‘This double game is destroying us’ – EU strikes back at its critics in Davos

Outgoing President  of the European Parliament President Martin Schulz attends the presentation of the candidates for the election to the office of the President at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann - RTSVUO4

Don't blame Brussels, says European Parliament President Martin Schulz Image: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Ceri Parker
Previously Commissioning Editor, Agenda, World Economic Forum
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale

Leaders of the European Union lashed out at the forces that could bring it down in an emotive session at Davos, days after Theresa May revealed that Britain was heading for a clean break.

Martin Schulz, the outgoing President of the European Parliament, said that European heads of state used Brussels as a scapegoat, failing to tell their citizens that they were responsible for the decisions made there.

“This double game is destroying the European spirit,” he said, adding: “The EU is as strong as the member states allow.”


“What happens (in EU institutions) happens on the basis of a treaty that was ratified by all 28 member states of the EU. All we are doing in the Commission, all we are doing in the Parliament, happens in the frame of a treaty defined by you,” he said, addressing leaders including Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who was also on the panel.

Schulz argued for leaders to rally around the EU, not allow its demise.

“All Europeans together, we are less than 5% of world population, Germany less than 1%. Could somebody tell me how a single country in the worldwide competition in which we’re living in, with perhaps a tendency to protectionism, could survive without the EU?”

He added: "Could we imagine today Poland, the Baltic countries, not being apart of the EU, taking into account what is happening in Ukraine?”

The European Commission, which is responsible for upholding EU treaties and managing day-to-day business, was represented by Frans Timmermans, the First Vice President. He also lashed out at the tendency to blame Brussels.

“Whenever someone has a flat tyre, whenever it starts raining when you’re walking the dogs, someone will say – that’s Brussels again,” he said. “My son says: good morning you faceless unelected bureaucrat.”

Striking a more serious tone, he spoke of the middle-class frustration at falling living standards, which is fuelling a populist rejection of the European Union.

"Unemployment is plummeting (in the Netherlands), and still at the core of society, people are disgruntled, the middle classes are unconvinced, you can’t convince them with statistics ... It’s so easy to blame the commission; we take the blame."

"The only way to get out of this is to remove moral hazard, stop confirming the image that we’re there to make life difficult, that it’s not the member states’ fault what happens in Brussels, that the North is imposing models that don’t work on the South, that the South is lazy. These are all lies, but they lead to a huge lack of trust within nations and between nations."

You can watch the full session below.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum