• A podcast series that aims to challenge commonly held assumptions about the European project in a tour de force through European history, culture and civilisation. Podcast host Federico Ottavio Reho redefines political correctness with the help of razor-sharp arguments and beautifully drawn historical parallels.

    Federico Ottavio Reho EU Member States European Union Values

    [Europe Out Loud] A Threatened European Cultural Heritage?

    Europe out Loud - Multimedia

    22 Dec 2020

  • The recent agreement on the EU budget and Recovery Fund is the latest example of the difficulties in forging pan-­European agreements. Even in the midst of a global pandemic and the urgent need for a secure budgetary framework, the EU’s decision-making process continues to frustrate faster, majority led decision making.

    These disagreements between member states directly risk the ability of the EU to proceed with key policy initiatives such as the Recovery Fund, the Green Deal and working towards a fuller recovery from the ongoing Corona crisis. This, in turn, has the potential to compromise the wider geo-­political role of the EU as a global actor. It also injects uncertainty into how the financial markets view existing commitments made by Brussels regarding Europe’s flagship Recovery Fund. This event will consider if the recent disagreements over the Rule of Law mechanism should provide the catalyst for a wider reform of how important decisions are made at EU level. What other mechanisms, if any, exist for ensuring a more streamlined and efficient decision-making process at EU level? Could agreement on fundamental issues be reached outside the standard approach of achieving unanimity across all member states?

    Roland Freudenstein Economy European Union Macroeconomics

    The Budget, Recovery Fund and Implications for the Future of EU Decision Making

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    17 Dec 2020

  • ‘A Europe that Protects Its Heritage’ with De Gasperi Foundation (Italy)

    Discussants:

    – François-Xavier Bellamy, MEP, EPP, Substitute Member of CULT Committee

    – Federico Ottavio Reho, Research Officer and Strategic Coordinator, Martens Centre

    – Luigi Crema, Professor of International Law, University of Milan, Member of the Scientific Committee, FDG – Moderator

    Federico Ottavio Reho Luigi Crema European Union

    NET@WORK Day 2 – Panel 2

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    26 Nov 2020

  • ‘Staying Subsidiary, Getting Stronger’ with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (Germany) and Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party (Austria)

    Discussants:

    – Elmar Brok, former MEP, EPP, Member of the National Board of CDU

    – Franz Schausberger, former Governor of Salzburg, Member, CoR

    – Ingrid Steiner-Gashi, Brussels Correspondent, Kurier

    – Tomi Huhtanen, Executive Director, Martens Centre – Moderator

    Tomi Huhtanen European Union Regionalisation

    NET@WORK Day 1 – Panel 2

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    25 Nov 2020

  • I say Europe, you say?

    Christmas Eve. For me, Europe is like home. Like family. Europe is about our traditions and also about our dreams. I can still remember, especially from when I was a child, that Christmas is a time when you dream most intensively.

    In your opinion, what has been Europe’s greatest strength during this Corona-crisis?

    I am afraid that especially at the beginning of the crisis, Europe showed its weaknesses rather than its strengths. We can still remember this time of chaos, of a conflict among member states, this spiral of mutual accusations. All this included typical blame games, partly provoked by the external powers. This is why, in fact, what I consider to be the biggest European strength during this time, is that we were able to at least agree on the Recovery Fund, and that we were able to stop this conflict and the very emotional tensions among member states.

    Do you think the EU will come out of this crisis more united and integrated as it has after past crises?

    No one knows when the crisis will end. But what we do know for sure is that it will have many consequences of a known and of a still unknown nature, in politics, economy, and in our social life. This very fact can provoke fears and a feeling of threat and uncertainty. Sometimes fear is a good reason to seek unity. But of course, I would prefer a Europe which is able to unite around other values than the common threats or fears.

    The EPP has managed to keep its activity running smoothly since the very beginning of the pandemic, how did the party adapt so quickly and make it possible with all of the limitations in place?

    First of all, because we have a brilliant President… I’m just kidding. Seriously speaking, I think our whole team was really disciplined and well-skilled when it comes to new forms of daily work. I was so impressed, because it was absolutely clear for me that our people were extremely well-organised and determined, and yet cautious at the same time. In fact, they worked very intensely despite the pandemic restrictions and rules, while respecting those same restrictions and rules. This was, and not only for me, a very unique experience and I have learned something very positive about my people here.

    What about you? Were you already an advanced technology-user, or did you have to adapt to all of the virtual tools; Webinars, doing conferences on Teams, and so on?

    I was able to use my mobile before the pandemic… Frankly speaking, I will never like those new methods and new forms of work. I will certainly never like politics online. Politics is about emotions. It is not about procedures or simple messages, or institutional preparation. Sometimes I feel that maybe this pandemic is some kind of an anticipation of our new post-pandemic reality, which means that you will have meetings online instead of in person. Maybe our whole life will be online, not in person. It seems to me like a very pessimistic dystopia.

    This leads us really well into our next questions. What do you miss the most about pre-COVID times?

    I am a football fan. Not just about football, I am crazy about all sports. What I miss the most is, first of all, sports events with an audience; crowds chanting and booing. This change is extremely visible and painful. Also, going to the cinema with my family, especially with my grandchildren, or even smiling at people on the streets, because now a smile is covered by a mask. What I also really miss is a Sunday breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, at Avenue Louise.  It used to be a little ‘tradition’ for me here in Brussels.  

    And what do you miss the most in your political activity from the pre-COVID times?

    As I have said, in politics, direct contact is really important. Especially for me, with my temperament. Sometimes, I  prefer a really tough argument or fight. I really like this part of politics. Online, everything is a little bit artificial. You can prepare this online life and work perfectly, but politics without emotions and without fighting can be very boring. What I really hate in our work is routine, monotony, and the risk that our work may become monotonous.

    This summer, the member states re-opened borders. Did you manage to travel somewhere for your holidays?

    Yes, I did. I spent four weeks in Poland in a small village with my grandchildren in my most beloved Kashubia region, and it was one of the best times in my life. We also went to Normandy and Brittany in France. I have to say that visiting Mont-Saint-Michel, Saint-Malo or Deauville during the pandemic time was something really unique and exceptional.

    Tusk

    COVID-19 has created deep concerns all over Europe. What are your feelings about Central Europe, and especially Poland? Do you think the crisis will bring forth populist narratives in certain EU governments?

    I am very worried about COVID-19 developments, especially in my country. I should say that not only Poland, but Hungary and the entire region, have gone through the first phase of the pandemic quite safely. In my opinion, these are rather fortunate coincidences than good governance. In fact, in my opinion, it is very difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the Polish, Hungarian, or Slovak governments because of their lack of testing. Without testing, you have no real measures or instruments to assess the situation. For example, in Poland we have almost five times fewer tests per capita than in Germany. Without concrete numbers or statistics, you can make propaganda.

    The recent presidential election in Poland was a big disappointment for many of us, but it gave hope to many Polish and European citizens. What should be the next steps for the Polish opposition after this very close election?

    This optimism is quite justified. In fact, if the presidential elections had been fully fair, the opposition would have won. The difference was really small. You can say that the elections were free, but they were not fair. I am quite sure that if the democratic opposition in Poland were able to unite before the next parliamentary election which is in three years, they would have a chance to win.

    Returning to EU politics, what are the biggest challenges facing the EU and the EPP during this autumn and winter?

    That is a question for a book rather than for our short interview! In a few words, of course the pandemic comes first, for which an effective vaccine is our hope. Unfortunately, migration will remain a crucial issue in the next months. It has received less coverage because of the pandemic, but nothing has changed. The dramatic situation in Lesbos in the migrant camp of Moria is just a signal that migration will be topical in the agenda, no doubt about that. A growing pressure from the illiberal democracy front is not just a seasonal problem. It will be a very long-term process for those of us who believe in liberal democracy and who want to protect it. Rebuilding our transatlantic relations after the presidential elections in the US is another priority. And, of course, relations with China and Russia.

    Another hot topic: Do you believe we will finally have a hard Brexit in January? Is there any way to make the British government come to its senses?

    With Prime Minister Boris Johnson, given his extravagance, everything is possible. As a consequence, every scenario is possible, including a ‘no-deal scenario’. Knowing him – and I know him very well – a ‘no-deal scenario’ is what he prefers. This is why we need to be even more united, the EU27, especially when it comes to the Irish question.  

    In our latest ‘I say Europe, You Say…?’, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt suggested that we ask you what the plan is with Viktor Orbán?

    As you know, due to pandemic restrictions, we are not able to organise our regular Political Assembly, including the voting on the formal motion from our 14 member parties, to expel Fidesz. I know that it may sound like an excuse to bypass the issue, but this is our reality today in this critical moment. Some of our colleagues still believe that it is possible to convince Viktor Orbán to change his approach as to the principles of democracy and rule of law. I am afraid they are too optimistic. I am much more realistic when it comes to Orbán. My personal ambition is to protect our political family from the new trend of illiberal democracy, nationalism, and semi-authoritarian aspirations. For this, I need a clear majority in the EPP. We will see.

    Happier question now: when are we going to hear you sing again?

    Those who wish me well suggested that I stop singing altogether. And I can understand why. So now I am concentrated on my preparation for my first marathon. Thanks to the pandemic, I have more time to train and prepare myself. Jogging is much easier for me.

    Which EPP colleague or person would you nominate for our next interview, and what questions would you ask?

    Antonio Tajani. And my question to Antonio will be: How can a moderate centre-right be rebuilt in Italy?

    That’s a tough question.

    Life is tough!

    Christian Democracy European People's Party European Union

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Donald Tusk

    I Say Europe

    01 Oct 2020

  • The coronavirus has taken the West by surprise. It has called into question basic assumptions about globalisation, how our society is organised, how safe we actually are and to what extent we control the world around us. The virus arrived when we were without the proper conceptual framework to deal with a new type of virus, and we could not have imagined how much of a social challenge it would represent. The novelty of the situation has made most of us feel strangely confused, numb and calm, and in many cases has left us not knowing what to do with ourselves. This satirical review seeks to put some distance and detachment between us and the situation and give us an outside perspective of what the corona crisis can teach us, both at the individual and social levels. Before the situation becomes the ‘new normal’, we should take the time to extract some lessons from this mess.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jan Czarnocki Theo Larue Crisis European Union Society

    Jan Czarnocki

    Theo Larue

    Comfortably Numb in the Midst of the Corona Crisis

    Blog

    14 Sep 2020

  • The departure of the UK from the EU is taking place at a time when the Union is ramping up its own ambitions in the field of security and defence. The EU is pursuing the goal of strategic autonomy to make itself a more influential actor on the world stage. It has initiated a number of programmes, such as Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund, with the aim of spending its defence euros more productively. These European initiatives may well drive the UK further away from the EU as they embody the very integration that had driven the UK to distance itself from the Continent in the first place. Yet this article will argue that the EU still needs to engage the important military capabilities of the UK to be successful in its new ventures and that the UK will also be exposed to many of the security threats that will keep the EU busy in the future.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jamie Shea Defence European Union Foreign Policy

    Jamie Shea

    European Defence After Brexit: A Plus or a Minus?

    Blog

    01 Sep 2020

  • Download research paper: https://oy99maarxf.preview.infomaniak.website/publication/towards-a-sovereign-europe-a-centre-right-approach/

    As the debate on European sovereignty has gained traction in recent years, Europe’s centre-right should develop its own distinct vision of European sovereignty, one that reflects its own priorities and values.

    This policy brief aims to develop a tentative theoretical and historical framework that can be used to work out what this conservative and Christian Democratic vision could look like. It argues that it is important for the centre-right to ensure that its vision stands apart from those of both the nationalist populists on its right and social-liberals on its left. Against populists the centre-right needs to show that conservatism and European integration can be compatible. As the historical overview in the paper shows, conservatives throughout history have supported processes of political and economic centralisation as long as these have taken place in piecemeal fashion and the resulting institutions have reproduced in their conduct and outlook the values conservatives stand for. Against the centralisers on the centre-left, who are currently monopolising the slogan ‘more Europe’, the centre-right must articulate more clearly how its own understanding of EU integration is a more pragmatic, effective and viable way forward. Contrary to progressives, who view European and international institutions as instruments of ideologically-driven social change, European conservatives see institutions as expressions and safeguards both of diversity inside the EU and of the distinctly European imprint on world politics externally.

    The paper offers a first outline of how a conservative perspective on EU sovereignty could be applied to a range of policy areas, from foreign policy to economic governance to migration.

    Angelos Chryssogelos Centre-Right European People's Party European Union

    Teaser video: ‘Towards a Sovereign Europe – A Centre-Right Approach’

    Multimedia - Other videos

    27 Aug 2020

  • On 26 June 1963, the then-President of the United States John F. Kennedy delivered his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, underlining the support of the Free World for West Berlin and West Germany.

    47 years later, the Special Procedure 50 of the UN Human Rights Council has issued a statement denouncing Beijing’s repression of Tibet and Hong Kong. The statement came just before the National Security Law in Hong Kong was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

    The Pearl of the Orient has suddenly earned a new name, as the “West Berlin” of the New Cold War.

    However, unlike in West Berlin, Beijing did not build a wall to prevent its corporations from investing in Hong Kong, nor did it ask foreigners to leave the territory. Beijing has instead always proclaimed that the National Security Law’s introduction was to provide extra assurance of the famed “One Country, Two Systems” doctrine coined by Deng Xiaoping, a leader China has long outgrown.

    However, it is precisely this kind of attitude that should push the European Union to act – beyond expressing “grave concern” – and take the Hong Kong question seriously. The enactment of the National Security Law is a litmus test of the EU’s capacity to defend its interests and universal values in the context of the “Great Decoupling”.

    International relations academics and EU specialists agree that contemporary EU-China relations are determined by two factors (as suggested by Michael Yahuda). First, the tyranny of distance, and second, the primacy of trade. In short, owing to the lack of geopolitical ambition of the EU and the absence of shared geographical boundaries (terrestrial or maritime), the protection and promotion of EU economic interests in China is the core driver of EU action towards China. As a result, the European Union has long been satisfied with the current model of cooperation. In the field of trade and investment, the EU opts for a good trade agreement with the absence of a human rights clause (from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed in 1985, to the long-awaited conclusion of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment). Unlike its “selective engagement” approach with Russia, the European Union currently does not link its business presence in China with better political development and social reform – not to mention the suspected violation of citizens’ safety in Hong Kong.

    The Pearl of the Orient has suddenly earned a new name, as the “West Berlin” of the New Cold War.

    However, the new reality after the enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong demands exactly this. As detailed in Article 38, the Law will have extraterritorial effects, as it applies to offences committed outside Hong Kong by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region. For example, any person who joined the Martens Centre’s recent online webinar discussing the situation in Hong Kong is at risk of prosecution under Article 38, as participating can be viewed as provoking hatred, or even sanctions towards Beijing. The National Security Law is without a doubt a threat against the fundamental rights and freedoms enjoyed by European citizens, political parties, think-tanks, or activist groups. The message from Beijing is clear: anyone who wishes to do business in Hong Kong must respect China’s concept of national security – regardless of that person’s nationality or their locality.

    The National Security Law impacts European corporations as well. According to the latest implementation rules, the authorities are empowered to “freeze, restrain, confiscate, and forfeit any property related to offences endangering national security”. They also may require foreign political organisations and agents to provide information on activities concerning Hong Kong. The Law deliberately creates a dilemma and makes it clear to European companies. If a company surrenders information to the authorities, they violate their clients’ goodwill. If a company does not cooperate, its business interests in Hong Kong and mainland China will suffer. Beijing is effectively leveraging the West’s extensive business network and economic interests in Hong Kong, in order to test the European Union’s ability to balance its pursuit of commercial benefits and commitment to universal values.

    From Beijing’s perspective, should European companies and EU Member States kowtow to the new arrangement in Hong Kong, Beijing will have full confidence that economic interests will always serve as good diplomatic leverage against the EU. In this case, the comprehensive investment agreement in its current form serves the foremost political interests of Beijing. Maintaining the status quo does not give the European Union any competitive edge against China’s sharp power in Europe. Only by acting in one voice and addressing the Hong Kong question seriously, can the European Union change the status quo and explore new possibilities in EU-China relations.

    This article does not advocate for sanctions against Beijing, nor does it ask the EU to provide a UK-esque lifeboat policy to the citizens of Hong Kong. Instead, this thesis pleads for Europeans to act with one voice, and for the European Union to re-discover its diplomatic capacity, rooted in the commanding strength of the Common Market, and its formidable global regulatory regime. As history once showed, any hesitation would turn Europe into an ideological battlefield. Should there be a New Cold War in the 21st century, Brussels ought to utilise its structural strength to protect the very foundation of Europe’s peace, prosperity, and the well-being of its citizens.

    Credits: Image by Jimmy Chan on Pexels

    Hong Kong Global Research Council Democracy European Union Foreign Policy Human Rights

    Hong Kong Global Research Council

    More than “West Berlin”: The EU should take the Hong Kong question seriously

    Blog

    27 Jul 2020

  • This article discusses hybrid threats and the steps that Europe, through various national, EU and NATO initiatives, has taken in recent years to address them. Although these threats do not constitute a new challenge for states and international actors, they became a major concern for European countries following Russia’s conventional and unconventional war in Ukraine in 2014. The article argues that addressing hybrid threats is a constant, never-ending process that requires the development of societal and governmental resilience. Hybrid threats are constantly changing and evolving, which means that our response to them also needs to be constantly evolving in order to keep up. The article also provides some recommendations for European policymakers on the next steps that Europe, especially the EU, should take when addressing hybrid threats.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Eitvydas Bajarūnas Defence EU-Russia European Union Security

    Eitvydas Bajarūnas

    Addressing Hybrid Threats: Priorities for the EU in 2020 and Beyond

    Blog

    24 Jul 2020

  • This policy brief analyses the competences and potential of the EU in the field of cultural heritage protection. Despite numerous references to culture and heritage in the EU treaties, the analysis suggests that the Union’s focus on cultural heritage remains limited and does not adequately reflect the magnitude of recent challenges.

    In the last decade of financial and economic difficulties, Europe’s cultural heritage has suffered from major funding cuts. This is now being compounded by the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the culture and heritage sectors. Climate change also represents a growing threat to cultural sites across the EU, and the successes of right-wing Eurosceptic populism have changed the politics of cultural heritage. The EU is routinely portrayed as a remote post-national technocracy bent on overcoming separate national identities and lacking a commitment to the continent’s common historical heritage.

    This paper argues that all these developments have created the conditions for considerable ‘European added value’—economic, social and political—to be realised by stepping up EU action for the protection of the continent’s cultural heritage. Currently ongoing negotiations for the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF 2021–7) and for the post-COVID-19 recovery fund that is tied to it (the ‘Next Generation EU’ initiative) offer a unique opportunity to advance this important agenda.

    Economy EU Member States European Union Values

    A Europe That Protects Its Heritage

    Policy Briefs

    15 Jul 2020

  • Almost two decades after the European Council summit in Thessaloniki, the promise of EU membership remains unfulfilled in the Western Balkans. Although the process of EU accession is continuing, the current pace throws the Thessaloniki promise into doubt. Despite initial success, the current approach to enlargement has reached its limits, as it seems to be slowing down the integration process rather than accelerating it. At the same time, the transformative power of the EU is too weak to positively impact on democratic and economic setbacks in the region. That is why this article considers various strategies that the EU could employ to recalibrate the accession of the Western Balkans, notwithstanding the need for sincere reforms in the aspiring member states.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Marko Kmezić Democracy Enlargment EU Institutions European Union

    Marko Kmezić

    Recalibrating the EU’s Approach to the Western Balkans

    Blog

    15 Jul 2020

  • The corona crisis apparently reinforces the role of the nation-state, of the government and the hard struggle between the United States and China, which put their own interests above the multilateral world order. Yet a different agenda is needed now, says former Prime Minister Prof. Dr. Jan Peter Balkenende: “Collaboration, connection, and sustainability are now more essential than hammering on the nation-state. Europe and Christian democracy can play an important role in this. Christian Democracy has always had the courage to row against the current.”

    The interview conducted by Marc Janssens, editor-in-chief, has been published in Christen Democratische Verkenningen, Summer edition 2020 (Dutch). The World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid published the interview in English. Below you can find a summary of the key elements and an excerpt from the interview.

    Key elements:

    – Precisely at a time when nation-state and autocracy are leading the way, we must strengthen the social undercurrent of connectedness, values, ​​and sustainability.

    – The global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate change and the circular economy give hope and perspective to everyone. This agenda is essential to overcome nationalism, populism, and attacks on multilateral organisations.

    – High trust societies are performing better than low trust societies.

    – Europe must develop a new narrative, in which commonness, diversity, solidarity, and competitiveness are leading, which discusses the importance of values and shows geopolitical leadership.

    – A new orientation and organisation of our economies are required: a moral, responsible, and stakeholder capitalism.

    Jan Peter Balkenende has been out of active politics for ten years, after his time as Prime Minister (2002-2010). But sitting still is by no means the same as uninvolved. He works as an external senior advisor to EY, a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, a supervisory board member at ING, and is involved in various organisations. The common thread is sustainability, social connection, global cooperation, and tackling inequality. The guiding principle in all this is the Sustainable Development Goals: “We now see a world where it seems to be about the right of the fittest and about capitalism driven by a mere pursuit of profit. China and the US compete for world power, but are mainly focused on their own interests. Their leaders Trump and Xi Jinping have little interest in multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation or the World Health Organisation. On the other hand, I would like to draw attention to another, hopeful agenda: that of sustainability, the common interest – the so-called Common Good -, a circular economy and working together.

    Europe but also Christian Democracy can play an important role in this, because they have a long tradition of connection and attention to the moral side of all kinds of issues. If Europe seeks strength in its uniqueness and in the interest of global institutions, it may prevent being played apart by China and America. Global thinking is not only about countries and their governments, but also about NGOs, companies, universities, civil society, religious groups. The SDGs – requiring actions and measurement – and Pope Francis’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ provide hope and perspective. Christian Democracy can be important in this because it is not only a political but also a social movement. We as Christian Democrats have always had the courage to focus on connection and row against the current.”

    What does the new story of Europe look like?

    “We have to redesign the EU to motivate people and organisations. Europe must start from its own strength, which connects countries that are also different. Of course, there are concerns in Europe and there is a lack of unity, but the current crisis requires the commitment and qualities that Europe has always drawn strength from: bridging differences and thinking together. In addition, Europe must also show results, for example in the areas of climate, environment, sustainability, and a circular economy. Showing results will strengthen trust in Europe among citizens, organisations, and businesses; but Europe must want to reform. Equally crucial is the awareness and debate about values ​​in Europe: peace, democracy, liberty, solidarity, equality, justice, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. If you break EU rules and see Europe only as an institution from which subsidies can be obtained, sanctions must follow, after dialogue of course. Europe is too important at its core and relies too much on its own values ​​to be undermined from within.”

    How do you assess the situation in the US?

    “The US fascinates by its dynamism. This has enormous appeal in the fields of science and innovation, but politically it is a completely split country. The connection is gone; there is a certain harshness surrounding discussions about fake news that is not good for the country. There is a need for truth-seeking institutions. We live in previously unthinkable times. In the late 1980s, Francis Fukuyama wrote his essay “The End of History” about the liberal democratic world order. Now we can see book titles such as “The End of Democracy” and “How Democracies Die”. The world order, as it was built up after the Second World War, has proved extremely fragile, so it is therefore important now to draw attention to values ​​such as connection and communality.”

    Doesn’t the corona crisis show that many companies in their prime have let their profits flow to shareholders, and now have to hold hands with the government because they have too few buffers? Shouldn’t we get rid of shareholder capitalism?

    “It cannot be the case that shareholders only focus on the short-term financial gain and neglect the long-term consequences for the company and society. In this respect, I strongly support values-driven capitalism, in which not only financial growth, but also the social involvement of companies is the main aspect. This is really about creating shared value: economic and societal value. It must be about inclusive thinking and acting. That stakeholder thinking – the World Economic Forum recently argued for stakeholder capitalism – is essential in this day and age, when we meet the limits of money-driven capitalism. We are entering the era of responsible capitalism.”

    What contribution can Christian democracy make in the debate about the organisation of society?

    “That we recognise that all issues have a moral component. We are now faced with the choice: do we only determine what the role of the state, the market, and social institutions are through an economic prism, or do we examine, from a moral framework, what justice is and what the common good is, the so-called Bonum Commune. Then it’s not only about the question “who does what”? No, then we first determine what we want, what public justice means, and then the question arises why the market, government, or society can best do this. This is called differentiated responsibility in Christian Democratic thinking, but it is always a spread responsibility normalised by solidarity and stewardship. Something similar is needed now, because all kinds of things will shift due to the corona crisis. It is my firm belief that the strength of Christian democracy lies in our vision of tomorrow’s society: common good and Bonum Commune, community thinking, moral capitalism, long-term value creation, climate and stewardship, the SDGs, collaboration, and connection. We need to develop this further and, therefore, we must be inspired. That inspiration remains the most important thing a Christian Democratic politician needs. “

    Christian Democracy Economy European Union Values

    Against the Current for the Common Good

    Other News

    14 Jul 2020

  • The travel industry is one of the economic sectors most harshly affected by the Coronavirus epidemic. Airline companies are facing the worst challenge in decades by cutting costs and laying off employees, fighting to survive another day.

    National airline companies have now become a significant challenge for EU member states. Airline companies do not only employ large amounts of people; they are part of the core transport system of each EU member state, and often potent national symbols. Should national airline companies collapse, national governments would have to foot the bill.

    Therefore, the European Commission’s announcement on 2 July, launching an infringement procedure against ten EU member states in breach of the bloc’s passenger rights rule was met with discontent in some EU capitals.

    In many EU member states, the view is that passenger rights should be temporarily suspended. Lobbied by airline companies, twelve EU countries have demanded the suspension of passenger rights. In practice, this would mean if a flight is cancelled, instead of immediate reimbursement (for which the delay is currently one week), passengers would be offered a voucher instead. The member states’ letter proposes ‘a clear right of reimbursement immediately at the end of validity’. The short-term implications of this are unclear, but if the voucher’s validity is 2 years, the consumer could wait for their money a long time.

    The problem is that as the airlines are fighting for survival, and enjoy the moral backing of the member states, questionable tactics are already being used. After the EU has already helped airline companies by waiving the obligation to use 80% of their take-off and landing slots, airline companies across the board have begun cancelling flights last minute. This has obviously caused a big headache or two for airline customers.

    For airlines, the logic seems to be to ensure that flights are full and profitable. Unfortunately, some airlines are currently selling tickets for routes which they know full well the flight will probably be cancelled.

    The business logic is that through these unfair tactics, companies can improve their immediate cash situation by reimbursing customers with several months’ delay. Additionally, certain clients will end up returning the money to airline companies through vouchers, because airlines do not inform travellers about reimbursement options, or often make the reimbursement process so complicated that customers give up and accept the voucher right away.

    Fool me once, fool me twice…

    Of course, one can argue that it is in the customers’ interest for airline companies to survive, and the current climate is very tough for airlines. But misled customers should not be the ones paying the industry’s bill.

    As things stand today, the situation for us, as airline customers, is radically different. When buying a flight ticket, one has to take into account that the risk of flight’s cancellation has increased substantially. Secondly, one is better off buying a ticket from a company which you plan to fly with in the near future so the voucher is of some use, in case the flight is cancelled. Finally, remember that obtaining reimbursement for your ticket might be a lot of work, and you would be waiting a long time for compensation.

    By using deceptive tactics with customers, airlines are adding rapidly declining consumer trust to their long list of problems, the most obvious of which is a drop in demand for flights as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic.

    Once this trust is damaged, it will take a long time to regain it. The EU’s infringement procedure is not only protecting European customers, it is also protecting the flight industry by maintaining consumer trust. After all, the airline industry can only thrive with happy and confident travellers.

    Credits: Photo by Skitterphoto on Pixabay

    Tomi Huhtanen Crisis Economy EU Member States European Union

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Travelling in times of Corona: how the EU is preventing a long-term aviation’s crisis and saving our summer holidays

    Blog

    10 Jul 2020

  • Without a doubt, 2020 will be a year the world will remember. So will Andrej Plenković. Croatia’s Prime Minister just got re-elected and secured 66 parliamentary seats for his conservative HDZ party, in a surprising outcome to the election. Moreover, this historical win comes only five days after the European Union’s youngest member state passed the Council leadership baton to Germany, not to mention the ongoing fierce pandemic, which Plenković’s government had to combat in its own backyard and on the European level.

    Ambitious priorities based on the slogan “A Strong Europe in a world of challenges” had to be reconsidered during the Croatian EU Presidency. Andrej Plenković’s government had to react quickly in order to adapt to conditions brought on by COVID-19.

    Firstly, high-level meetings in Croatia and Brussels were replaced by video-conferences, and cultural events, geared towards serving the nation’s branding purposes, had to be adapted for social media promotion. 

    Secondly, relating to the allocation of the EU budget, Plenković’s government intended to shape the final draft of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) in order to serve all EU 27. At the same time, it advocated for additional funds for Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy, two items which the current MFF draft proposes to reduce. Due to the pandemic and short timeframe, when the conversation shifted towards money, an agreement was reached on an EU Recovery and Resilience Facility worth €560 billion, and three safety nets, including €540 billion in loans in response to the coronavirus’ consequences.

    Thirdly, one of the central aspects of the Croatian Presidency was enlargement policy, and the Presidency’s commitment to opening negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, which culminated in the EU-Western Balkans Summit. The Zagreb Summit was the crowning achievement of the Croatian Presidency. In March, EU Heads of State not only gave their green light for the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, but they also sent a clear political signal to the region and emphasised its importance for Europe. Although the summit’s initial aim was to address the rule of law and the fight against organised crime, it focused on the coronavirus and €3.3 billion in financial assistance that the EU pledged to the Western Balkans region to help it recover from the pandemic.

    If Member States were to be given marks at the end of each six-month EU Presidency, the criterion for assessment could be the fulfilment of the tasks set out in the Presidency programme, in coherence with the EU agenda. Despite the very ambitious programme and the government’s thorough preparation, not all the objectives set out could be achieved due to the previously mentioned conditions. However, according to Charles Darwin, it is not the strongest that survive, but those most adaptable to changes. And Croatia deserves a petica (meaning an excellent mark) in that regard, because not only did the country adapt well to unforeseen circumstances, but it simultaneously sent out a message of solidarity, unity, and a bright vision of a stronger EU.

    Simultaneously, Andrej Plenković had to fight battles on home court. During a full-blown crisis, he had to reappoint a new health minister, which proved to be one of the key moves for the upcoming elections. Croatia’s National Civil Protection Headquarters, composed of Health minister Vili Beroš and Interior minister Davor Božinović, are perceived as superheroes, who put feelings of trust and safety in the minds of Croats when they needed it the most. It was precisely the term ‘safety’ that was the motto of Plenkovic’s campaign #SigurnaHrvatska, which motivated voters to elect a party that can lead them to brighter days, come hell or high water.

    Even though this was the third time in the past 14 months that Croats went to the polls, and while previous results did not play out well for HDZ, Andrej Plenković took the correct conclusions out of earlier mistakes, choosing the right time and the right people. His newly composed electoral list left nothing to be desired. A balance of experienced politicians with a dash of competent and promising youth, running an election called immediately after a very successful management of the pandemic, and before the incoming economic downturn, was the magic formula. Croats had their say, and they voted for a safe, proven, and ambitious option.

    Nevertheless, there are still five more months until the end of the year, and there are already new problems on the horizon. According to experts, the upcoming economic crisis should hit harder than in 2008. This threat, paired with coronavirus, climate change, existing migration challenges, and growing populism, will cause a lot of sleepless nights in Zagreb.

    Sandra Pasarić Elections EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    Sandra Pasarić

    Finding security in uncertain times: A ‘petica’ for Andrej Plenković

    Blog

    07 Jul 2020

  • This article examines the question of migration from the perspective of long-term integration. In recent decades, the latter has often yielded to multicultural policies shaped on the recognition of groups and their alleged identities and demands. Through a case study of blasphemy against Islam, this article argues that multiculturalism has three main flaws: first, it shrinks the complexity of identities in order to assign individuals to pre-made boxes, thereby essentialising communities; second, it fosters social conflicts by opposing different groups and their supposed demands; and third, it creates a discriminatory system, contrary to the principles of equality and dignity. To avoid the ruination of the European dream of openness and diversity, it is necessary to return to an individualistic view of integration based on freedom, equality and universal citizenship.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Tommaso Virgili European Union Islam Migration Values

    Tommaso Virgili

    Whose ‘Identity’? Multiculturalism vs. Integration in Europe

    Blog

    06 Jul 2020

  • Unless you live in Malta, you might not have noticed an unprecedented search and rescue crisis that has revolved around this island nation since April of this year. What in normal circumstances would have occupied headlines across Europe, has nearly been driven into the background by the dramatic events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic both in Europe and globally.

    This crisis has been spurred by a progressive increase in illegal border crossings from Libya towards Malta and Italy. In turn, this increase is a result of at least two factors. The first is mass joblessness among Libya’s large migrant population, caused by an economic decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict inside the country. The second is a resumption of the activities of migrant smugglers, tolerated by the officially recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). The health crisis has confirmed Libya as the main North African country serving as a departure point for Europebound irregular migrants.

    The pandemic and its consequences for irregular migration are highlighting the challenge that Libya, as a relatively wealthy but dangerous and conflict-ridden country, continues to pose to European politicians 

    Crisis EU Member States European Union Migration

    COVID-19 and the Old-New Politics of Irregular Migration from Libya

    IN BRIEF

    02 Jul 2020

  • The article examines the immigration and integration policies of France, Sweden, Germany and Denmark. It argues that there is a need for a more unified understanding of the concept of integration throughout the member states. Although European law does not regulate the issue of immigrant integration as it is a competence of the member states, there is a need for a unified understanding of integration. Denmark’s integration policy is described as an example of an effective policy that ought to be emulated, in contrast to those of other countries. The article concludes that the problems France, Sweden and Germany face in integrating newcomers are partly due to a lack of consensus about what integration ought to be.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Claudia Cajvan EU Member States European Union Integration Migration

    Claudia Cajvan

    Lessons From Migrant Integration Into European Societies

    Blog

    30 Jun 2020

  • There is a widespread perception that the development of surveillance technologies in border management is antagonistic to civil liberties. This article attempts to contribute to a better understanding of the need for new technological means to survey the EU’s external border. Contrary to the critics, it contends that there is no liberty without security. It argues that the so-called militarisation of the EU’s borders is a precondition for countering the dangers which threaten our liberties. These dangers include organised cross-border crime, illegal migration and incursions by hostile powers. The article also demonstrates that the use of border surveillance aircraft contributes to saving lives at the EU’s external border and that the use of modern technologies generates record trails which make it easier to track potential human rights abuses committed by border guards. To manage migration, facilitate legitimate commerce, monitor for illegal waste dumping and guarantee the undisturbed functioning of our institutions, improved border management with the help of modern technologies is a necessity.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Vít Novotný EU Institutions European Union Migration

    Vít Novotný

    Surveillance Aircraft and the Borders of Schengen

    Blog

    23 Jun 2020

  • The recent deployment of Russian fighter jets to Libya is a dangerous escalation of an already complicated and bloody conflict, with a surge in civilian casualties. The civil war raging in Libya has, in effect, created a situation where outside powers (mainly Russia and Turkey) are vying for control of Libya’s future and trying to expand their footholds in the Eastern Mediterranean. This escalation not only affects Libya, but it is also impeding on the effort of solving other regional issues such as illegal trafficking of both people and drugs, terrorism, and border disputes in the Maghreb and Sahel regions.

    Crisis European Union Foreign Policy Mediterranean

    State of play in the Libyan Civil War

    IN BRIEF

    19 Jun 2020

  • For as long as the EU has had a China policy to speak of, it has been ambiguous. The EU’s most recent China strategy calls the country “a partner, a competitor, and a systemic rival.” Europeans understand the challenge posed by Chinese mercantilism and its ambitions for continental hegemony. Even before the pandemic, most Europeans held an unfavourable view of China, with 70 percent of Swedes and 57 percent of Czechs seeing the country in a negative light. However, devising a coherent approach has proven difficult.

    One reason is that even among the more ‘hawkish’ countries, there is not necessarily an understanding of what an effective European response should resemble. For France, Chinese mercantilism is best confronted by mercantilism of a European variety: building European champions and tossing aside competition and state rules. But that is a no-go for governments of smaller countries wary of China – say, Sweden – who nevertheless understand that European monopolies showered with public funds are a costly and ineffective response to the challenge at hand.

    Another reason is a persistent distrust of US President Donald Trump. Joining forces with the United States is a losing political proposition as long as America is seen as erratic, mercurial, and primarily concerned with its own bilateral trade deficit, instead of the broader economic and geopolitical challenges that China’s rise involves.

