I am an incorrigible optimist about Europe's future

I am an incorrigible optimist about the future of Europe because even with the turbulence caused these days by Brexit, globalisation, the refugee crisis, and the trade wars being waged across the world, Europe has always been able to learn its lessons and come out of the storms even stronger.

The European Union's greatest achievement is peace. And if for 300 years the countries comprising the modern EU fought over 20 vicious wars between each other, for the past 70 years we have been living in peace in this very Union.

I am confident about the future of Europe because of the two pledges at the core of the EU - security and prosperity for its citizens. The EU has always been and will remain the world's largest economy. Over the last few years, the new Member States have received and spent over €400bn under various European programmes, which is four times the amount provided by the Marshall Plan.

Advancements in healthcare and education, the longer average life expectancy, the results from efforts to combat illiteracy, are all remarkable achievements of Europe.

A good policy boils down to never forgetting about the big concerns of the ordinary people.

Today, we need to work on protecting the EU's external borders. The fear of losing control over the frontiers is what led to the increased Euroscepticism in EU countries. The migrant wave is growing and is nearing critical levels. Statistical data show that 31 million of EU's citizens were not born in a Member State. Europe's path forward should not be about becoming an impenetrable fortress but rather about regulating who can and who cannot enter the bloc legally. An active policy of good neighbourly relations with countries like Turkey, Egypt and Algeria is also important in the fight to stem the influx of refugees. A more long-term goal may be the establishment of an economic union of the Mediterranean countries.

Another problem Europe is facing today is migration between Member States. Figures show that over 12 million citizens of eastern Europe have moved to the western part of the continent since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I am urging you to go to the ballot boxes in next year's elections for European Parliament and vote for the best, wisest and most qualified individuals, because Europe needs a new impulse for development. (abridged)



Dr. Wolfgang Schuessel is a former chancellor of Austria. The opinion above was expressed in a public lecture called The Future of Europe that he recently gave at the Varna University of Economics, Bulgaria.

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