EU reform is gaining momentum. There are serious initiatives for the cooperation of military forces – the PESCO project – from different member countries. Moreover, Merkel and Macron both strive for further cooperation in other areas such as corporate tax regulation, refugee policy and student exchange. The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte nonetheless argued that the EU should not increase its ambitions too far. Together with seven other small countries like Ireland and Denmark he questions the goal of ‘an ever closer union’.
The EU has lost much support in the last decade among its key member countries, but especially in France and Germany the tide is changing rapidly. The EU is also flexing its muscles. It has given a strong response to Trump’s tariff plan. Also with the UK, it is playing hardball over Brexit negotiations. The EU is confident, but that also brings risks.
Although the EU can count on trust in several large member states, it runs the risk of hubris. Overconfidence can lead to renewed euroscepticism. It could curb its ambition in two ways: 1) The EU can focus on areas that can hardly be dealt with on a national level and clearly require European solutions like migration and the military. 2) Making its governance structure more diverse. This could be done by giving more voice to smaller, more sober, EU countries, a group the Netherlands is seeking to represent.