Before spring 2015, the number one concern in Europe was the economy. This has shifted rapidly and the top concerns today are "immigration" (48 percent) and "terrorism" (39 percent). This is what Europeans answered in the latest Eurobarometer, when asked what the two most important issues facing the EU and their own country are. The Dutch, French and Germans sound these concerns on both European and national level. This is what keeps them awake at night. These are the topics that are closest to their heart.
In democracies, people point their leaders to the key topics they want to be addressed. Rightfully so. This means that politicians and policymakers must address these real concerns. By their very nature, immigration and terrorism are cross-border and need to be solved internationally. This is where European collaboration can show its benefits. Europe was able to curb the first wave of immigration over the course of 2015 and 2016. Immigration numbers went down dramatically. Terrorism is still a large concern, but European collaboration and information exchange can reduce the threat.
The topics of immigration and terrorism, narrowly, and safety and security, broadly, bring back the essence of European collaboration. These were the core principles that started European cooperation 60 years ago. This is what people truly wanted. This has an emotional value. Fortunately, most people today have not known wars in Europe. Seventy years ago this was different. If you were a young European, you would have lost millions among your age group on the battlefield. The military graves across Europe show the tangible remains of hundreds of thousands of young French, Germans, American, British and soldiers of other nationalities.
The debate will be again around the core values of Europe. Of course, we should stress the GDP per capital growth argument and better income distribution in the Netherlands, France and Germany versus the U.S. and U.K. But as people are emotional creatures, safety and security is what really matters to them most. This is what Europe has successfully delivered for many years. And this is being challenged at the moment. The elections in the founding members will be about who will be able to offer these basic needs again. And explain this in a crystal clear manner.