Europe needs swagger

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The European Union (EU) has been 70 years in the making, and like many a septagenarian, it has plenty of creaky bits.

So do these niggles have the potential to send this union into intensive care?

As the fallout from both debt and migrant crisis continued this summer, questions about the very concept of the EU has become louder than at any time since its inception.

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Fans of the EU argue that in spite of the current crises, much of the good of what can often seem like an anti-democratic haven for bureaucrats risks being ignored or lost.

CNBC takes a look at the big arguments at the heart of the EU. It may be imperfect, but what union isn't?

Should they stay or should they go?

As the U.K. prepares to hold a referendum on membership, the threat of a country leaving the EU has never seemed closer than in the last few months.

The noble principles on which the EU was founded from the rubble of World War II seem to have been forgotten by many of its people and leaders.

"The problem with the EU is that we have a lot of salesmen and not so many statesmen," Martin Schulz, the German politician who is President of the European Parliament, told CNBC.

With different national politicians being driven by separate electoral cycles, and nationalism often an easier sell at home, the EU can often be more cacophony than harmony.

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Nigel Farage, the U.K. politician who is one of the noisiest anti-EU voices in the European Parliament, told CNBC this week: "I think it's humiliating of our parliament to be ruled by Luxembourg. I think politically we will be free and be prouder of who we are if we win the referendum."

Farage - and many others - resent the apparent loss of sovereignty to the European authorities. This is likely to lead to an even deeper enshrinement of some of the opt-out clauses for nations like the U.K., even as the euro zone countries are more tightly bound together.

Focus on fundamentals

"I belong to the first generation of Germans or Europeans who from their birth until their death, never have a war, never face a war or even a risk of war. My children as well," Schulz told CNBC.

"This is a privilege to compare with other regions of the world. Which is only possible because the existing of the European integration, the European Union. And my biggest fear now, becoming everyday a little bit older, is that people believe that it is granted for always, this is a big error."

That hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees from less fortunate parts of the world are trying desperately to get in to Europe puts paid to argument that the EU is a bust, the union's supporters argue.

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There has to be plenty more to be said for a union which brings together more than half a billion people in the world's largest common market, with the world's highest average income.

It is hard to see how individual European countries would have the clout to negotiate a historic trade deal with the U.S. like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - or enact as potentially transformational as the "capital markets union" (CMU) expected to be in place by 2019.

Economically, the European nations may not be delivering the rapid growth seen in China - but they are comparatively more stable.

And after a few difficult years of stagnation, things look on the up again.

Economic growth in the euro zone is expected to start gently accelerating again in the last quarter of 2015, with growth for 1.6 percent for the year as a whole, according to forecasts by the three economic research institutes Ifo (Munich), Insee (Paris) and Istat (Rome). This has been driven by domestic demand, suggesting that the people of the euro zone are more comfortable spending again after the turmoil of the credit crisis.

"I think it is a great place to live and I also do actually believe that the social models we have, although they maybe go to the extreme, but I also think that that also gives us a better society than I've seen in a lot of other places in the world," Nils Andersen, chief executive of shipping giant Maersk Group, told CNBC.