Brexit supporters have won, and their desired outcome is more than just a warning shot for the EU. By now, every government leader should clearly understand that it is high time to approach serious reforms. "Keep it up!" is not the phrase any remaining member state need to hear right now. Instead, the EU should implement the following steps.
1. Short Term: Focus On Free Trade Many Brits have regarded the European Union first and foremost as an economic union. However, in recent years, the EU has evolved into a political union. The truth is: In the long run, increasing free trade will also lead to a consolidation of peoples on a political level. In order to strengthen this development, the EU should react to its skeptics with a free trade and economic growth initiative.
To this end, the EU cabinet should block certain intended amendments to the legislation, which would only lead to more bureaucracy and tutelage (e.g. in the area of consumer protection). And: The European Union should not only negotiate a free trade agreement with Great Britain and Northern Ireland right away, but also remove the obstacles that stand in the way of the TTIP negotiations (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).
2. Short Term: Increase Added Value For EU-member States In Terms Of Security It should be made clear to all EU member states that EU membership has added value beyond the benefits of free trade. This, for example, is partly due to the fact that certain member states can coordinate their security concerns with each other.
The opportunity to integrate additional national troops should be used. Today, the EU is already taking military responsibilities on its own in 15 joint missions in 12 countries. Creating additional joint forces could result in decreased individual costs for member states and increased collective effectiveness in overall security efforts.
3. Medium Term: More Influence For Voters
Elections for a new European Parliament are due in three years. Until then, heads of state and government in the European Union should stall their plans to clandestinely determine the next president of the EU Commission. Voters should be able to choose between top candidates of the European parties.
Moreover, the next European election has to happen in accordance with uniform voting rights on one day across the entire European Union. This is the only way that the perennial grand coalition in the European Parliament can be broken and replaced by a constructive majority with a real political mandate.
4. Long Term: Renew Attempts At A European Constitution The European Union needs a fresh political impulse. The Lisbon Treaty goes back to a time before the Euro and refugee crises. A new attempt at a European constitution could include an insolvency code for Eurozone member states as well as a new and binding asylum system.
A new European constitution could also develop the EU's next step towards a real European federal state. This needs to be a counter-model to centralism and needs to respect the member states' sovereignty in certain political areas. In return, there'd be a strong parliament that legitimizes decisions made by the EU more strongly than it is the case today.
5. Reassurance: Europe Is The Future
In Thursday's referendum, mostly older generations voted in favor of leaving. The younger the voters, the more likely they voted in favor of the United Kingdom remaining in the EU. Despite all the warranted criticism -- Europe is still fascinating, especially for younger people. It can be the basis for true reforms.
The remaining member states mustn't stick their heads in the sand. Instead they must live up to their responsibility -- one that must consider the young generation in the United Kingdom, the majority of whom wish to remain part of the EU.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.