EU’s losing momentum and it must figure out why: Luxembourg FM


The European Union (EU) needs to introspect what it stands for, Luxembourg’s finance minister told after the U.K. sent shockwaves across the world by voting to leave the political and economic bloc.

Britons voted in a referendum on June 23, where the leave camp shocked markets by securing 51.9 percent of the vote, with 17.4 million votes.

The ramifications of the unexpected result have been reverberating across the wider political and economic establishment since Friday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, Scotland’s First minister Nicola Sturgeon hinted at a likely fresh independence vote, and around $2.1 trillion was wiped off the value of global financial markets.

“We have to ask ourselves questions. Why is it that Europe seems to be losing momentum and why is Europe less attractive than it used to be?” Pierre Gramegna told CNBC at the sidelines of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s first annual meeting over the weekend.

“[The EU] has delivered prosperity, high social standards … but nevertheless it seems that the population and the people are not always getting all the benefits, so we have to explain more,” he added.

A hot button issue for British voters in the lead up to the vote was EU’s policy on immigration, with waves of refugees entering Europe from the Middle East in recent years.

Currently, the region’s citizens have the right to move and reside freely in other member states and do not need a work permit to work elsewhere within the EU.

Following the British vote, some politicians have urged their own countries to reconsider their EU memberships.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National movement in France described the Brexit vote as “victory for freedom” and said France needed a similar referendum. Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Independence party tweeted it was “time for a Dutch referendum!”

But Gramegna said he isn’t worried about a domino effect of exit referendums in other countries. “There are parties all over Europe who don’t like the EU, who are against the European integration [but] they are in the minority.”

Britain has yet to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would begin negotiations about how to disentangle the U.K. from the EU.

Leave campaign leaders have insisted there was no hurry to invoke Article 50, while EU leaders have urged for a speedy exit to avoid prolonged uncertainty.

“I think everybody should remain calm and make sure that we can do this in an orderly way,” said Gramegna. “The British population has given its verdict. It’s up now to the British government to trigger Article 50.”