Europe‘s Third Way

A Third Way for the Future of Europe

The path to saving the European project may lie neither with nationalists nor federalists but with a greater role for NGOs and other neglected players.

Jan Zielonka is professor of politics and international relations at the University of Venice, Cá Foscari.
Jan Zielonka is professor of politics and international relations at the University of Venice, Cá Foscari. Angelica Braccini

The forthcoming European elections will, as always, rally voters around national rather than European questions. This is not because the European Parliament has no powers comparable to the powers of national parliaments. It is because European politics are being played out on the national stage with a script written by national parties in their local language. Media discussing these elections are also national with only a few exceptions, such as European Voices. But make no mistake, these elections will define Europe’s future for years to come, and this future is likely to be turbulent no matter who wins these elections.

„A European federation may prove united only on paper because cultures cannot be integrated by decree.“

Jan Zielonka

Whether you will cast your vote to reward or punish the current government of your country, the choice will not be between the political right and left. You will de facto choose between politicians who want to free states from the “domination” of the “overzealous” European Union, and those who want to make the EU a “meaningful force” in the world by reinforcing its powers. This is where the key political cleavage lies in contemporary Europe, for good or for bad. Unlike the Brits, citizens of the 27 member states of the EU have neither the comfort nor the illusion of believing that their place may well be outside Europe. Yet some of them want a Europe of independent nation states, while others want to see a decisive move toward a European federation. I find this choice between a nation-state and a European state old-fashioned and unsuited for the digital era of cascading connectivity and interdependence. Power in Europe should be shared between local, national, and European actors able and willing to benefit our citizens.

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