The former foreign minister of Germany, Joschka Fischer, has said that the EU risks failing if it does not respond to the swing to more eurosceptic parties.
In a press conference at the launch of his book ‘Should it fail?’ the Green politician said he believed it is possible that the European Union could implode.
He told Die Welt that if he had been asked, back in 2008, “if I thought it possible that Europe could fail, I would have replied ‘Absurd!'”
His concern over the future of the project which is dominated by Germany as the economic powerhouse of the Continent, stems from the crisis of the Euro zone.
For while German Angela Merkel was hugely popular domestically for the stance she took in dealing with the crisis which saw large economies in danger of defaulting on their debts without assistance from outside, it lost an opportunity to centralise more financial power through Euro bonds.
“European solidarity has been eroded by the euro crisis” he said, even though countries who faced financial black holes were bailed out by other EU countries.
Before his eyes, he said, Europe goes down the drain.
“The renationalisation processes are damaging the European Project” he ranted.
In his opinion, the European Election results from earlier this year have already painted a “disastrous picture”, referring to the huge swing in support towards more eurosceptic parties, adding adding “there are populists and nationalists everywhere!”
Fischer is part of the generation in Germany which saw their membership of the EC, as it was, as a way of washing off the guilty of the previous centuries. And as for many years euroscepticism was unacceptable in German political circles, his answer to stop a failing EU is for more centralisation.
“Germany needs to move from its fixation in fiscal, France loose from its fixation on political sovereignty” he says, calling for Germany and France to start cooperating again.
In his view, the current debate is between how the EU progresses and the balance of power between the European Commission and nation states. European integration was “a win-win situation for everyone involved” he said.
Perhaps surprisingly, he looks towards the Swiss model as where the EU could go to. The wealthy country is, in the UK in particular, often pointed as an example of why the country would be better off out of political union.
But for Fischer, the combination of multiple languages and a common political stance is alluring.
And whilst campaigners say the EU is pushing ahead with its power grab, he says it is the ‘defeatism’ which annoys him the most.
It must surely be a surprise for European observers and politicians to see such a firm supporter of the EU say that it could fail. But it may also ring alarm bells with those who say they can ‘renegotiate’ to have another voice saying that there can be no ‘two speed Europe’ and renegotiation particularly on core issues is not on the table.
Certainly the British government will not want to hear that there needs to be more centralisation particularly on financial matters when it is trying to tell the British public that it can secure real changes on our relationship with Brussels.