The future of the European Union

Auteur: 
Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 
7/12/2017

The future of the European Union

Foreword

The EU is a political system with a unique structure and functioning, incomparable to anything which has existed before, far away from any classical, either national or international model. In such supranational union that is neither a pure intergovernmental organization nor a true federal state, political institutions appear vague and somewhat obscure and indistinguishable.

Only experts can recognize the difference between the European Council, the Council of the EU and the Council of Europe (which is a separate entity from the EU). Adding insult to injury, the ordinary citizen has also to cope with the European Commission and the European Parliament, trying to understand who does what in the bureaucracy of Brussels.

The EU has significant powers in some specific areas (such as trade and agriculture) in Member States where many citizens complain that the EU suffers from a democratic deficit, namely there are not enough democratically elected EU representatives chosen through regular elections and accountable through a system of check and balances between government, legislature and judiciary.

Now Europe has to deal with conflicts at its borders, in Middle East, and a destabilized North Africa, those being results of wrong post-colonial policies.

Finaly, other geographical blocks tend to use their influence to destabilize the most democratic area of the planet, so lack of leadership and military weakness could turn to be a major problem.

Current situation

It is worthwhile mentioning the current EU key figures: Donald Tusk, European Council President; Antonio Tajani, European Parliament President; Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President; Federica Mogherini, European Commission Vice President and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

But the average citizen is not too familiar with these personalities and with the EU establishment and bureaucrats who are often perceived as distant, remote powerful officials , minding their own business, taking little care of the real problems and aspirations of the man in the street.

This is why there is the need to strengthen the link between citizens and the EU, so as to develop a true parliamentary system in the EU and thus giving an answer to those citizens who currently think that their voice does not count in Europe.

Only if European citizens realize that they are at the heart of the EU project, they can eventually move to the next phase: a political federal union. With imagination and courage the time is ripe for parliamentary democracy at EU level.

Considerations

In its recent “White paper on the future of Europe”, the European Commission proposed five scenarios for the future. The options laid out by the bureaucrats in Brussels range from business as usual, to a multi-speed Europe, or “doing less more efficiently” and in extremis “doing much more together”.

But the paper shows little understanding of why certain scenarios are possible and others are not. Nor does it explore the deep societal constraints on some options and on what would need to change in the European institutions themselves for some scenarios to become feasible.

Europe must become more federal, but it will require a strong government to make it work. The EU should begin by addressing three problems that have haunted it from the beginning: the lack of democratic legitimacy, governance and effective leadership.

Federalism is the only way forward: economic federalism accompanied by political federalism. With the exception of China, all the major economies of the world are federal. This is perhaps not quite far from what the leaders of the EU want. The problem is that it is not desired by the national governments, especially Germany. But it is in the interests ultimately of Germany to start a major shift in the direction of greater federalism.

As for Brexit, Britain’s exit from the EU is likely to have important strategic consequences for Europe and for the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). Many have worried that Brexit will weaken the Union’s already feeble capacity to develop a comprehensive global security strategy . Others have speculated that Brexit will boost defense cooperation among the remaining Member States, ushering in a stronger common security and defense identity among Europeans and paving the way for federalism.

Maintaining an open economy is the best response to a globalizing world, while abandoning the EU or withdrawing behind national borders is a false choice whose implications would immediately result in rise of prices and difficulty in traveling and in follow-on nefarious effects.

“More Europe” is the best solution to crises and to build up the European identity, seen as a crucial factor for the development of the EU supranational character.

Europe remains one of the safest and more confortable places to live. The main reasons are: nice climatic conditions, modern infrastructures, medium human-seized cities, proximity with nature, robust industry and servicies, diversity and cultural and intellectual attractivity.

    To keep and improve its status, European Union needs to re-orient the agriculture on more sustainable bases, develop green energy sources and policies, improve financial structures and compensate through immigration for the aging population.

To reduce Europe democracy deficit and improve EU performances all concerned have to roll up their sleeves and design the structure of the future EU political-economic governance: and this is an urgent task.

Europe badly needs to remain united and preserve its potential at a time when the BRICS, with China and India in the lead, are increasing their presence worldwide and could take advantage of a split, irrelevant and insecure Europe.

Conclusions

The most likely scenario for the future of the European Union is slow but steady progress towards integration. But a Greater Europe cannot be built without strong EU governance and visionary leadership.

Europeans must understand how much weight EU has as a block. We still think in terms of the nation states and complain how small we are compared to heavy-weights like USA or China and how much more powerful we were 100 years ago.

Seen as a block, EU is on par with these two heavyweights, and there is no reason why we could not compete on equal terms with them.

Lack of understanding for this reality has lead to a defeatist culture where Europeans do not follow “big dreams” anymore and try to “keep what they have” instead.

There is the need to change this mindset and to finally see some big European companies challenging the likes of Facebook or Amazon in terms of economic activities, R&D, political weight or even in terms of the military power.

This creates a need for a vessel that allows Europeans to compete in political globalization and contribute to global order. In political globalization, even big European countries are mere footnotes: all together, they might have the chance to make a difference. The EU will have to be that vessel, or it will crack. If Europeans are not suicidal, then this will come.

Even if current European leaders lack the vision and stature of an Adenauer, Monnet and De Gasperi, Europe should find creative new ways to build the institutions to support the euro, assimilate immigrant populations more effectively, and adopt reforms to produce stronger economic growth.

The EU must be a lot more realpolitik-driven while preserving the core of its values and ideals in the age of political globalization. There is no future for the European Union if the youth do not embrace the ideals, the passion, the romanticism of one hundred years ago when many were willing to risk their lives to defend an ideal.

Europe should also preserve its leading role on the global stage as a major humanitarian and development aid donor and as a leader of the fight against climate change.

Millennia of human creativity and exchanges among civilisations, but also wars and tragedies, have made Europe what it is today: a continent of culture and creativity, a continent of cultural heritage, a place to live, work and visit; a valuable resource for economic growth, employment and social cohesion.

Various European policymakers and analysts have likened the European integration project to a bicycle, which must keep going forward to avoid falling over. What will be actually done to keep it going depends on the political will in the biggest EU member states by realizing that while the way back to the idealized times of the nation state is closed off, the existing status quo is also plainly unsustainable.

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