The Italian president said the EU should learn its lessons from the crisis Europe has been weathering these last few years. "What are we experiencing today is a moment of truth for the future of European integration", he said. "EU citizens are moving away from the EU integration process and unemployment has played a role, but I believe that it is the democratic deficit of EU decisions that has played a major role." He described people who call for the break-up of the Union as being guilty of “vacuous propaganda … [and] disarming simplicity". "We have to fight against national egoism and anachronistic conservatism", he said.
He also accused pro-Europeans of “hesitations, delays and disagreements", however. “Voters are faced with a misleading choice between tired, defensive rhetoric, in a Europe that has shown major shortcomings as it has moved towards integration, and on the other hand destructive agitation against the euro and against the Union", he noted.
Napolitano said austerity was necessary in the first phase of the crisis in order to restore financial stability. But he warned that its social cost, especially in terms of youth unemployment, and the lack of democratic oversight on EU economic governance, have alienated voters. “A main source of disenchantment, lack of trust and rejection of the European construction and what the institutions are doing, lies in deteriorating living conditions", he said. “But I believe that it is the democratic deficit of EU decisions that has played a major role", he added.
He called for EU leaders to start investing in economic growth via “well-targeted” public projects. "The policy of austerity at all costs, which was the prevalent response to the eurozone crises, no longer stands up", he said.
He noted that new EU budgetary rules, as enshrined in the 2012 fiscal compact, should be taken out of “intergovernmental and international agreements” and “placed … within the institutional framework of the Union", so that elected MEPs can have more say.
The president also stressed the EU still had a future: "How can people can talk about the end of the European experience! Despite the difficult last years, we have to defend the euro and looking to the mistakes of the past should be the first step."
Further reporting © EUobserver
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