The EU’s desire for political expansion has come at the cost of equality for its citizens; something must change.

The World Bank, arguably the world’s largest and most significant financial institution, has issued a strong warning to the EU that it risks leaving states behind if it ignores “growing divides.”

The report, entitled Growing United, says that economic inequality has been rising in the EU since the 1990s. Growing amounts of low-income Europeans are being left behind by the labour market, which is leading to a greater degree household income inequality. The result is that what was once considered to be a model for “Golden Growth”, with one third of world GDP being generated by less that one-tenth of the world’s population is now a machine which is “not working for everyone”, the report said.

The evidence presented in this report reiterates the disconnect between the EU and it’s people. More than half of Europeans trust neither their government, nor the EU to solve their economic problems, based on an analysis of survey data.  Younger and more educated Europeans were also more likely to compare themselves with peers in western Europe than with their parents. This in turn would lead them to feel increasingly pessimistic about their national economies compared to richer counterparts.

There was a risk, the report said, that low-income regions start to also become low-growth regions. If allowed to worsen, these regional disparities would further undermine economic convergence in the EU. A troubling productivity gap between northern and southern states was also partly to blame for heightening inequality, the report said. From 2011-2016 productivity growth, a measure of efficiency in economies, was 1.5pc in northern Europe, but only 0.2pc in the south.

Kristalina Georgieva, a former EU Commissioner and now Chief Executive at the World Bank insists that the economic integration of the EU had been an engine of prosperity for 60 years.  But she has also stressed that the institution needs to be alert to what is going on around it:

“The machine will stall unless steps are taken to ensure people benefit equally.”

Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank and former EU Commissioner, says that the EU must address the issue of inequality across its Member States

Her colleague, Arup Banerji, head of EU countries at the World Bank has reiterated this point by saying that:

“The EU is growing, but Europeans are not growing united.”

The EU, oblivious to the needs to its citizens, has put its desire for political expansion ahead of the needs of its own citizens.

However, it is difficult to see how the EU will adjust easily to this news. Jean-Claude Juncker spoke at a dinner last week in Germany where he expressed his contempt for the populist uprising and all those involved in it. His inability to grapple with the reasons and principles behind it will only isolate him further and therefore the question must be asked if he is right to lead the EU in this turbulent time.

The heavy-handed Brexit negotiations are also an indicator that the EU will fight however aggressively, rather than listen pragmatically. The Italian’s have also proved this week that they are getting tired of this obstinate, head-in-sand behaviour that comes from Brussels.

Jean-Claude Juncker at a dinner in Hamburg last week where he slammed the populist uprising across the EU.

This report from the World Bank indicates one strong message to the EU; the status quo is not acceptable. If the EU continues to grow with disunity, not only does the EU risk its own existence but also the prosperity of the citizens it claims to represent. The EU must remove itself from the Ivory Tower that is Brussels, listen to its people and perfect the imperfections, or Europe will only be further divided.