The European Union (EU) may well be on the verge of breaking apart as the migrant crisis forces member states to become ever more critical of Brussels, a former Italian Prime Minister has said.
Mario Monti, a staunch pro-European and member of the EU elite, said in an interview with Politico.EU that the political union is “going through a crisis which leads me and others for the first time to consider whether we are not heading towards disintegration.”
The migrant crisis, coupled with economic uncertainty and national governments becoming more assertive, is driving the EU further apart.
“The EU has never been hit by such a high number of different crises of this gravity,” he said.
“What I am concerned about is that, although the EU has developed itself historically through a process of crisis, response to the crisis, and advancement, this time around it may well not happen.”
Mr Monti was appointed Italian Prime Minister in 2011 to head an unelected government of technocrats following the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi. He had previously served as a European Commissioner and was widely seen as someone who would implement policies at the behest of the EU.
No he says he fears the rise of nationalism. “The degree of mistrust and sheer prejudices between North and South and between East and West has never been so high and so unashamedly voiced,” he said.
He also accused leaders of various European nations of “indulging” in criticising the EU.
“Unfortunately, this has started to pay off, at least in the short-term, for politicians who cultivate the gut feelings of their citizens. Even heads of government and ministers belonging to traditionally pro-European parties now indulge in this habit. They hit out at the EU and also to other member states in bilateral acrimony.”
European leaders listening to their people, not an ever more powerful Brussels, is the biggest danger to European democracy, according to Mr Monti.
“If it is an irreversible process, we are going to lose our democracies in our member states.
“Because what is at stake now … is the first wave of an earthquake deriving, in my view, from deeper stresses in the underground of politics. But at the same time, there is also a declining trust in national authorities, a declining participation in votes, a growing impatience with the lack of performance by national governments.”
However, when asked what he and other members of the EU elite can do about this, he responds: “Not much”, before calling for a pro-EU “intellectual insurgency” to counter nationalism.
Mr Monti’s term as Italian Prime Minister came to end in 2013 when his technocratic government was heavily defeated, finishing fourth in a general election.
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