Today is a historical juncture for Europe. The nightmare feared by many in the past few months has become true. A majority of Britons have voted to leave the European Union, with the possibility of triggering the withdrawal clause which had never been used so far.
Whilst ECAS regrets the outcome of the British referendum to leave the European Union, if properly seized, this challenge can be seen as an opportunity for the EU to reform itself and to better engage with its citizens for the benefit of all. Otherwise the European project may come to an end, as other Member States might follow suit.
The outcome of the British referendum and the calls for similar referendums to be held across Europe have sent a double message to Brussels which calls for an urgent action. Firstly, the ever-growing gap between citizens and their EU representatives is now expanding at high speed. Secondly, the benefits of EU citizenship are not obvious to and felt by everyone, and hence the attractiveness of the European project is fading away.
Against this background, the need for the EU to communicate and directly engage with its citizens becomes more important than ever. The current consultation tools available at the EU are designed to privilege the voice of organised interests over individual citizens, who feel excluded from decisions that are being taken and yet impact them directly. Such feelings of frustration only fuel further disenchantment with and distrust towards the EU. This has to be addressed and remedied urgently.
For 25 years ECAS has worked to empower citizens to exercise their rights as Europeans and to promote an open decision-making process at EU level where the voices of citizens are duly heard. More than ever now we stick to our mission and we will campaign for a European wake-up. Should the EU fail in regaining the trust of its citizens, it will be the beginning of its end.