    Yet, the current triangulation between Beijing and Washington often requires a denial of reality. At his recent press conference, the High Representative Josep Borrell claimed that Chinese leadership “do not have military ambitions and they do not want to use force and participate in military conflicts”, notwithstanding China’s recent grab of Indian territory and the militarisation of the South China Sea. Whom does one believe: Mr Borrell or one’s lying eyes?

    The EU’s ambiguity has also provided a permission structure for member states to strike deals with China, which will harm the continent’s interests over the long term. Examples include Italy’s embrace of the Belt and Road initiative – or, more recently, the rushed and secretive decision by the Hungarian government to proceed with the construction of a Chinese-financed rail connection with Belgrade.

    Finally, the lack of a principled China policy erodes the EU’s status as a champion of human rights and democracy around the world – a mantle which Europeans have been keen to carry in the era of ‘America First’. After years of pussyfooting around the status of Taiwan, Tibet, or the regime’s appalling treatment of the Uighur minority, the milquetoast criticism of China over its crackdown on Hong Kong is a case in point. An unambiguous violation of a commitment that was thought to carry the full force of international law requires more than “grave concern” and to “raise the issue in our continuing dialogue with China”, as Mr Borrell’s office put it.

    With its heavy-handed ‘public diplomacy’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has squandered a lot of goodwill in Europe. “We should not shy away from naming and shaming” said Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice-president, regarding China’s disinformation efforts in the wake of the pandemic. Ms Jourová’s home country, Czechia, saw the Chinese regime seek to co-opt political and business elites for years, inviting a broad-based backlash after it overplayed its hand.

    The current situation is Europe’s opportunity to rethink and step up. The simultaneous invocation of ‘partnership’, ‘competition’, and ‘systemic rivalry’ in the EU’s relationship with China is not sustainable. Partnership presupposes trust and the existence of common goals. Competitors have different interests but adhere to shared rules of the game. Conversely, a ‘systemic rival’, as the Greens’ MEP Reinhard Bütikofer correctly put it, “just wants to win.”

    Nobody expects the EU to embark on a Trump-led China crusade or to ‘decouple’ itself from Chinese trade and investment flows. Yet, clear guidance for member states on Chinese investment in critical sectors, whether they be infrastructure, finance, or tech, would be helpful. Similarly, a commitment to exclude Huawei from 5G networks across the bloc and joining the UK’s bourgeoning initiative to get the world’s leading democracies to cooperate on technological alternatives to Huawei are worthwhile endeavours.

    The EU ought to be ready to walk away from the mirage of an investment treaty with China, currently in its 30th negotiating round. The EU wants China to scrap quantitative restrictions, equity caps, and joint venture requirements currently imposed on European companies. Also, EU businesses ought to be able to “compete on an equal footing when operating in China” by achieving “non-discriminatory treatment, prohibition of performance requirements – in other words, measures requiring investors to behave in a certain way or to achieve certain outcomes (including those leading to forced technology transfer) – and equal participation in standard-setting work.”

    Unfortunately, those practices are central to China’s state capitalism. The absence of noticeable progress since the decision was taken to start negotiations in 2012 shows that no matter how hard the EU presses for “full reciprocity”, a non-discriminatory business environment in China is not on the table. Meanwhile, Beijing is eager to turn Western economies into its playground. After all, only 15 per cent of Chinese corporations listed on the Fortune Global 500 are in private hands.

    European discussions over China would be much easier if the United States today were a trusted and reliable partner, providing strategic guidance, instead of the current administration’s petty displays of hostility towards the EU. The nature of China’s challenge to Europe, however, remains unchanged, regardless of who the current occupant of the White House is. Thus, it is imperative that Europeans use the window of opportunity provided by the pandemic and Beijing’s overreach to step up, hopefully to be joined in their efforts by the United States.

    Credits: Photo by Peggy_Marco on Pixabay

    Dalibor Roháč Crisis EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy

    Dalibor Roháč

    In the wake of COVID-19, the EU must do better to address China’s rise

    Blog

    18 Jun 2020

  • What should be the European Union’s reaction to the Hong Kong national security law adopted by China? More generally, what should be the EU stance towards China’s oppression of various minorities?

    José María Aznar, Former Prime Minister of Spain:

    “We should align our efforts with those of our allies, creating a diplomatic coalition to put pressure on Beijing and to warn against China’s failure to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom under “one country, two systems”. We have to prepare possible economic sanctions as our response to China’s decision to impose new security legislation. Our response must be convincing to discourage possible Chinese coercion of minorities and especially of Taiwan.”

    Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister of Sweden:

    “On the issue of Hong Kong, it’s important to coordinate our stance closely with international partners, especially with the UK, since it is very much the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 that we must insist on being implemented to the letter and the spirit. Only by acting together, with a broader group of countries – including Canada and Australia – can we have any possible impact.”

    Antonis Samaras, Former Prime Minister of Greece:

    “When Hong Kong was integrated back to China in 1997, the general agreement was that nothing should challenge the overall sovereignty of China, and nothing should undermine the basic democratic principles already enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong, including the right of self-governance, their separate western-based judicial system, or the rights of various minorities. The Basic Law of Hong Kong – its formal term – was acceptable by all sides, and formalised the “one country, two systems” principle. This was a balanced approach that has worked so far and I do not believe it should change. I am gravely concerned about the repercussions of any attempt to undermine this agreement.”

    Can the EU adopt a common strategy in response to China’s bid for global hegemony, and what should this be? Can Europe “decouple” from China?

    José María Aznar: “For most of the last decade, the EU has looked at China through the prism of economic opportunity. Beijing’s transgressions, whether they are phasing out human rights in the country, dislodging South China Sea neighbours, stealing intellectual property from the West, or running propaganda and disinformation campaigns, have been ignored. Now, democratic nations need to make themselves less vulnerable to potential Chinese economic pressure and focus on security issues related to 5G networks. The EU’s common strategy must be based on three principles: 1) recognising that Europe’s values and interests are indivisible, 2) asking China’s government for reciprocity of market access, 3) cooperating with China on cross-cutting issues.”

    Carl Bildt: “I don’t think China aspires to “global hegemony”, but they clearly seek to gain increased influence in different ways, particularly in their widely defined periphery. The EU’s policy must rest on two pillars. To engage with China on issues like climate, global trade, and global health, but also to stand firm on issues of human rights, democracy, and non-interference. However, “decoupling” is a strange concept – we are not “coupled” with China. And no one will be able to ignore what will eventually become the largest economy in the world.”

    Antonis Samaras: “I believe we should have a common policy vis-à-vis China. But it should be an inclusive approach, not an exclusive one. Extensive dependence on international supply lines from China is not good for Europe or China. On the other hand, alienating China is also wrong. There is room for an “intermediate” solution, balancing the legitimate concerns from all sides.”

    The US is pursuing an increasingly unilateral approach on China, which might put the EU in an uncomfortable position. How do you expect this to affect the transatlantic relationship, and what is the best policy for Europe?

    José María Aznar: “The EU is in an uncomfortable position, but even with the current deep crisis in the transatlantic relationship, there can be no contest for the EU between its alliance with the world’s most powerful democracy, and a communist state that parades its contempt for European values. There is a strategic imperative to work together with the US, because the challenge posed by China will grow in the years to come, and only together can we safeguard the liberal international order.”

    Carl Bildt: “We must develop our own approach, and the paper from March of last year is a good start. What is profoundly embarrassing is that the EU is often blocked by some member states from being critical towards certain Chinese policies, notably when it comes to human rights. We must also hope that there will be someone in the White House open to constructive dialogue with the EU on these issues, so that a common position can evolve.”

    Antonis Samaras: “Europe is a long-standing trading partner and security ally of the United States. Europe is also a valuable trading partner of China. We will probably have to redefine both of these partnerships. However, most importantly, we must make them “compatible”. Europe can act as a valuable mediator between the US and China.”

    Crisis Democracy European Union Foreign Policy

    How should the EU handle relations with China?

    Other News

    15 Jun 2020

  • People across Europe are suffering. They are scared of becoming ill, uncertain about their economic future and still worried about the well-being of their parents and grandparents.

    But men and women are feeling this crisis differently. For example, while more men than women are tragically dying from COVID-19, more women are on the frontlines providing care, with women accounting for almost 80% of healthcare workers, 76% of the 49 million care workers, and 82% of cashiers within the EU. The impact of this virus is different for men and women, and to build a recovery that works for all people, we must acknowledge this core difference and tailor our response to it.

    Crisis Economy European Union Society

    Putting Women at the Heart of Europe’s Recovery

    IN BRIEF

    10 Jun 2020

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some exploitative employer practices for both EU and non-EU seasonal workers, especially in agriculture in some EU member states. Can the conditions for these labourers be improved without damaging the viability and competitiveness of national agriculture sectors?

    Wido Geis-Thöne, Senior Economist Qualifications, Migration and Innovation, Cologne Institute for Economic Research:

    “If the exploitative employer practices violate existing legislation, better controls are needed. The problem is then that there can be such a strong distortion of competition that is detrimental to law-abiding companies that, if they do not also resort to these illegal practices, they can be forced out of the market. If companies are forced to violate the law, the regulatory framework must be adapted as a matter of urgency. Otherwise, the economic order itself will be called into question. In this case, either law enforcement has to be improved, or the legal framework must be adapted. If practices move within the range of what is legally permissible, the situation is different. In this case, it should be noted that there can be very different perceptions of when individual work processes are exploitative and when they arise from operational necessities, e.g. with regard to optimal harvesting times. In this case, policymakers are called upon to listen to all sides and to assess the arguments carefully. If the regulations are carried out within a reasonable framework, there is no reason to fear that the vitality and competitiveness of the European agricultural sector will be impaired, since imports from third countries play a rather subordinate role in this area and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) provides very strong support and protection mechanisms for domestic farms. Within the EU, agriculture, and hence seasonal workers should, in any case, be subject to largely the same rules in order to ensure that the CAP functions properly. At the same time, however, local conditions, for example with regard to wage levels, must also be considered in shaping employment relationships.”

    Monica Andriescu, Senior Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Institute Europe, Brussels:

    “Guaranteeing fair working conditions can never be at odds with growth and competitiveness. The pandemic has exposed the fault lines of our economies and its pervasive inequalities. In these times more than ever, safeguarding workplace safety, health, and decent working conditions are critical to increasing productivity and building economic resilience. Policies cannot afford to go amiss in harnessing and protecting the human capital needed to weather the storm ahead. Exploitative working practices are regrettably still part of European labour markets, with migrants particularly vulnerable to unfair employers and temporary work agency practices. While there is political commitment at EU level to improve employment conditions for all workers, there is a need for decisive action to be channelled towards alleviating inequalities at times when they are likely to be exacerbated if left unchecked (e.g. increasing workplace inspections and encouraging the reporting of abusive practices). This is particularly relevant for sectors where workers’ vulnerabilities are heightened by the physically draining nature of their work, e.g. in agriculture. Despite the gloomy prospects this crisis brings at macro and micro levels, it does harbour opportunities to rethink connections between economic growth and good work, and how to go beyond artificial perceptions that there is an inverse relationship between them.”

    Rainer Münz, migration and demography expert, formerly working at the in-house think tank of the European Commission (2015-2020):

    “Following initial travel restrictions and border controls, many Western European farmers and slaughterhouse operators resumed recruiting labour in Central and Eastern Europe. Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands organised airlifts from Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. Employers mainly argued that domestic job seekers lacked the required experience and endurance. Another reason was that foreign seasonal and contractual workers are less expensive. They are exempt from certain social security contributions. Minimal wage arrangements do not apply if workers are hired via subcontractors or categorised as self-employed.

    The background to this wage dumping is competition within the EU. The Common Agricultural Policy does not shield Western and Southern European producers and processers from having to compete with their Central and South-Eastern European counterparts, operating in a distinctively lower wage environment. The flip side of this is retailers being able to offer lower food prices, for example, tomatoes at €1.29 per kg, apples at € 1.50 per kg or chicken nuggets at € 2.99 per kg.

    The COVID-19 crisis has exposed not only the extent to which certain businesses are dependent on readily available short-term migrant workers, but also their wages and their living and working conditions. In Austria, two dozen foreign temporary agricultural workers were confined in quarantine as some of them tested positive for the virus. In Germany and the Netherlands, hundreds of slaughterhouse workers were infected at their workplaces or at boarding houses. After the death of a few Romanian workers, the Romanian Minister of Labour, Violeta Alexandru (PNL), travelled to Germany to conduct on-sight inspection. Later in May, the German Minister of Labour, Hubertus Heil (SPD) announced that from 2021, it would become illegal for slaughterhouse operators to hire non-employed foreign contractual workers. It remains to be seen if this will lead to more automation, higher retail prices for meat or in a shift of production towards EU countries with lower wage levels or less regulated labour markets.”

    Several EU countries, including Germany, have been recruiting migrant and refugee health and social care workers although many of these people lack the professional certificates that they would require under normal conditions. Do you foresee a relaxation of national qualification standards as a result of the Corona crisis?

    Wido Geis-Thöne: “I consider it very unlikely that the Corona crisis will lead to a relaxation of national qualification requirements for health and social care professions. As far as I can see, the Corona pandemic is not expected to lead to a sharp increase in the number of people in need of care and assistance in the longer term. If this is not the case, there will be no sharp increase in the number of staff needed in the health and social services sector. The peak of the (first) pandemic wave represents an exceptional situation in this respect. However, in the context of demographic change, we will observer a gradual increase in the need for care and assistance, and this will pose major challenges for the health and social services in the medium term. It will also raise the question of whether it is possible to achieve a different mix of qualifications in these areas with a higher proportion of assisted personnel without the relevant specialist training.”

    Monica Andriescu: “National education and training systems are not prone to swift changes, such as the sudden relaxation of qualification standards. The key question is rather how to enable quicker procedures of recognition of foreign qualifications, which under normal conditions are often lengthy and complex. As evidenced by the stringent need for health and care workers to support the frontline fight against the Coronavirus throughout Europe, fast and effective procedures of recognising foreign qualifications are more relevant now than at any time in the past, to ensure a steady stream of relevant workforce. These will ensure that professional certificates are recognised in a timely manner and that occupational standards are maintained in destination countries. The pandemic provides an opportunity for relevant authorities and employers to join forces in identifying innovative routes to reform or expedite the recognition of skills, and to pilot these. The key challenge will be to balance speed and quality of processes and outcomes, without lowering standards.”

    Rainer Münz: “The relaxation of standards in order to hire migrants with professional health and care background during the COVID-19 epidemic is of temporary nature, caused by exceptional circumstances. It will not remain in place after the crisis ends. It can, however, be expected that many of those who have now found a job, will remain in the health and care sector. And we can assume that labour market authorities financing retraining and job integration of unemployed migrants will encourage more people to specialise as care givers or to have their medical degrees recognised.”

    Crisis Economy European Union Migration

    How does the Corona crisis affect the conditions for migrant workers in the EU?

    Other News

    29 May 2020

  • Amid -at times- stringent lockdown measures taken all over Europe, it seemed almost providential that one of our main platforms for home entertainment proposed a very bizarre show. 

    As we all guiltily binge-watched Netflix’s hit ‘documentary’, “Tiger King: Mayhem, Murder and Madness”, and revelled in its larger-than-life characters, we must be serious for a moment: the trade of exotic animals is a highly lucrative and unregulated business. In Europe, we have our own Tiger Kings.

    Where does regulation stand at the EU level? The EU mostly settles for the current CITES regulation. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international norms system that began in the 1970s, that regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives. It ensures their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.

    Illegal wildlife trade is a flourishing business, comparable to the traffic of drugs and weapons, and amounts to 7 to 23 billion dollars annually, according to a UNEP-Interpol report. Therefore, it was a welcome announcement when the European Commission pledged in its EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, published on the 20th of May, that it “will take a number of steps to crack down on illegal wildlife trade”. The Commission said that, among other things, it will revise its EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking in 2021.

    This communication was initially scheduled to be released two months ago, but due to the current pandemic that has been shaking the continent and the world, it could only come out now. COVID-19 can, in fact, be directly linked to the necessity of strengthening the future Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.

    The COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically shone a light on how wildlife markets, as well as the use of wildlife for traditional medicine, represents severe risks for zoonotic disease transmission. The proximity with humans provides a path for the transmission of dangerous pathogens. Wildlife markets, like the one in Wuhan from where COVID-19 is supposed to have originated, exist all around the world, and the European continent is a central hub of transport and trade for the lucrative business of wildlife trade. Besides wet markets, it is not uncommon to come across monkey meat in Brussels, or European baby eels in Asia.

    Zoonoses do not have to stem from direct contact between wild animals and humans, it can also spread from wildlife to parasites (ticks, mosquitoes, fleas) or to domestic animals, before eventually spreading to humans. COVID-19 had a zoonotic origin, but is now mostly contracted from other human beings. 61% of new and re-emerging diseases are of zoonotic origins, and although they can originate from the world over, some parts of the world are more prone to develop them due to larger biodiversity, a high density of humans and animals, and the international mobility of these humans and animals. The EU is both a vital marketplace and storage space for exotic animals that could represent a risk for zoonoses.

    It comes as no surprise that, with the emergence of the pandemic, members of the European Parliament have demanded a stronger clampdown on both the legal and illegal trade of exotic animals in the EU, where favourable conditions for the outbreak of diseases like COVID-19 are also rife. The difficulty lies in the effective differentiation between the legal and illegal trade of wildlife, since they are very closely intertwined, as this 2016 report by the European Parliament’s trade committee states.

    This is where a positive list can step in. French MEP Agnès Evren, from the EPP Group, is hopeful the EU will include a more restrictive positive list in tradeable species in its European Green Deal plan for the environment. A positive list sets into legislation what can be brought into the EU, and everything not on the list cannot come in. This method would considerably reduce regulatory bureaucracy at the government level, and facilitate custom officers’ work when distinguishing what is legal versus what is not. Currently, the limited, legal and regulated trade often acts as a cover for illegal trade of the same species.

    Criticism has been levelled against positive lists, invoking subsidiarity, and putting into question whether the EU even has competence on wildlife trade. In fact, some member states have adopted their own methods for tackling wildlife trafficking through positive lists. Others resort to negative lists which, contrary to positive lists, state which species are forbidden from trade, but where permits can be granted following a strict set of rules. Some member states barely have any regulation at all. Once an animal is inside the EU, it becomes harder to track its progression, and transportation is an even bigger headache when following every member states’ individual regulatory mechanisms. Here, EU regulation can create a level playing field for all actors, and reduce cumbersome bureaucratic efforts for national governments.

    Another benefit of further regulating what comes into the EU is the possibility of checking each animal for known pathogens, such as the one which has stemmed from SARS-CoV-2. Checks would allow for closer inspection of animals that are meant for food consumption, but also those that are intended to be kept as pets, as they too can contract the virus.

    The discussion on zoonotic diseases has indicated that poor regulation of wildlife trade can have serious consequences, the likes of which should not be ignored. COVID-19 is not the first and will not be the last pandemic to occur on our continent. EU regulation on this trade should, therefore, be adopted with the view of protecting the health of EU citizens.

    The EU Biodiversity Strategy, which will be an integral part of the European Green Deal, offers the perfect opportunity to take immediate action in preventing the rapid spread of diseases. We should not lose sight of the bigger picture either, which is to avoid future pandemics from happening in the first place. An EU positive list for species and pets is one way to bring much-needed regulation into a trade that has proven dangerous for the safety and health of European citizens.

    So no, don’t hit play on that follow-up meta-documentary about the hit documentary series. Instead, “Think Positive”.

    Anna van Oeveren COVID-19 Crisis European Union Trade Values

    Anna van Oeveren

    Animals in the time of Coronavirus: Why it’s time to think positive

    Blog

    27 May 2020

  • EU countries have begun to ease national restrictions aimed at countering the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to the Visegrád Group, how do you evaluate the emergency powers granted to the executive branch?

    Pavlína Janebová, Deputy Research Director at the Association for International Affairs (Prague):

    “Strengthening the powers of the executive branch is certainly a logical and legitimate step in times of crisis. Regarding the Visegrád states’ governments (i.e. the Hungarian, Polish and Czech governments, as the Slovak one took office only recently), handling the COVID-19 pandemic has largely confirmed the tendencies that we had seen before. Fidesz-KDNP is taking Hungary yet another step further from democracy and the rule of law (with the EU still unable to react adequately). PiS in Poland is pushing for controversial legislation including a change to the electoral code despite the pandemic. Finally, the coalition of ANO and the Social Democrats in the Czech Republic is struggling to produce clear and comprehensible policies for their citizens, and although this is not surprising, it is far from encouraging.”

    Péter Krekó, Executive Director of Political Capital, independent policy research, analysis and consulting institute (Budapest): 

    “The V4 varies in this respect, and I think we can observe somewhat uneven tendencies within the V4. We can find more problematic tendencies of executive (mis)use of power under the pretext of fighting the pandemic in Poland and Hungary, and less in Czechia and Slovakia. In Poland, for example, the government is using the pandemic to put further restrictions on abortion, while it is not obvious at first sight how this might help to stop the epidemic. A law, similar to one in Russia, Hungary and Israel, which aims to discredit NGOs critical of the government by revealing their “foreign funding”, is underway. 

    In Hungary, the government also took steps to silence critical voices. Under the veil of the COVID-19 crisis, the Parliament amended the criminal code to make spreading hoaxes or ‘distorted facts’ about the coronavirus punishable by up to five years in prison. Government-organised think tanks and media then listed opposition journalists as sources of hoaxes to make the message even more evident. Authoritarian practices are also more widespread. For example, police fined citizens who were peacefully protesting against certain government measures without physically gathering, by making noise with their car horns and bicycle bells.

    What instead seems to be a common trend in Central and Eastern Europe is a narrative that China is providing help amid the coronavirus crisis, and the EU is not. Ironically, China might end up extending its sharp power influence in the region as a result of its ‘mask diplomacy’.”

    Milan Nič, Head of the program for Central-Eastern Europe and Russia at the German Council of Foreign Relations-DGAP (Berlin):

    “None of the other Visegrád group countries went as far as granting special powers with no time limit to its head of government, as in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. His rule by decree, adopted on March 30, did not make Hungary’s response to the spread of COVID-19 more effective than elsewhere in the region. In the regional context, Budapest was rather late in its response, less transparent and also had the lowest testing capacity. The Czech Republic and Slovakia, in contrast, closed schools in early March and enforced early lockdowns without the need to widen constitutional frameworks in place. Both countries also made wearing masks mandatory ahead of other European countries. Granted, they also made a number of confusing moves along the way, but these were corrected in response to public criticism and free media coverage.

    If we want to take lessons for the future, the overall response showed that none of the V4 governments had developed civilian crisis management systems for emergency situations, and had to rely on their armed forces or improvised decisions at the verge of legality, e.g. the very strict supervised treatment of their own citizens returning from abroad.”

    Do you think there was an East-West divide in the way governments addressed the COVID-19 pandemic? 

    Pavlína Janebová: “While I do not like the connotations of an ‘East-West divide’, it is clear that imposing strict containment measures early on helped prevent a much more serious spread of the disease in some Central and Eastern European countries. While that certainly is great news, the relative ease with which the borders were closed and the fact that the restrictions were largely undisputed might be a dangerous precedent for the future of Schengen and EU integration in general.”

    Péter Krekó: “I do not really see this. We can see across the world, and in the region as well, that even politicians who were initially hesitant to recognise the pandemic as a significant threat were later just following international trends and the recommendations from doctors and scientists. The region is lucky in that it seems to have been hit by the virus much less than Western Europe. The reasons for this are still to be analysed, and the region’s smaller global role matters. But even that only gave an advantage of 2 to 3 weeks for the countries in the region, and lockdowns, following Western formulas, began earlier here. The region also regards Western Europe as a model now, in the incremental opening process.”

    Milan Nič: “Yes, by now it is clear that the EU’s East moved faster to enforce lockdown measures than most Western European governments, despite a much lower level of confirmed COVID-19 cases. This was partly motivated by fear and awareness that their relatively weak and underfunded health care systems might not be able to contain a major outbreak.

    For the moment, I am concerned that an East-West divide could also be repeated with lifting the lockdowns, just in reverse mode. So far, V4 governments have been too careful and risk-averse when it comes to restarting their economies, which will have a severe impact on the economic recovery and social burden in the whole region.”

    In addressing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis at the EU level, how can the V4 contribute to economic burden-sharing?

    Pavlína Janebová: “In tackling the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, solidarity and mutual cohesion in the EU will be crucial. While the Visegrád countries tend to consider themselves to be among the ‘poorer’ EU member states, and they will certainly experience economic downturn, it will be important for them to realise that other states will be taking the hardest hit. The Visegrád states should be ready to show solidarity in financing economic recovery.”

    Milan Nič: “That remains to be seen, as so far the V4 countries have neither been part of the problem nor the solution – most of them being outside of the Eurozone. But the main part is still ahead of us: political bargaining over EU recovery instruments and the next MFF (budget). For the entirety of Central and Eastern Europe, this is a crisis without precedent in the post-transition period as well as in their period of EU membership. Regarding the Visegrád countries, their government’s response is not going to be the same. It will likely shape individual countries’ political position in Europe, along with prevailing perceptions of the entire region by Western European public opinion – with a tendency to see them as one unit – for years to come.

    Crisis Democracy Eastern Europe European Union

    How have V4 countries responded to the Corona crisis?

    Other News

    25 May 2020

  • We should not be worried about the emergence of China as a superpower, wielding influence and power at a comparable level to the United States. China’s geography will not allow it. Instead, we should be worried about China as a globally influential superpower, less powerful than the US, but still dominating East Asia, building a global bloc of like-minded, authoritarian countries, rivalling the rules-based international order and undermining democratic standards around the world.

    In recent years, China has visibly increased its economic and political power. In some circles, the idea is emerging that China may become a superpower and regional hegemon comparable to the US. These fears are being highlighted by the seemingly ruthlessly effective way China is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and how, allegedly, our Western democracies are a comparative failure.

    China is now the second-largest economy in the world, it has begun to dominate numerous high-tech industrial sectors, and it is rapidly developing its military. Globally, it is the most important trade partner for countless countries. Its coordinated diplomatic efforts, inter alia through sharp power, make China able to leverage its stance better and become an increasingly influential player in global affairs. However, geography puts clear external and internal limits on China’s power.

    China is a landlocked country, surrounded by rivals. The Korean Peninsula is inhabited by two countries with a history of hostility towards China. Japan is an island nation, with a strong blue-water navy, able to block China’s access to the Pacific and maybe even to the Indian Ocean. Taiwan is effectively a mountain stronghold, with a capable military. Without controlling Taiwan, it is effectively impossible to control the South China Sea, a strategic area for China’s security through which most of its trade passes. Over the Himalayas, there is India, a distinct civilisation with its own ambitions and nuclear arsenal. With Russia, China is competing for the post-Soviet space, which is hardly helping relations, even if their rapport has become friendlier recently. China also has numerous internal issues. For instance, people in Hong Kong do not want to be a part of Mainland China, and there is separatism in Xinjiang. China is also poor in natural resources and barely able to feed itself without being reliant on imports.

    The Chinese momentum and the challenges for the EU

    Still, even with its constraints, China’s rise is a challenge for the EU. America’s shrinking global presence changes a lot in the global balance of power. The US Navy may soon cease ensuring the freedom of the seas, a global public good that is essential for international trade. Due to the American retrenchment, the multipolar, unstable global system, with emerging great power rivalries, may unfold soon. China will be a very strong pole of power, that will have to be taken into every equation, especially the European one.

    China is assertively and persistently fighting for global influence and, despite impediments, behaving like it wants to replace the US as the most powerful state in the international system. It is developing both its ‘Made in China 2025’ project and the Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at distorting world trade, by flooding it with price-dumped products. China is slowly becoming dominant in certain high-tech, high-value technology industries, like 5G and face-recognition. China is also spending more on defence and rapidly developing its military capabilities.

    This coalesces with its diplomatic efforts, consisting of actions aimed at building an alternative global order, based on an alliance of countries, like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, uniting against liberal democracies. China aims to undermine the legitimacy of the international, liberal, rules-based order, in order to gain more power. This should be vigorously countered. The EU needs to become more active, then reactive, and begin taking strong action against this threat.

    Developing a European narrative and response

    First of all, the EU needs to build a narrative to tackle China and other autocracies, that are aiming to delegitimise the current global order. It needs to be able to point out the numerous failures of autocracies, which are covered up by shiny construction projects, and point out the fact that there does not exist any viable and fair alternative to the international, rules-based global order. It also must be able to better illustrate the benefits that the current order yields, and the risks any alternatives may bring.

    The EU also needs to engage in an economic action plan. This means introducing legal measures that would prohibit buy-outs of our economy’s crown jewels and innovative companies, by China’s state-backed entities. It also means stopping the development of 5G infrastructure by Huawei in Europe, and investing in alternatives like Nokia and Ericsson, even if it is more costly in the short term. There is also a need for an expansion of funding to be able to support the development of states in need of cash, especially those in Africa, but also in Europe. Challenging Chinese influence also means paying more attention to Asia and what is happening there, as Asia is home to a major share of global economic growth. Trade deals with Japan, Singapore, and ratifying the one with Vietnam should be just the beginning of enhanced cooperation with the region.

    Moreover, if the EU will not take its security and defence seriously, that would mean engaging in an ambitious process to boost the member states military capabilities, as the efforts mentioned before, even if they are all undertaken, will not suffice. No one will be impressed, and especially not China, by empty talks about multilateralism, rules-based order and fair trade, if it is not backed up by hard power and if the is EU unable to take care of its own security.

    China, as a strategic competitor of the EU, should not be appeased. It should be engaged with confidence and wit, as the future wellbeing of all Europeans depends on it.

    Jan Czarnocki Economy European Union Foreign Policy Security

    Jan Czarnocki

    Watch out and act fast: shaping the EU’s strategic response to China

    Blog

    14 May 2020

  • The month of May is the perfect time for political contemplation. There are many reasons to think deeper about Europe and our European future these days, particularly as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and 16 years since the reunification of Europe. Additionally, Europe is facing an unparalleled challenge in the post-war era – the COVID-19 pandemic.

    If someone asked me these days how Europe is doing, I would have to say that it is divided once again. We somehow overcame the global financial and economic crisis. But the cracks have since only continued to deepen. We were unable to provide a uniform response to the migration crisis. We seem to have lost the ability to distinguish our allies from our opponents, or other potential threats. We are divided when assessing whether government actions are still democratic, or if they already belong to the apparatus of autocrats. We are divided when deciding if the EU enlargement process should continue or be halted. We are divided on the issue of whether the Istanbul Convention is an opportunity or a threat. We are divided on whether our economies, being bled dry by the pandemic, should be rescued by loans or grants, and whether the future European budget should give priority to cohesion and convergence over security and innovation. It has never been easy to reach a consensus within the EU, but the current level of dissonance makes me very concerned.

    Whenever there was a problem, I asked myself if anything could be done about it. I asked a similar question recently when reading the interview with Irene Tinagli, Chairwoman of the EP’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. I learned from the interview that when in her native Italy you mention the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) as a tool to support economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis, “there is a lot of sensitivity”. The ESM is “seen as a traditional instrument, as a way to control economic and fiscal policies.”

    In other words, I learned that indebted Italy does not want to take additional loans under the ESM and that the current Italian government instead wants grants. I can understand why a heavily indebted Italy does not want additional loans. But I do not understand why Italian leaders are hiding behind the sentiments of voters while enflaming such views. I do not understand how the leader of a European country can plead for grants, without presenting in advance, or simultaneously, a set of reforms that would change the country for the better.

    Having said this, is there anything that can be done to deal with this serious internal European division? In my opinion, we must start playing fair with voters. Either political leaders opt to play fair, or the post-pandemic wave will sweep us away. Political leaders must have the courage to explain to people that cohesion does not mean everyone will enjoy the same income. That solidarity does not mean that people of responsibility will tolerate or promote moral hazard. That someone will have to foot the bill for the irresponsible decisions of politicians. Political leaders must tell EU citizens that the key to Europe’s future consists, first and foremost, of deep reforms implemented at the national level. Only then can the most indebted countries invoke greater solidarity and support from the others. The leaders of EU institutions, for their part, should not raise unrealistic expectations, but rather patiently explain that they can only exercise the competences entrusted to their administration by the member states. 

    I cannot keep myself from saying this: when we, the post-communist countries, were struggling to get back on our feet after the period of morass, there was no Marshall plan, and we had never heard a term such as ‘bail-out’. It had never even occurred to me, as the then-Prime Minister, to ask other countries for grants to make up for Communist mismanagement. We carried out painful reforms, privatised entire sectors in order to repay old debts and rescue the banks. To this day, ex-Communists reproach me for selling “Slovakia’s family silver”. But I can live with this kind of reproach. Yes, we recognised the value of financial instruments, such as the International Monetary Fund’s stand-by loans, or development investment loans from the World Bank or the European Investment Bank. However, what we always valued most was moral and political support from the West, and its vision of a reunited Europe.

    There is no magic wand and the only way forward is together. There is no technical finesse that would us rid of old debts. Individual cunning or political threats are not a solution, either. There is only one thing that will determine our success, or failure – sound leadership by politicians, or their resignation in front of voters disoriented by their actions. Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, their travel companions and their successors achieved a unique feat: uniting Europe and making it stand on its feet. Now is the time for its protection and further development.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda COVID-19 Crisis EU Institutions European Union Values

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    Beyond divisions, the only way forward is together

    Blog

    09 May 2020

  • One of the most pertinent questions posed during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak is whether technology can be successfully utilised to mitigate the spread of the virus or otherwise limit its impact on everyday life. This In Brief takes stock of the technological measures taken in several Asian countries as a reaction to the outbreak and examines the recent response of European Union member states. The text also maps out workable solutions and important future considerations on the digital front for the EU. 

    COVID-19 Crisis European Union Innovation Technology

    COVID-19 and Technology in the EU: Think Bigger than Apps

    IN BRIEF

    07 May 2020

  • This policy brief analyses the current efforts by the EU and its member states to provide development aid to third countries. It concentrates on the Marshall Plan with Africa. Proposed by Germany, this plan is intended to bring cooperation between Europe and Africa to a new level. The study examines this plan in light of debates on the impact of development aid on third countries in general, and on migratory dynamics in particular. The specific focus is on aid conditionality related to cooperation on migration. The brief shows that increasing development aid does not necessarily lead to a decrease in migration. The available evidence suggests that conditionality in the provision of development aid is not effective in reducing the propensity to migrate. 

    The policy brief makes recommendations for future EU–Africa cooperation. It suggests that, to ensure a regular dialogue between the two continents, Africa should remain high on the agendas of both the EU and member states. Following the approach taken by the Marshall Plan with Africa, the brief argues that migration-related conditions should be attached to the provision of development aid only with caution. Aid ought to be primarily targeted at creating good governance and strengthening public services.

    The views expressed in this paper are the sole responsibility of the author. They are not necessarily shared by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies or the European People’s Party.

    Development European Union Migration

    Development Aid, Migration and Conditionality – The Case of the Marshall Plan with Africa

    Policy Briefs

    05 May 2020

  • A podcast series that aims to challenge commonly held assumptions about the European project in a tour de force through European history, culture and civilisation. Podcast host Federico Ottavio Reho redefines political correctness with the help of razor-sharp arguments and beautifully drawn historical parallels.

    Federico Ottavio Reho Christian Democracy Democracy EU Member States EU-Russia EU-US European Union

    [Europe Out Loud] “The light that failed?” a chat with Ivan Krastev

    Europe out Loud - Multimedia

    10 Apr 2020

  • Governments across Europe are implementing border closures, travel restrictions, and heightened screening at their borders. How useful are these measures in countering the spread of the Coronavirus?

    Rainer Münz, Migration and Demography expert, formerly working at the In-House Think Tank of the European Commission (2015-2020):

    “All these measures are definitely useful in reducing the risk of COVID-19 contagion, as is the case with any other epidemics. It is clear that infected business and leisure travellers have brought the virus from China to Europe and North America. The same is true inside Europe. Many people got infected after coming back from trips to Italy, western Austria, and a few other ‘hotspots’. Such closures even make sense within countries.”

    Jean-Louis De Brouwer, Director of Justice and Home Affairs, Social Policies and Sustainable Development, Egmont (Royal Institute for International Affairs):

    “Some have expressed the view that a mere closure which is not complemented by a strong programme of testing and tracking would be useless. Others have stressed that it was all the more senseless, as these decisions were often taken at a time when the virus was already inside the country. Not being an epidemiologist, I will refrain from engaging in this debate. But I would support the views expressed by Migration Policy Institute experts in a recent policy brief: while stressing that COVID-19 was not a migration problem, they acknowledged that “closing borders to non-essential travel might be a logical extension of asking people to stay home.”

    Carlos Coelho, Founder of the Schengen Observatory, former MEP: 

    “A general or targeted ban on travelling would help contain the spread of the virus. In contrast, the reintroduction of internal border controls is not necessarily useful in containing the spread of COVID-19. Why? Their implementation – particularly along land borders – is hardly possible: 1. The member states do not have enough human resources to conduct effective controls. 2. Controlling the green parts of the borders (outside the official border crossing points) is impossible. 3. A traveller might not show the symptoms and already carry the virus. Thus, the imposition of quarantines to travellers would be an effective measure. In addition, there are side effects to these controls, clearly affecting the free movement of goods overland. This is particularly worrisome for medical equipment and supplies, pharmaceutical products but also perishable goods such as vegetables and fruit.”

    It seems that only some member governments of the Schengen Area notified the European Commission of the impending reintroductions of border checks. Is this a problem?

    Münz: “Governments are working in an emergency mode. It might be that not all procedures foreseen by the Schengen regulations have been followed, but the Commission does not seem to have major objections (for now) as long as the flow of goods is ensured. We also should not forget that earlier border controls imposed by countries such as Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and France as a reaction to the inflow of refugees and irregular migrants in 2016 had still been in place when current measures were taken.”

    De Brouwer: “Yes, absolutely. Controlling access to its territory might be deemed as a fundamental prerogative of a Westphalian sovereign state. However, adherence to the Schengen Area of free circulation means accepting new rules and adopting new behaviours building upon transparency and mutual trust and translating these into permanent coordination. That is why the Commission rightly reacted by presenting its generally welcome ‘Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services’ on 16 March 2020. As the reintroduction of border controls and travel restrictions are indeed compatible with the Schengen ‘acquis’ under certain conditions, it was essential to implement them in a coordinated way while preserving the internal market.”

    Coelho: “Not necessarily. Border check notifications are lodged for three main reasons: 1. Guaranteeing publicity and transparency. 2. Allowing ex-post verification on proportionality and the necessity of national border controls by the European Commission (complemented by a report of the member states once the controls end). 3. Ensuring and encouraging coordination between the member state imposing the controls and those member states that are affected. Whereas the present controls are widely publicised, and the current situation falls within the circumstances foreseen by the Schengen Borders Code, it is not so clear that coordination has occurred. Not notifying the Commission might thus indicate a bigger problem: a lack of coordination between member states. Polish controls and their effect on the citizens of the Baltic countries serve as an important example. On the other hand, it will be essential to see whether or not the national controls produced the results desired and if they were effectively implemented. Notifications would provide relevant information to the Commission for this assessment.”

    On 16 March, all Schengen Area member states approved the European Commission’s proposal to impose a 30-day restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, thus creating a Schengen Area ‘security perimeter’.  What are the chances that this measure will lead to the easing of border checks inside the Schengen Area?

    Münz: “The issue is not so much ‘checks’, but the denial of access. This is an additional measure attempting to reduce contagion, and it will not affect travel restrictions. Both measures will – sooner or later – be lifted hand-in-hand.”

    De Brouwer: “This is the bet of the Commission, which, in its communication of 16 March states that ‘such a measure would also enable the lifting of internal control measures.’ However, the joint statement adopted by the members of the European Council on 26 March reflects a somewhat different understanding: heads of state and governments commit to ensuring smooth border management where temporary internal controls have been introduced, without actually questioning them. On a related subject, one should also bear in mind the negative consequences such restrictions could have on the respect of international protection obligations. Although the Commission explicitly stresses that such a measure should not apply to persons in need of international protection, or for other humanitarian reasons, the situations at the borders between Greece and Turkey or between Croatia and Bosnia deserve our utmost attention. By the way, this issue is not unique to Europe; it also arises between the US and Mexico.”

    Coelho: “None. Recent experience shows – notably with the so-called refugee crisis – that reinforcement of the protection of our external borders has not resulted in the lifting of the internal controls. Nor has it led to a change in the political debate. Moreover, even though this pandemic is provoking symmetrical effects across the union, the spread of the virus varies across the EU.”

    COVID-19 Crisis EU Member States European Union

    What are the effects of the national border closures on containing the COVID-19 infection?

    Other News

    08 Apr 2020

  • What does the Coronavirus mean for the EU as an international actor?

    Jamie Shea, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:

    “The crisis is still far from over, and this gives the EU time and opportunity to re-assert its relevance. Its institutions and their leaders should focus on clear objectives and persuade EU national leaders and their bureaucracies, currently beleaguered by COVID-19 pandemic management and lockdowns, to join this effort now.

    The first objective concerns recovery. The severe economic contraction in the industrialised countries could tip the global economy into a prolonged depression. So, the primary role for the EU is to lead the G7 and G20 together with the international financial institutions to come up with a coordinated global strategy to restart the global economy as soon as the virus subsides. The EU can best engage China in this effort in a way that the US finds increasingly difficult. China is where the virus originated, and it is the first major economic powerhouse to recover and restart production. So, it has a particular responsibility to help the rest of the world. The EU will need to persuade China to re-capitalise the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank and fully open the Chinese market to foreign goods and services. 

    A second priority is to help Africa. African countries mostly lack the sanitary conditions, health infrastructure, and the possibility to self-isolate that richer countries enjoy. Yet if the pandemic is not contained in Africa with its rapidly rising population and exposure to climate change, migration flows, and jihadist extremism, the EU will have an even bigger security headache to deal with. COVID-19 would mutate and quickly spread back to Europe. So now is the time for the EU to develop a true health Marshall Plan for Africa and work with the World Health Organization (WHO), the African Union and the financial institutions and development agencies to elaborate an effective strategy before the pandemic runs into the millions and, like AIDS 20 years ago, brings entire African societies to the brink of collapse.

    Finally, this pandemic will not be the last. The crisis has revealed multiple weaknesses in the global health management system from delays in sharing vital information, contradictory messaging and the spreading of fake news and disinformation, to uncoordinated responses and a lack of testing kits, respirators, and protective clothing. If the early stages of managing COVID-19 have been primarily national, emerging from it smoothly will need credible, authoritative guidance coming from international institutions. The EU should, therefore, lead an international ‘lessons learned’ exercise and push its conclusions robustly in the G7, G20, and UN bodies as well as regional organisations to ensure that the global community is better equipped to act early next time around. We need to mobilise more resources to lock down the pathogens before they spread beyond the point of origin. The EU can lead the way, first and foremost, by coordinating the crisis exit activities of its own 27 member states. It will then be in a stronger position to mobilise the rest of the world behind a better strategy for prevention.”

    Giselle Bosse, Research Associate, Martens Centre:

    “The picture of the EU as a failing, dysfunctional international actor in the COVID-19 crisis is misleading, at least up until now. The EU has minimal powers in the area of health, it can make recommendations, but member states are free to ignore them. And where it could, in areas of its legal competence, the Commission has already taken actions, for example, measures with regards to the lifting of export restrictions on medical equipment imposed by individual member states, or guidelines on borders to ensure the free movement of goods. The real challenge for the EU, the economic response to the crisis, is only just unfolding. This is an area in which the EU has significant competencies and instruments. Finding an agreement on financial rescue measures is not only crucial for the EU’s ability to offset the devastating economic consequences of COVID-19 and safeguard its standing as a major world trading power. Agreement on a joint economic response is also vital for trust and solidarity among the EU’s member states, which in turn is a precondition for a common EU foreign policy, including ongoing and future attempts to strengthen the EU’s autonomous security and defence capabilities.

    Moreover, while much focus is (rightly) placed on containing COVID-19, saving lives and economic rescue, Human Rights Watch, among others, reminded the EU that ‘governments should avoid sweeping and overly broad restrictions on movement and personal liberty’ and cautioned against governments requesting movement data from mobile providers, which violates the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To make things worse, on 30 March, Hungary passed a law that gives sweeping new powers to Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree, for an unlimited period of time. The manner in which the EU and its member states will handle human rights and democratic principles in the current crisis will send important signals internationally, and will very likely have implications for its credibility and legitimacy as a normative power.

    In conclusion, much of the current criticism and depiction of the EU as a dysfunctional international actor in the COVID-19 crisis has been exaggerated, and often exploited for (geo-)political purposes. The current crisis will neither lead to the decline of the EU ‘as we know it’, nor will it fundamentally change global order or the EU’s geopolitical problems. However, the EU’s response to the crisis will send important signals beyond Europe, which can have significant implications for the credibility of the EU as an international actor. Such signals range from the EU’s commitment to multilateral trade (versus the EU’s ‘protectionist turn’) to its commitment to human rights and democracy (versus the toleration of illiberal governments and policies within the EU), its commitment to fighting climate change (versus calls to delay the Green Deal in times of economic crisis) and, above all, the member states’ commitment to social solidarity (versus national economic self-interest). How COVID-19 impacts the EU’s credibility as an international actor is (still) pretty much in its own hands.”

    Jolyon Howorth, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:

    “The pandemic is global; the response has been national/regional. The EU’s reputation for normative or soft power has been battered. The Union abandoned multilateral solidarity, even in the area (the welfare state) where it claimed superiority over other regimes. The EU, as an ‘actor’, has evaporated; member states closed borders and hoarded vital medical resources.

    The crisis over finances replicated the Eurozone crisis, featuring a bitter internal struggle over the mutualisation of debt. Christine Lagarde initially declared it was ‘not the ECB’s responsibility’ to worry about German-Italian bond spreads. The refusal of the North to respond to Southern pleas for ‘Coronabonds’ poses an existential threat to the Union itself.

    The crisis has demonstrated Asian efficiency and Western fumbling, highlighted by Trumpian denial. Transatlantic relations are in limbo. Logically, this should prompt a clear shift of EU strategy towards collective sovereignty and autonomy – faced with Beijing as a potential hegemon and Washington as a false friend. Yet, as a result of the crisis, the Union is uniquely ill-placed to pursue that path.

    COVID-19 suggests the need for a total re-think of the balance of spending on defence and health. The ‘invisible enemy’ has demonstrated an exponentially greater need for protection against nature than against neighbours. The climate crisis awaits its turn on the stage.

    The kaleidoscope has been shaken, and the pieces will take years to settle. Muddling through is henceforth akin to a death wish.”

    Constantine Arvanitopoulos, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:

    Europe is overwhelmed by a pandemic crisis of almost biblical proportions.

    As countries are scrambling to deal with the immediate requirements of a colossal health emergency, an even greater threat looms on the horizon. Economists are warning us of the threat of an economic depression more significant than that of 1929.     

    Our response to the health crisis was not the best moment of European solidarity. We will always be haunted by the images of the military lorries carrying the dead of the city of Bergamo and European member states looking to China for health aid and equipment.

    This pandemic now threatens to infect the European «body politic». In political philosophy’s great tradition, the analogy between disease and civil disorder was proposed to encourage rulers to show foresight (Machiavelli) and reason (Hobbes), to prevent fatal disorder.

    In this tradition, the tragic loss of life should mobilise European leadership to prevent the recession from turning into a prolonged depression. As Mario Draghi wrote, unforeseen circumstances require a change of mindset, or as  Keynes had put it, ‘when the facts change, I change my mind’. This is a war, and wars are financed by public debt. Otherwise, the cost of inaction will be devastating. Those in Europe that do not succumb to reason and adapt to change will have no one to blame but themselves.”

    Niklas Nováky, Research Officer, Martens Centre:

    “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Europe hard. Its immediate consequences will be economic and social in character. National governments across Europe will have to adopt unprecedented stimulus packages, adjust their existing budgets, and increase their national debt to protect their populations and economies from the pandemic and its eventual fallout. Yet, the pandemic will impact other policy areas as well.

    With regard to the EU’s security and defence policy, COVID-19 is likely to make the Union increasingly inward-looking for the foreseeable future. As during the global economic and the eurozone debt crises, political willingness in the EU to address various crises in the Union’s neighbourhood is likely to decrease, for example. European crisis management activities won’t cease entirely, of course, as demonstrated by the EU’s recent decision to launch Operation IRINI to monitor the UN arms embargo in Libya. Still, it will become harder to convince EU governments to contribute to various existing and potential new operations, especially if those operations don’t serve their direct national interests.

    The level of ambition of some of the new defence initiatives that the EU has launched since 2016 is also likely to be downscaled. The initiatives in the most immediate danger are the European Defence Fund, the European Peace Facility, and military mobility as their funding levels haven’t yet been agreed upon for the 2021-2027 financial period. Even before COVID-19, several member states expressed unwillingness to finance these initiatives at the levels proposed by the European Commission. COVID-19 will increase the number of such countries, and it is conceivable that some of the initiatives might not receive any funding at all. After all, in one technical compromise proposal made during the February European Council, the budget for military mobility was slashed completely. If this happens, it will be a severe setback to the European Commission’s ambition to be geopolitical.”

    COVID-19 Crisis European Union Foreign Policy

    What does the Coronavirus mean for the EU as an international actor?

    Other News

    08 Apr 2020

  • This policy brief argues that the EU risks negative consequences if it continues to let economic interests prevail over its stated aim of promoting human rights in its relations with Central Asia. The strengthening of authoritarian regimes in Central Asia has led to the growth of social tensions and an increase in the number of possible hotbeds of radicalisation in the region, both of which, in turn, pose direct threats to the EU in matters of security, the influx of migrants and the protection of investments. In order to address these challenges, and taking into account the influence of Russia and China in the region, the EU should increase the effectiveness of its projects in the fields of education, health care, civil and political freedoms, good governance, justice reform and support for local civil society. The EU must make it evident to Central Asian states that strengthening cooperation with the Union offers these countries significant socio-economic benefits which cannot be gained from cooperation with China or Russia.

    European Union Foreign Policy Human Rights

    EU Human Rights Promotion in Central Asia – Between the Dragon and the Bear

    Policy Briefs

    06 Apr 2020

  • The world is currently bent on its knees amid the Coronavirus health crisis. While most of the European continent is “on pause”, for some countries it has turned out to be a time of dreams coming true. North Macedonia’s NATO accession is a case in point.

    The extremely difficult circumstances for Spain which is coping with the COVID-19 were not an obstacle for this momentous decision. The Senate in Madrid remotely voted and passed the bill approving North Macedonia’s accession, the last country on the path to this achievement. This completed one of the two strategic goals for the country since its independence: to join the North Atlantic Treaty.

    The news from Spain was praised by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and after the signature of the protocol by the President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski, the formal ceremony of flag-raising is set to take place in Brussels. With this, the country’s quest which began in 1995 when it joined the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program has been completed. In 2008 at the Bucharest Summit, the longstanding name dispute was a reason for Greece to push strongly NATO not to give an invitation to a then-constitutionally named Republic of Macedonia.

    And that is only a part of the celebratory package. Some historic mistakes have been given a chance to be repaired. As Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez put it in his novel ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ (especially relevant nowadays), “humanity, like armies in the field, advances at the speed of the slowest.” The same can be said about consensus among EU member states.

    After the hugely disappointing failure to take a decision in October 2019, the Council of the EU on 25 March adopted conclusions on the EU’s enlargement policy, giving the green light to the opening of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. In a completely unusual setting for EU institutional meetings, the efforts by the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi have been met with success.

    The EU Council in October failed to decide on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania mostly due to the French position that the EU is in need of “deep internal reform and a new methodology for negotiations”. In February 2020, the Commission adopted and published a revised enlargement methodology. This new procedure seemed to appease French President Emmanuel Macron who slowly shifted his position. He raised first hopes that the French veto would be lifted after facing huge criticism by the EU’s leadership and leaders of Western Balkan countries on the “fatality” of the mistake he was making.  Perhaps, as Márquez wrote in 1988, “a Liberal president was exactly the same as a Conservative president, but not as well dressed.”

    The reactions to the new enlargement strategy in the Western Balkans ranged from “unimpressed” and “it will all end up as another paper-pushing exercise” to the more optimistic tone that “it will work only if used properly”.

    But what really counts is that the air has been cleared on this issue after 5 months.  As Márquez would say, the EU “opened the door a crack wide enough for [North Macedonia and Albania] to pass through.” The details of the negotiation process to follow have not been released yet, as the crisis triggered by the Coronavirus outbreak has created many uncertainties and a halt in many political and institutional processes. Once again it shows, when there is a political will, not even a slow internet connection can stop the dreams of some countries being fulfilled.

    For North Macedonia, the utmost strategic goals in the 29 years of the country’s independence have been EU and NATO accession. The unfortunate timing is moving the celebratory atmosphere to the homes of those staying in quarantine, as the country has imposed a curfew and restrictive measures on people’s movement in an attempt to cope with the spread of the COVID-19. After all, it’s more than just a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Katerina Jakimovska Balkans COVID-19 Enlargment European Union

    Katerina Jakimovska

    Marquez in the Western Balkans – Lifelong dreams fulfilled in the time of Corona

    Blog

    26 Mar 2020

  • Watch again our first Online Event on Tommaso Virgili’s publication about the integration of Muslim communities in Western Europe. Discussed by Tommaso and Ruud Koopmans, Director of the Department of Migration, Integration, Transnationalization at WZB Berlin Social Science Center. Moderated by Vit Novotný.

    Vít Novotný Tommaso Virgili European Union Islam Middle East

    Online Event ‘Lifting the Integration Veil: Outcasts from Islam in Western Europe’

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    24 Mar 2020

  • The European Union is not disintegrating. Some might be tempted to think so given the chaotic European response to COVID-19, the initial lack of coordination and the rapid introduction of border controls between member states. But in cases of national emergency national leaders rightfully tend to the needs of their citizens. This was to be expected as it mirrors our own individual reactions confronted with a sudden shock – irrational behaviour, potential panic and hoarding of supplies. All in all, the situation reflects the true nature of the European Union – a unique international organisation with federalist features but ultimately driven by national capitals and national interest. Many people expect decisive unilateral federal action but they won’t get one, especially in the short term. We will instead see a retreat to national lines, the adoption of drastic measures and then a decisive ‘make or break’ moment for a collective European response. This may be painful to say, but we will have a textbook EU crisis response.

    The European Union does not have exclusive competences to deal with healthcare matters and its role is mostly to coordinate health policies among its members. Additionally, it relies on national capitals for a coherent response in times of emergencies or natural disasters. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism might be pan-European in name but any type of assistance needs to be provided by the individual countries after a national decision. Regrettably, this is why Italy didn’t receive support in the immediate days after the situation got out of hand – the rest of the countries were chaotically wondering how to organise their own limited resources and equipment.

    What the European institutions can do in the short-term is to quickly mobilise available resources at their direct disposal and also facilitate the smooth functioning of the single market. In the last several days the European Commission took a number of important steps to achieve these goals by proposing a reshuffle of billions of euros from the European structural funds in order to provide relief to public budgets. Coherent measures were also announced on relaxing state aid rules and also providing liquidity to small businesses across the continent.

    No man is an island, and no European member state can cope with such a crisis on its own. 

    Most importantly, the Commission started untangling the protectionist knots which several countries started (somewhat understandably) tying due to the emergency in their countries. After the European Commission successfully intervened, medical equipment will not be limited nationally but will be exported throughout the Union. In times of border checks and travel restrictions, the Commission must be on its guard to ensure the free flow of goods and especially the smooth functioning of supply chains which will be vital for citizens, business and industry. Parliament and Council must be on standby to quickly authorise certain acts by the Commission or update relevant legislation where needed. The European Parliament, especially, has a key role in providing due democratic oversight and ensuring the proper communication of the adopted measures with European citizens.

    So far, so good. The Commission will try to be the honest broker between member states which on their side will slowly exhaust their budgets on national measures to contain the virus and also in the attempt to soften the blow for employers, workers and industry. In parallel, emergency or redirected European funding will also prove inefficient if the crisis lasts throughout Spring. The Martens Centre already outlined the major political economy implications of the coronavirus for Europe and the need for flexibility without limits when it comes to ensuring liquidity and adequate fiscal response.

    What comes next? The member states will rightfully focus on preventing contagion and saving lives. However, which European country can individually handle such a shock? China, where the virus started and spread worldwide, registered thousands of deaths, an unprecedented decline of industrial production and a dramatic collapse in car sales, domestic flights, retail and many other economic sectors. The Asian hegemon pumped and redirected a huge chunk of its national resources in order to tackle the crisis. If this terrible outbreak continues throughout the next several months, Europe will be confronted with an economic earthquake which could eventually threaten the Eurozone and the future of the common currency. Some member states will be reluctant to talk about bailouts and mobilising emergency funds but this might prove inevitable.

    No man is an island, and no European member state can cope with such a crisis on its own. We have seen it all and will see it again. European summits will grow long; patience will wear thin. Vows will be broken and new ones will be spoken until the EU muddles through. Successfully.

    The whole European industry will need to readjust and member states will be forced to collectively rethink the functioning of major parts of their economies. Ultimately, this continent will need to find a way to redistribute vast resources quickly and efficiently.

    The European Union will not come out of this crisis as a federation. But this crisis will receive a federal response.

    Dimitar Lilkov COVID-19 Crisis EU Member States European Union

    Dimitar Lilkov

    Muddling through: Towards an EU federal response to the crisis

    Blog

    20 Mar 2020

  • The coronavirus has affected all of us and, equally, scared all of us. We are forced to change our daily lives and habits, along with the way we work and interact with others. It has reminded us how fragile and vulnerable we are, but also how we take many things for granted. It would be wise to use this time for self-reflection ahead of new challenges.

    Our European community has stagnated for years, if not decades. We established the Single Market, introduced the Schengen area, and got stuck with adopting more red tape, which is constantly growing. However, we are afraid to move forward with European Common Defense. We argue that neither a German nor a Slovak soldier will deploy his life for a European interest. We have created a separate institution for European Foreign Policy, yet foreign policy continues to be decided at the national level. Every seven years, we fight the same endless battles: whether the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) should subsidise farmers, infrastructure, or support Research and Development (R&D). This time, we are also discussing the future of the Spitzenkandidaten process and the introduction of transnational lists. 

    COVID-19 represents a great threat, but also a unique opportunity. Let’s use the lockdown and teleworking period to reassess our priorities. 

    We cannot expect the European Commission to find solutions to all of our problems. The European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism was the response to the global financial crisis, a solution that can withstand other similar challenges. Our answer to the migration crisis is to strengthen the control of our external borders. Many propose to declare war on globalisation and multilateralism. But where do we set the bar to tackle the coronavirus?

    We need to review our priorities, but also the methods and tools of our policy. We must move forward towards a real, functional, determined federation of European nations. Our Union should be based on the principle of subsidiarity where the EU institutions and Member States are respected. This model would lead to more effective decision-making procedures and will put the common European interest above national egoism. It will also require respect for the values ​​we share, as well as our traditions and our “way of life”. This formation will represent our European Common House.

    I am glad that the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies is ready to contribute towards building this house. Since 2016, we have been developing the vision ‘For a New Europeanism’. This project is our recommendation in finding a response to the global challenges we face: from the aggressiveness of China, protectionism of the US, Brexit, to migration and the current pandemic. When the time comes, and our lives are back to normal, we would like to present this project within the framework of the conference on the Future of Europe. In the meantime, we will continue to work tirelessly to come up with solutions to mitigate the impact of this pandemic. We struggle, we overcome.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    President of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies

    Brexit Crisis Economy European Union Society

    Thinking Europe, Our Common House

    Other News

    19 Mar 2020

  • The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuing to spread quickly around the world. It is a highly transmissible virus which impacts disproportionally on older age cohorts. Large gaps in our understanding remain, particularly with regard to the possible extent of undiagnosed cases and whether the virus will naturally reduce in Europe as the spring develops. However, as of March 16 th, over 170,000 global cases have been confirmed with over 6,500 deaths. All European countries are now preparing for large increases in the number of affected people requiring treatment and hospital care. On March 11th , COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisaton.

    Understandably, much of the current commentary on the virus still focusses on the fluid situation regarding the number of infections, the mortality rate and the differing containment measures enacted by varying states. The level of societal unease at the implications of the virus – restricted activities span all aspects of daily life from cinemas to cafes, from schools to universities and businesses – is currently dominating the media discourse. Such a focus reflects the overwhelming priority of all societies to protect human health where possible.

    COVID-19 Crisis Economy European Union Society

    “Flexibility without Limits”. The Political Economy Implications of the Coronavirus

    IN BRIEF

    16 Mar 2020

  • Perhaps, when the history of European integration in the early 21st century is written, 5G will be viewed as the beginning of Europe’s geopolitical renaissance. Although, that currently seems very unlikely. Because it’s hard to escape the overwhelming feeling in Brussels that a greying, slowing Europe is now stuck in a technological blindspot behind the two global superpowers of the United States and China.

    5G sums up the EU’s ability to constantly punch below its weight on a geopolitical level. It also symbolises how Brussels has totally failed to leverage its significant (and often underestimated) economic strength to project its wider political priorities.

    Honesty is clearly needed in Brussels because advocating for greater subsidiarity within the EU while simultaneously calling for a more geopolitical Europe is resulting in a clear dilemma. You simply can’t be a global power if there are 27 (or more) potential veto’s sitting around the table. What is required is not a universal abandonment of the EU’s competition or industrial legislation, but rather a more agile, more nuanced understanding that in select, geopolitically important areas, Europe must work together if it is to protect its interests on the global stage.

    Economy European Union Industry Innovation

    A Geopolitical, 5G Europe? Brussels needs to go big, or go home

    IN BRIEF

    13 Mar 2020

  • There is no doubt that 2019 was an eventful year which brought us many opportunities, but it was also one filled with challenges and changes. Not only did it deliver the new European Parliament, but it also brought us the new Commission which will be in place for the next five years.

    Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership

    Activity Report 2019

    Activity Report

    06 Mar 2020

  • It is not the first time that Turkey is using civilians as human shields and tools of its foreign policy. During the Great War, the Ottoman Empire deported and exterminated a large part of its Christian population. In 1938, the Kemalist Republic followed a similar policy in Alexandretta. In September 1955, the Turkish state was behind the brutal “pogrom” against the Greek-Orthodox population of Istanbul. Two decades later, Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus and forced thousands of Cypriots into exile.

    The same strategy is being used today on the Greek-Turkish border. Greece is facing an ongoing hybrid attack on land, sea and air by a so-called NATO ally. Recently, reports of cyber-attacks towards the Greek government and other sensitive sectors of the Greek state by Turkish hackers were published in the international press. In the first months of 2020, the violation and infringement of Greek airspace – with armed planes flying even over inhabited Greek islands in the Aegean – has reached new records.   

    The recent decision by Erdogan and his authoritarian regime to encourage and push thousands of desperate people towards the north-east Greek sea and land borders comes as a natural continuation to a series of aggressive actions taken against Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean. These actions include illegal exploration activities in the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus and the illegal Turkish-Libyan Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that openly violates Greek territorial sovereignty. In addition, reports and footage show that the movement of immigrants -including criminals detained in Turkish prisons- is being implemented with the active participation of the Turkish armed forces, police and the Turkish intelligence services (MIT). 

    Turkey has become a state “trafficker” that does not recoil from politicising human pain and misery, in order to make political gains. The Greek government’s rightful decision to increase the level of deterrence at its borders and temporarily suspend the asylum applications is the only possible reaction for any state intent on protecting its territory from a well organised hybrid attack. 

    In the last 3 days, there have been over twenty-four thousand instances of people illegally attempting to cross into Greek territory. In Evros, less than 200 were successful, in which case the intruders were immediately arrested. On Monday alone, over 1.000 arrivals were recorded on the Greek islands of the Northern Aegean. The situation is tense and a fatal accident could turn the whole situation into something that risks becoming uncontrollable.

    Turkey has become a state “trafficker” that does not recoil from politicising human pain and misery, in order to make political gains. 

    It is more than certain that Erdogan’s regime will use fake-news and propaganda in order to attract public sympathy and portray Greece and Europe as the offenders. Turkey de facto cancelled the EU-Turkey Statement and Action Plan. Those who speak about asylum and international humanitarian law from the comfort of their office thousands of miles away from the Greek border tend to forget the geopolitical realities in the region. We are no longer talking about individuals who are escaping conflict zones. What we see is uncontrollable masses trying to reach Europe in huge numbers under the direct encouragement, guidance and facilitation of an official state actor and its services.

    Greece and Europe should not succumb to Erdogan’s “Kapalıçarşı”[1] style of bargaining. If you lie down with the devil, you will most probably find yourself in hell. Turkey tried to act as a regional superpower and now reaps what it sowed in Syria. Erdogan, in his vanity, initially supported the ISIS jihadists, then turned against the Kurds and the West. Now, after his military disaster in Syria, he is trying to exercise pressure on Europe and the West in order to save himself from the chaos he created. 

    Those in Europe who suggest appeasing Erdogan by sacrificing Greece’s national security should take into consideration that this is a great chance for the EU. It can show that it is a real Union with borders and common values, and that it stands ready to defend them. Today Greece is the frontline and the bastion of Europe. Beyond Greece’s borders, democracy and logic stops. 

    In the midst of all of this, the loud silence of many prominent politicians in European capitals is extremely worrying. Politicians once vocal about the values of European civilisation are today finding it hard to say anything to strengthen the morale of a country that, at this very moment, is defending the European way of life in practice. Apart from the three EU institutions, only Austria, the Netherlands, France, and North Macedonia have openly expressed their will to actively support the Greek forces. 

    For more than five years, amid a tremendous financial crisis, the Greek population has shown strong solidarity and compassion to the tragedy of all displaced people reaching Greek shores. It seems that this has changed. Local societies can no longer bear an additional influx of immigrants as in 2015. The Greek state is determined not to allow additional “Morias” (this refers to the name of a town in the island of Lesbos that hosts a by now notorious squalid camp) to be formed around the country. Instead, it is only fair that Greece’s European partners step up to the plate.

    Usually polarised and divided along partisan lines, all Greeks are currently appearing united against Turkey’s plans. Greeks are determined to defend their country, and thus Europe, at any cost. There is no room for compromise in Turkey’s efforts to destabilise Greece and move forward with claims that put in question the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Greece. Europe should act in this crisis as one if it wants to be taken seriously as a ‘sovereign’, ‘strategic’ and ‘geopolitical’ actor, to use some of the slogans repeated by its leaders in recent years. There is no time for simple statements of support. Tools and manpower must be deployed in the heated zone of Greece’s borders.   

    [1] Kapalıçarşı / Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is one of the oldest, covered markets in the world.

    Panos Tasiopoulos Crisis European Union Human Rights Immigration

    Panos Tasiopoulos

    Turkish Bazaar: An asymmetrical threat to the EU

    Blog

    03 Mar 2020

  • The term ‘financial technology’ (FinTech) refers to technology-enabled innovation in the financial sector. FinTech could result in new business models, products and services. It has been rapidly developing around the world, offering innovative products and services that are quickly gaining traction with consumers and investors. Different countries and regions around the world are finding themselves caught up in this fast-paced ecosystem, where their competitiveness depends on a variety of factors, including the interaction of different market players, access to funding and talent, and regulatory measures. This paper examines the latest developments in specific financial technologies, major financial services and product providers. It also looks at the conditions which are shaping financial centres’ competitive significance in FinTech on a global scale.


    Recent trends suggest that the US and China are emerging as key hubs for unlocking the disruptive potential of financial innovation in terms of the scale of their FinTech businesses and investments compared to Europe. For the comparatively smaller and younger European FinTech companies it would be challenging to compete with them without favourable government initiatives and support. The EU has already undertaken certain measures and initiatives in order to nurture its FinTech firms, but at the moment it lacks a targeted, EU-wide approach to FinTech. The policy landscape remains rather fragmented with different national approaches to legislation and regulation. The paper examines the current EU policies, initiatives and frameworks for the purpose of providing forward-looking policy recommendations for a more competitive and innovative single European market in the financial sector.

    European Union Industry Innovation Technology

    Fine-Tuning Europe: How to Win the Global FinTech Race?

    Research Papers

    18 Feb 2020

  • Digital authoritarianism is no future prospect. It is already here. The People’s Republic of China has institutionalised draconian measures for citizen surveillance and censorship, as well as gaining almost full control of online political discourse. The Chinese Social Credit System is an intricate extension of this tactic. A coordinated administrative system which feeds on data from different governmental sources and has the ability to sanction and publicly shame individuals would be a powerful tool in the hands of the Chinese Politburo. In parallel, China is pursuing an aggressive agenda of techno-nationalism which aims to move the country closer to technological self-sufficiency and to maximise the penetration of its technological giants on the global stage. The majority of these digital champions have been nurtured by generous public subsidies and successfully shielded from international competition.

    This research paper analyses the unique features of the Chinese model of digital authoritarianism and its international spill-overs. China’s oppressive model is no longer just applied domestically but is successfully being exported to other countries across different continents. As a new decade begins, the EU must make sure that its citizens have the necessary institutional and legal protection from abuses of modern technology such as facial-recognition software and the advanced application of AI. Europe must remain a global influence when it comes to ensuring a coherent regulatory approach to technology and stand ready to oppose the spread of digital authoritarianism.

    China Democracy Economy European Union Innovation Technology

    Made in China: Tackling Digital Authoritarianism

    Research Papers

    11 Feb 2020

  • In international affairs, the year 2020 has begun dramatically. On 3 January, the US killed Iran’s most powerful military commander, General Qasem Soleimani, in a targeted airstrike in Iraq. The strike came only days after protesters had assaulted the US embassy in Baghdad in an attack for which the Pentagon blamed Iran and Soleimani in particular.

    Iran retaliated on 8 January by hitting American air bases in Iraq with missiles. No American troops were killed and Washington has seemed to accept them as a tit-for-tat response for the earlier strike on Soleimani. Yet, the standoff has also produced casualties: hours after the missile strikes, Iran accidentally shot down Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, killing all 176 people on board.

    As tensions between the US and Iran have peaked, the EU has found it challenging to play a meaningful diplomatic role in the Middle East, despite the fact the region is located on its own doorstep. The Union’s response has been—as it often is when the EU is confronted with a crisis—haphazard and devoid of strategy.

    The EU has made little effort to speak in one voice. Following the American strike on Soleimani, EU leaders issued different and poorly coordinated statements. The first one to do so was European Council President Charles Michel, who emphasised that further escalation needs to be avoided ‘at all cost’. His statement was followed by additional reactions from High Representative Josep Borrell and the President of the new ‘geopolitical’ European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

    Confusion over who is really speaking for “Europe” was increased further by the separate diplomatic initiatives of France, Germany and the UK—the “E3” European signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. At the height of the standoff, France spoke to Iraq, Germany engaged Iran and the UK put the Royal Navy on standby in the Gulf. The E3 also released a separate joint statement to add to the pile of European reactions.

    As tensions between the US and Iran have peaked, the EU has found it challenging to play a meaningful diplomatic role in the Middle East, despite the fact the region is located on its own doorstep.

    The various European statements have two things in common. First, they emphasise the need to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East in order to avoid a spiral of violence. Second, they emphasise the need to preserve the JCPoA, which has been on life support ever since the US decision to withdraw from it in 2018. Yet, Europe doesn’t seem to be in a strong position to impact the former and the latter seems little more than a dead letter, especially after Iran announced that it would no longer abide by the JCPOA’s uranium enrichment limits.

    EU foreign ministers did discuss the situation in the Middle East in an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meeting on 10 January and they mandated the High Representative to carry out diplomatic efforts with all parties to the standoff to contribute to the de-escalation of tensions. Beyond this, the outcomes of the FAC were meagre (i.e. call for de-escalation and restraint, rhetorical support for Iraq’s stability and the preservation of the JCPoA).

    The most significant European move took place on 14 January when the E3 triggered the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism in order to bring Iran back into full compliance with the agreement. High Representative Borrell will oversee the dispute resolution process but the EU doesn’t seem to have an Iran strategy beyond the preservation of the JCPOA, which may well collapse entirely if the process fails and UN sanctions are re-imposed on Tehran.

    The causes of Europe’s strategy deficiency are multiple and would take an entire book to address sufficiently. However, it suffices to say here that the EU suffers from multiple problems. These include, inter alia, a leadership vacuum in foreign policy, difficulties in taking decisions that do not create positive win-win outcomes, an unwillingness to make political sacrifices in international affairs, and a lack of appetite for strategic thinking.

    None of these problems can be fixed with a single silver bullet such as expanding the use of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in EU foreign policy. This is because the Union’s problems are either structural in character or rooted in strategic culture, which means that they cannot be overcome by simply moving away from unanimity decision making in the Council.

    Yet, there are things the EU could do. The current practice in which the presidents of different EU institutions issue separate statements on major foreign policy events should stop. This is confusing to audiences both within and outside the EU who seek to understand the Union’s position on a given issue. Ideally, there should be a single joint statement by the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council and the High Representative if a statement by the latter alone is considered insufficient.

    There should also be a permanent operational contact group consisting of the major European powers, which inevitably are expected to take charge in a crisis. It could take the form of a European Security Council, under the umbrella of which major European countries could coordinate their diplomatic activities. Such a structure could be based outside the EU to make it politically feasible to include post-Brexit UK as well.

    The current practice in which the presidents of different EU institutions issue separate statements on major foreign policy events should stop.

    Finally, there should be a permanent EU level strategy development process, which should lead to the adoption of a new European Security Strategy (ESS) every five years. At the moment, documents such as the 2016 EU Global Strategy (EUGS) are developed on ad hoc basis whenever the member states have an interest in them. This is why there was a 13-year gap between the 2003 ESS and the 2016 EUGS. A more formalised process would push the EU to think about what it wants to achieve on the world stage in regular intervals.

    These are small steps, but smalls steps are preferable to doing nothing. The risk is that Europe will continue to sink into further strategic irrelevance and that EU foreign policy will be reduced to empty slogans, hollow statements and photo opportunities.

    At a time when tensions in the Middle East remain high, when Russia continues to be assertive, when China’s rise is challenging the established international order, muddling through—Europe’s default foreign policy strategy—should be rejected as an option. Continuing to follow it would be detrimental to Europe’s ability to defend its interests as well as those of its partners.

    Niklas Nováky Brexit Crisis EU Institutions European Union Foreign Policy Middle East

    Niklas Nováky

    Iran-US standoff: A missed chance for the EU to speak with one voice

    Blog

    15 Jan 2020

  • There is a good reason not to reach straight for the panic button as a reaction to increased irregular migration flows from Turkey. Since signing the migration deal with the EU, Turkish President Erdoğan has been trying to rattle the European’s nerves with threats of a new migrant inflow. However, the EU’s position vis-à-vis Turkey is not as weak as it appears. 

    The Turkish government has, in fact, expressed strong interest in continued European financial support for Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. Also, the EU and Greece are better prepared for a migration crisis, than they were in 2015. The worst-case scenario of hundreds of thousands making it from Turkey to Greece is very unlikely. Even if such a scenario were to happen, the EU could unilaterally abolish its customs union with Turkey, terminate the preferential treatment for Turkish agriculture products and halt arms exports to the country. Given the undesirability of this scenario, diplomacy is a much more preferable option. 

    European Union Foreign Policy Immigration Migration

    The EU and the Prospect of a New Migration Wave from Turkey

    IN BRIEF

    10 Jan 2020

  • A podcast series that aims to challenge commonly held assumptions about the European project in a tour de force through European history, culture and civilisation. Podcast host Federico Ottavio Reho redefines political correctness with the help of razor-sharp arguments and beautifully drawn historical parallels.

    Federico Ottavio Reho European Union Globalisation

    [Europe Out Loud] In defence of globalism: A chat with Dalibor Rohac

    Europe out Loud - Multimedia

    07 Jan 2020

  • Brexit has consumed, humiliated and frustrated Britain and its political leaders. Amidst the chaos and uncertainty unleashed it is easy to overlook some of the longer-term trends and changes it represents, not least how European the UK is and how Brexit is not a one-way movement of the UK away from the rest of Europe but in many ways has actually moved Britain closer to European norms. 

    The British might have long struggled to recognise their European identity, and many still reject it. However, Brexit has confronted the British with some of the realities of that identity. That reality is that the past forty years has seen the UK’s politics, constitution, economy, society and place in the world grow more European. This is a reality many UK governments have accepted and quietly worked with in searching to build and shape the UK’s relations with the rest of the EU. 

    It’s also a reality that has been on display in a General Election defined by European-style multi-party politics; commitments to welfare spending that would put the UK closer to European norms than US ones; and a growing realisation – if not acceptance – of Britain’s economic and security interdependences with the rest of Europe. 

    Many of the formal EU-centred links might now be severed or altered by a UK withdrawal. However, future negotiations about the UK-EU relationship mean those links could once again be formalized or reconstituted in new ways. Calls for this will be helped by Britain’s new-found pro-European voices who have been created, or in some cases brought out of the shadows, by the UK’s vote to leave. 

    The British might have long struggled to recognise their European identity, and many still reject it. However, Brexit has confronted the British with some of the realities of that identity. 

    Close alignment between Britain and the EU, however, should not be taken for granted in a post-Brexit environment. As recent debates about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU have highlighted, on both the Right and Left some continue to hope that withdrawal will allow the UK to diverge significantly from European standards. 

    Such efforts, however, will run into the problem of the Europeanised state of Britain and the ever-present strategic need on the part of the UK’s government, businesses and civil society to engage closely with the continent to which the country is forever bound. The success of the EU and the UK’s need to shape it will therefore remain two of Britain’s leading concerns. 

    Does this mean the departure of a Europeanised Britain will inevitably lead to it rejoining? This is unlikely because the UK’s terms of membership would not be the same as now. Opt-outs from the Euro, Schengen, some areas of Justice and Home Affairs matters, and the British rebate are unlikely to be offered. The feelings of regret this creates could boost pro-European sentiments. But accepting such conditions will make for a very difficult sell in any referendum on rejoining. 

    As the Norway and Switzerland examples also show, support can also decline if the EU’s approach to future negotiations and relations appears abrasive, bullying or overbearing. It is important not to overlook how corrosive this could be on UK public support for links with the EU. 

    This should not be taken to mean that the UK and EU cannot negotiate a new relationship where the UK can continue to come to terms with its overlapping European and global identities. Negotiations have so far focused on the UK’s withdrawal. The future relationship remains an undiscovered country. 

    Nor does this mean the UK has to withdraw to become more European or recognise how European it is. Our forthcoming research into whether Brexit has made Britain more European might be taken to mean a non-EU Europeanised UK will pose no problems and that Brexit should not be resisted or regretted.

    However, in an emerging multipolar world Brexit carries significant economic, political, constitutional, security, defence, social and diplomatic risks for the UK. It will also cause significant ongoing problems for the EU to have to manage relations with a Europeanised but estranged UK struggling to come to terms with the fallout of Brexit. Far easier to face this with the UK inside the EU.

    Tim Oliver Garvan Walshe Brexit Democracy European Union Euroscepticism Political Parties

    Tim Oliver

    Garvan Walshe

    The Brexit election and the making of a European Britain

    Blog

    12 Dec 2019

  • The East-West divide in the EU has recently received much attention. While certain national leaders on both sides have tried to capitalise on it politically, data on the attitudes of the general public in the two subregions convey a more complex picture.

    This paper analyses European polling data on people’s attitudes regarding several key societal questions. It concludes that the opinions of Western and Eastern European populations are in fact converging on key societal issues, and that EU policies should reflect this growing consensus.

    Democracy European Union Religion Society Values

    East Versus West: Is There Such a Thing as a European Society?

    IN FOCUS

    11 Dec 2019

  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are an indispensable part of civil society. However, NGO influence on policymaking is not always positive. A large number of well-connected NGOs explicitly aim to influence trade and investment policymaking. Some of the most influential NGOs that have campaigned against vital EU trade and investment policy objectives have received substantial funding from the European Commission and national governments.

    This study calls on EU policymakers to ensure that NGOs financed by the EU do not fundamentally contradict the EU’s basic principles. Among other things, the study calls for a comprehensive reform of the EU’s Transparency Register and Financial Transparency System. This should include the introduction of a single, centralised system for recording and managing NGO grant funding.

    European People's Party European Union Society Trade Transatlantic

    NGO Lobbying on Trade and Investment: Accountability and Transparency at the EU Level

    Policy Briefs

    08 Nov 2019

  • We could be heroes just for one day

    Though nothing will keep us together

    We could steal time just for one day

    David Bowie

    “Historic mistake” is the recap of the outcome of the European Council Summit, which didn’t adopt the decision to grant the start of negotiations for EU Accession of North Macedonia and Albania. This news has toppled the hopes of both countries for becoming members of the EU family, at least in the next decade.

    President-elect of the EC, Ursula Von der Leyen, announced that the EU will commit to the Enlargement and integration of the Western Balkan (WB) countries. The failure to adopt a decision on North Macedonia and Albania’s EU aspirations has conveyed a message to the region which has been echoed for a very long time – NOT YET.

    French President Emmanuel Macron has been the main opponent of any further enlargement of the European Union “until the Union itself undergoes a deep reforma new methodology for accession negotiations that would make them less technocratic”. No details for this proposal have been shared. It also remains unclear whether this would apply also to countries which are currently negotiating accession, such as Serbia and Montenegro.

    Another point of disagreement between the EU leaders was the decoupling of North Macedonia and Albania which would grant the start of negotiations only to North Macedonia, as Albania, according to some leaders, was “not there yet”. The French government was not alone in pointing out the enlargement fatigue and the problems with the rule of law in some of the states that joined after 2004 (Poland, Hungary). Also,  France is insisting on a strict application of the criteria for membership during the negotiation and crafting new instruments to better monitor the rule of law.

    In his recent visit to Belgrade, President Macron warned of “rising tension” in the region, referring to Russia’s enhanced presence and aspiration to capitalise on the still unresolved dispute between Serbia and Kosovo. A year ago, he addressed the public in North Macedonia to encourage the voters to have their say in the referendum on the name change, praising the “courage of the leaders and the central position of the Prespa Agreement in the country’s plans for the future”.

    The strong positioning against enlargement in the near future pretty much contradicts this and has been perceived as hypocrisy among the public.

    In the aftermath of the disappointing week, the fear of the consequences of this failure for the two countries, but also for the whole region, is rising. The slammed door by the EU to these countries has been seen as an open invitation for other actors in the East to take advantage and create further instability in the region. It’s neither new nor unknown that Russia, China, Turkey and UAE have laid their hands on the region in various forms to influence the cultural, religious, educational and economic development of these countries.

    Moreover, having no prospects for EU membership is encouraging young people to leave their country to go to Europe as “EU is not coming to them”. With already devastating figures of brain drain in all Balkan countries, the poor economic development, political and social environments and shattered European dreams, the youngest generations are rapidly losing hope that they can also become European citizens.

    Since the Feira summit held in Portugal in 2000, the WB countries have been considered as potential candidates for EU membership. So far, only Montenegro and Serbia have started accession negotiations, in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

    Albania and North Macedonia are expecting to start negotiations (Albania has been a candidate for 5 years and North Macedonia for 14 years!). Bosnia & Herzegovina has not received its candidate status yet. Kosovo is not allowed to apply for membership under Article 49 of the Treaty on the EU, as the state is not recognized by 5 EU member states.

    In the particular case of North Macedonia, it went through an extremely complicated and painful process of reaching a deal with Greece on the name issue, which was also a precondition for its NATO membership. Moreover, after the adoption of the new name into the Constitution with the votes of MPs who received an amnesty for their alleged roles in the violent storming of Macedonian parliament in April 2018, the friendship treaty with Bulgaria, it seemed that the country deserved to be given the green light into their EU aspirations. As a result, many EU leaders expressed their “embarrassment” with the EU failing to fulfil its promises and losing its credibility in the region.

    With the next opportunity for discussions scheduled to take place in Zagreb May 2020, it is yet to be seen if the Council intends to legitimately discuss future steps, or is merely flying a flag of false hope to all candidate countries. The prime minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, expressing his “disappointment with the unjust decision,” has called for snap elections, which will bring more uncertainty to the future of the governing constellations, and the ensuing reform process.

    The former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government led by VMRO DPMNE publicly expressed that there are voices inside the party deliberating how to revert the Prespa Agreement if they come into power.

    Embodying the frustration of the country in this seemingly never-ending process, the foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov asked the EU to be straightforward if there is no more European future foreseen for the WB countries, bluntly stating “the citizens deserve to know”.

    And as we know, hope is the last to die. Because it would be a failure of a historic magnitude if the Western Balkan countries, in the eyes of the EU, would turn out to have been heroes just for one day.

    Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash

    Katerina Jakimovska Balkans Enlargment EU Member States European Union

    Katerina Jakimovska

    Albania and North Macedonia: heroes just for one day?

    Blog

    21 Oct 2019

  • On 16 July 2019, the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen president of the European Commission by a narrow majority of nine votes. To be elected, von der Leyen had to make numerous concessions to the Socialists and Liberals—and to the Greens, even though they had announced they would not support her in the vote. This document recommends areas where action by the new Commission would be considered beneficial from a centre–right perspective. It does so selectively, without addressing all the possible areas of initiative. The recommendations are designed to highlight general areas of action, give a sense of direction and offer ideas, as opposed to prescribing specific measures. Thus, the authors intend this to be a discussion paper that contributes to the public debate on the priorities of the next Commission.

    EU Institutions European Union Leadership

    Recommendations for the new European Commission President

    Other

    09 Oct 2019

  • Now that some of the dust has settled, the European People’s Party should start drawing the lessons of the EP2019 election and define the agenda ahead. The Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, at its annual Think-In with its member foundations across the EU in Prague in early June, has developed a list of points to be considered. They are based on the individual reflections of member foundation representatives, and are subdivided into four chapters:

    Identity:

    Any deep post-electoral analysis begins with the questions: who are we? Who do we want to be? Much has been made of the obsoleteness of the classical left-right divide in politics. Many claim that in the wake of the crisis of the West, and more specifically the economic and migration crises of the last 10 years, the new paradigm is ‘open vs. closed’, pitting global, liberal thinking and borders open for migration and trade against local, traditional thinking and protectionism in terms of trade and migration. Against that backdrop, it does seem logical to look for a new self-description of the EPP political family. Alas, it is no coincidence that in the open vs. closed paradigm, the EPP has a foot in both camps. If we let that rift grow, it will weaken and eventually destroy us.

    But if we turn this weakness into a strength, by maintaining and actually reinforcing a common bond beyond and above the new political divide, then we can still remain Europe’s strongest political force. Such a bond is most likely to be found in the combination of Christian Democrat, conservative, liberal and centrist political thought that has already defined our political family in the past decades. If a new term better suits this complex picture than the time-honoured labels ‘people’s party’ and ‘centre right’, then let’s go for it. But it will be no easy task.

    Strategy:

    Out of the many strategic conundrums for our political family, three stand out:

    • Who is the enemy? Until the late 2000s, the answer on the European level was clear: our main competitor (but also permanent cooperation partner in the EP) were the Socialists. Extremists left and right were enemies, but not so relevant. Since the economic crisis after 2008, and especially since the migration crisis after 2015, the populists (mainly from the right) have increased in strength, while social media has helped them garner attention and create echo-chambers. Since 2017, the European Liberals have become more of a competitor, with Macron’s attempt to repeat on the EU level the total remodelling of the party system that he successfully managed in France. Finally, the Greens have now emerged as a serious competitor, at least in North Western member states.
    • Copy and original: in the debate about the proper centre right answer to populism, one often repeated statement stands out: If we try to copy the populists, the voters will always prefer the original to the copy. That is as often true as it is false. It just depends on the circumstances in place. But the dilemma can now be extended to our new struggle to come to grips with the popularity of the climate change issue and the rise of the Greens in some important member states. The challenge here is to address climate policy more intensively, but using tools and approaches of the centre right, not trying to copy the regulatory approaches of the Greens.
    • Maintaining unity: the EPP political family has seen a constant expansion since the 1980 in terms of member parties, which has automatically led to a wider variety of political standpoints. If this unity has now begun to falter (as in Spain and France, for example), the position of the EPP as the strongest political family is in serious jeopardy. Maintaining unity, however, presupposes defining and strengthening what still binds us together: fundamental values such as freedom/responsibility, subsidiarity etc. But maintaining unity can also mean saying goodbye to member parties which are endangering cohesion.

    Topics:

    Europe’s centre right has a number of classical areas of competence: first and foremost, these are security and economics – meaning defence and homeland security as well as fiscal prudence and policies leading to economic growth. Migration, the most important topic for many Europeans 2015-2018, has – to some extent – become an issue of competence for the centre right, at least more than the left. But in #EP2019, a number of new issues have emerged that are calling for more attention from the EPP political family:

    • Climate: there is near universal consensus that the climate topic is important, that it is here to stay and that the EPP so far has not excelled in climate policy. Having said that, it is still important to keep in mind that the boost for the Greens has happened only in a North-Western minority of member states: practically the entire South, as well as the East of the EU are not affected for the moment. And of course, climate policy may be replaced by other, even more urgent topics, in a few years, such as migration or the economy.
    • City-countryside gap: the growing divergence in lifestyles, socio-economic challenges and political attitudes couldn’t be more obvious. While taking into account the interests of city dwellers, the EPP political family would neglect the countryside at its own peril: France’s Yellow Vests are a case in point.
    • Middle class: the ‘squeezed middle’ – in terms of work-life-balance, education, gender equality, income/taxation etc., has been a favoured topic of many member parties in recent years. This should be maintained as a trademark.
    • Christian Europe: some member parties strongly favour this as a priority while others believe in a more eclectic message, focusing on a broader array of values, civic rights and an inclusive approach to other religions. It will be a challenge to create consensus on this.
    • Digital: the future of the internet, especially the balance between corporate-driven innovation, privacy, freedom and fighting abuse, is another issue that warrants more attention from the EPP.

    Tactics:

    • Electoral coalitions: several successes (in Poland, for example) have shown that in specific contexts, such as small countries or constituencies with single or few seats, creating joint electoral lists with other political parties may be the only chance for the EPP parties to maintain or expand their strength.
    • Communication: a constant challenge for centre right parties, especially when faced with populists and Greens. This goes far beyond the right use of social media, and extends to using less bureaucratic language in general, and be more open to entertainment as a factor in politics. Being less boring and yet maintaining the EPP’s political salience is the challenge here.
    • Outreach to the young generation: in several member states (this time not only in the Northwest), the centre right is now risking to lose young voters on a scale last seen in Western Europe in the 1970s. This refers to policy issues (climate change, digital, education) but above all to styles of communication, transparency etc. as well as including more young candidates on electoral lists.
    • Personalities: without charismatic leaders appealing to large numbers of voters, the EPP has no future. That’s a so-called no-brainer. And yet, a direct succession from one charismatic leader to the next is the exception rather than the rule. Recruitment of leaders and smooth leadership transitions are areas for the EPP to work on.
    Roland Freudenstein Centre-Right Elections EU Member States European Union

    Roland Freudenstein

    After #EP2019: first points for a centre-right roadmap

    Blog

    14 Jun 2019

  • Federico Ottavio Reho European Union

    Four Classical European federalisms: What to choose today?

    Europe out Loud - Multimedia

    09 May 2019

  • On the 1st of May 2004, the EU was enlarged by eight post-communist countries along with Malta and Cyprus. Today, we are quite obviously asking a number of questions: what has this massive European enlargement brought to these countries? And, on the other hand, how and in what way have the new member states enriched the EU?

    We should also ask what mistakes should be avoided in the future because, while the vision of Europe ‘whole, free and at peace’ has not yet been fulfilled, we are already facing the phenomenon of an East-West divide within the EU itself.

    These days my country Slovakia is taking stock of the first fifteen years of its merge with the West. This is happening just before the European elections, and, since January, I have held discussions with Slovak secondary school and university students, looking together with them for answers to the questions raised above.

    Slovakia is an ice-hockey obsessed country, so I borrowed ice-hockey parlance to assess my country’s membership of the EU, and I divided this fifteen-year period into three thirds.

    The first third: Honeymoon with the West

    In May 2004, the weather during the ceremony in Dublin was beautiful; the Slovak national flag was raised on one of the 25 flagpoles in the garden of the Irish President’s residence. It seemed as though the fair weather boosted our conviction that the future would be similarly cloudless. And, for a few years, this was indeed the case.

    Enlargement euphoria and the strong desire to emulate the West of Europe encouraged us to pursue deep structural reforms that transformed Slovakia into one of the economic leaders in the region. This great commitment to changing the country was completed through joining the Eurozone in 2009.

    Our strong ‘drive to score’ was also carried over into foreign policy, culminating with the Bush-Putin Summit held in 2005 in Bratislava. EU membership had consolidated our democracy and brought stability and prosperity to Slovakia, the region, and also the EU.

    The second third: Awakening

    Despite these auspicious beginnings, we soon woke up to the realisation that in this newly-united Europe we would not always be blessed with ‘good weather’. The first clouds had already started to gather right when Chancellor Schroeder’s government signed-off on an agreement with Russia to build the Nord Stream II pipeline.

    No regard was taken of the fact that the capacity of the existing pipeline leading through the CEE countries was more than sufficient. Later on, we would have to endure further storms, like the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

    The bailouts to Greece, granted in order to keep it in the Eurozone, were painful for us, the new member states. I did not understand the pressure exerted on us by the leaders of certain older member states, who failed to recognise the consequences of harsh economic reforms and structural changes in the post-communist countries.

    From one day to the next, we were asked to comply with the same demands as older and significantly richer member states. Just as we had managed to overcome our own existential difficulties, we instantly became embroiled in the existential difficulties of others – difficulties we had no part in causing.

    Not infrequently, the leaders of the CEE countries felt that when it came to serious decisions they were simply expected to play along, without being given a chance to influence those decisions in a more substantial way. This is how it played out in the case of the Greek loan facility, or in the case of the already mentioned North Stream II.

    The third third: Disenchantment

    The developments of recent years tied to migration flows have shown that these new member states are neither ready, nor willing to bear this common burden, or to put forward solutions. This status quo has no future and must be changed. The CEE countries must learn to better understand the solidarity principle.

    At the same time, older and more cosmopolitan countries must learn to better understand the completely different historical experience and degree of social conservatism that exists in this part of Europe.

    There are too many misunderstandings and too little real dialogue in the EU today, especially between East and West. There cannot be real dialogue if we do not acknowledge and respect of each other’s culture and history.

    An important takeaway drawn from the current climate of disenchantment in Europe has been the realisation that establishing a democracy is not a one-off event, it is an ongoing project that must be protected and nurtured each day.

    It is true that this does not apply only to Visegrad countries. Populism and extremism are also gaining a foothold in Europe’s advanced democracies. Therefore, the EU needs to become a true federation combining a strong but limited centre with strong members states.

    That said, there may also be light at the end of the tunnel for Slovakia. The squares crowded with people after the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée brought down the prime minister and re-activated civil society, as well as mobilising the political participation of young people.

    Recently elected to the presidential office in Slovakia is a civil activist who managed to stand her ground against evil and prevailed against the odds. This trend must be fostered and encouraged by putting forward a new, attractive and forward-looking vision for the whole of the EU.

    I am convinced that such a vision has the potential to inspire and motivate us in the same way I was inspired by the vision of a Europe “ whole, free and at peace” in 1998. That year, I rode my bike across the country in the name of such a vision, calling on my fellow citizens to join me on the journey.

    I still remember how distant this vision seemed to me then, but the undying belief in that vision brought change to Slovakia – change for the better. In an era of similar challenges, the time has come to set out on a similar journey once again.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Enlargment EU Member States European Union Leadership

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    The Big Bang Enlargement at 15: lessons learned vs lessons applied

    Blog

    30 Apr 2019

  • The perspective that the Union is a project is holding us back. The Union simply needs to be pragmatic.


    In 2008-2010 I served as secretary general of Felipe Gonzalez’s reflection group on the future of Europe. The title of its final report was “Project Europe 2030”. While several recommendations remain valid, I have been gradually realizing that the title was a mistake.

    That it is exactly this kind of understating of the European Union that is holding us back. The Union is not a project. It is not an unfinished project. It is a product. It is a product of countless thinkers, politicians, civil servants and citizens. It is a result of centuries of dreams and decades of institution building.

    The Union is here to be utilised. It is not here to be upgraded, rebuilt or reformed. With the coming European elections, political parties and politicians are publishing their election platforms. Promising change has always been an effective political strategy. Almost everyone is promising some kind of a reform of the Union.

    The other usual strategy to motivate voters is creating some kind of sense of urgency. It is supposed to be urgent to reform the Union. Because of populism, economic crisis, Brexit, migration … What I will explain is that most reforms are neither urgent, nor possible, nor reasonable.

    Project ‘socially just Europe’?

    The reform that the progressives are promising is in the direction of a fairer, more social Europe. What they understand by justice is redistributive justice. This is not something that can be achieved on the EU level. For the Union to redistribute between the rich and the poor it simply does not have the budget.

    Technically it could create such a budget but the citizens are willing to show solidarity within their group, their nation-state. It is quite unlikely that the, say, Germans would be willing to pay for Italian social benefits. Such promises are just creating expectations which, when unfulfilled will create the disillusionment with the European project.

    The other possible interpretation of more socially just Europe is for the Union to instruct member states how they should redistribute between the rich and the poor. But it does not have this competence. Indeed, it could be reformed to get it. But it would be stupid to centrally prescribe the social model, harmonize tax policies, social security policies etc.

    The strength of Europe has always been diversity and the opportunity for different countries to search for solutions in different directions. Then we have been quick to learn from each other. The social model innovation will be important because of the changes in the labour market caused by the technological revolution therefore it is important to keep Europe innovative in this regard. In summary, more social Europe is mostly hot air.

    Project ‘ever closer Union’?

    The reform that the liberals are advocating is an ever-closer Union. United States of Europe. Union of European Socialist (well, liberal) Republics. This is not impossible. An ever-closer union has been a kind of underlying belief of Brussels European, of the EU administration. It is the “project Europe” by excellence.

    The project would be unfinished until there is a European super-state. Such as state is possible. But it is not possible for it to be democratic. For one simple reason. Democracy assumes there is a demos. There is no European demos. There are demoi – Germans, French, Slovaks etc. Demos is not an intellectual construct that could be created by good PR coming from Brussels. It is a feeling of belonging. And according to Eurobarometer, Europeans identify with their nations an order of magnitude more than they identify with the European Union.

    A monolithic Europe is also not European. It does not matter if European competitors, like China, are growing stronger. China has always been a centralized empire. Europe’s strength has been its diversity. In fact, periods of fastest progress were when European entities were competing with each other – like rivalries among ancient Greek states, among city states of renaissance Italy, among the members of the Hanseatic league, among the kingdoms on the Atlantic competing for colonies.

    Even when it looked that the Catholic Church would create a single authority over the continent Martin Luther rebelled. The Italian renaissance from which Emmanuel Macron is borrowing a title for his vision was a result of a competition among many city-states of ununified Italy and not a centrally driven project.

    Generally, the Union is close enough. Macron’s plan is an “ever-closer union light” with a couple of new Brussels agencies, including the rather scary “European agency for the protection of democracies”. Centrally policing the political systems in member states sounds like something from the Warsaw pact playbook.

    Yes, human rights, freedoms and liberties need to be guaranteed at the European level and the EU would do well to position itself as the ultimate defender of human rights on the continent. But is should be the judicial arm, not the political executive that should be dealing with it.

    Project ‘Europe of Nations’?

    The far right rather unintelligibly pasted the idea of nation copied from a member state context to a Union context. While one can understand (though not endorse) the idea of the national populists to pit the original citizens against immigrants, the French against the Arabs, the Germans against the Turks, etc., Europe of nations suggests those ethnicities are represented at the European level.

    Which is very different from the Union of the member states, which is what we have today and works reasonably well. Member states are represented at the European Councils, states elect representatives into the European Parliament, states appoint one Commissioner to the European Commission. This reform too is hot air, a dangerous one.

    Even further to the right are those whose reform would be to dismantle the Union altogether. Which might get them some protest votes. But they can only advocate the breakup of the Union while there are enough of us who understand that the Union is a tremendously valuable achievement and want to protect it.

    Project Europe?

    The problem with projects is that they are by definition unfinished. They require attention. They are an excuse that work they should be doing is not done properly.

    Imagine a family starting a project of a summer home. As long as the summer home is a project they work on the summer home. They do not enjoy it for vacation. They don’t go sunbathing, they are adding another porch. If the stove is not working properly it is because it is a project. It will work when the project is finished, but not yet. Guests should tolerate some cold. Temporarily, of course.

    Thinking of the EU as a project is preventing us from exploiting in full what we have built so far. Instead of thinking how to solve problems at hand – such as migrations, terrorism, security, growth, innovation – the institutions are tempted to think how these problems could be solved if the institutions were reformed, if the project was more advanced, if only Brussels had this or that authority, if only this or that agency existed in Brussels.

    Instead of making use of what is available, administration is tempted to dream of what would be nice to have. For politicians too, advancing the project is a more noble call than using the institutional and legal tools the project has created so far.

    Of course, we need to work on improving the Union. Like living organisms, the Union needs to adapt to a changing environment. What could be needed is an evolution for which current treaties provide many possibilities. If the political will is there. It is the lack of political will not the inadequacies of the treaties that is preventing action.

    Perspective is important. And the perspective that the Union is a project is holding us back. The Union simply needs to be pragmatic. In the service of the citizens, businesses, regions, member states. It should provide services that make life safer, easier and the economy more competitive and productive.

    This does not sound as noble as starting a renaissance, but someone has to do this as well. As Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wrote, there is work to be done. Let’s just do it.

    This op-ed was originally published on Euractiv.com.

    Žiga Turk Brexit Democracy EU Institutions European Union Integration Values

    Žiga Turk

    Europe is not a project!

    Blog

    26 Mar 2019

  • There is currently an on-going debate about the possibility of creating a new European Security Council (ESC) within the EU. This is an old idea that has recently been resurrected by those seeking to transform the EU into a more effective international actor. The current discussion of the issue was initially started by French President Emmanuel Macron during his 2017 presidential campaign. But since then it has been taken over by leading German politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany party. The basic premise behind the idea is that the EU should have a new structure for strategic reflection and deliberation on foreign, security and defence policy, a forum that would not have seats for every EU member state. This would—so the argument goes—help the EU act more quickly and more decisively when a crisis or challenge emerged that required action from the Union.

    This paper provides a blueprint for the creation of an ESC, a plan that political leaders could follow in the coming months. It envisages an intergovernmental ESC based in the Council of the EU. Its day-to-day operations would be handled by the Council Secretariat, which would make the ESC relatively resource-neutral in terms of the additional staff and funding it requires. Hence, it would be not so much a new institution as an additional structure within an existing institution, which also means that it would not require separate mechanisms to handle its interactions with NATO or France’s new European Intervention Initiative. The ESC would have seats for 10 member states, five of which would have permanent seats (i.e. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland), three rotating and two case-specific seats. In addition, the ESC would have seats for a chairman, a military and civilian advisor, representatives from the European Commission and the European Parliament, and representatives from the relevant EU agencies, depending on the nature of the item being discussed. However, only the member states with permanent and rotating seats would vote on ESC decisions.

    Defence EU Institutions European Union Security

    EU It Yourself: A Blueprint for a European Security Council

    Research Papers

    25 Mar 2019

  • In the run up to February’s EU-Arab League summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, the EU was criticised by major media outlets such as the Financial Times for conducting high-level diplomacy with Middle East strongmen. By engaging in summitry with autocrats, it was argued that the EU is legitimising them and undermining its own value-based foreign policy. However, the premise of this argument is wrong.

    Over the last number of years, the EU has become more pragmatic in the way it conducts international affairs, most notably by showing a cautious willingness to define and pursue an interest-based foreign policy instead of one based mainly on values. This pragmatic turn was reflected in the 2016 Global Strategy, which called for an EU foreign policy based on ‘principled pragmatism’ and resilience building in the EU’s neighbourhood rather than democracy promotion.

    Resilience refers to the ability of a society to withstand both internal and external pressures to its stability. It became a Brussels buzzword following the triple shock of the Arab Spring, the Ukraine conflict and the Mediterranean migration crisis. These events made the EU realise that democracy promotion did not necessarily always translate into stability around its borders, which it needs to guard itself against phenomena such as uncontrolled migration, Islamic terrorism and hybrid warfare.

    Some see that this pragmatic turn in EU foreign policy undermines the Union’s ability to promote values and principles such as democracy, the rule of law, and human rights internationally. Furthermore, pragmatism or even realpolitik in EU foreign policy is seen to question the Union’s self-image as a postmodern normative power, a benign actor that uses the attractiveness of its norms and values to induce change in the world instead of hard power.

    However, the EU’s willingness to engage in summitry with a group of countries that Freedom House rates predominantly as “not free” is not in itself a negative phenomenon. Instead of undermining EU foreign policy, it suggests that the Union is slowly growing up strategically and distancing itself from a purely idealist way of dealing the world around it. This can be seen a positive development for three reasons.

    First, all international actors need to be concerned first and foremost about the security and prosperity of their own citizens, not value promotion beyond their territory. If the EU can accomplish this by engaging in summitry or deal making with unpleasant autocrats, without waiting until they become liberal democrats, then that is the prudent path to take.

    A good example of such pragmatism is the EU-Turkey deal in which the Union agreed to provide funds to Ankara in exchange for the latter’s help in stopping irregular migration across the Aegean. This might undermine the EU’s ability to project itself as a normative power, but the deal is in the best interests of its member states.

    Second, in its neighbourhood, the EU does not have the luxury of dealing only with “nice” regimes. Geography dictates that instability in countries with which the Union shares a land or maritime border will inevitably have ripple effects for the EU as well. This means that it cannot simply turn a blind eye to countries such as Egypt, Libya or Saudi Arabia, even though they are far from model democracies.

    Ignoring nasty regimes is easy when they are far away and strategically insignificant to one’s security, but not when they are on one’s doorstep and one needs them to take care of one’s interests.

    Third, value promotion has been a lowest common dominator EU foreign policy, not a strategic one. Given that EU foreign policy is conducted intergovernmentally, it is always a reflection of what the 28 member states can agree with each other. Quite often, they find it excruciatingly difficult to set common strategic objectives at the EU level, as the recent European cacophony over the political crisis in Venezuela again showed. However, it is relatively easy for them to support—at least rhetorically—the international promotion of the EU’s own values and principles.

    However, none of this is to say that the promotion of values and principles should not be an important element of EU foreign policy. It will continue to be so, not least because it is codified into the Lisbon Treaty as an objective of EU foreign policy. Furthermore, the Union should continue to promote its values and principles especially now given that great power competition is intensifying and the liberal international order is under unprecedented pressure.

    This is also why the EU needs to support the important work done by organisations such as the European Endowment for Democracy.

    The point is rather that value promotion should not be treated as the only or even the main goal of EU foreign policy. It is in nobody’s interest if the EU sees itself as a giant NGO that is more concerned about making the world outside its borders a better place than taking care of the security and prosperity of its citizens.

    For this reason and regardless of the optics of it, the Union’s willingness to talk to regimes that do not—to put it mildly—fully share its values and principles shows that it is taking modest steps to grow up strategically. This makes it a welcome development.

    Niklas Nováky European Union Foreign Policy Leadership

    Niklas Nováky

    The EU is growing up strategically

    Blog

    14 Mar 2019

  • 2018 was a very special year for our organisation as we celebrated the first decade of our existence. We took our anniversary not just as an opportunity to celebrate, but also as a chance to reflect. It seemed crucial to us to set up objectives to counteract all political challenges for the decade ahead.

    Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership

    Activity Report 2018

    Activity Report

    04 Mar 2019

  • A no deal outcome to the Brexit saga has become increasingly likely because prime minister May has decided that her priority is to avoid a split in the conservative party. She has calculated that, if she tried to get her deal through with mainsteam labour support – her conservative party would break up. She would lose 50 to 100 members of parliament and cease to be prime minister.  She is trying instead to win over individual labour members by promising spending in their constituencies, a desperate tactic that corrupts the political system.

    Brexit EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Political Parties

    Catharsis, not compromise, is what Brexiteers want

    IN BRIEF

    01 Mar 2019

  • I say Europe you say..?

    Peace, freedom, good living standards, protection without protectionism.

    You have been nominated by Alexander Stubb and his question was: Marianne, you had a fantastic career in Belgian and European politics. You have been a role model for many of us in the EPP. What are you going to do next?

    Next year I will continue to focus on my job as Commissioner and work hard for a stronger social Europe. It is not enough to launch proposals in order to achieve results for citizens; we also need to finish them. The planes in the air must land.

    This is my big priority until the end of the mandate. Afterwards, I hope my life will take on a new dimension. But I’m not thinking of that yet because my focus is on the next 12 months.

    What was the first job/gig you had before entering the world of politics?

    My very first job was assistant at the law faculty of my alma mater, KU Leuven. Then I worked more than 10 years for the most representative Belgian SME organisation UNIZO, one of the founding members of SMEunited (former UEAPME).

    By defending the interests of SMEs and the value of strong social dialogue, I came into close contact with the political world. Herman van Rompuy, party leader of CD&V at that time, asked me to participate in the European elections and I became a member of the European Parliament in 1991.

    What is the most interesting myth about the EU that you needed to bust in your career?

    That Europe only works in the interest of big banks and companies. That’s a myth. We work for people. People is what Europe is about.

    You are the first female commissioner from Belgium and a strong advocate for equal pay. How far do you feel the EU has come in achieving equal pay?

    Europe has always been a pioneer in creating equal opportunities and fighting discrimination between men and women. We should be proud of that. The principle of equal pay was already an objective in the Treaty of Rome! Is that enough? No. There is still a pay gap of 16% and that’s unacceptable. We need to make it easier for women to choose both children and a career without being penalised.

    A very important step towards achieving this goal is to distribute the caring responsibilities between women and men in a more balanced way. That’s why my proposal for better work-life balance is so important.  In the context of demographic ageing and shortages that we face on the labour market, we cannot afford to leave the huge talent of women untapped. Our initiative can help to closing the pay gap. 

    We’ve witnessed a reform of Erasmus+ with new funds allocated to new opportunities for adult learning and vocational training. If you could picture yourself starting over and taking up a course, what would it be?

