also be forcefully implemented.
Accordingly, a new chapter of the European political and civic space needs to be opened by introducing transnational lists in the 2024 European Parliament elections.
“European integration is the great success and one of the few positive achievements of the 20th century,” said Professor Bronisław Geremek, Poland’s architect of liberal democracy and former member of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament (2004-2008). Facing the challenges of modern times, ALDE Party and European liberals everywhere will continue working tirelessly to build a better future for generations to come.
This opinion piece was originally published in EURACTIV, 7 February 2022.