Furthermore, countries that violate EU law should receive punishments that go beyond a slap on the wrist. And those punishments, in contrast to the current situation, should be meted out solely by the European Court of Justice and not by the European Council. The EU is a community based on the rule of law, and that's how it should work. In concrete terms, this means that the suspension of membership rights of those member states that violate EU law can no longer exist exclusively in theory. It is essential that the union finally learn to flex its muscles. No one in Europe is currently being forced to adhere to the values laid out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. And those who disregard this community of values can leave it. Because unlike the Soviet Union, the EU has never sought to force countries to join or remain.

5. A New Convention for an EU-Wide Referendum

Yes, these reforms will deprive member states of some competencies, but they will also provide them with greater room for maneuver. In the future, only EU institutions will be able to adequately control the EU's entire external border in a humane and secure manner. Only EU institutions – on the strength of a new European immigration and asylum law – will be able to coordinate migration and distribute refugees within the bloc. Only EU institutions are in a position to conduct trade relations on equal footing with China, the United States and India. And it's only at the European level that the lack of equal opportunity within Europe for EU citizens can be gradually reduced. All member states would benefit if those efforts were successful.

Achieving the items listed here will not be easy. But there is support from many European citizens. More than two-thirds of all EU citizens and 75 percent of Germans currently believe their country benefits from the EU. That's the highest level of support seen in more than 35 years. Pulse of Europe, the citizens' movement that has been holding demonstrations across Europe for the further development of the EU since 2017, along with the first pan-European political parties, VOLT Europe and DIEM25, which intend to run in the coming European elections, are illustrative of the already existing social support for a new path of European integration.

A stronger EU requires greater democratic legitimacy. That's why a new, pan-European convention with strong citizen participation is needed – precisely as envisioned back in 1992 in the Treaty of Maastricht. The final provisions of the Treaty of Maastrich explicitly called for a conference to focus on treaty reform. And Article 48 of the current EU treaty also clearly lays out provisions for a new EU convention. All that is needed is the courage of European politicians to go down that road.

EU conventions have been called in the past to write the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and to draft a European constitution. In close cooperation with the people, a new convention could mark a turning point, even before the upcoming European Parliament elections. Conducted in concert with a pan-European referendum on the future of the EU, these steps could provide a much-needed democratic infusion. In the period of global uncertainty we are currently experiencing, the EU could empower itself anew by doing so.