    Had I been given the opportunity, I would have definitely wanted to go on Erasmus! It’s a unique chance to learn another language, new skills and to become independent. That’s why I also created the newest baby in the Erasmus+ in the family: ErasmusPro. I want to make long-term mobility also possible for students in vocational and educational training.

    You’ve had an extensive career in Belgian politics and end your political career on a high note as European Commissioner. Would you say European politics was more challenging than national politics?

    Politics is challenging at all levels. I’ve been locally active for 14 years, I was a Member of the European Parliament for 23 years and I have been a Commissioner for five years now. We work on the same issues everywhere. Growth and jobs. Security. Innovation. Climate change. The challenge is to create a framework in which every person has the opportunity, freedom and responsibility to make something of his or her life.  To make sure we leave nobody behind. If all those levels work well together, we have the biggest chance at being successful.

    How to abolish the practice of social dumping whilst enabling the free movement of workers on European level?

    By making the rules clear, fair and enforceable. And that’s exactly what we did with this Commission’s work: to ensure fair labour mobility. With the deal on equal pay for equal work at the same place. And with our proposals to update the rules on social security coordination and to create a European Labour Authority.

    What was, in your personal view, the most interesting report or piece of data produced by the Eurostat during your mandate so far?

    Timely, consistent and reliable data is essential to develop and support our policy making. All data is important, but one of the things I always look forward to receiving is Eurostat’s monthly unemployment data. Every month, since I started this mandate, the figures are getting better. All our efforts are geared towards making sure we can sustain that trend.

    Whilst preparing for this interview I came across the fact that you are still cheering for your local football club and visiting their matches. Who was your favourite “Red Devil” this year in Russia?

    Football is a team sports so I have to disappoint, I don’t have any favourites. I think the Red Devils did an incredible job precisely because of how they played as a team.

    As you were the president of the European Parliament’s beer club for 15 years — may I ask you in the capacity of an expert to tell us which Belgian beer is your favourite one?

    Though it was a European club my favourite beer is of course Belgian – Orval.

    Choose one of the following: law or politics?

    Politics. Because first you need a vision and conviction to turn values into rights.

    Fries or waffles?

    Do you also offer pancakes?

    Leuven or Brussels?

    I’ll always be grateful to my alma mater.. so Leuven!

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    My dear colleague from the EPP, Mairead McGuinness. My question to her would be: “What is your message to European citizens ahead of the upcoming European elections?”

    EU Institutions European People's Party European Union Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Marianne Thyssen

    I Say Europe

    29 Nov 2018

  • The ‘known known’ in the basket of uncertainties that is Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is the intention of the Commission’s negotiating team to maintain the integrity of the four freedoms. On the British side the objective is to enjoy some of the benefits accruing from its EU membership, whilst at the same time seeking to fulfil the democratic mandate to leave the EU conferred by the referendum verdict.

    In large part the withdrawal negotiations that ensued after the British Government invoked Article 50 have been a contest between these quite different, indeed conflicting, mandates. Both sides, each from its own standpoint, have offered quite different solutions to the conundrum of the Irish border. With Brexit day fast approaching, this singular issue has become a proxy for the altogether wider question of future EU–UK relations.

    At the time of writing, the entire sweep of these tense negotiations is concentrated on resolving the ‘Irish Question’—without success until finally a ‘technical’ agreement’ was reached by the negotiators. Whether this ‘solution’ will survive resistance from arch-Brexiteers remains to be seen.

    Brexit EU Member States European Union Integration Leadership

    Brexit and the Irish question, Part Three: Solving the Border Conundrum?

    IN FOCUS

    14 Nov 2018

  • This paper critically reflects on the development and implications of the Spitzenkandidaten system. It makes three claims. First, it argues that, despite the assertions of many commentators, this system did not appear out of the blue in 2014 but has a much longer history.

    Since the Maastricht Treaty, a series of steps have been taken that have clearly led the way to this outcome and, in fact, may even lead beyond it. These steps, including the role of the European People’s Party, are explained here as they cast a different light on the whole process, without which the success of the Spitzenkandidaten system cannot be properly understood.

    Second, the paper claims that, from a political–institutional point of view, the system implicitly promotes the parliamentarisation of the EU architecture and might eventually lead to a stronger EU executive and a weaker European Parliament, as is the case in most national parliamentary systems. This would be the opposite of what many of its supporters would like to see.

    Third, the paper concludes that, in order to avoid this unintended consequence and fulfil the democratic potential of the Spitzenkandidaten system, the current procedure must be understood as an intermediate step on the road to the direct election of the president of the EU. This, however, requires its success and consolidation in 2019. The paper thus ends with some recommendations that will help to make this happen.

    Elections EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Political Parties

    25 Years of Spitzenkandidaten: What Does the Future Hold?

    Policy Briefs

    06 Nov 2018

  • This paper aims to provide a critical analysis of the federalist doctrines that influenced the development of European integration. It argues that four federalist visions emerged at the dawn of European integration, each with its own specific ideological background and its own idea of what the federal Europe of the future should look like. The progressive federalism of Altriero Spinelli was different from the technocratic federalism of Jean Monnet, as much as the liberal federalism of Luigi Einaudi diverged from the personalist federalism of Christian Democrats.

    The  paper also contends  that  the  two  federalist philosophies most influential throughout European integration—those of Spinelli and Monnet— are founded on a unitary view of sovereignty and care little about protecting and retaining local state identities. On the contrary, within the Christian Democratic tradition there developed a bottom-up, culturally rooted federalism that was mindful of national and regional autonomy and averse to the concept of absolute sovereignty, be it national or European. Today, it is from this tradition that we should draw inspiration to redesign a more legitimate EU.

    EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Integration Leadership

    The Four ‘Classical Federalisms’

    Future of Europe

    22 Oct 2018

  • I say Europe, you say…?

    Our future. A lot of people focus on the past and the fact that Europe has brought us peace; today Europe is about our chance at having a voice in the world and being able to properly face the challenges of the future. Europe is our future. 

    You have been nominated for this interview by EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber and his question was: “What do you think could be the best way to open up what is sometimes perceived as the black box, the European decision-making process, to the people?”

    Chairman Weber has announced that he is entering the race within the EPP for the nomination for Spitzenkandidat. This nomination process is a clear-cut example of transparency in the run-up to the election of the President of the European Commission.

    Secondly, and I say this as Vice-President of the EPP for Relations with National Parliaments, we have to inform but also be informed by national parliaments. We need to know: what do they find important, how is their European debate taking shape and thirdly to take into account that there is a lot of frustration in Member States or amongst citizens about Brussels.

    These frustrations are caused by what are sometimes very technical things and not even political decisions. Therefore we should be a lot clearer in communicating to our citizens who makes which decisions here in Brussels and back home: we would have to clean up the comitology procedure to make it more transparent. 

    What do you perceive as the main long-term repercussions of the trade war with the US as regards to the Future of Europe?

    A trade war is always lose-lose. Trump, in this case, is not helping the people who actually voted for him and who work, for example, in car and steel factories. However, you do notice that Trump’s arrival in the White House coincides with  a more assertive policy from China when it comes to direct investments in Europe, and together with Putin’s divisive rule, in a way they are forcing Europe to take a more adult approach. That’s a good thing!

    There was a great Dutch football player, Johan Cruyff, who always said that every disadvantage has an advantage. The advantage of the current disadvantage, which is the difficult trade relationship with the US, is that Europe is growing up quickly.

    What is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    I had to bust many, I have to admit; I even had municipalities in the north of the Netherlands saying that they have been forced by the Commission to collect their garbage in a certain way. Obviously, this was not true at all.

    Perhaps the one that I got angry about recently is a funnier one. It was around Christmas time and in the Netherlands you often have the Salvation Army collecting money for people in need. So, for years, in a big shopping centre in Utrecht we had a Salvation Army guy dressed up as Santa Claus collecting money for the charity. And then, I saw an article in the local newspaper saying “Europe bans Christmas, charity fundraiser” and I thought: that can’t be true! I got really angry, got to the bottom of it and it turned out that it was the new owner of the shopping centre (a hedge fund, by the way), who in reality didn’t want the money raising to take place in his shopping centre. So we immediately busted that myth and corrected it.

    Having had an Erasmus-experience as a student yourself, in your view, what would be the main benefit of increasing the funding for the programme?

    Well, what is so healthy about Erasmus is that you are forced to look at your own Member State from the outside and see things from a different perspective. That’s always a very positive experience. I would like for as many people as possible to be able to have that opportunity. This is why the Parliament has always been pushing to increase its budget and the Commission got on board to initiate the increase for the next period.

    Personally, I would love to extend this experience not only to those who go to university, because they are the exception to the rule. In fact, most people don’t. They go to technical colleges after completing secondary school. So why not maybe come up with another format of Erasmus, find a way to also provide that experience to all the young people, not just university students.

    One of your Instagram posts shared an amusing insight into the experience of being a trainee in the Brussels bubble. Namely, you posted a photo of notes written by your intern having difficulties identifying between 751 MEPs. Recently, the EP Bureau voted on banning unpaid internships, what is your take on this?

    I have a bit of a double feeling about that because I started as an intern myself. I was working in Brussels part-time and I really wanted to work in the European Parliament, so I wrote to all the MEPs of my political party and I offered, on a part-time basis, to work for them for free just because I wanted this experience so much, next to my part-time job. In the end, one MEP offered me a paid internship, though initially I offered to volunteer.

    Therefore, I don’t think there’s a problem if someone is willing to do it on a voluntary basis and if it’s a really short period of time and a first working experience. However, I always pay my interns. What we have to tackle furthermore is abuse. There has been abuse in the sense that people are full-time working, either not paid for a long term or on a very low wage under the excuse of being hired as an intern, and this is not the way to go! We want to be a social market as well, so we have to give the right example ourselves.

    We are already less than a year away from the European Elections. Over the past few years support for the far-right has been increasing, as has been the case in the Netherlands. What can be done to counteract them and bring centre-right politics closer to the people?

    In a way, you actually saw this support going down after Brexit, same as the support for Nexit actually decreased after people saw what it actually means to leave the EU. But populism is on the rise everywhere in Europe, so also in the Netherlands. What helps is to show that a lot of these people, these politicians, they actually copy what voters say, which means that they are good at understanding, or like Clinton would say at “feeling the pain.” But they are not actually providing answers and delivering solutions, and we need to show that.

    I think a lot of people will grow tired of these new populist politicians rather soon, because people understand that though it’s nice that somebody feels your pain, you might want them to address the issues at stake as well, in which case they should maybe look at a trustworthy political party like the EPP.

    In one of your previous interviews, reflecting on Brexit, you have stated that Europe has always been sold as something economic, where you can calculate the benefits. Which vision for the Future of Europe should be championed to portray the EU as more than just that?

    That was pretty much a paraphrase of Delors saying that you don’t fall in love with the market. That’s just a part of the problem. One British colleague also said to me “we always told the Brits that they were entering a market”, but Europe is just so much more than that. I really think that Europe 1.0 was the Europe of 1945, 1952, 1957. It was really about war and peace between France and Germany and it was such a huge achievement.

    But, for the younger generation the European project is something they take for granted. Europe 2.0 emerged basically after the Wall fell. Indeed, that was the completion of the market and there was an enlargement and the zeitgeist was very economic.

    The Europe we’re in now is very much about the “European way of life”. How do we position ourselves, with a more assertive China, Trump starting a trade war, how much gas do we want from Russia, do we want to be so dependent? These questions will make Europe 3.0 much more about our voice in the world and assuring that we can maintain our “European way of life”.

    Considering that you are a passionate advocate of principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, how far have we come in adapting our EU corporate tax system to reflect these?

    The problem with the whole tax issue (don’t mention the “T” word) is that it is not a European competence. Small and medium enterprises have to pay their taxation, while the big tax giants pay in a very limited way or not at all and people are angry about that. So here you actually see a clash between something that is not a European competence and people asking us to make it a European competence.  So I think in these cases where these companies make a lot of money, some of them get our data for free, etc., they should take their responsibility as well with regards to paying tax, so that we can continue to be a social market economy.

    As a working mum, what are your “must haves” for your children’s schoolbags?

    Actually, I am pretty organised in getting their bag ready in the morning. What I essentially need is my phone because my phone is my lifeline to everything that goes on at home.

    Once during an EP Plenary I was seated in the front row, and there was a debate taking place with the Belgian Prime Minister, and I got a message from the babysitter asking about my son’s football training equipment.

    Not to complain, but I really think this doesn’t happen too often to my male colleagues. But the advantage of being a woman is that actually without even looking, I knew exactly where it was! So as long as I have my phone, the issue will get solved.

    If you had to spend your summer vacation with one colleague from the Parliament who would it be and why?

    You know, I think my colleagues are absolutely fantastic, but I did enjoy the fact that I didn’t see them for 3 whole weeks and I actually managed to catchup on my reading, enjoy nature and lovely French cuisine. So no, in that regard, I can’t imagine spending my holidays with them, I think it would be very unhealthy if I did!

    Choose one of the following: Belgian waffles or stroopwaffels?

    Cheese from all over Europe. I do not have a sweet tooth. Cheese anytime instead!

    ETIAS or Copyright Directive?

    Both are very important, but I would choose ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). Because it is of fundamental importance to actually show our citizens that we can be strong in protecting our borders, while simultaeously upholding our soft values, like bringing assistance to the refugees that really need it.

    Home baking or policy making?

    Policy making, of course! I am a politician after all, but, in a way, they have a lot in common. At home, baking helps me relax after all the policy making. Both can be messy jobs. But what counts is the end result, both in home baking and policy making. So that’s what you should judge us on.

    European People's Party European Union Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Esther de Lange

    I Say Europe

    17 Sep 2018

  • The EU has an important role to play in the management of the threat posed by North Korea. Indeed, Brussels already has a policy of ‘critical engagement’ towards Pyongyang which combines diplomatic and economic carrots with a number of sticks. This policy, however, is in need of an update to attend to two recent developments on the Korean Peninsula: North Korea’s status as a de facto nuclear power and the flurry of engagement and diplomacy involving North Korea—including top-level meetings with the US, South Korea and China.

    In this context, the EU should support its partners, South Korea and the US, as they launch a process that could lead to sustainable engagement with North Korea, denuclearisation, and, as a result, a more stable Korean Peninsula. Working with its partners, Europe should creatively use its power of engagement and cooperation to change behaviour. This will enhance the position of the EU as a constructive actor in Asian affairs, support efforts by the US and South Korea to engage North Korea and, ultimately, offer a better opportunity for the EU to achieve its goals.

    Defence European Union Security

    North Korea: Towards a More Effective EU Policy

    IN FOCUS

    07 Sep 2018

  • Populists love blaming the EU for everything that goes wrong in our societies, proclaiming that a return to a Europe made up of nation states is the only path forward. But when doing so, they should go beyond the ideology and look at the real consequences of such a shift. They should talk about how this will end open trade as we know it, how this will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs across the EU and how it will make the EU less safe.

    The European “super state” with its soulless bureaucracy and its ivory tower is an easy target cliché for those looking for a scapegoat. But people using that image swiftly find themselves in an awkward bind. If they say that citizens need a quid pro quo when paying taxes and only want their taxes to be used to build roads and bridges, they should also say that more often than not roads and bridges are payed for with EU funds. If they say that EU taxes would be an atrocity, they should stop saying that the EU’s external borders remain unprotected.

    So let’s speak the truth about the EU. The truth is that it wasn’t established by soulless bureaucrats but by people like Adenauer and Schuman and Spaak. Statesmen who had personally witnessed the horror and ruin of neighbours going to war with one another.

    Populists love blaming the EU for everything that goes wrong in our societies, proclaiming that a return to a Europe made up of nation states is the only path forward. But when doing so, they should go beyond the ideology and look at the real consequences of such a shift. They should talk about how this will end open trade as we know it, how this will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs across the EU and how it will make the EU less safe.

    The European “super state” with its soulless bureaucracy and its ivory tower is an easy target cliché for those looking for a scapegoat. But people using that image swiftly find themselves in an awkward bind. If they say that citizens need a quid pro quo when paying taxes and only want their taxes to be used to build roads and bridges, they should also say that more often than not roads and bridges are payed for with EU funds. If they say that EU taxes would be an atrocity, they should stop saying that the EU’s external borders remain unprotected.

    So let’s speak the truth about the EU. The truth is that it wasn’t established by soulless bureaucrats but by people like Adenauer and Schuman and Spaak. Statesmen who had personally witnessed the horror and ruin of neighbours going to war with one another.

    A strong European Union  benefits every European citizen. Not in spite of, but because of its large scale.

    The EU started as a project to  safeguard peace across the continent. But over the years it became so much more, it became an ever-closer union. A Union of unprecedented economic and social welfare and shared values. Christian democrats have been the driving force behind that evolution, and the EPP remains the driving force to this day.

    We continue to ensure that the European Union is being democratically governed. Through the member states in the Council, through the representatives elected to the European Parliament by our people and through Commissioners who are delegated by the governments of their home nation.

    A strong European Union  benefits every European citizen. Not in spite of, but because of its large scale. We live in an era of fundamental geopolitical and economic shifts. The reality of today, the outside world in turmoil scares people, which is understandable. But capitalizing on those fears for electoral reasons and making protectionist pleas for a return to separate, individual nation states with closed borders, is reprehensible. In a world that is dominated by competing superpowers, even countries like France and Germany are small players.

    The European Union, representing 25% of the global economy, must speak with one voice on the global stage. It is the only way to defend our interests. Only in the Bible does David triumph over Goliath. If US President Donald Trump hasn’t yet implemented import tariffs on European steel, it is because the EU is taken seriously as a large trade block. I am sure he’d much rather negotiate directly and separately with Belgium or Italy or Hungary.

    Is this a plea for that infamous European “super state”? No, of course it isn’t. Our citizens aren’t interested in those kinds of institutional theologies that all too often dominate the debate on Europe. They don’t care about the colour of the cat, as long as it catches mice.

    Which mice should Europe catch?

    The EU is an economic success story. The internal market brings growth and prosperity, especially so for a very open economy such as Belgium’s. But the benefits and the added value become even clearer when things go wrong. With one member state preparing to leave the EU, the dark economic picture is getting clearer: for Belgium alone this may cost 2.2 billion euros in tariffs as well as the loss of 42,000 jobs.

    Yet I do not believe that Brexit will be the beginning of the end of the European Union. On the contrary, we already see that Brexit is bringing the remaining 27 members closer together.

    So, the European story is unfinished. We should get on with the creation of an Energy Union and a Digital Union because this is where tomorrow’s economic challenges lie. At the same time, we should recognize that Europe is more than a market. The European Union should protect its citizens. It should provide security and a level playing field.


    So no, we don’t find ourselves all of a sudden in a European demos that replaces the national identity. If nothing else, because our identity cannot be defined one-dimensionally.

    Under the guidance of Commissioner Thyssen and with the active support of the Belgian Government, we have taken significant steps towards a stronger social Europe and in the fight against social dumping. Equal pay for equal work in the same place has become a reality. We should build on this: before the European elections of 2019 we should reach an agreement on the creation of a European Labour Authority and on the Work-Life Balance Directive.

    In addition, the Union should continue its work in shaping a coherent migration policy and  better protection of our external borders. A European Union that is built on the rule of law and shared values owes it to itself to provide decent and humane assistance to refugees. We can manage this. But we cannot welcome the entire world to Europe.

    This is why we should focus more strongly on timely, quality assistance in the immediate vicinity of conflicts. And we need to know who is entering the EU. Controls at the European external borders need to be strengthened. That is why I plead for a further reinforcing of the European Coast and Border Guard and an increase in EU Border Guards from 1,200 to 10,000.

    Who will foot the bill?

    The EU Budget has for years amounted to more or less 1% of GNI. So, just 1% of our overall income goes to the EU; the other 99% is spent on other things. This is the order of magnitude and it will not change significantly. So let us not turn the 1% threshold into an obsession. I prefer 1.1% spent well, over 0.9% spent poorly. The proposal of the European Commission for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework seems a good basis to me.

    I do not welcome every aspect of course: in the context of Brexit and increasing pressure on Customs services in frontline countries like Belgium, the proposed decrease of the retention of Customs collection costs from 20% to 10% is simply unacceptable. But I also find a lot of interesting ideas in this future-oriented budget: the increase in spending on innovation, investments in human capital and the doubling of the Erasmus+ program.

    And yes, new own resources should be a possibility in my view. The proposal of a tax on non-recycled plastic waste is a creative proposal that can help the EU achieve its climate and environmental goals and create a better world for our children and grandchildren.  

    The limits of the nation state

    So no, we don’t find ourselves all of a sudden in a European demos that replaces the national identity. If nothing else, because our identity cannot be defined one-dimensionally. The notion that we cannot be Flemish if we want to be Belgian, or Belgian if we want to be European, is completely outdated.

    Today’s reality is that we have a multi-layered identity. We can feel Flemish, Belgian and European at the same time. Because in all of those identities we find a common past and we see a joint future. And that multi-layered identity requires multilevel governance, with real competencies and the necessary striking force. European democracy coincides with local democracy. It is the only way the European Union can strengthen our nations and vice versa.

    Kris Peeters Brexit EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Euroscepticism

    Kris Peeters

    Let’s speak the truth about the European Union

    Blog

    29 May 2018

  • This paper reflects on the notion of differentiated integration in the context of the future of Europe. It argues that differentiation is only acceptable as an instrument of ‘unity in diversity’ and within strict limits. All forms of differentiation that risk fragmenting the Union and its institutional framework should be excluded. In the field of external policies existing treaties and the recent jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice allow the Union to speak with one voice and to privilege unity over differentiation. 

    As far as internal EU divides are concerned– from divisions over migration to those involving the rise of regional groups of countries—they are all transient and changeable and are not relevant subjects for differentiation. Finally, attempts to redefine the euro area as the new ‘hard core’ of European integration should be rejected, as they can only lead to the disintegration of the European project. Out of all the available legal techniques of differentiation, enhanced cooperation carries the lowest risk.

    EU Institutions European Union Integration Leadership

    Differentiation, not Disintegration

    Future of Europe

    15 May 2018

  • Who doubts that history doesn’t repeat itself? In Brussels, 2018 is the new 1989. Everybody seems to have a “blueprint” or “vision” for the future of the Eurozone. The only problem is that three decades after the Delors report, Eurozone leaders risk the sustainability of the single currency area. The reason? Political goals rather than economic priorities are guiding Eurozone proposals. The possible result? A repeat of the mistakes of the 1990s and a Eurozone still ill-equipped to deal with future crisis.

    Crisis European Union Eurozone Leadership Macroeconomics

    Keeping it Real: Building a Realistic and Inclusive Eurozone

    IN BRIEF

    11 Apr 2018

  • Our think tank is celebrating its tenth birthday! It started off small, with just three people on board. Today we have a team of over 20 talented and dynamic individuals at our Brussels headquarters, and we cooperate with more than 40 member foundations and partner organisations across Europe. Every year we organise over 100 events. In this way we have developed a platform for centre–right decision-makers, experts and thinkers to discuss and exchange views on current issues and to debate proposals to address the foremost challenges facing Europe.

    EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    Activity Report 2017

    Activity Report

    09 Apr 2018

  • This paper sets out ways to reform European education systems to  ensure  that  they  equip  Europeans  with  a  forward-looking set of key competences that prepares them for the workplace, but  also  helps  to  create  a  European  identity.  It  argues  that education and training—enhanced through mobility, transnational cooperation  and  structural  reforms—are  critical  to  boosting individual, economic and societal resilience; providing both basic and high-level skills and competences; reducing inequalities; promoting entrepreneurial mindsets; fostering inclusive, stable and democratic societies; and making a success of migration and globalisation. Furthermore, education should help to empower young people to engage with and shape the future of a Europe of democracy, solidarity and inclusion. The ultimate goal is to build a true European Education Area by 2025, which would, inter alia, improve students’ mobility, prepare the ground for the mutual recognition of diplomas and boost language learning.

    Education EU Institutions European Union Social Policy Youth

    Education in Europe: Towards a True Education Area by 2025

    IN FOCUS

    27 Mar 2018

  • During the 2018 February plenary session, the European Parliament voted on its future composition after the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decided to redistribute 27 of the current 73 UK seats among several EU member states which have been previously under-represented. The full-list of the proposed allocations can be found here.

    The house also debated whether some of the remaining available seats should be taken by MEPs elected from an EU-wide electoral constituency and through a ‘transnational list’ which would complement the national lists in the 2019 European elections. The European Parliament (EP) eventually voted against the proposal for transnational lists.

    What happens to the UK seats if there is no actual Brexit?

    The current 73 UK MEPs have been democratically elected for a full mandate until May 2019. These seats will not be available to the UK after the withdrawal from the EU becomes legally effective (expected on 29 March 2019). The EP proposed text specifies that in case the UK is still a member of the EU at the time of the 2019 elections these changes will not take place.

    The idea of transnational lists is great because I would be able to vote for candidates who would represent the European Union interests, correct?

    Not really. This is already the case with the traditionally elected MEPs who are sworn to represent the European Union’s interests while also remaining accountable to their national constituencies. Current MEPs sit in pan-European political families which are at the centre of the everyday work of the Parliament.

    The political engagement of every MEP within his European political family is key for his successful committee and legislative file work. Historically, most traditionally elected MEPs have guarded the Union interest and advanced pro-integration legislation whilst serving as a link between the national electorate and the supranational institution. Why destroy this link with transnational MEPs?

    But don’t you want to see a new type of Parliamentarians?

    Transnational MEPs would actually have to choose a European political family to align with and sit together with the ‘traditional’ ones or become independent. These ‘new’ Parliamentarians could demand additional legitimacy from their political family due to their allegedly upgraded mandate but would essentially have exactly the same rights and obligations as a traditional MEP. Becoming independent would leave them with limited speaking time, visibility, resources and overall ability to influence legislation which would be the exact opposite of the ideal pan-European delegate.

    What about making the MEPs more visible and strengthening the connection between voters and elected Members?

    This is precisely why having transnational lists would be a bad idea. The question can be answered with a series of open questions. How would a Member who has been elected with a different number of votes from different member states be held accountable? With which national electorate would they spend time during the weeks designated for constituency work?

    In what language would they communicate to their electorate? If the delegate eventually opens offices in his/her native member state and interacts with a local audience, what would be the point of having a transnational mandate?

    The old proverb “One who is everywhere is nowhere” would apply fully in this case. 

    Why not have a truly European race for votes in a European-wide constituency?

    The European-wide constituency was previously proposed in 2015 as part of the reform to the Electoral law of the EU. The file is still pending in the Council of the EU which is effectively stopping its development because of a lack of member state support. Even if the EP had voted in favour of transnational lists for 2019, this probably wouldn`t have been implemented in practice as the decision requires the unanimous approval of European heads of state or government (European Council).

    Having a single constituency for the 2019 elections which is based on proportional representation remains practically impossible. Such changes would have to be agreed beforehand with national/regional parliaments and implemented in national electoral laws on very short notice. Practical issues remain regarding the feasibility of hundreds of candidates campaigning across the EU in a 30-day time period to audiences with diverse political, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

    Globally there is no country or federation with such a huge number of eligible voters which produces proportionally elected Members from a single constituency. One might argue that the Spitzenkandidat process brings about an informal EU-wide constituency which actually works because it produces a single winner (see below).

    So I guess being against transnational lists makes you anti-European?

    Quite the contrary. Rushing in transnational lists in 15 months would produce an unbalanced process which could achieve an anti-European effect. The system would naturally give an advantage to bigger member states as they would cast the biggest number of ballots and most likely produce additional ‘bonus’ seats for Germany, Spain, Italy and France.

    An attempt to balance such a system with national, gender and maximum member quotas would take a lot of time and additionally cause party/voter frustration. Such a hasty top-down decision would backfire and be seen as an elite-driven initiative for institutional legitimacy which would further discourage voters and cement the `second order` status EP elections.

    The short time-frame for actual campaigning and communicating such a change would create very polarized voter groups (convinced anti-EU and strong pro-federalist segments) and ultimately produce extremely diverging MEPs who wouldn`t represent true transnational sentiment.

    How about engaging more EU citizens and contributing to the formation of a European demos? 

    The million-euro question about active citizen engagement on a regional, national and European level remains indeed open. However, we shouldn`t expect supranational institutions to be the only inventors and promoters of a European identity which may turn out to be artificial. The European Citizens` Initiative has been operational for more than 5 years and has produced disappointing results. This is a good example of how a top-down idea promising citizen involvement defeats its own purpose.

    The sensible goal for the 2019 elections would be to promote the lead candidate process (Spitzenkandidat) in which the European political families campaign their manifestos along with their leading candidate who they nominate for President of the European Commission. This is a workable solution which de facto produces a European-wide constituency as it is best suited to present a single winner from an extremely large number of votes.

    The 2014 EP elections were the first in which the new Commission president was elected with the support of the winning party and not appointed after a high-level political compromise behind closed doors. This achievement essentially gives European political parties a campaign face and makes the small but necessary step for politicizing EP election campaigns further. 

    Dimitar Lilkov Brexit Elections EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Political Parties

    Dimitar Lilkov

    Q&A: why introducing transnational lists in the 2019 European elections is a bad idea

    Blog

    15 Feb 2018

  • With Die Hauptstadt (The Capital), Austrian writer Robert Menasse has written the ‚first great EU novel‘, according to a review in POLITICO, and won the prestigious ‚Deutsche Buchpreis‘ for the political bestseller of the season in Germany and Austria.

    Since it plays mostly in Brussels and richly depicts Eurocrats, it has also caused a largely positive stir in the so-called “Brussels Bubble“. While the text has some merits in terms of its readability and humour, it is a complete failure as a political statement.

    “Ceci n’est pas un roman” is what Belgium’s surrealist genius René Magritte would have said about Menasse’s book. In that sense, Robert Menasse’s cri de coeur for Europe is not a novel, but a manifesto posing as a novel. Consequently, evaluating it is not a question of literary taste, but of political common sense.

    Dramatis personae include a Belgian holocaust survivor, a professor and a pig farmer from Vienna, a Belgian police detective, a Catholic killer from Poland and numerous Eurocrats from the EU institutions. The backbone of Menasse’s plot is the quest of those Eurocrats for the proper and most meaningful way to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Commission’s creation.

    His pet protagonists develop the idea that Auschwitz is the right place to do so. At the end, the bad guys – especially in the Council Secretariat and the member states – successfully nip the noble initiative in the bud. All this is embedded into a thriller plot with a murder at the beginning and a terror attack at the end, and a continental conspiracy in the middle.

    To begin on a positive note: Menasse’s book is not without its merits. He spent years living in Brussels to prepare the writing, and this is apparent in the detail of place descriptions and the biographies and personalities of the protagonists for which he conducted dozens of in-depth interviews. For a novelist to give the faceless bureaucrats of Brussels a face, is a laudable undertaking.

    And he is entertaining. Take, for example, the pig as leitmotif of the entire narrative. Moreover, Menasse pretty successfully inserts rudimentary explanations of Brussels decision-making into a fictional plot. Finally, his attempts to include contemporary Eurodebates in the dialogues of his characters is worth acknowledging.

    While the text has some merits in terms of its readability and humour, it is a complete failure as a political statement.

    But let’s take a look at Menasse’s politics. To put his central message in a nutshell: nationalism always culminates in a holocaust, and history’s most important lesson is to overcome the nations of Europe in a unitary state whose avantgarde is the European Commission in Brussels. In other words: the only valid answer to Auschwitz is a European Republic!

    It’s no coincidence that he repeats verbatim the thesis of German political pundit Ulrike Guerot, elaborated in two books 2016 and 2017: one market, one currency, one democracy – even at the price of a “civil war“ at least metaphorically.

    At this point, one might reply that history’s best answer to Auschwitz is the State of Israel, or, more precisely: the logical consequence of murderous antisemitism (which has been around for a thousand years, i.e. longer than modern nation states) is the creation of a Jewish state capable of defending itself. But that’s a separate debate.

    For Menasse, the answer to all of the old continent’s ills is the mantra of: More Europe!, i.e. ever more competences for the central institutions until there is only one European state left. And when people (in the novel as well as in real life) answer that Europe’s nations cannot and should not be abolished, he replies blandly that around 1800, that’s what conservatives answered about slavery.

    A smart move by Menasse but an absurd reply when keeping in mind that the modern nation state is a child of the enlightenment, and that in the last 300 years, it has brought forth the best as well as the worst in people – just like religion. The nation state has also weathered all attempts to make it obsolete, such as marxist internationalism, pan-slavism and other ethnocentric movements.

    Quite arguably, it’s the attempt to abolish Europe’s nations that would give a boost to national populism and end in a break-up of the Union. In reality, less Europe is actually more – that is my personal lesson of over 15 years in different Brussels institutions. It is not a weakness, but the decisive strength of the European integration process is that it hedges in Europe’s nation states and pools elements of their sovereignty instead of abolishing them.

    On economics, Robert Menasse staunchly defends classical leftist ideas: he despises austerity, believes in grandious public investments and glorifies a European welfare state.

    All these are legitimate views (although opposed to mine) but what riles me is Menasse’s clearly expressed world view in which only people with leftist ideas such as the above can be idealists whereas people with more conservative views exclusively appear as lobbyists‘ who are interested in a lot of things but never in the common good.

    Of course, Menasse is in good company with this totally unquestioned assumption. The entire post-1968 intellectual Left is built on this idea. But that doesn’t make it any more legitimate.

    The point at which Menasse completely discredits himself is the utterly bizarre character of the Polish Christian killer, one of the book’s central protagonists. He is central to the plot because his murder operation at the beginning and escape through Europe, defines the entire story and gives it much of its suspense.

    This ‚żołnierz Chrystusa‘ (soldier of Christ) is steeped in the tragic insurgent tradition of his ancestors and belongs to an ultra secret Catholic sect whose headquarters are located in the catacombs under the city of Poznan. Its purpose is to pre-emptively and extralegally kill potential terrorists, in cooperation with NATO.

    Consequently, NATO also abruptly ends the police investigation of the murder and has the Belgian police destroy all evidence. If Dan Brown comes up with comparable ideas in novels such as ‚The Da Vinci Code‘, one may still define this as fictional thriller writing. But in Menasse’s case, these extravagent tales require closer scrutiny because they form an integral part of his political manifesto.

    Here is where the three tendencies combine: a resentful anti-americanism, West European condescension towards Central Europe and a politically correct appeasement of Islamism. According to his own words, Menasse introduced the character of the ‚Soldier of Christ‘ and his continental conspiracy only in order to show that it’s not only Muslims who commit religiously motivated acts of violence.

    But unless you believe that Anders Breivik was part of a hitherto undiscovered Vatican conspiracy, there simply are no killers in the Catholic Church, at least for a couple of centuries now, neither in Brussels nor anywhere else in Europe. However, numerous jihadist killers have originated in Molenbeek, a Brussels neighbourhood which is omitted from Menasse’s book despite the shadow it has cast over Brussels in recent years.

    Jihadist terrorism receives only hush-hush mentions on the book’s final pages, in a rather listlessy inserted terror attack. The administrative chaos and police sloppiness, the tolerance of the intolerable and the hare-brained multiculturalism which led to the real life attacks of 2016 (and which are very much part of life in Brussels today) do not appear in Menasse’s manifesto.

    Robert Menasse feigns openness and tolerance, but in the end presents a firmly closed, leftist West European world view. To Menasse, the critics of this world view are at times an existential threat to Europe and at times just a laughable nuisance. But they are never morally legitimate.

    To me, this is an ominous way to undermine our conetmporary understanding and experience of European integration. Less demonisation and more listening  would not only be a great antidote to the fetishism of ‚More Europe!‘, whilst also being a brilliant way to immunise Europe against Auschwitz-style facism and other forms of fanaticism. 

    Roland Freudenstein European Union Society

    Roland Freudenstein

    Robert Menasse’s ‚The Capital‘ – How not to defend European integration

    Blog

    06 Feb 2018

  • In a reflection paper intended to generate debate among euro-area governments, the European Commission has put forward ideas on what could be done to deepen the Economic and Monetary Union by 2025. One of the ideas outlined by the Commission is the creation of a euro-area budget.

    This article reviews the key issues that are relevant in the discussion on establishing such a budget; outlines the possible functions of such a budget, such as incentivising structural reforms or ensuring macro-stabilisation; and discusses the issues of size, funding, moral hazard and governance, while touching upon the role of non-euro-area member states.

    The article concludes with the assertion that the answer to this question is essentially political in nature and could constitute an example of how member states are ready to integrate further, while giving non-euro-area member states the opportunity to participate.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Siegfried Mureşan European Union Eurozone Macroeconomics

    Siegfried Mureşan

    Prospects for a euro-area budget: an analytical outline

    Blog

    19 Dec 2017

  • The European Union is experiencing a new dynamic behind its quest for a credible security and defence capacity. New projects and mechanisms suggest a shift in European ambition.

