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6/1/17

EU: US billionaire Soros warns EU of 'existential danger'- by Eszter Zalan

to be or not to be
The European Union is in "existential danger" because of "dysfunctional" institutions, a persistent austerity policy and outdated treaties, American billionaire George Soros warned in Brussels on Thursday (1 June).

 The Hungarian-born philanthropist, who was speaking at the Brussels Economic Forum, said the EU should use the Brexit negotiations to introduce far-reaching reforms and be "radically reinvented", otherwise it risks ceasing to exist.

"If the European Union carries on with business as usual, there is little hope for an improvement," he said, adding that the bloc was surrounded by "hostile powers", such as Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and, possibly US president Donald Trump's administration.

He argued that the way to change the trend is to reform the EU by combining the "top-down approach of the EU institutions with the bottom-up movements that are necessary to engage the electorate".

"Most Europeans of my generation were supporters of further integration. Subsequent generations came to regard the EU as an enemy that deprives them of a secure and promising future," Soros told the audience.

"This feeling was reinforced by the rise of anti-European, xenophobic parties that are motivated by values that are diametrically opposed to the values on which the European Union was founded," he added.

He spoke of an emerging pro-European momentum that might turn the populist tide around as xenophobic forces lost ground in the Dutch and French elections earlier this year and seem to be falling behind in Germany as well, where elections will be held in September.

Soros said the term "ever closer union", something the UK had strongly resisted in the past, should be abandoned.

He argued, that instead of a "multi-speed" Europe, a "multi-track" Europe should be the aim "that would allow member states a wider variety of choices".

"Member states want to reassert their sovereignty rather than surrendering more of it," the Hungarian-born billionaire said.

He urged the EU to act in unison on three issues: territorial disintegration (as highlighted by Brexit), the refugee crisis, and the lack of adequate economic growth. Soros argued if cooperation on these bring positive results, EU countries might be more willing to work together closely.

Soros urged the EU to conduct the Brexit negotiations in "constructive spirit" and resist the urge to punish the UK for leaving the bloc.

"Brexit will be an immensely damaging process, harmful to both sides," he said, adding that the divorce could take as long as five years.

According to EU rules, exit negotiations will have to be wrapped up in two years, with the UK leaving the EU in March 2019.

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