Today the Netherlands hands over the reins of the EU Council presidency to Slovakia. The challenges at hand could not be more consequential: the EU structures are being undermined by the popular revolt that has moved beyond symbolism and fringes of the society. The next six months will therefore be crucial in setting the tone with which the EU will continue (if at all).
Last week, the British citizens exercised their democratic right and voted, against all expectations, to leave the EU. Similarly, earlier this year voters in the Netherlands delivered a humiliating blow to the country’s Prime Minister by refusing to throw their support for the EU’s association agreement with Ukraine.
The public’s weariness with the EU is palpable. The more the public mistrusts the EU, the more its leaders mistrust the public and the gap between the two widens. It has now reached the breaking point whereby citizens feel they are no longer considered essential for the EU’s legitimacy. Instead, and in a rather condescending way too, citizens are being blamed for the lack of support for the project value of which they do not understand. If only people tried hard enough, surely they would instantly fall head over heels in love with it.
There is no point in denying the obvious: the EU does and always will rest on the support of its people. Pretending otherwise is a sign of weakness and lack of belief in the EU as such, which can only lead to one outcome: the EU’s demise.