    This paper assesses the reality of this new dynamic, arguing that the EU needs a clearly articulated grand strategy – outlining the objectives in the Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods, and tailoring those objectives to realistic means. Those means will range from high end assets to purely civilian assets. Defence spending will require structured Europeanisation. 

    Involvement of third countries will require creative legal developments. EU-NATO relations must undergo fundamental revision. If ‘strategic autonomy’, the objective of the European Global Strategy, is to become a reality, it will involve the EU progressively assuming leadership within NATO, thereby meeting the calls across the United States for the allies to assume greater responsibility for their own affairs.

    Defence EU Member States European Union Security

    For a True European Defence Union

    Future of Europe

    07 Dec 2017

  • The Economic and Monetary Union remains incomplete and vulnerable. The current economic and political climate offers a window of opportunity to further deepen this Union in 2018. Completing the banking union and creating a roadmap for a capital markets union are both essential.

    One of the missing building blocks is a minister of finance and economic reform for the eurozone. This minister should have the powers and democratic legitimacy to better enforce the rules on budgetary and macroeconomic discipline. He or she should also be responsible for managing a budget line for the eurozone that can act as a countercyclical buffer when monetary policy and national fiscal policy are insufficient.

    This budget line, together with the European Structural Investment Funds, should also act as an instrument for enforcing and supporting structural economic reforms aimed at making the national economies more resilient to external shocks.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Hans Geeroms European Union Eurozone Macroeconomics

    Hans Geeroms

    Why the eurozone needs a minister of finance and economic reform

    Blog

    05 Dec 2017

  • Last Friday, the Czechs and the Slovaks commemorated the fall of Communist totalitarianism and the advent of a new era of freedom and democracy. We reflect on the events of November 17th and ask ourselves: was it all worth it? Are we living the life we imagined? Some go further and question whether we are really better off than we were under totalitarianism.

    While these questions may be disconcerting, we should not be afraid of asking them. Instead, we should worry about our unwillingness to address them. Why is it that the post-November development often leaves a bad taste in our mouths? Why is it that we sometimes experience disappointment, or even fear and regret?

    One of the reasons is that we have not yet met the expectations of 28 years ago. Euphoria over the fall of totalitarianism coupled with our lack of experience with the free world meant we were ill-prepared for the obstacles that needed to be overcome in order to integrate ourselves into this new reality.

    Another reason for this frustration is the turbulence that the free world itself has experienced over the last quarter of a century. This turbulence has forced us to re-think many of the things we took for granted about the Free World. That the 2008 Economic and Financial Crisis had its origins in the USA is significant.

    For decades, the US had stood as a symbol of freedom, civil liberties and prosperity for the freedom-loving people behind the Iron Curtain. Central to this was the belief that the President of the United States stood as the natural leader of the democratic world. Today we are confronted with the reality that this may no longer be the case.

    We wanted the world to be open to us, and for borders to become a thing of the past. But massive waves of migration and numerous terrorist attacks are leading people to demand that borders be closed once more and new fences be built. Throughout its existence, the EU has expanded and its membership has grown. Now, as we are faced with the exit of the United Kingdom we must acknowledge that this too is no longer guaranteed.  

    How do we find our bearings in this maze of tumultuous, often unforeseen, developments? In the past, we had a clear idea: to free ourselves from totalitarianism and plan our economy we joined the OECD, NATO and the EU. The goal was clear, and so was the way. Today, when we are facing truly unprecedented challenges, when unrest and instability are so present in our European neighborhood, we seem to be losing our bearings. Today the goal is not as clear.

    Last week, I had a peculiar experience. I got lost on my way to a conference I was due to open. After walking in the wrong direction for close to an hour, it transpired that I had inadvertently inserted the wrong hotel name into my smartphone. I believe my experience helps me to articulate an essential point: the reasons for our dissatisfaction and frustration are usually our own failures and mistakes. It is not the essence of the free world. We feel frustration because, although we cherish freedom, we are avoiding its unshakeable cost – accountability.

    We are yet to grasp that the EU is not “them” while Slovakia is “us”. “Us” now includes the EU and NATO. The government is engaged in a war of words with the opposition over whether or not we should be part of the core of the EU. However, neither side has said that it is also up to us: the Slovaks, the Czechs, the Poles, and the Hungarians to proactively shape such a core.

    In the aftermath of the 2006 General Election, a prominent Slovak political writer stated that “even the losers have a right to their government”. No doubt they do. However, the winners must be aware of their responsibility if they leave the governance to the losers. As liberal-minded people, we must be aware that freedom is inseparable from responsibility and the readiness to assume that responsibility is what we collectively strive for.

    Globalisation, the fourth industrial revolution, and the proliferation of social media has expanded the space of our freedoms, but equally it has enhanced the degree of our responsibilities. Unfortunately, the space of ​​these new freedoms can be misused; for instance, by spreading misinformation or by committing cyberattacks.

    There is no doubt that the world has changed since November 17th 1989. There is no doubt that it will continue to change in the future. But neither is there any doubt that the best answer to both present and future challenges will be our ability and readiness to safeguard our freedoms, and to assume responsibility. Responsibility for what we stand for and for our decisions.

    This is true for us as individuals, this is true for Slovakia, and also for the EU. It is also true for regional cooperation, for the Visegrad Group. Regional groupings can only play a positive role by encouraging inclusive dialogue rather than pursuing individual interests or generating imagined conflicts.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy EU Member States European Union Euroscepticism

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    The Velvet Revolution at 28: from euphoria to responsibility

    Blog

    20 Nov 2017

  • European Allies are increasingly well positioned, in economic and fiscal terms, to opt to play a full role as NATO members in developing stronger defence capabilities. This is timely, given Russia’s resurgence and ongoing security challenges to Europe’s South.

    Europe is gradually adapting to a new normal, consisting of an assertive Russia, which challenges Western interests and values in both the East and the South, and ongoing threats from Islamist non-state actors across Northern Africa and the wider Middle East.

    Prior to 2014, in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2009, NATO Allies had engaged in widespread cuts to defence spending. This was largely driven by fiscal policy pressures, as public debt and deficit levels rose strongly as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and of the subsequent Great Recession.

    The vast majority of European Allies are also EU Member States, and thus subject to obligations under EU law to maintain their public debt-to-GDP levels below 60% of GDP, and their annual fiscal balances, if in deficit, to no worse than 3% of GDP.

    In recent academic research[1], I defined an EU Member State’s fiscal capacity as the ability to increase total public spending while complying with the EU’s 60% rule for the public debt-to-GDP ratio.

    I then demonstrated that, over the 2008-2016 period, Allies had tended to increase defence spending more than others (or to at least decrease it less than others) if they had greater fiscal capacity.

    I also showed that Allies had tended to increase defence spending more than others if they were located closer to stationed or deployed military forces of the Russian Federation, and if they had a land border with the Russian Federation. Recent data illustrates the impact of these two factors on the extent to which Allies have increased their defence spending, in real terms, between 2014 and 2017, see Chart 1.

    Chart 1: Increases in defence spending (2014-2017) versus public debt ratios in 2014

    The largest increases have occurred in nations that both are closer to Russian forces and benefit from lower public debt-to-GDP ratios. Conversely, increases have been much more subdued – and in the cases of Belgium and Croatia even negative – among Allies who suffered from high public debt levels in 2014 and are geographically further removed from Russian military forces.

    A third effect is at play, namely how close individual Allies were to NATO’s 2% guideline in 2014. The UK, France, Greece, Estonia and Poland were either above or quite close to 2% in 2014, thus explaining their comparatively lower real increases in defence spending since that time. Increases are particularly large in Lithuania and Latvia, which had low levels of defence spending as a percentage of GDP in 2014.

    Prospects for a fulfilment of NATO’s Defence Investment Pledge?

    At NATO’s 2014 Summit in Wales, Allies had committed to either remain above 2% if already at that level or, for those that were not, to “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade”. In light of the relationships that were documented above, what prospects do Allies have to respect their commitment, given likely economic and fiscal prospects?

    Focusing on the 17 NATO Allies that are also EU Member States and which, according to the latest estimates published by NATO, are expected to still be below the 2% guideline in 2017, one finds that there is good news overall. Based on the projections from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook, October 2017 edition, the public debt-to-GDP ratios of all 17 nations are projected to fall, as compared to their 2016 ratios, by 2022.

    By that year, 9 out of the 17 nations should be below 60%, as opposed to 7 today. The two nations that are expected to successfully cross below the 60% threshold are Germany and the Netherlands.

    Chart 2: Public debt-to-GDP ratios: 2016 (actual) and 2022 (projected)

    For the 9 nations that are projected to reach a public debt-to-GDP ratio of less than 60% by 2022, it should be particularly easy to raise defence spending up to 2% of GDP, as this could be achieved purely through higher deficit and debt levels, for which there is leeway. Such an approach would require no other sacrifices in fiscal and budgetary terms – neither any increases of the tax burden as a share of GDP, nor any compression of non-defence spending as a share of GDP.

    For those nations that are projected to still be above 60% of GDP by 2022, raising defence spending to 2% of GDP would still be possible, but this would require greater sacrifices, e.g. tax burden increases and/or compression of other public spending, if one assumes that these nations would simultaneously be seeking to reduce their public debt-to-GDP ratios by at least as much as the IMF projects.

    This is especially true for those Allies which have particularly high debt ratios and which are still far below the 2% guideline – namely Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and Spain.

    For these four nations, one could argue that both greater debt reduction efforts and greater defence spending efforts would be conducive to national security, and ultimately to Europe’s collective security. Overall, however, most European Allies face improving fiscal prospects and a greater margin of manoeuvre to reach the goals they committed to at the Wales Summit.

    Edward Hunter CHRISTIE is a Defence Economist at NATO. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of NATO or of Allied governments.
    [1] Edward Hunter Christie (2017): The Demand for Military Expenditure in Europe: The Role of Fiscal Space in the Context of a Resurgent Russia, Defence and Peace Economics, DOI: 10.1080/10242694.2017.1373542

    Edward Hunter Christie Defence European Union Foreign Policy

    Edward Hunter Christie

    Do European Allies have the economic and fiscal capacity to fulfill their NATO commitments?

    Blog

    14 Nov 2017

  • Since 2015, the European Union (EU) has been discussing the idea of creating a European Security and Defence Union (ESDU). Although details are scarce, this means deepening cooperation between EU member states in the area of security and defence beyond what is currently done within the framework of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

    ESDU: where we are so far

    The current discussion is driven by a recognition that the EU needs to do more in the area of security and defence. Three developments in particular have pushed ESDU to the top of the Union’s agenda. Firstly, its failure to deal with the 2011 Libya crisis and the 2014 Ukraine crisis without the United States (US).

    Secondly, the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) decision to leave the EU, or ‘Brexit’, which means that the Union will lose its strongest military power and the main obstacle for deeper defence cooperation.

    Thirdly, concerns about America’s willingness to defend its European allies under President Donald Trump in all circumstances.

    ESDU is not a new idea. It was first discussed during the Convention on the Future of Europe (CFE), which drafted the EU’s failed constitution in 2001-2003. During the CFE, France and Germany called for developing an ESDU on the grounds that ‘a Europe fully capable of taking action’ was not feasible without ‘enhancing its military capabilities’.

    The idea was also raised in April 2003 by France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. At the time, however, ESDU did not gain steam because Atlanticist EU member states—notably the UK—saw it as an attempt to undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although the European Parliament (EP) brought up ESDU again in 2006, the idea remained more or less buried until 2015-2016.

    The current ESDU discussion differs from the 2002-2006 one because there is now much broader support for it. Since 2016, the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EP, the Council of the EU, and various EU member states have expressed support for the ESDU.

    The European People’s Party (EPP), which has been leading the debate on EU defence since 1992, called for an ESDU ‘worthy of that name’ in June 2015. Germany’s 2016 security policy white paper also mentioned that achieving ESDU is Berlin’s ‘long-term goal’.[1] Furthermore, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2017 State of the Union address stated that the EU needs ‘a fully-fledged European Defence Union’ by 2025.

    Practical implications

    Although the idea of ESDU is gaining momentum, the current discussion has included surprisingly few details on what it would mean in practice as most of what has been said in public is vague. The Commission’s June 2017 Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence, for example, notes that an ESDU ‘will require joint decision-making and action, as well as greater financial solidarity at European level’; and that an ESDU ‘would be premised on the global strategic, economic and technological drivers, as well as a political push from European citizens for common European security and defence’.[2] This is hardly a blueprint.

    In all likelihood, ESDU will be a form of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) under articles 42(6) and 46 of the Treaty on EU (TEU). PESCO enables those member states ‘whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions’ to deepen their cooperation in the area security and defence beyond what some of their partners might be comfortable with.[3]

    Essentially, it would mean the creation of a defence ‘avant-garde’, ‘core group’, ‘pioneer group’ or ‘Eurozone’.

    If ESDU will be a “defence Eurozone”, what would be its “euro”? In other words, what would be the qualities that would distinguish ESDU members from non-members? The most detailed ESDU blueprint that the EU has so far produced has come from the EP.

    In a 2016 resolution, the Parliament expressed that an ESDU should, inter alia, offer guarantees and capabilities to EU member states beyond their individual ones, create a Council format for defence ministers, and turn the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) into a full committee.[4] These are all good ideas, which should be implemented in their own right.

    A new blueprint

    However, such reforms are mainly about fine tuning the EU’s existing institutional structure. While this might improve the EU’s ability to respond to threats, they would not generate the types of capabilities that would be needed to protect European citizens and their territory.

    As the 2016 EPP Paper on Security and Defence states, this is the purpose of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Given that it should also be the main purpose of ESDU, it should be created around two main deliverables that would boost the EU’s ‘defence’ dimension: (1) an unqualified mutual defence commitment, and (2) a military Schengen area.

    First, given that not all EU members are NATO members and therefore not under the protection of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, ESDU participants should commit to defend each other in the event that one of them becomes subject to armed aggression through all means in their power, including military force.

    Although this sounds similar in tone to Article 42(7) of the Treaty on EU (TEU), the so-called mutual assistance clause, it is not. Article 42(7)’s mutual assistance commitment is rendered hollow by its second paragraph, which states that it ‘shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States’.[5] This means that the Article 42(2) can be interpreted in a highly subjective way. Thus, a genuine ESDU should include an unqualified mutual defence commitment.

    Second, in ESDU, there should be minimal to no obstacles to moving military forces and equipment from one state to another. At the moment, such movement is hindered by various bureaucratic requirements, such as passport checks at some border crossings.

    Furthermore, infrastructure problems, such as roads and bridges that cannot accommodate large military vehicles, create additional obstacles to the movement of military personnel and equipment in Europe. This is something that has also been called for by NATO, which means that it would also further boost EU-NATO cooperation.

    Where do we go from here? 

    ESDU should be created around an unqualified mutual defence commitment and a military Schengen area. These would form the core of the new defence core group, or the “euro” of a “defence Eurozone”.

    In addition, ESDU could include looser commitments, such as a commitment by the participating EU member states to invest a certain percentage of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in defence; and a commitment to improve the EU’s existing rapid response capabilities, particularly the battlegroups. However, given that such commitments could eventually be ignored, they should not form the backbone of an ESDU.


    [1] Germany, Federal Government, White Paper 2016 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr (19 September 2016), 73.

    [2] European Commission, Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence, COM(2017) 315 (7 June 2017), 11, 14.

    [3] Art. 42(6), Treaty on European Union (TEU).

    [4] European Parliament, ‘European Parliament resolution of 22 November 2016 on the European Defence Union (2016/2052(INI))’.

    [5] Art. 42(7), TEU.

    Niklas Nováky Defence EU Institutions European Union Foreign Policy Security

    Niklas Nováky

    The European Security and Defence Union: how should it look like?

    Blog

    30 Oct 2017

  • For Europe, four security challenges predominate: Russian revanchism, Islamist terrorism, the migrant crisis, and the associated problems of civil war and state collapse in the Middle East and North Africa.

    For India, the environment looks very different. Its two most important security challenges are cross-border terrorism from Pakistan-based militant groups, often sponsored by the Pakistani intelligence services, and the steady growth of China’s economic and military presence along India’s land and maritime borders, including as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

    These differing priorities risk pushing Europe and India in different directions. India’s hope is that an improved US–Russia relationship will create a thaw in Europe, allowing all parties—India, Europe and the US—to focus on addressing China’s rise. But there is little sign of such a shift at present. However, there is considerable room for greater convergence on a range of issues, such as maritime security, Afghanistan and counterterrorism.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Shashank Joshi Defence European Union Middle East Security

    Shashank Joshi

    The prospects for EU–India security cooperation

    Blog

    30 Oct 2017

  • I say Europe, you say…?

    Freedom. 

    In our last interview, Eva Maydell’s question to you was: what is your vision for Europe in 2040?

    In 2040 the European Union will be more integrated in some areas, such as defence and security. Europe will be stronger as a trading block, and its role in the world political scene will also be strengthened because of increased unity. We have improved considerably our internal market, so that it generates more prosperity and jobs. There has been a significant convergence between the Member States in terms of social justice and fairness – mostly because of the measures the Member States have taken themselves, but also because of what the EU has done.

    Do you think now is the time to push for an EU defence co-operation? Why?

    Yes, it is the right time to further develop EU defence cooperation, because no country can on its own afford to invest sufficiently in security and defence. It makes sense to pool resources together. Also, more efficient use of existing resources can strengthen security in Europe. Furthermore, there is a whole range of new threats, such as terrorism and cyberattacks, which need more European cooperation.

    Is there any Finish foods which you love but find it is impossible to get anywhere else?

    Warm-smoked salmon.

    The autumn season ahead is sure to be a busy one, what will you be mainly focused on?

    I will be focused on 2 things: the EU defence policy and the trade agenda.

    What was the last movie you saw?

    It was a children’s movie, Inside Out.

    What is your biggest Brexit worry?

    That there is no solution.

    You have now been 3 years as Vice-President of the Commission – what do you enjoy most about the job?

    I enjoy the most the feeling that I can work for a more integrated and unified Europe. The feeling when I can see that concrete measures open up new opportunities for people and companies throughout Europe.

    What do you think is the single greatest benefit of being a citizen of the EU?

    The whole Europe, it’s all 28 Member States are as free and as achievable for everyone as one’s home country.

    If you could share a meal with one celebrity you haven’t met yet, who would you pick?

    President Trump.

    How is the #investEU plan working? Can you give us a couple of examples?

    The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) functions well. Already over 460 000 European SMEs can get financing through EFSI. The Investment Project Portal is up and running to match investors with project promoters, so that projects can find financers. We have lowered capital charges of insurance companies so that they can invest easier in infrastructure.

    Are you keeping up with any TV series at the moment?

    House of Cards. 

    Do you like to cook? Are there any signature Katainen dishes?

    I love cooking. My signature dishes are wild game food and warm-smoked salmon.

    What do you remember most fondly about your Erasmus experience and why would you recommend young students to go on an Erasmus today?

    Erasmus changed my life completely. It gave me a view from living in a multicultural environment, surrounded by fellow students from various countries. It also strengthened my self-confidence and gave me a feeling that Europe is open for me.

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for our next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    I would like to suggest MEP Roberta Metsola. My question to her is: what are your 3 key themes for the future development of the EU?

    Centre-Right Economy European People's Party European Union Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Jyrki Katainen

    I Say Europe

    18 Oct 2017

  • Much ink has been shed on the prospect of the emergence of a European public sphere, with several scholars, politicians, and journalists engaging in intense debates on the issue. While the times of ‘permissive consensus’ have passed, today the EU faces a series of challenges within the globalised environment, that require, inter alia, legitimate, accountable, and transparent action.

    In this regard, the establishment of a genuine European public sphere should be considered as more urgent than ever. The seminal State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech delivered by President of the European Commission (EC), Jean-Claude Juncker, seems capable to provide notable opportunities.

    Habermas has defined the public sphere as an intermediate open forum which is beyond the state and the market, where private citizens assemble in order to deliberate, problematise, criticise, debate, and (inter)act on equal terms with public authorities, in the context of constitutional democracy, having received knowledge and information by different associations and the media.

    This way individuals act as a counterweight to decision makers’ authority. Regarding the emergence of a European public sphere, a vast majority of researchers have adopted a media-related approach, through which the number of media outlets’ references to EU actors, policies, and politics is examined, while at the same time the content of the relevant information is analysed. The dominant view is that the increase of the EU’s visibility within media outlets will render the emergence of a European Public Sphere plausible.

    Besides, mass media hold a pivotal role in what we call a public sphere. They supply the public with information and enable them to monitor decision-makers’ activity, facilitating the electorates to decide among different competitive parties, thus paving  the way for citizens’ participation in politics or even challenging the legislative and executive branch.

    In the meantime, there is a broad consensus towards the argument of the Europeanisation of national public spheres instead of suggesting that a single and genuine pan-European public sphere has emerged. The lack of a common European identity, of a shared language and a European discourse as well as the limited capacity of pan-European media such as Politico, Euronews or EurActiv to reach wide constituencies outside of Brussels, have led various researchers to this conclusion.

    However, distinct events such as the annual speech of the President of the European Commission, which received great coverage across media outlets in Europe, and attracted the vivid interest of European constituencies, may lead many to reconsider their views.

    More concretely, more than 500 media outlets published related articles directly mentioning SOTEU with overwhelmingly positive tonality, while almost 1000 pieces referred in general to President Juncker on that day and the days that followed. At the same time, TV channels showed lively interest in the event, as approximately 150 of them reported on the speech. Not least, about half of them broadcasted live President Juncker’s address.

    Meanwhile, the number of viewers who watched the SOTEU live through social media and the Commission’s AV portal approached 1.5 million. As the speech was broadcast by TV channels and the European Parliament’s portal as well, one might reasonably assume that the current number was probably far more remarkable.

    Some of them seemed very pro-active on social media, posting and interacting about proposals and content of the speech. The SOTEU hashtag was used more than 80.000 times, while mentions to President Juncker were almost twice as much. The SOTEU hashtag was a worldwide top trend that day.

    Even without a qualitative analysis of this data, it is certain that President Juncker’s proposal on the Future of Europe, as well as his suggestions on key policies, provoked strong reactions and discussions among decision-makers, journalists, and ordinary citizens.

    Undoubtedly, it met the requirements that different scholars have set for the establishment of a genuine European Public Sphere (e.g. discussion of the same issues at a given timeframe, and indicating similar aspects of relevance among others).

    Although one might appear hesitant to admit that a genuine European Public Sphere can be established by any single event, regardless of how bright and seminal it could be, the SOTEU in conjunction with a series of key initiatives towards the strengthening of European democracy could prove to be decisive.

    The preservation of the lead candidates’ system, running for the Commission Presidency – the Spitzenkandidaten – the wide and inclusive Pan-European campaigns in the context of the European Parliament elections, the Citizens Dialogues, and other initiatives are some key examples.

    Certainly, a European Public Sphere will not emerge all of a sudden. Paraphrasing the historical words delivered by the French foreign minister Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950, a European Public Sphere will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. Instead, it will be built through concrete initiatives and policies which first create a de facto solidarity and we-feeling. 

    Stergios Fotopoulos EU Institutions European Union Integration Leadership

    Stergios Fotopoulos

    The making of a European public sphere: the State of the Union 2017

    Blog

    16 Oct 2017

  • There is not only a clash among civilisations. There is a clash within the West: between the elites and the people, between globalists and the nationalists, between universalists and localists. It has its roots in two different kinds of enlightenments – the Continental and the British. The center-right should embrace the British enlightenment and put trust in the reason of the people not in the reason of one man. Building the future institutions of Europe should be based on people’s sense of European identity which needs to be developed in advance of any major changes to European political structures.


    Two competing narratives have been framing the debate after the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism. The first was “the end of history” as argued by Francis Fukuyama. The second was that of “the clash of civilisations” by Samuel P. Huntington.

    The end of history has been proven wrong in the international context. The clashes, particularly between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Civilization returned in Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Georgia.

    The clash between Islam and all other civilisations is leaving bloodstains not only at the external borders of the Islamic civilization but also within countries where Islam is a minority: in the US, Spain, UK, Belgium, France, Germany we are witnessing a series of terrorist attacks.

    Until recently, however, it would seem that the history ended at least within the Western Civilisation. That the societal model framed by human rights, rule of law and liberal democracy won and that it is only a matter of time, will and (sometimes military intervention) that it would spread to the rest of the world. Well, with the surge of the so-called populism, it appears that the history did not even end within the West.

    The clash within

    There is a clash within the Western civilisation between the elites and the people, between the globalists and the nationalists, between multiculturalists and monoculturalists. More elaborated framings of the clash include anywheres vs. somewheres[1], false individualism vs. true individualism[2], French vs. British enlightenment[3] and left vs. right moral foundations[4].

    Actually, the clash is between the Western Civilisation and an emerging universal, global civilization that is uncomfortable with the very notion of the existence of the West and the Western Civilisation, its philosophical and religious roots.

    A new civilisation is emerging within the West that is breaking from Western tradition and its transcendent base. It is aspiring to be global, present on the whole Gaia, not limited by geography, race or the traditions of its source civilisation.

    It is based on universalism, multiculturalism, environmentalism and borrows shallow philosophical and religious snapshots from all around the world.

    Haidt[5] would have claimed it is attractive to people with weak “group cohesion” moral foundations of authority, loyalty and sanctity. It considers itself cosmopolitan, modern, progressive and enlightened while its opponents are portrayed as rural, backward and conservative.

    What side for the conservative-liberal?

    What should be the position of a conservative-liberal in this clash? Particularly the work of Hayek and Himmelfarb offers a solid foundation – Hayek for those leaning towards a classical liberal side and Himmelfarb for the conservatives. The left will instead read Descartes, Rousseau, Marx and Marcuse.

    In his essay on individualism, Hayek writes about two kinds of individualism, the false and the true one. The false individualism – one could also call it a vulgar individualism – puts trust in an individual human mind, in individual reason that is powerful enough to come up with superior ideas on how society should be organised than the average plebeians can.

    True individualism, on the other hand, argues that the sum of the reason of all people is larger than that of any individual or group. That the results achieved by a society of free reasonable individuals can produce results that are beyond the understanding of any single individual. Much like the invisible hand of the market is more efficient in allocating resources, the “invisible hand of morality” is more efficient in organizing the society than the “engineers of society”.

    Which some politicians and some dictators would like to be. Hayek advises that the formal rules that explicitly define the functioning of a society should not do much more but to encode the principles that have established themselves through the spontaneous collaborative processes.

    This approach goes against the championing of human reason that is supposed to be the main result of the enlightenment. Himmelfarb takes Hayek’s point to its historical root.

    The vulgar individualism has its roots in the French enlightenment that indeed praised human reason and rejected faith, superstition and customs as an argument in societal problem solving. In the French enlightenment, pure reason was put in conflict against the church and faith.

    It has this idea that human reason can engineer society, redefine relations in the society, even replace a seven-day week with ten-day week, because it is easier to scientifically compute time that way. The idea that brilliant reason that create better societies has provided the philosophical basis for the French revolution and all totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.

    Interestingly, no such regimes ever appeared in societies that were shaped not by the French but by the British enlightenment. Which, by the way, did not position reason against faith.

    On the contrary, it complemented reason with social virtues, or in the words of Adam Smith, moral sentiments, that bind people together. Virtue in dealing with other people and humility about the power of individual reason to plan or engineer society lead to respect of tradition and feelings. 

    Unfortunately, with a bit more self-interested US and Britain in exit, the EU is losing advocacy of that kind of enlightenment. Europe is left with the French trust in human reason and the German efficiency to implement the brilliant ideas it will come up with.

    Conclusion

    Hayek and Himmelfarb tell essentially the same story: that the vanity of human reason is dangerous when an individual or an elite wants to redesign or reshape institutions that have been evolving for centuries as a result of spontaneous collaboration among people. People did use their reason but also their morals to create and give meaning to institutions such as private property, work, marriage, and nation state.

    Changing, dismantling or replacing them too quickly – perhaps based on a thin albeit democratic majority instead of broad acceptance – had tragic consequences in the past. It is the role of the conservatives to prevent that.

    Less tragic but nevertheless negative was also sticking to ways that times have surpassed. The most important words in the recent Merkel speeches are “we Europeans”.

    These two words need to be repeated and repeated for decades. When they sink in, when European identity is established and present in the Europeans, the European Union will be able to get elements of a nation state that go beyond the common market and common border protection.

    European conservatives should be pushing in that direction – not by pushing the institutional innovation but instead the European identity. In this way and ever closer union will be a result of spontaneous collaboration among Europeans and not a project of a political elite.

    Conservatives cannot be louder than the “progressives” asking for more Europe. But we can be more reasonable and more realistic.


    [1] Goodhart D. (2017). The Road to Somewhere: The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, C Hurst & Co.

    [2] Hayek F.A. (1948) Individualism and Economic Order, University of Chicago Press.

    [3] Himmelfarb G. (2017) The road to modernity, Vintage Books.

    [4] Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.

    [5] Ibid.

    Žiga Turk Centre-Right European Union Values

    Žiga Turk

    The clash within our civilisation

    Blog

    11 Sep 2017

  • Emmanuel Macron’s election to the French presidency has been welcomed as a ray of spring sunlight in the cloudy skies of Brussels. It is believed to be the first salvo of a mainstream counteroffensive against the insurgent forces of populism in Europe. Since his first visit to Berlin last May, Macron made it clear that his European ambitions pass through a revitalisation of the Franco-German relationship, long debilitated by the imbalance between the two historic partners.

    In the short term, Macron’s relaunch of European integration pursues three objectives: the creation of common European rules on asylum, stronger reciprocity in trade with external partners and new rules to stop the ‘social dumping’ effect of posted workers from Central and Eastern Europe.

    Although Macron’s rhetorical virtues managed to present this last demand as impeccably European, in practice it can only amount to further restrictions on the free movement of services and people, two fundamental EU freedoms much resented by French  – and British – public opinion.   

    However, we should all wonder whether Macron’s success may not turn out to be as risky for the Union as his failure.

    In the long term, the President wants a eurozone budget to promote investments, a eurozone finance minister to administer it and a eurozone parliament to legitimise both. These plans may require not only changes in the EU treaties, which the President has not excluded, but also in Germany’s constitution.

    A credible French leader with an ambitious European agenda is surely good news for the old continent, whose unity has shown in recent years to be very fragile and in need of new safeguards. However, we should all wonder whether Macron’s success may not turn out to be as risky for the Union as his failure. There are two serious reasons to harbour such fears.

    The first is the potentially divisive nature of many French ideas about the future of Europe. Two of them, a weak commitment to the free movement of services and people and a tendency to focus on integrating the eurozone without much attention to the interests of the euro-outs, are particularly problematic.

    The former is an old thorn in France’s relationship with the EU, at least since the bogeyman of the ‘Polish plumber’ contributed to its rejection of the constitutional treaty in 2005. Since then, no pro-EU politician in the country has really been able to convincingly defend free movement without adding a plethora of qualifications about ‘social dumping’ and ‘fairness’ that are difficult to digest in Central and Eastern Europe. Emmanuel Macron is no exception here.

    The latter stems from the French tradition of economic ‘dirigisme’, which makes the notion of a ‘depoliticized’ currency based on constitutional rules and market discipline incomprehensible to the French way of thinking. Hence the insistent demands for a ‘managed’ currency, one complemented by an economic government responsible for promoting investment and, in the long run, harmonizing social standards in order to prevent, once more, ‘social dumping’ and enforce ‘fair competition’.

    Like it or not, Central and Eastern European countries instinctively distrust centralisation, dislike differentiated integration and are especially attached to the Single Market and its four freedoms.

    Those are highly divisive ideas that will prove potentially difficult to reconcile with the pursuit of unity among the EU27 – not just the EU19 – after Brexit. Like it or not, Central and Eastern European countries instinctively distrust centralisation, dislike differentiated integration and are especially attached to the Single Market and its four freedoms.

    The second reason is the geopolitical implications of France’s ambition to restore the Franco-German axis to its former role as the engine of European integration. French elites have gradually understood that there are structural reasons why Germany has come to play a more central role than France in Europe. Its good economic performance is one of them, and the economic and demographic consequences of reunification are another.

    However, the main reason is the geopolitics of the 2004 enlargement: Germany is the pivotal player because it is the guarantor of Central and Eastern Europe’s participation in the European project and because the EU membership of this region has given it a much larger playing ground on which to build its coalitions. This was a momentous change from previous decades: as long as the European project was limited to a small group of Western and Southern European countries, France was inevitably the pivotal partner of Germany.

    The most far-sighted French observers have long understood that the Eastern enlargement was bound to make France more marginal and Germany more pivotal in Europe. Mitterand, who was certainly one of them, tried to counter this tendency by proposing to include countries newly freed by the communist yoke in a broad confederation within which the European Community would have retained its inner balance.

    Today the only way for France to regain its geopolitical centrality is for the European project to be recentered on its western and southern core. This is well captured by Macron’s plans on the future of Europe, which de facto amounts to de-emphasising the single market, limiting free movement, and investing much political capital on integrating the euro zone.

    The most far-sighted French observers have long understood that the Eastern enlargement was bound to make France more marginal and Germany more pivotal in Europe. 

    If French demands are taken up by Germany, the risk is that the project will tacitly refocus in a direction that weakens, not strengthens continental unity. Germany’s historic mission is to lead the continent towards a model of unity that is sustainable and acceptable to everyone. The adoption of Macron’s agenda implies the exact opposite.

    Federico Ottavio Reho Eastern Europe Enlargment EU Member States European Union Leadership

    Federico Ottavio Reho

    Macron’s vision will split the EU, not unite it

    Blog

    08 Jun 2017

  • Just  as  it  did  seventy  years  ago, European integration today has four strategic objectives: peace, security, prosperity and identity. However, ‘mainstream Europeanism’—the current European consensus—seems increasingly incapable of providing the right vision for a successful continuation  of the European project.

    To meet the present challenges of European integration and secure unity across the continent, we should develop a new Europeanism that promotes stronger integration in defence, foreign policy and  border  control, while putting greater emphasis on decentralisation, national autonomy, economic reforms and cultural traditions.

    This would put into practice the EU’s motto ‘Unity in diversity’ and give precise content to the ideal of an EU that is ‘big on big things and small on small things’.

    Centre-Right EU Institutions European Union Euroscepticism Integration

    For a New Europeanism

    Future of Europe

    06 Jun 2017

  • China first became an active and visible player in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in the 1950s, when it worked together with the region to stop a possible Soviet invasion of Poland in October 1956. This strong relationship was later dismantled due to the Sino-Soviet split and the volatile domestic situation in China (the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution).

    It is only since 2012 that China has become active in the region again, now as an emerging global power with a strategy and new investment initiatives in play: first the 16 + 1 framework and now the Belt and Road Initiative as well. Does China consider the CEE countries to be its new playground, or test area, within the EU? Or does it instead see the region as a gatekeeper that can help it get a foot in the door to the West?

    China has a vision, a pragmatic approach and political will, but the implementation of this vision has been weak. While several existing mechanisms offer new potential, they have so far only been partially exploited, due to the different business mentalities of both sides, as well as many other obstacles. China is opening up opportunities for CEE, but the latter must be better prepared for China’s new activities.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Bogdan Góralczyk EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy Globalisation

    Bogdan Góralczyk

    China’s interests in Central and Eastern Europe: enter the dragon

    Blog

    27 May 2017

  • For the first time the EU has reached not just a stopping point, but a possible turning point. The Brexit decision has only made this more evident. Using the current crisis for a ‘great leap forward’ towards ever closer ‘political union’ hardly seems realistic, even in the absence of the notorious British opposition.

    Even the member states that are most ardently calling for a ‘political union’ do not agree on what that should actually mean. Using the examples of France and Germany and their seemingly identical calls for a ‘fiscal union’ of the eurozone, this article shows that the two countries have contrasting interpretations of what such a union should do, and how.

    Both the French ideal of a voluntarist ‘economic government’ of the eurozone and the German model of a rules-based ‘economic constitution’ would require substantial changes to the EU treaties, for which there is no real hope of democratic consent. The legitimacy challenge has thus become both more urgent and more difficult to overcome.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Michael Wohlgemuth Democracy European Union Eurozone Integration

    Michael Wohlgemuth

    Political union and the legitimacy challenge

    Blog

    24 May 2017

  • The EU is losing the battle for Europeans’ hearts and minds. The long economic crisis and the subsequent immigration crisis have frustrated millions of citizens and angered them against the elites—and, unfortunately, against the EU.

    Many fear that their material status, the economic security of their families and their ability to fulfil their own expectations and ambitions are slipping out of their hands. Europeans are also suffering from an identity crisis. Many believe that their countries and neighbourhoods are being threatened by mass immigration and that the ruling elites, sealed off in steel and glass towers in their respective countries’ capitals, are not listening.

    The EU is facing its biggest communication challenge ever. The EU institutions need to take up the gauntlet and start defending the European project. The purpose of this paper is to analyse potential new ways of ‘advertising the EU’. The key assumption is that, whenever possible, EU institutions should follow best practices from the business sector since these have proved to be more effective in the current communication environment.

    EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Euroscepticism

    We Need to Talk about the EU: European Political Advertising in the Post-Truth Era

    Research Papers

    23 May 2017

  • This article argues that the traditional European narrative based on the rhetoric of progress, openness, ‘an ever closer union’ and the ever greater sharing of sovereignty has lost traction with a significant percentage of the European electorate, who are gripped by frustration, insecurity and disarray. It sketches the broad lines of a new Europeanism, arguably one that would be better equipped to deal with populism and identity politics. It makes the case for a ‘leaner Europe’, less bureaucratic and intrusive, but also more openly political and culturally grounded.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Federico Ottavio Reho EU Member States European Union Eurozone Integration

    Federico Ottavio Reho

    A new Europeanism before it is too late

    Blog

    11 May 2017

  • 1. France and Europe are still troubled by political extremism and populism

    And also by a growing hostility towards traditional institutions. Traditional political parties and politicians were and are afraid to address the problems which worry people the most. The reason for it is that their resolution is usually painful. Some leaders are afraid that embracing such solutions would cost them voters’ support. However, the failure to address those problems strengthens the extremists, and standard politicians lose ground anyway. It is imperative to break this vicious circle. This can only be achieved through undertaking concrete actions, and delivering concrete results.

    2. France suffers from massive youth unemployment, but also from illegal immigration

    Whereas, when addressing economic problems, the President needs the involvement of parliament (key reforms have generally the form of laws), this is much less the case in the area of security. The President can act with a relatively high degree of autonomy, regardless of the outcome of the June parliamentary elections and the September elections for the Senate.

    3. Immigration from Africa is mainly Europe’s problem

    Europe will have to deal with massive migration waves of people from Africa; they are heading mainly towards Europe, and will continue do so also in the future. Allegedly, 30% of inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa are considering emigration already now.

    4. The EU struggles with internal divisions

    Due primarily, but not only, to the divergence of approaches of individual countries to the issue of migration. A reinforced franco-german axis will be capital to refuel the engine of European integration

    5. The EU has been psychologically impacted by the UK’s exit from the Union

    Unity, prudence, and European leadership will be essential in the tough negotiation process ahead.

    6. The transatlantic partnership is and will be essential for the global order

    The EU must take concrete steps to convince the United States that it has the capability to become and actually stand in the future as a proactive partner of the US in the transatlantic alliance, irrespective of who is the president of the United States.

    7. The world, and Europe in particular, must address the alarming humanitarian situation in Libya and Syria

    Libya has become not only a funnel for African migrants into Europe; it is also an area of political and thus of security vacuum. That vacuum has been taken advantage of by gangster groups that are apprehending migrants and then subject them to ill-treatment in close communities.

    Concentration camps were recently mentioned also by Pope Francis. While the EU theoretically considers setting up safe zones, terrorists and gangsters have already created them, albeit with much less noble intentions.

    The civilised world cannot and must not continue watching this humanitarian disaster to unfold. Libya is also riddled with internal divisions. Its renewal can only be achieved with active assistance of the international community. Europe and the world have supreme interest in a renewed Libya with plural political system.

    Libya, under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, was militarily ‘cracked’ in 2011 by a French-led coalition. It would be more than symbolic if the transformation of the country was led to a successful conclusion by a French-mediated action.

    From this very first day of your mandate, President Macron, the clock is ticking. The failure to undertake clear measures and courageous reforms would mean that the situation in Europe would only keep getting worse and, in the next presidential elections in France, Marine Le Pen could wipe her opponents off their feet..

    Here’s my proposal for a powerful foreign policy measure: to swiftly proceed with setting up the first, pilot safe zone in Libya. The area where the refugees and asylum seekers will be able to not only wait out the conclusion of their asylum proceedings, but also live for as long as necessary before the situation in their country settles down or is resolved.

    The safe zone would naturally be used also to place unsuccessful asylum applicants returned from the European countries in those cases where the readmission agreement with the relevant country is not working.

    Such safe zone will clearly require military protection, and its creation would not only have to be negotiated in political terms, but also secured in military terms; this offers an opportunity for enhanced EU cooperation in the field of security and defence.

    Initiating and developing such enhanced cooperation, based on a concrete operation and concrete action, will show in full light who is serious about such cooperation. I also think that it will show whether there is a brighter future for the European Union.

    President Macron, En marche! It’s time to take action!

    Mikuláš Dzurinda European Union Eurozone Extremism

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    En Marche, President Macron! Seven reasons to move from words to action

    Blog

    08 May 2017

  • While conservatives frequently offer trenchant criticisms of the European Union (EU), they are short on constructive suggestions about how the European project should be reformed. The tradition of international federalism, which exists in free-market thought, can be a source of such a reform agenda.

    Understood properly, a federalization of the EU does not mean an unqualified transfer of powers to European institutions. Instead, federalism provides a framework through assigning authority to different levels of government.

    In practice, that would mean strengthening the EU in a limited number of areas to provide essential Europe-wide services—foreign policy and defense, economic governance within the eurozone and the single market, and border protection and asylum policy—while repatriating a long list of powers back to member states.

    A federalist approach thus offers substantial promise in addressing the EU’s central policy challenges and relieving the tensions brought about by the block’s protracted crises. Conservatives and classical liberals should embrace international federalism as a way to constrain the power and size of government. That could provide a new focal point for a reinvigoration of centre-right political platforms across Europe.

    This publication was originally published on the American Enterprise Institute wesbsite

    Centre-Right EU Institutions European Union Integration

    The Case for a Federal Europe

    Other

    01 May 2017

  • From Immanuel Kant and William Penn to Aristide Briand, the idea of European Unity represents something of an age-old dream in Europe.

    The early post WWII attempts at European unity, however, were the result of the destructive excesses of nationalism, and war. The motivation was to transcend the tradition of national antagonism, and create a network of economic interdependence that would virtually eliminate the possibility of renewed conflict among European states. So that Europe would not regress to a “dark continent” ever again.

    Building a new economic and political structure in Europe, would subordinate national sovereignty to a wider European loyalty and decision-making process. The prospect of European unity also meant enhanced, and quicker economic recovery and eventual prosperity.

    There was also the realization on the part of Western European powers that the scale of world politics had radically changed as a result of WWII. None of the great European powers alone would be able to reinstate their global position in the post war era. Only united they stood a chance of reestablishing their influence in world affairs.

    European unity also became a major US foreign policy objective after the war. For one reason or another, the US found itself deeply involved in two European wars inside a generation. It became an accepted proposition that the US had a right and an interest to become involved in Europe’s postwar reconstruction. Support in Europe and the US for European unity rose dramatically with the beginning of the cold war.

    The Berlin blockade and the communist takeover in Prague, with the backing of the Soviet Union, were a stark evidence of the Soviet threat to European security. In the emerging bipolar structure of the cold war, the strengthening of Western Europe became a vital interest of both western Europeans and Americans.

    A further American motivation for unity was the German problem. European unity was seen as a way of addressing the German problem by anchoring Germany in the West. Germany’s economic potential could also be vital for west European recovery. It is no secret that this was a major American motive in proposing the Marshall plan in 1947 and associating W. Germany with it in 1948.

    For skeptical members of Congress, European unity was seen as a major means of avoiding a situation of permanent European economic dependence upon the US.

    For that reason the Marshall plan intended to rebuild European production capabilities to enable the Europeans to export sufficiently to support their import needs through their export earnings. The US position was that any new dollar aid would have to carry reliable guarantees of getting the Europeans off the US dole within a period of four years. For that reason the Marshall plan was based on a concerted regional basis unlike the earlier UNRRA bilateral aid approaches.

    The US made it clear that continuation of Marshall aid funds would depend upon European cooperation and institutional creativity. In that sense the US encouraged the creation of OEEC as an organization, which would encourage West European unity.  OEEC would get the questions of who gets what, settled by the Europeans themselves. Then the Europeans would present their agreed upon proposals to Washington for consideration.

    OEEC was an intergovernmental organization without any pretension of supranationality or federalizing tendencies. It was an institution for the coordination of nationally determined economic recovery projects. It could not compel states to do anything.

    OEEC did, however, contribute greatly to west European economic recovery, which was a precondition for European integration later represented by the ECSC and the EEC. Furthermore, OEEC through the European Payments Union (EPU) stimulated major European trade increases leading to the growth of European assets in the 50s, which was a precondition to allow European currencies to become convertible.

    This, in turn, was a precondition for the integration that started with the treaty of Rome. OEEC was also successful in the import quota abolition. It also made an important contribution to the restructuring of the locus of European decision-making in the economic realm. It developed and consolidated a process of consultations among European governments with respect to economic plans and policies, which smoothed the way to the next level of economic cooperation in the context of the EEC.

    The conditions of the post war era and the realities of the emerging cold war motivated and rallied a number of European statesmen around the dream of European unity. Exceptional figures such as Schuman, Adenauer, Spaak, Monet, Spinelli, and de Gasperi, seized the moment to promote the vision of a united Europe. They, rightly, came to be called the founding fathers of European unity. 

    To a large extent, however, the early impulses for European unity in the immediate post war era came from the so called “external federators”. The positive and decisive role of the United States, on the one hand, and the emerging challenges and threats posed by the Soviet Union and the cold war, on the other.

    Europe at sixty is facing a similar set of challenges, and the reasons for the continuity of the European project remain as strong as ever. Europe can only united face the challenges of globalization, and cope effectively with its current polycrisis.  Its unity remains vital for the West and US interests, even under the Trump administration. While, on the other hand, Putin’s assertive Russia makes unity imperative for its survival. 

    Constantine Arvanitopoulos EU-US European Union Euroscepticism Leadership

    Constantine Arvanitopoulos

    Early attempts at European unity: the “External Federators”

    Blog

    19 Apr 2017

  • The year 2017 will mark the sixty-year anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. On this occasion, the European project will receive a thorough check-up, and important decisions will be made that will decide whether and in what form it survives.

    In this context, it is crucial to recognise the long-overlooked contest between two competing visions of European federalism, propounded by two great figures of Europe’s twentieth century: Altiero Spinelli and Friedrich Hayek.

    The recent past tells the story of a revolt against European integration that is taking dangerously big dimensions and demands urgent countermeasures.

    Honest pro-Europeans should admit that some sort of Hayekian federalism is the only federalism with some chances of success in our continent.

    This briefing was originally published on the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER) website

    EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Integration Values

    The past and future of European federalism: Spinelli vs. Hayek

    Other

    10 Apr 2017

  • The talk of a multi-speed EU has started in Europe. While no one knows what exactly is to be its scope, what it will precisely look like, we all know one thing: the EU cannot continue with business as usual. Because there will be no business as usual.

    The EU needs to take serious decisions. It must respond to such challenges as Brexit, the new U.S. administration, the growing interest of Africans in Europe, but also to such threats as the rapidly arming China, the unhinged and nervous Russia, the growing autocracy in Turkey or the nationalism in the Western Balkans and, finally, also to the natural evolution – the globalisation and the advent of the fourth industrial revolution.

    In addressing these key issues, the EU needs to stand united and be ready for action. Otherwise it will not be respected and will not have the strength to defend its values and to pursue its interests. The first clear signals suggesting that a multi-speed EU is a real alternative of the future direction of the EU have evoked varying reactions from the various countries.

    Two big foursomes stand on two opposite poles: THE BIG FOUR (Germany, France, Italy and Spain) on the one, THE VISEGRAD FOUR on the other. While at the Versailles meeting the Big Four declared their unity in promoting the idea of a multi-speed Europe, the Visegrad Four countries became puzzled and have responded with verbal vacillations.

    The clearest position was taken by Hungary, which is opposed to a multi-speed EU, while Slovakia wants to be in the first line of the accelerating Europe at any cost. I am convinced that a better and even existential choice for all the Visegrad Four countries is to stay in the group of countries that maintain the closest cooperation. To stay in the group of countries around the Big Four that will seek and enforce relevant solutions.

    However, what I see as a problem is that when it will come to taking tough action, no one will have to ask us whether we want to play the highest European premier league or not. No one will be obliged to ask us whether we are strongly against or passionately for such action. It will be mainly our actions and our conduct that will speak for all of us. And, moreover, our ability and willingness to contribute to finding solutions and bearing the costs of their implementation.

    In this regard, the Visegrad Four countries have certain problems. For instance, Slovakia under the government of Robert Fico appears to be much more a “centrifugal” component of the reunited Europe than a component that unites, cooperates and seeks mutually beneficial solutions. Fico’s reaction to mandatory quotas was at first understandable. They were adopted in a hasty manner, apparently without appropriate advance consultations, in a directive manner.

    But there had been two problems right at the beginning: first, we failed to show at least an elementary understanding of the fact that immigration suddenly emerged as a critical problem for several countries (Greece, Italy and especially Germany) and, second, we have as yet offered no alternative to the solution advocated by Germany, France and the European institutions. Yet, in the second half of 2016, we held the presidency of the EU Council. Towards the end of that mandate we presented a chimera of “effective solidarity”, which was eventually ridiculed or not even noticed.

    Let’s be honest and truthful with one another. The theme of immigration to Europe is probably the biggest challenge for the EU in the coming years or even decades. And it is not mainly about the war in Syria. Africa is a huge continent, and a number of its countries are plagued with hunger, as well as with violence and terrorism.

    But it is a very populous continent with a high birth rate. In spite of economic and social hardships, mobile phones and social networks are reaching an ever growing number of inhabitants of African countries who are thus discovering prosperity lying not too far away from their homes. It is not difficult to solve this equation with the above parameters: the result will be further migration pressures on Europe in the coming years.

    Because of its attitude and inability as well as unwillingness to contribute to solving this quintessential equation, Slovakia is slowly but surely gravitating towards the edge – an area of diminishing interest for those who bear the greatest burden. Fico offers a similar experience with Slovakia’s stance on Russia and its aggressive policy not only towards its neighbours but also towards the West.

    Fico thinks that he is very smart when, regarding the decision to introduce or lift the sanctions against Russia, he says in Bratislava that the sanctions against Russia are stupid and should be lifted, but keeps silent when the actual decisions are taken at the Brussels summit, only to subsequently declare, “I oppose the sanctions, but I did not want to destroy the unity of the majority at the negotiations”.

    It is possible that Fico lives in an illusion that he has satisfied both – his voters and Putin on the one side and those who are really concerned about or threatened by the aggressive regime of Vladimir Putin on the other side. But this is a deep mistake: it is well known in Berlin, in Paris, in Brussels and elsewhere that Fico has been a great help to Putin, breaks the unity of the EU, and distinctly weakens Putin’s respect for the West. By doing so, he increases Putin’s appetite. Fico’s actions strongly contribute to Vladimir Putin’s policy of divide et impera!

    As regards the remaining Visegrad Four countries, they do not seem to be in the “centripetal” mood, either; rather the opposite. Hungary has announced the abandonment of liberal democracy and is looking for enemies also in academic institutions, such as the Central European University. Concerning anti-Russian sanctions, it holds the same position as Fico.

    Since its last parliamentary elections, Poland keeps the European institutions busy with the review of the constitutionality of some of its steps, for instance in connection with appointments to the Constitutional Court. The most consolidated Visegrad Group country appears to be Czechia. 

    The European Union is harmed by the opportunism of some of its leaders. They say different things at home and in Brussels. They take credit for the successes, and put the blame for failures on Brussels. However, being a member of the EU and NATO, an ally to the others in the community of Western countries, means not only the right to jointly enjoy its advantages, but also the duty to jointly share and face the difficulties and costs.

    It means to be responsive to the problems of the others. Even the biggest and the most powerful ones face problems from time to time. If we betray them at such time, we lose the allies. I am overwhelmed by such feelings at this very time.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy Eastern Europe European Union

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    The Visegrad four group gravitates towards the edge

    Blog

    07 Apr 2017

  • The EU has been paying increasing attention to the phenomenon of information warfare. However, this has not gone as far as to penetrate the fog of disinformation surrounding the motherland to investigate how the Kremlin’s propaganda machine operates in Russia itself.

    The Kremlin uses internal propaganda both to maintain legitimacy and as a defence mechanism against the outside world. By drawing attention away from domestic problems and creating an environment of fear and impending doom, it portrays an alternative reality in which Russia is surrounded by mythical enemies.

    The EU is portrayed as an aggressive and expansionist entity that wants to destroy Russia, while at the same time it is depicted as a weak, ‘decadent’ and ‘un-Christian’ union that cannot cope with global challenges.

    On the other hand, the Kremlin’s main caveat in doing so, is that Russia’s success is inherently connected with the failure of the West and democracy.

    This paper scrutinises the Kremlin’s propaganda machine and its popular narratives about the EU in order to understand how Russia’s media presents the EU and why less than a quarter of the population has a positive opinion of it. 

    Eastern Europe European Union Foreign Policy

    How We Have Become an Enemy in the Eyes of Russia: The EU as Portrayed by Kremlin Propaganda

    IN FOCUS

    21 Mar 2017

  • On the eve of the invocation of Article 50, this policy brief disentangles the main components of the Brexit imbroglio and lays out the legal framework and political constraints of the negotiations that are about to start. It assesses the reversibility of Brexit, the likely duration and possible outcomes of the negotiations, the legal options for the transition period, and the probable impact of Brexit on the EU27 in general and Central Europe in particular.

    Because of the UK’s size, economic weight  and  political  clout,  as  well  as  its  peculiar  historical  background,  it  concludes that the new EU–UK relationship cannot be based on one of the existing ‘models’ of external arrangements. The new partnership between the UK and the EU27 will have to go beyond even the most comprehensive free-trade agreement and it should also include finance, energy and external economic policies, as well as covering foreign policy, security and defence.

    The author emphasises that any weakening of the free movement of persons as a result of the negotiations would be  a  serious  violation  of  the  essential  constitutional  principles  upon  which  the EU is built, and could damage the foundations of European integration. The brief considers managing internal differentiation without creating permanent divisions among groups of countries as the most important challenge ahead for the EU27. 

    It also argues  that, with  Brexit, Central Europeans will lose a powerful ally on many economic and constitutional issues, although their economic and geopolitical weight will be on the rise in the new EU27.

    Brexit Economy EU Member States European Union Trade

    Brexit. Brexit?

    Policy Briefs

    15 Mar 2017

  • There has never been a shortage of thinking about the future of Europe. Last week, the Commission presented its five scenarios. Which is timely, because things are not working as they are. And which could be a distraction for the same reason: from the Commission one would expect to be strong on execution rather than on thinking about the future. Nevertheless, ideas are valuable.

    While the scenarios present a complete palette of organisational options for the EU, they are shallow in explaining why do we want the EU in the first place. What is its raison d’etre? This is what the proposed sixth scenario is about. But first let us have a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the original five.

    1 – The project goes on

    In the first scenario, the EU continues to implement reforms as planned. This “business as usual” scenario is useful because it reveals what the authors understand as problems. The two problems are that the decision-making process is slow, inefficient and complex; and that the EU institutions are not meeting the citizen’s expectations.

    To put it shortly, Brussels has no power to meet the expectations of citizens. This is the problem that the other scenarios are supposed to address. And what these scenarios propose, in fact, is either lowering the expectations or increasing the powers of Brussels.

    2 – Less Europe

    The second scenario assumes that the EU – unable to agree on anything else – is reduced just to a common market. It is unclear if this means abandoning the common currency. In principle, the common market is not so little if it functions properly. Hayek explained that a common market is a sufficient basis for a working interstate federation. It preserves peace, which is touted as the main achievement of the EU, and prevents government meddling with the economy.

    In the scheme of the five scenarios, this one has a role of the “bad one”. The writers assume that in order to be competitive in the common market, the member states would “race to the bottom” in the absence of common consumer, environmental, social and tax standards.

    This strawman should be approached with caution. Unless the EU does not ensure global standards for consumer protection, environment, social assistance etc. it would as a whole be a victim of a global “race to the bottom”. The solution would assume joining Mr. Donald Trump in limiting the freedom of world trade.

    3 – More Europe for some members

    The third scenario – multiple speed Europe – acknowledges that some member states may be interested in doing more together. While there may be many new interesting topics of collaboration, one is present as the elephant in the room already: the monetary union.

    A closer cooperation in the Eurozone is not an option but a necessity. The moment of truth for such a closer cooperation comes when German taxpayers would need to pay, for example, the Greek education system. Which, of course, means that the Germans can have a say in how many teachers you need on a small Greek island with two kids.

    This brings us to the core problem of all variants of “more Europe” scenarios: lack of European identity. If anything should be learned from Trump, Brexit and the raise of populism in Europe is that identity matters.

    Without people belonging to Europe almost all scenarios are doomed.

    West Germans were somehow willing to pay for East German social services. Not because Germany is a democracy and a democratically elected parliament passed a budget that said so. But because East- and West- Germans are one people. They are all Germans. They share history, culture, religion and language. They share identity. They are one demos. And you need a demos for a democracy. You can have a union without a demos, but without democracy. Like the USSR or Yugoslavia.

    The European democratic deficit, seen so often as a key European problem, has its root in the European demos deficit. The level of political integration that can be achieved formally is limited by the level of common European identity that is achieved among Europeans intuitively.

    4 – More Europe but on fewer topics

    This means the EU would need to concentrate on a few important tasks, but those performing well. Hard to find anything wrong with doing good the important stuff. The devil is in the details and the details are on which topics the EU would do more and on which less.

    5 – More Europe on all topics

    Member states should transfer more power to Brussels and establish common policies for several areas. This is essentially the Verhofstadt scenario and in line with the proposed new European Constitution of the Ljubljana Initiative. The “United States of Europe” scenario has all the problems of the Euro Area of Scenario 3, only worse, because there are more member states involved.

    All scenarios above are making one wrong assumption: that the division of power between member states and the union is a rational, technocratic decision to be taken by political elites while pretending to be debating it with “the citizens” on the internet.

    6th Scenario – More Europeanism

    Democracy needs an identity foundation that binds individuals into the demos. The binding can be a language, a religion, a culture, a race, or a belief in a credo. Europe does not have that. The proof? If something like that existed it could have been exploited by the populists just like the French, American, German, Dutch populists are exploiting the French, American, German, Dutch identities. There are no successful pro-European populists!

    The local and particular cannot be based on the general and universal. Local and particular is every state-like entity. Universal concepts of liberal democracy such as human rights, the rule of law and democracy are not a sufficient basis for local communities. There has to be something more in addition to the universal. Huntington explains this in his book Who Are We?

    Europe can be saved. But it will take more than technocratic options on how organise relations between Brussels and the member states. The sixth scenario is a scenario of a passionate Europeanism.

    We Europeans!

    Europe lacks a statesman whose platform would be “I am a European”; one who would sell to Europeans the dream of making Europe – not great again – just making Europe. Who could say what great things “we Europeans could do if we stood together”. And say it to the Germans, the French, the Dutch, the Slovenians and so on. It seems the founding fathers in the 1950s were able to do so but then this art was lost.

    She should sell the idea to the intellectuals that European nations working together is the only way to preserve the European civilization, its culture, its values, its institutions, its creed and its religion. That the reason for existence of the European Union is no more no less than to provide an institutional backbone of European civilization.

    And he should sell the idea to everyone that only together can Europeans face the threats from the south and from the east; that the battles of Tours and Vienna were fought and won by Europeans who spoke different languages! If dormant feelings of belonging to a group are to be awakened, let people belong as Europeans too, not just as Germans, French, Dutch..

    Europe lacks a statesman […] who would sell to Europeans the dream of making Europe – not great again – just making Europe.

    It would take too long to forge this sense of belonging by Interrail tickers, Erasmus exchanges and mobile phone roaming. These are all nice to have but, seriously, train tickets cannot be the foundation of a political union. But an idea can be! An idea of proud Europeanism that is adopted by leaders and communicated with a loud and clear voice, that is. Perhaps communicated to the voters at the next European parliamentary elections!

    The division of power between the member states and the union will then depend on how strong is the sense of belonging to the union via-a-vis belonging to the member states. This will determine which options from the menu of the five scenarios above are realistic and which ones are not; and where the Union could and should do more and where not.

    Without people belonging to Europe almost all scenarios are doomed.

    This op-ed orginally appeared in New Europe
    Žiga Turk EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Euroscepticism Values

    Žiga Turk

    The sixth scenario and Juncker’s white paper

    Blog

    08 Mar 2017

  • The Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies (or Martens Centre), the official think tank of the EPP, had yet another year of exciting developments in 2016, while strengthening its network of member foundations, which now comprises 31 members and more than 12 partners.

    EU Member States European Union

    Activity Report 2016

    Activity Report

    01 Mar 2017

  • What is the alternative to a hard Brexit? 

    I believe conditions can be created in which the UK voters could decide not to leave the EU at all.  Ireland should work to create those conditions. The terms for Brexit set out by Mrs May will do incalculable damage to this island, politically, emotionally and economically.  We cannot simply wait for this to happen. While seeking to mitigate the effects of Mrs May’s chosen hard Brexit, we must also do everything we can to ensure that there is no Brexit.

    Apart from a few open questions, Theresa May has said what she wants. She wants out of the single market, out of the customs union, and “control” over immigration. The open questions she has avoided so far are about the financial terms of the divorce, the status of EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa, and two aspects of a future trade agreement (if there ever is one), namely arbitrating disputes, and  third country imports getting into the EU via the UK.

    It is unlikely that the Article 50 letter she will send to Donald Tusk next month will tell us much more about the UK negotiating position than the Lancaster House speech did. So it is time now to start thinking about how the EU will respond to Mrs May’s letter.

    On the present schedule, the European Council would meet in April to agree the orientation it would give to the EU negotiators for the discussions with the UK that would start in June. These orientations would be agreed by consensus, so every EU head of government would have to be satisfied.  For Ireland, this April European Council meeting is potentially the most important European meeting a Taoiseach will ever attend.

    In working out the orientation to be given to the negotiators, the crucial thing is for the European Council to work out what would be its ”best alternative to a negotiated agreement” (BATNA). It is important to have an alternative ready because there is every possibility that no agreement will be reached within the two year time frame for negotiation, and ratification, of a withdrawal agreement. Mrs May has said that, for her, no deal at all preferable to a bad deal. Her BATNA, so to speak, is no deal at all.

    “No deal” would mean the UK simply crashing out of the EU overnight, sometime before the end of March 2019.  This “no deal” scenario would be an overnight halt to flights, to trade and to commerce. There would be immediate and massive currency instability.

    From the point of view of pure negotiating tactics, maybe it is no surprising that Mrs May would threaten with a “no deal”. But to do so, in the absence of a well-crafted fall-back position, is something the UK cannot really afford. It vindicates Tony Blair’s description of the UK government as “not driving the (Brexit) bus”, but rather “being driven” by partisan and ideological forces it has not tried to control. In the absence of a real alternative to a hard Brexit, it is on auto pilot heading towards a cliff.

    The EU country that would be worst affected by the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal is, of course, Ireland. So Ireland must use all its imagination and ingenuity to see if a creative way out for the UK and the EU can be found.

    Should the EU offer UK voters another option? 

    If the UK government is unable or unwilling, because of domestic politics, to work out a responsible “best available alternative to a negotiated agreement” (BATNA), then the EU side should do so for it.  It should adopt it alongside its line by line response the UK’s negotiating demands. Having a BATNA would also strengthen the EU’s negotiating position. It would provide something with which an emerging deal could be compared. It would also provide a basis on which the UK could reconsider its decision of 23 June 2016, if it wants to do that.

    As Tony Blair said, UK voters have a ”right to change their minds”. After all, politicians are allowed to change their minds, so why not voters? If UK voters, in a referendum, sent their government on a mission towards Brexit, it would be reasonable that the same voters, rather than Parliament, should adjudicate on what will have been achieved (or not) by their delegates.

    If UK voters ever do change their minds about Brexit, it will happen slowly and incrementally. Parts of the Brexit scenario, obscured during the Referendum, will become clearer during the negotiation. The unavoidable interconnections between EU freedoms and EU rules will emerge. For this to happen, it will be in the EU side’s interest to ensure that there is maximum public understanding of the unfolding negotiation. Transparency will work in the EU’s interest.  A running commentary is exactly what is needed in the interest of public education!  

    If the alternative to EU rules is no rules at all, citizens in both the EU countries and the UK may come see EU membership in a different light. They may, for the first time in many cases, see the EU as something that simplifies their lives, rather than the reverse. In my view, the best BATNA that the EU side should adopt is an offer of continuing UK membership of the EU  broadly on the basis that the UK  was a member in 2015, before David Cameron’s ill fated “renegotiation”. 

    The 2015 terms were generous to the UK. They allowed it to opt out of the euro, of Schengen, of Justice and Policing cooperation, of the Stability and Growth Pact, and of the justiciability in the UK of the European Convention. Furthermore, the UK itself had also decided, without Brexit, that it would have a referendum of any new EU powers. In that sense the UK was already having its cake, while eating it, before it ever decided on Brexit. These 2015 terms should be left on the table by the EU side, but without the unjustifiable UK budget rebate.

    Of course, at this stage, the UK would reject such an offer out of hand.  But, as the inevitable consequences of Brexit become clearer, UK public opinion might begin to see merit in it, particularly when it is compared with the costs of simply crashing out of the EU, overnight, with no deal at all, which is Mrs May’s fall back negotiating scenario.

    The resistance to keeping such an offer on the table is more likely to come from some existing EU member states. Some members will point to the UK’s insatiable demands, when it was a member, for opt outs, rebates, and exceptions.  Arlene Foster’s analogy about feeding crocodiles may come to their minds. They will recall General de Gaulle’s original veto of UK membership, and his foresight that the UK would never settle in as a member. They might also argue that offering the UK a way back, after it has triggered Article 50, might encourage others to try it on too. 

    But if they sit back and think about it, they will, I believe, conclude that a UK that inside the EU is better for the EU than a UK that is outside. This will be so even if a trade deal is eventually concluded with the UK. Keeping the offer of resumed UK membership on the table would be good politics and good economics for the EU.

    The terms of the Lisbon Treaty do create some difficulty for this approach. Article 50 (3) says a country that has sought to leave the EU under that article will be automatically excluded from the EU two years after it has triggered Article 50 unless the EU side “unanimously decides to extend the period”. Article 50 (5) says that, if a state, that has withdrawn for the EU, asks to rejoin, it has to do under article 49, where the application would have to be ratified by all existing members.

    Others may argue that the UK cannot withdraw its Article 50 letter once it has sent it. This is a matter for the European Court of Justice to decide, but article 6.8 of the Vienna Convention on treaties explicitly allows revocation of a notice of intention to withdraw from a treaty.

    These problems are real, but not insurmountable. A political declaration by the EU heads of Government in April in favour of facilitating an eventual UK resumption of EU membership, on its 2015 terms minus the budget rebate, would create a realistic basis for comparison in the debate about Brexit that, in a sense, is only now starting in the UK.  

    John Bruton Brexit Economy Elections EU Member States European Union

    John Bruton

    Brexit out of the box

    Blog

    28 Feb 2017

  • I say Europe, you say…?

    Values.

    In our last interview, MEP David Mc Allister’s question to you was: “Where do you see the European Union in 20 years?” 

    With citizens who have a strong European identity and who are defending our values both inside and outside of the Union.

    What was the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?

    In the early 90s, the British Royal Family was not very popular and in Britain there was a rumor that the EU had a plan to abolish their Kingdom. My answer was that the British can only do it themselves. In the end, I am happy that the Royal Family is still accepted.

    What advice did you give your sons when they started doing politics?

    I didn’t give them any advice, they didn’t ask for it, they just did it.

    Recently you presented your book United for the Better: My European Way in Brussels. What do you miss most about living there?

    I had a very good time in the European Parliament and I am very thankful for that but I don’t miss Brussels.

    What is your favourite Konrad Adenauer quote?

    ‘The situation is serious but not hopeless’.

    Being at the forefront of advocating for the big-bang enlargement, what do you think are the prospects for a new enlargement?

    We need to do it very carefully because we need the backing of the people of the European Union.

    Who is your favourite movie character of all time and why?

    Miss Marple, because I like crime stories where you can also enjoy and laugh.

    What is your favourite moment from European history, depicted in the House of European History?

    The description of the change from communism to liberty in 1989-90.

    How do you think the present moment we are living in will be depicted in the House?

    As a moment of challenge which we have successfully overcome.

    What was the most awkward moment you experienced as President of the European Parliament?

    It was the signing of the Charter of Human Rights, in the EP in Strasbourg on 12 December 2007. The anti-European members created a chaos in the Parliament and the King of Jordan, Abdullah II waited to make his speech.

    What about most amusing moment?

    It could be when Dalai Lama addressed me as a ‘comrade’. I said to him: ‘Your holiness, I prefer you call me a friend’ to which he replied ‘my friend’.

    German or Belgian beer?

    German. 

    Working in Academia or in Politics?

    Politics with intelligence and emotion.

    Historical or crime novels?

    Crime novels with historical background.

    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for our next interview? What would be your question for her or him?

    I would like to ask Ramon Luis Valcárcel Siso the following question: how do you see the relations between the regions in Spain and the Spanish state in the framework of the EU? 

    Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Hans-Gert Pöttering

    I Say Europe

    15 Feb 2017

  • Declining election turnouts and popular disillusionment with politics show that our political systems are being put to a test. Citizens are turning away from traditional political involvement (voting, party membership, contacting a local politician) and turning towards other forms of political participation (signing online petitions, taking up ad-hoc causes, organising demonstrations).

    With our political systems becoming more and more complex, no wonder democratic institutions are being perceived as remote by voters. In the era of internet and social media, discontent is easier voiced than solutions. The rise of populist parties can in part be interpreted as people’s attempt to revolt against processes, institutions and elected officials they no longer feel represented by.

    As a political think tank, we are continuously trying to understand these trends and to find opportunities to improve political participation. Together with our partners, EDS (European Democrat Students) and YEPP (Youth of the European People’s Party), we are launching a new ideas contest where we want to hear your concrete proposals addressing one of the 3 following fields:

    • Political parties: How would you make political parties work better (more accessible membership, more democratic, more efficient use of resources)?
    • Political institutions and processes: How would you improve democratic processes such as electoral systems, election campaigns, referendums, etc.? What should be the role of the internet in general and social media in particular for political institutions and processes?
    • Politicians: How can politicians really connect with citizens? How can they improve their image, record, etc., for example by using technological advances? 

    If you would like to participate, please choose and submit your proposal in one of the fields above. The word limit for each proposal is 500 words. If you would like to submit more than one proposal (for example, one proposal for the field “political parties” and another one for the field “political institutions and processes”, or two different proposals for the same field), you can do so by submitting each proposal in a separate document. Your proposal should have the following structure: 

    • The problem: identify and briefly describe the problem that your proposal is trying to address
    • The proposal: elaborate on your proposal, explaining the practical steps needed to implement it
    • The outcome: wrap-up by explaining the positive effects of your proposal in addressing the initial problem

    All proposals should be concrete, feasible and address national or EU politics

    What’s in it for you? All proposals will be carefully read and evaluated by our experts working on this topic. The 3 participants who submitted the 3 best proposals will win an all expenses-paid trip to Brussels to discuss with us their proposal. The best proposals will also be published on our blog and promoted on our social media channels. 

    Please send your proposals by email at yourideas@martenscentre.eu by March 1st, 2017. Please mention “Ideas contest” in the subject line of your email. 

    Good luck, we are looking forward to receiving your ideas!

    Democracy EU Member States European Union Political Parties

    If it’s broken, let’s fix it!

    Other News

    25 Jan 2017

  • I say Europe, you say…? 
     
    Peace. 
     
    What was your first job? 
     
    Serving in the German Army (Bundeswehr) for two years. 
     
    Which was the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career? 
     
    Being a coffee drinker myself, I was amused to read in a British newspaper that Brussels was trying to restrict the drinking habits of the United Kingdom’s coffee lovers. Of course, this was not the case.

    The article referred to a study undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority, which assessed the different levels of caffeine intake. It concluded that a regular caffeine consumption up to 400mg per day is not worrisome for non-pregnant adults. The European Union never proposed to regulate how much coffee people drink. 
     
    How do you see transatlantic relations after 20 January 2017? As Chair of the US Delegation, is there still a perspective for TTIP, and, if not, what is the alternative? 
     
    The outcome of the US presidential elections was not what we expected but as with all democratic decisions, we have to respect it and work with it. Good transatlantic relations are crucial for us and we will continue to work on strengthening our partnership. At the moment, we are facing many uncertainties.

    The new Trump administration is still being formed and we will have to wait for a clear political agenda. Even before the US election, the TTIP negotiations had already been tough. Considering the President-elect’s take on trade, a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and the US seems rather remote.

     Soft or Hard Brexit? 

    Prime Minister May’s strategy resembles a “hard Brexit” of rigid border and customs controls to reduce migration and a British withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The European Union’s position is clear: the British objective of restricting the freedom of labour while maintaining full access to the Single Market tries to “square the circle”. Full access to the European market without applying the fundamental freedoms is not possible. 
     
    We noticed you have your website in 6 different languages – how much is the EU level communication important for you? 
     
    The variety of languages, cultures and traditions is what makes the European Union unique. By now, my website is available in eight different languages to reach as many EU citizens as possible. We should never get tired of explaining the EU to the people. This is why I regularly inform about my work on Facebook, Twitter and my website. By subscribing to my newsletter, you can also receive monthly updates directly in your e-mail inbox.   
     
    As a former president of CDU’s Junge Union how do you feel about lack of youth participation and overall interest in politics and what needs to be done to change the negative trend? 
     
    When I was district chairman of the Junge Union, I enjoyed the positive energy of our group. Politics affects us all in our everyday lives and it is the youth of today that will change tomorrow. I encourage young people to get involved. Programmes like Erasmus or the newly launched Interrail campaign by Manfred Weber are good initiatives to engage young Europeans.

    But there is certainly more that needs to be done. Education is key: How much do children and young adults learn about the EU at school? Often not enough. Therefore, I believe that the history of the European Union and the values it is founded on should be given more space on the curriculum. 
     
    Choose one of the following: moules frites or waffles? 

    Moules frites. 
     
    Law or Politics? 

    Politics based on the rule of law. 
     
    German or British humor? 

    British humor in Germany. 
     
    Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him? 
     
    For your next interview, I would like to suggest the former President of the European Parliament, Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering. He initiated the idea of a “House of European History”, which is expected to open in 2017. The question I would like to ask him would be: “Where do you see the European Union in 20 years?” 


    “I say Europe, you say…?” is a series of candid interviews with centre right movers and shakers of the European project. From legislative work to food preferences, from weekday causes to weekend hobbies, we show you the human face of EU politics and its main protagonists. 
    Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership

    I say Europe, you say…? Interview with MEP David McAllister

    I Say Europe

    17 Jan 2017

  • The past year has witnessed a major shift in the relationships between the four Central European countries that make up the Visegrád Group. In matters related to migration, the members of the alliance have worked together in Brussels as a cohesive bloc throughout 2016.

    But in the wake of Brexit, simmering internal divisions have arisen within this regional alliance over the EU’s future. The Visegrád Group acts as an amplifier, an ad hoc coalition, reinforcing regional positions where they exist. Its diplomatic infrastructure and other structural factors are here to stay, but the key drivers of its stances are now domestic politics and the role of the countries’ leaders.

    In the absence of a shared vision for the future of Europe and the role of EU institutions, the honeymoon period seems to be over. A ‘conservative revolution’ in Poland has created an illiberal axis with Hungary, where a sovereigntist narrative holds sway, while the Czech and Slovak governments have maintained a more pragmatic line on the EU. The new risk is that reinventing the EU will come at the expense of (divided) Central Europeans.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Milan Nic EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy Leadership

    Milan Nic

    The Visegrád Group in the EU: 2016 as a turning-point?

    Blog

    20 Dec 2016

  • The EU is facing its biggest threat yet—a crisis of European identity. As member states fall into the hands of Eurosceptic and nationalist regimes, for many the future of the Union seems hopeless.

    People are disillusioned, failing to see the added value in the community of nations they once voted to join. Institutions are struggling, unable to regain their citizens’ trust, or even to reach them at all. This new crisis requires a new way of thinking—instead of supporting the institutional machine, the EU must support the people.

    It needs to place trust in the awakening civil society, endorsing and funding grass-roots movements such as the Committee for the Defence of Democracy, which in a matter of days managed to ignite the biggest mass protests in Poland since the fall of Communism.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Martin Mycielski EU Member States European Union Euroscepticism

    Martin Mycielski

    The crisis of European identity and awakening of civil society

    Blog

    11 Nov 2016

  • A tentative response to a groundbreaking US election.

    Of course, the election of Donald Trump to 45th President of the United States is an unmitigated disaster for the US, for the West and therefore for the entire world. Of course, with all her faults, Hillary Clinton would have been by far the better President. But what’s done, is done, and the questions to be answered now are: How did we get here? How bad will it get? And what should Europeans do?

    Why?

    The wave of populist anger sweeping through the West has been amply described in past weeks. It would have had its effects even on a Clinton administration. It’s driven by identity politics as well as fears of globalisation, and of course by economic grievances. It certainly is facilitated by the acceleration, anonymity and the echo chamber effect of social media.

    And quite obviously, in the case of the US, Republicans share the blame, with their congressional divisiveness that has become an ideology, and their demonisation of Obama and Clinton. The Clinton campaign will be torn to pieces, in hindsight.

    The question is whether all this should be cast as a titanic battle between the forces of open vs. closed. I’m afraid the US election (just like the Brexit referendum in June) has shown that doing so risks putting the majority of people on the side of closed because the more unified ‘moderate forces’ act, the more they will be seen as one elitist conspiracy.

    Hence, here is a first conclusion: Europe’s big tent, catch-all people’s parties will have to take care not to appear united against worried voters, but give different answers according to their ideological differences that have not magically disappeared because of a new paradigm discovered by the editorial offices of the Guardian and the Economist.

    What happens now?

    As far as we’ve heard over the past months, Trump’s ideas for office range from the ludicrous to the scary, from building the wall and making Mexico pay for it, to banning Muslims from entering the country, renegotiating all existing trade deals, jailing Hillary, ‘bombing the shit out of IS’ and striking a deal with Putin. But let’s remember that he is not alone.

    There are checks and balances at work in the US that he cannot easily swipe aside. So the ludicrous ideas will take care of themselves, and for the scary ones, the hope of the world rests in Congress, even with a Republican majority: Especially on any bargain with Putin, House and Senate Republicans are very unlikely to follow.

    Having said all that, of course President Trump can cause enormous damage especially in foreign relations where he needs less Congressional approval than for domestic affairs. But to now claim with certainty that we’re looking at the end of the West may be self-defeating. We simply know too little about what the Trump administration will really do.

    Europe’s response

    It would be easy to say that Trump’s presidency is just what it takes to get Europeans to get their act together and make a dash for the ‘United States of Europe’  – if it wasn’t for all those other jolts in recent years that have failed to unify us, against expectations, such as the financial crisis, the migration crisis and the Brexit referendum. Of course, the US election may well be a bigger shakeup than all those combined. Nevertheless, a ‘federalist surge’ in the EU is doomed to fail because it would unleash the same reaction we have seen in Britain and the US this year.

    What we do need now is a level-headed approach, based on our core values, i.e. liberal democracy which, as it happened, has taken a blow last night. But the centuries-old project of the enlightenment is alive unless we give it up. Naturally, authoritarian leaders across the world will rejoice now, pointing to the US election. But it is up to all democrats to show that democracy, while not perfect, is able to correct its mistakes.

    The European Union will have to shoulder more of the burden of defending itself against threats from the East and the South – that would have been the case even with a Clinton administration. Stronger European defence structures within NATO, and better cooperation of law enforcement, are now more necessary than ever. Striving for a soft Brexit, and strong structures of cooperation with Great Britain, becomes even more important now, although the challenges are formidable.

    Economically, we need to buckle up for a new downturn but that should only reinforce our resolve to make EU economies more competitive, and the Single Market more performing. And the Euro crisis has taught us that the key to this is with the member state governments, not the EU’s institutions. Last but not least, yes, we will have to cooperate with a President Trump, as ludicrous as it sounds.

    All this is sketchy and will have to be adapted as the policies of the Trump administration take shape over the next couple of weeks. We are looking at a less predictable US and therefore at a riskier world than ever before. But above all, as we have learned from the other nine-eleven 15 years ago, it’s important not to overreact. 

    Roland Freudenstein EU-US European Union Transatlantic Values

    Roland Freudenstein

    Our Transatlantic 9-11

    Blog

    09 Nov 2016

  • ‘It would have been easy if it had been a clean break’, stated Gunnar Hökmark MEP (Moderaterna, EPP), opening the discussion. ‘The problem is that we are going to live in the same house’, he added, referring to the global issues of climate change, the need for financial and economic stability and foreign policy with China and Russia, which require European collaboration.

    It would have been easy if it had been a clean break

    ‘How to secure a friendly Brexit?’ was a question asked in an event organised by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and Open Europe on 13 October 2016. Centre-right Swedish MEP Gunnar Hökmark and industry representatives from both the UK and continental Europe were invited to discuss what is at stake in the negotiations and the UK’s relationship to the Union after the termination of the membership. In order to achieve common goals, establishing good EU-UK relations after Brexit is important, Mr. Hökmark stated.

    According to German entrepreneur Kai Büntemeyer, director of a manufacturing company Kolbus with important interests in the UK, the results of the UK referendum can already be seen in the UK’s and EU’s economies. Many investment projects are on hold. In order to prevent further damage, ‘We must help the UK to get the best possible one foot in, one foot out – deal. Anything else would be a complete disaster’, he argued. Britain should not be punished by hard Brexit terms.

    The British panellists Parisa Smith (Director of EU Affairs, BBA) and Stephen Booth (Director, Open Europe) agreed that there is a lot at stake when it comes to geopolitics and economic consequences. However, according to Mr. Booth, it is important to remember that ‘the public in the UK has decided to reject political integration, not engagement in wider challenges facing Europe’. The result of the vote should ultimately be respected. The next step is for both parties to establish what kind of relationship they wish to maintain before focusing on the details of the Brexit terms. After that, Ms. Smith noted, the negotiators must stay pragmatic and work together to find a beneficial deal for both sides.

    In the Q & A part of the event, the potential model for the post-Brexit EU-UK relationship was discussed. The already existing examples of Iceland and Switzerland were not seen favourably among the panellists, as the UK specificities seem to require an innovative model.

    An important conclusion was that Brexit should be understood as the sign of an anti-globalisation trend currently taking hold of Europe and the West. For Mr. Hökmark, the key issue from now on is to fight populism. The success of Britain’s leave campaign demonstrates that appealing to the emotions of the public is a powerful tool. In an effort to come to a friendly Brexit, we should not underestimate the role of emotions and the need for decisive leadership.

    Economy EU Member States European Union Euroscepticism

    How to secure a friendly Brexit?

    Other News

    18 Oct 2016

  • The key problem of Europe is ontological. We are not sure what the European Union actually is. Is it a free trade area, a giant NGO based in Brussels and doing good for Europe and the World, or perhaps a country in the making? The compromise answer, popular in Brussels, is that Europe is a project. The project is something that is not static, which is being developed, and has not yet reached its final form.

    Brussels vs. Bratislava

    As long as Europe is a project, it is possible to talk about the future of Europe. As long as Europe is a project, it can be illustrated as a bicycle – standing upright until it moves forward. The Euro crisis, the migrant crisis and Brexit have slowed down this bicycle or even reversed its direction. One cannot drive a bicycle backwards. This is in fact the problem to be addressed by the leaders of the EU Member States this week in Bratislava: how to get the bicycle going again.

    They will, as many times before, debate the future of Europe, more precisely the future of the European Union. The point of this writing is that if the European Union has an ambition to be more than a free trade area or a non-governmental organization, if it will be getting attributes of statehood, it needs a solid foundation for that.

    Many agree that the EU should move in the direction of an ever closer union. And everyone agrees that a solid foundation is needed. The disagreement is in what is the essence of this foundation. One disagreement is between the right and the left. The right sees the EU founded on the common market. The left sees it founded on social justice and solidarity.

    This article is about another kind of disagreement. I will argue that the future of the European Union cannot be based on an ideology, neither left nor right; that ideology cannot be a foundation of a union with an ambition to get some attributes of a country.

    Ideas vs. Feelings

    I understand ideology as a rational system of ideas – the product of an enlightened human mind. Examples of such systems of ideas are socialism, free maket, environmentalism, multiculturalism, framework of human rights and the rule of law etc. Ideologies are the results of reflection. Many are good, some are also bad.

    That ideology cannot be the foundation of a country is the main message of Samuel P. Huntington’s (of Clash of Civilizations fame) book Who we are. He argues that countries based on ideology failed. For example Czechoslovakia, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This author’s former home state of Yugoslavia was held together by the socialist ideology and the ideology of brotherhood and unity of nations. Similarly, Czechoslovakia and the USSR.

    Alternative to ideology are feelings, instincts and culture – everything that is pre-rational, subconscious, which is not the result of complex intellectual exercise, but people simply have it in their blood and genes. Those moral foundations provide, according to Jonathan Haidt, the basis for group cohesion and are the basis of nation states. These foundations include kin, religion, language, history, nation.

    Therefore, Slovenians, Croats, Serbs, Albanians, Montenegrans, Macedonians and Bosnians wanted to live in different countries. Stronger than the cohesive effects of the socialist ideology, Yugoslav common market, free movement of people within Yugoslavia and common currency, stronger were the disintegrating feelings based in language, history and religion. In Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union too, instincts trumped ideology, common market and common currency.

    Elites vs. the Rest

    This superiority of stone age instincts over intellectual achievements is hard to swallow by intellectuals and other reasoning people. It seems impossible that in the 21st century pristine senses of tribe and nation prevail over the achievements of the human mind, such as free market, common currency or social justice. But only to intellectuals. Most people do not bother trying to understand the reasoning how “good” is to have the widest possible community to achieve social justice (or free market). Ideologues of both central left and central right have a common problem.

    The majority of people take a shortcut and listen to their instincts. These instincts tell them that Germans will not pay for social justice in Greece, while they may be willing to tolerate taxes to achieve social justice in their German homeland. These instincts tell them to charge customs on imported goods if this helps save German jobs. It does not help much if intellectuals explain that open markets (or social justice) are good for all. Somewhere deep down, people feel something. And there is a limit to how far and how deep political elites can run counties against such feelings.

    This divide between the reason of the elites and the instincts of ordinary people explain Brexit, Sanders, Trump and the whole host populist movements in the EU member states. In good times, most people tolerate or largely ignore ideology. The elites may be convinced by the rationality of the arguments even in bad times. But not the rest.

    It is intellectually appealing to base the future European Union on the common market, human rights, social justice and solidarity but, in my reading of Huntington, it will not work.

    Geography vs. Civilization

    If the European Union should become a closer union – and I think in some areas it must become stronger – then this will not be possible only on ideological, rational, enlightened foundations, no matter how much are the intellectuals are fond of them. More Europe is necessary for the protection of external borders, maintaining security, ensuring free market and the rule of law. But the foundation should be the European identity: who we are, how we are, and how we are different from that which is not Europe. Elements of this identity are religion, civilization and culture.

    A closer Union can be accepted by the European citizens if this Union is seen as a guardian of European culture and civilization. Or, if is sounds more politically correct, European “values”. It can be only as much closer as much intuitive awareness of European civilization exists within Europeans. Multicultural Europe seems a good idea to those who are not part of European culture and to the enlightened minority that hopes noble ideas can trump basic human instincts.

    In reality, however, Europe founded on ideology is bound to fail.

    Žiga Turk European Union Euroscepticism Values

    Žiga Turk

    A European future of Europe?

    Blog

    16 Sep 2016

  • In the early 2000s, it appeared that the European Union would continue to lead the world in telecommunications. It accounted for the largest share of private investment in telecommunications infrastructure; it had six handset manufacturers accounting for more than half of the world’s phones; and a continental agreement on 3G/UMTS which became  the  global  mobile  standard.  

    But  the  EU’s  lead  was  short  lived. Instead the US and Asia emerged. Today there are no more European handset  manufacturers. 4G  eclipsed  3G. The  US  is  on  track  to have half of all its mobile broadband subscriptions as 4G by the end of 2016, while  Europe  will  struggle to reach 30 percent. There is over €100 billion of additional investment required to achieve the Commission’s Digital Agenda goals.

    This note examines the reasons behind the EU’s decline in global telecommunications leadership, notably a confused approach to telecom regulation and a regulatory framework which actually deters European enterprises from investment and innovation. 3 solutions are proposed to help close the gap in investment and to strengthen European enterprises so that they can invest/innovate and stimulate the demand for digital services. 

    These solutions are:

    1. Removal of obsolete regulation on specific industries in favour of a general competition approach;

    2. Update the competition framework to recognise the dynamic effect of digitally converged industries

    3. Encourage public sector institutions to digitise as a means to help lagging European nations adopt the internet and achieve Digital Single Market (DSM) goals.

    European Union Innovation Internet Macroeconomics Technology

    Telecoms Investment: 3 Steps to Create a Broadband Infrastructure for a Digital Europe

    IN FOCUS

    07 Sep 2016

  • The result of the UK’s EU referendum has provided impetus for European political parties to rethink their communication strategies.

    The referendum result came as a shock here in Brussels because many of us in the Remain camp probably couldn’t name a single individual who would have voted for Leave. By the same logic, there are likely communities in England I could visit to become the only Remainer in the village.

    Once upon a time, in the days before Facebook, we revelled in finding like-minded souls.

    It was the British novelist CS Lewis who quipped that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one”. Today, however, it has never been easier to connect with people with whom you share common ground.

    In the internet age, we are surrounded by like-minded people. We tweet into echo-chambers, we take selfies to ‘get likes’ or we delete the posts if we don’t. We’re increasingly surrounded by Yes Men and Women and we’re unconsciously isolating ourselves from the rest of the world.

    As we reverberate in the Brexit aftershock, when we find ourselves asking ‘how did this happen?’ or ‘who voted to Leave?’ it is my opinion that we actually need to ask ourselves why didn’t we see this coming?

    Enabled by over-sharing, algorithms and trending topics, the echo-chamber as a concept is flourishing.

    To sum it up, it involves like-minded people sharing like-minded views and circulating contentedly and uninterrupted in like-minded circles. Whether espousing moderate centre-right values or advocating for attributes found elsewhere on the political spectrum, as we scroll through our social media feeds, in search of ‘likes’ or distributing themwe find ourselves increasingly unable to distinguish like from maybe too alike.

    The UK referendum, in this regard, is a wake-up call. Populist ideas must be addressed and this has to be done not with a giant POPULIST rubber stamp aimed at silencing the conversation, but by listening to the concerns of voters and effectively communicating the positive value of the European project.

    By virtue of the very nature of our echo-chambered existence, most of the people reading this blog will probably agree with me. That’s all well and good but ultimately we should seek to employ the echo-chamber to our advantage. There are two things we need to do. The first is instrumental in achieving the second. We need to utilise the circular nature of the echo-chamber in which we revolve to remind ourselves of the following message;

    The European construction is exactly that, a construct, and it is ours to build. The remaining 27 member states, their political parties, and our political family in particular, are under no obligation to subscribe to the British motto of Keep Calm and Carry On and to shrug our shoulders in the difficult discussions which will soon take place on the future of Europe and the need for reform. We do not need to ‘take back control’ because we already wield it but we do need to utilise it to strive for the Better Europe called for by Commission President Juncker.

    Once we have realised this, and structured our vision for an EU of 27, we need to break the sound barrier and defy the limits of the echo-chamber. This will involve sensible, sensitive discussion and debate. It is the role of everyone from think-tanks and political parties to ordinary citizens to recognise that we do not exist in a vacuum and that the opinions and ideas of others are to be listened to with respect because they serve to better inform us about Europe and our world.

    At the individual level, it is easy to break out of the echo-chamber. You can follow those whom you sometimes disagree with on Twitter or pick-up a newspaper different to your regular Sunday read. For political parties and think-tanks, it’s slightly more nuanced. A balance has to be found in order to avoid preaching, propaganda, or worse again, spam.

    Communication strategies have to be clever, they need to adapt to new media, embracing visuals, videos and Vines. There’s nothing to say a political party can’t SnapChat or Boomerang either. Aside from adding madness to the method, it is content that remains key. Twitter has grown its empire on the intrinsically human art of storytelling. Today more than ever people are hungry for narratives. Political think-tanks can offer genuine, credible narratives – not only about how we would like our world to be, but also about how it can be achieved. Reaching out to citizens beyond traditional circles can help to create a healthy diversity of narratives on the future of Europe.

    The European project has suffered from preaching to the converted for a little too long. Looking forward, the only ‘–exit’ on the horizon should be from the problematic depths of the politically divided echo-chambers. It is imperative that we create one inclusive conversation on the EU, unless we wish to succumb to the same fate of self-interest and repetitiveness that ultimately saw the end of Narcissus, and his estranged lover, Echo.

    Erica Lee Brexit Democracy Elections EU Institutions EU Member States European Union

    Erica Lee

    The Brexit Echo: how to break the “echo-chamber” effect in political communication

    Blog

    06 Jul 2016

  • Ireland (that is the Republic of Ireland) is a small open economy that attracts investment and trades with countries from around the world. It is a pro-European, Anglo-Saxon economy with strong US influences. Ask most Irish people if they are more comfortable in Boston or Berlin, in Perth or Paris and the overwhelming response will be a recognition of Ireland’s positon within the wider “Anglo-sphere”. 

    Irish people tend not to understand how economies can even function with personal tax rates exceeding 50% of relatively low incomes. Irish people also don’t understand how some other EU member states seem to fear non-EU investment or are slow to realise the benefits of attracting workers from all over the world. As a small country dominated by your larger neighbour you learn to look outward at the possibilities on offer, rather than always seeking to protect old historical legacies.

    For Ireland, Britain leaving the EU is a disaster. Politically, economically, culturally and socially. Since 1973, both Britain and Ireland have used EU membership to grow a peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland, to remove borders and increase trade. Ireland could never enter Schengen without Britain, our Common Travel Area with the UK predates membership of the EU and indeed the declaration of a republic in 1948. 

    Ireland’s current close relationship with Britain seems far removed from a relationship that for centuries was dictated by violence and bigotry. It is in this context that the position of the main unionist party in Northern Ireland supporting Brexit should be viewed with concern and despair. As should nationalist calls for a referendum on Irish reunification.

    The Anglo-Irish relationship in 2016 is about much more than trade or jobs or passport checks.  It is about reconciling a bloody (and often despicable) past within the framework of European integration.  With Britain out of the EU, Ireland’s view towards Europe will change. Ireland’s view must change.


    “For Ireland, Britain leaving the EU is a disaster. Politically, economically, culturally and socially.”


    In the short to medium term, the Irish government must press both EU members and the British government for special arrangements that reflect the interlinked nature of the Irish and British economies, both economically and politically. For Ireland, the advantages (or in previous times, the disadvantages) of proximity to Britain reflect not just economic priorities, but the cultural and social closeness of their development within the British Isles.

    For Ireland, the approach to further European integration must be balanced by a consideration of the relationship with Britain. In a sense, the Irish view of Brussels must become more nuanced and more challenging of how any further proposals will impact upon shared Anglo-Irish priorities. 

    Ireland must seek to become a bridge between the EU and a non-EU Britain.  A bridge which could (and should) be utilised by the European Union in the coming negotiations in order to seek the most amicable and beneficial new settlement for all parties. Anything else will draw into doubt the very real achievements of the last four decades of EU membership

    The Irish have a complicated relationship with the English. Unlike the relationship with the Scots or the Welsh, with the English the commonalities are harder to find, although cultural and social familiarities remains the same.  History can be a slow beast to retreat into the shadows. Now is not the time to give up this fight.

    Eoin Drea Brexit EU Member States European Union

    Eoin Drea

    Why Brexit changes everything for Ireland

    Blog

    28 Jun 2016

  • Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, the first step has to be taken by the UK Government. It must decide what sort of relationship it wants to have, trade wise, with the rest of the world. At the moment, that is governed by agreements negotiated for the UK by the EU.

    If the UK simply leaves the EU, all those agreements will fall, as does UK membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Agreements with dozens of non EU countries will have to be negotiated again, at the same time as negotiating  with the EU. A lot of work.

    Basically the UK government will have to choose between three options: 

    1. Leave the EU and, like Norway, apply to join the European Economic Area (EEA)
    2. Negotiate a new special trade agreement, like the agreement Canada or Switzerland have with the EU
    3. Leave the EU without any trade agreement and apply, as a separate country, to join the WTO

    The EEA option

    The EEA option could be put in place quickly and would not disrupt trade all that much. The EEA is a readymade model for external association by a non member with the EU. It could be taken down from the shelf, so to speak.  But, as an EEA member, the UK would still have to implement EU regulations and contribute to the EU budget. It would not allow curbs on EU immigration. The EEA option has been dismissed by “Leave“ campaigners, but it does involve leaving the EU, and complies  with the literal terms of the  referendum decision.

    If the UK experiences severe balance of payments problems over the summer, the EEA option may become attractive. The UK already has a big balance of payments deficit anyway and capital inflows may be inhibited by the Leave vote. The EEA option would buy time, and would not preclude leaving altogether eventually.

    The trade agreement option

    The second option, a special trade deal, would be much more difficult. It would require a detailed negotiation on every type of product or service sale between the UK and the 27 member countries of the EU, including across our border.

    Such an agreement would take years to negotiate (probably 7 or 8 years), because it would be subject to domestic political constraints, and political blackmail attempts, in all EU countries, each of whom would have to ratify it. If it proposed curbs on immigration from the EU, the EU countries affected  would make difficulties with other aspects of the deal, as a bargaining counter.

    It is unlikely that a Trade Agreement would allow the UK to sell financial services into the EU. Indeed it would be in the interest of EU countries, that might hope to attract financial services, to make sure the UK got few concessions .

    Leave without any deal

    The third option, leaving the EU with no agreement, could come about, either because that was what the UK chose, or because the negotiations on a special trade deal broke down or were not ratified by one or two EU states. It would require the application of the EU common external tariff to UK or Northern Irish products crossing the border into the Republic.

    Average EU tariffs are around 4%, but on agricultural goods the mean tariff is 18%. The imposition of these tariffs is a key part of the Common Agricultural Policy, which protects the incomes of EU farmers. We would have no option but collect them at customs posts along our border. All forms of food manufacture and distribution within the two islands would be disrupted.

    The disruption of the complex supply chain of the modern food industry would be dramatic and the knock on effects impossible to calculate. A similar effect might be felt by the car parts industry, which is subject to tariffs, and is important to some parts of England.

    The EU response: more EU democracy

    Meanwhile the remaining 27 countries of the EU, and the EU institutions, will have a lot of thinking to do too. They need to respond decisivly to the (false) claim that the EU is not democratic.

    All EU legislation has to be passed by a democratically elected European Parliament, and also by a Council of Ministers who represent the democratically elected governments of the 28 EU countries. The members of the European Commission must be approved by the democratically elected European Parliament.

    But there is room to further improve  EU democracy. I would make two suggestions: 

    1. The President of the European Commission should be directly elected by the people of the EU in a two round election, at the same time as the European Parliament Elections every 5 years
    2. To create a closer link between national parliaments and the EU, a minimum of nine national parliaments agreeing should be sufficient to require the Commission to put forward a proposal on a topic allowed by the EU Treaties. National Parliaments can already delay EU legislation, so they should be free to make positive proposals too. This would give them an active interest in the potential of EU action to improve lives.

    Stop pretending the EU can do the job of member states

    That said, the EU should avoid over promising, and should not allow itself to be blamed for all the problems people face in their daily lives. The EU is not an all powerful monolith that can solve the problems caused by technological change and globalisation. It is just a loose voluntary confederation of 28 countries, with no tax raising powers of its own. Nor is the EU responsible for debts mistakenly taken on by its members.

    If the losers of globalisation and technological change are to be sheltered from misfortune, it is the 27 states, not the EU itself, that have the taxing power to redistribute money and opportunities from the winners of globalisation to the losers.  If member states fail to do so, that is their responsibility, not that of the EU.

    The UK has not been particularly generous in this regard. Its welfare system is modest, and its investment in productivity improvement has been poor. In some respects, UK voters  have just mistakenly blamed  the EU. for the effects of the  omissions, and under performance, of successive UK governments.

    The difference between the two Unions exposed

    The fact that English votes could take Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the EU, against their will, highlights the different natures of  the UK and European Unions. In the EU Union, each nation has a veto on major constitutional changes. In the UK Union, they do not.

    John Bruton Brexit Democracy EU Institutions European Union Euroscepticism

    John Bruton

    Now what? Post-Brexit trade scenarios for the UK

    Blog

    27 Jun 2016

  • As the shock waves continue to pass through Europe following the UK referendum, it is easy to draw a long list of mistakes that UK leading politicians have made. It is equally simple for continental Europeans to place the blame solely on the British and shake their heads at the referendum results.

    Already before the referendum, there was a school of thought within the EU that if Brexit happened, the separation should be as painful as possible in able to make sure that no other member states would follow suit. The more isolated the UK would be, the better it would be for European unity, or so the logic goes. However great the temptation towards an angry response, to punch back even, is, it will not help Europe or the EU – nor is it justified.

    First of all, the dynamics that led to the disappointing result of UK referendum exist in other EU member states. In fact, there is no guarantee as to how other member states would vote if they held similar referenda. The UK referendum result is mainly a responsibility for UK politicians, but obviously EU leaders and all of us working in promotion of the positive European development have a fair share of responsibility of not being able to show the EU for what it is – a necessity for our continent.

    Secondly, even with a strong desire from both the UK and EU sides to have as smooth negotiations as possible, the negotiations will not be easy. The two year timetable set for the completion of an exit is extremely short by any standards. Both in the EU and the UK only general emergency plans were made in case of Brexit, but detailed plans are yet to emerge.

    In other words, the challenge today is that we don’t even know all the challenges. 27 member states promoting their individual set of interests and the UK trying to guarantee the best possible deal while undoing 42 years of institutional cooperation will be a painful experience for everybody, even without additional hostility from the EU side.

    As a third point of consideration, despite the UK referendum result, the UK is an essential part of the western world and will stay that way. We should not forget that 48.1 % of the UK voters voted in favour of staying in the EU, despite the brutal campaign of misinformation and, at times, plain lies. Reading the text of UK citizens in social media and the articles and op-eds of journalists one understands that very large proportion of UK citizens are not only disappointed or sad, but heartbroken by the direction their country has taken.


    “Already before the referendum there was a school of thought within the EU that if Brexit happened, the separation should be as painful as possible in able to make sure that no other member states would follow suit.”


    Young people in the UK reacted to the referendum results with deep disappointment. Among citizens 50 years old and under, the Remain option had clear overwhelming support and among 18-24 years old 75%  of voters were in support of staying in the EU. The generational divide is evident. Should the UK referendum have taken place ten years later, the Remain side could have had a clear victory.

    A very large part of UK sees the importance of European unity, globalisation and openness. That part of the population is an important part of the future make-up of Europe, even if for a couple of years the relation between the UK and the EU will be reflected by this referendum result.

    The UK voters have decided the course of their country and we will respect the results. In consequence, we will conduct the exit negotiations with the UK aiming for the most advantageous result for the EU and its 27 member states. In this negotiation, the UK will be considered as an external 3rd country.

    However, when those negotiations are over, our goal needs to be to enhance and strengthen the relations with the UK as much as we can, because the values UK holds dear are still the same as those of the 27 member states. We should not discard decades of friendship and trust just because of one unfortunate referendum. 

    Tomi Huhtanen Brexit EU Member States European Union Leadership Trade

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Brexit: Revenge on the British will not help Europe

    Blog

    27 Jun 2016

  • This will look like the wrong moment to say anything positive. And indeed, yesterday was a sad day for Europe. In our eyes, and those of its own young, Cool Britannia has turned into Little England. 24 June, 2016, will be economically painful for all sides concerned, it throws British politics into turmoil, even endangers the coherence of the United Kingdom, emboldens nationalists across the continent, weakens the West and makes Putin a happy man. And yet, while panic will only make matters worse, some aspects of Britain’s momentous decision are more disastrous than others. Starting with the economy, Britain will go through a rough period of a much weaker Pound, and investors withdrawing or at least thinking twice before putting their money into Britain. In the Brexit negotiations, Britain will try to preserve as much free trade as possible while not having to adapt to all the regulation it now cannot influence anymore. So the job for the EU’s negotiators will be to not ‘punish’ Britain (and shoot ourselves in the foot by inhibiting trade) while still preventing the impression that countries can get away with leaving and then retaining better deals than member states. Both large UK parties have been damaged because their leaderships argued for remain while the majority of their voters opted for leave. Expect turbulence in British domestic politics for some time to come. And although a second Scottish referendum will not follow as automatically as Scottish nationalists like to pretend (Parliament has to approve), both the Scottish and the Irish questions will return with a vengeance. But one of the most appalling aspects is that the anti-EU vote was also an anti-establishment, anti-market, anti-globalisation and anti-politics vote. The Leave propaganda was a far cry from good old Thatcherite Euroscepticism. In a way, England has moved from ‘I want my money back!’ to ‘I want my country back!’ –when no one from Brussels was actually trying to steal it. In fact, as reliable analyses are showing, Leave was mainly about ‘independence’ and ‘immigration’ – i.e. freeing Britain from Brussels-imposed slavery and migrants. Moreover, the Leave campaign’s allegations about a pro-remain conspiracy of the rich against the ‘little people’ were quite telling. But that tendency reflects a global trend that will only subside when its proponents are confronted with the harsh choices of actually governing. Britain over the coming months and years may become an excellent – and deterrent – example. In the remaining 27 member states, populist and nationalist parties are already calling for exit referenda. Even if leave majorities may be harder to achieve there, populists will use the polarisation in order to promote their parties and movements. But all that should not distract us from the most important task for the near future: Demonstrate that ‘more Europe’ in every field is a thing of the past. A stronger Union in foreign and domestic security will, of course, be necessary. But the governments of the Founding Six can meet for another 10 dinners, and I still don’t see ‘Core Europe’emerging if it presupposes a European finance minister (only over France’s dead body) or a transfer union (which no German party except the Greens will want to defend in their own country). So let’s get serious about making the Single Market more performant and less regulated, for example through more mutual recognition instead of unlimited harmonisation. Let’s handle Schengen flexibly in the face of jihadist terrorism. And let’s increase NATO-EU cooperation so that the laughter fromthe Kremlin is a bit less raucous. These are hard times for European integration. But if nothing else, what we should keep after Britain leaves, is a stiff upper lip.

    Roland Freudenstein EU Institutions EU Member States European Union

    Roland Freudenstein

    Keep calm and work for a better Europe

    Blog

    25 Jun 2016

  • There’s an ambiguity at the core of the European project which calls to be solved or at least addressed, but from which the project gets much of its vitality. Is the European project supposed to apply only to Europeans or does it entertain universal ambitions? These days policymakers in Brussels will praise European values while renouncing every practical intent to extend them beyond the boundaries of the European Union as it stands. But then one is forced to ask: why praise them so much, why even call them universal values if they have such a limited scope?

    In principle one could envision a different Europe, one much more interested in shaping the forces of globalization. The European Union could be much more active in spreading a certain European way of doing politics beyond its borders and the most obvious geographical sphere for such ambitions would be those regions standing between Europe and Asia, sometimes indistinguishable from Europe itself. Slowly expanding its influence eastwards and having within its sights a more deeply integrated Eurasia is an immediate task.

    Everything changes if you start thinking along these lines. The European Union suddenly becomes a political agent rather than a territory. European because it is a political will based and organized in Europe, but global in the scope of its action and ambitions. To the extent that forming a strong political will, being a political agent, is more inspiring that being part of a territory, being an object of power, this would be a better and more perfect Union.

    When Russia and China developed their new, mammoth integration projects – the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative – they had one underlying goal: to show Europeans that their decades-old integration project was one among others, benefiting from no special aspirations to universality. But if this underlying goal succeeded beyond the most optimistic expectations, that was because the European Union was already, and very much on its own, retreating within its borders. I cannot pinpoint precisely when this retreat happened. Today it is indisputable,

    Both Russia and China are therefore ready for the next stage in their plans. The goal now is not to remove the universal pretensions from under the European edifice but to build such pretensions for their own projects. Take the case of Russia: if you talk to policymakers in Moscow they will tell you that Russia, not Europe, knows how international politics works. Europeans live in an imaginary world just of their own, Russians live in the real world. Europeans are parochial, Russians abide by the more or less universal rules of power politics.

    In Beijing – where I recently had a number of very fruitful discussions – the claims to universality are no less striking. I was told by policymakers that China wants to give back to the world what it received over the last three decades and heard from academics that China is actively developing values that can appeal to every human being: some version of development and well-being can be readily understood and assimilated by every nation on the planet in a way that democracy and human rights cannot.

    In the future historians will no doubt marvel at the speed with which the European Union transformed itself from a universal project into a geographically limited (perhaps increasingly limited as every European periphery starts to look more and more at odds with the ideological core) territorial unit, uninterested in influencing what happens outside and soon enough struggling to avoid being influenced and shaped by other – more healthily constituted – political agents. The current European malaise – in almost all its forms – has its root in this phenomenon.


    “Let me make a prediction: within twenty years Europe will to a considerable extent be a part of Eurasia.”


    Let me make a prediction: within twenty years Europe will to a considerable extent be a part of Eurasia. What I cannot predict – because it is still open to political decision and action – is what this Eurasian supercontinent will look like. Will it be, at least in some fundamental respects, a larger version of the European Union or will the European Union be dramatically changed by the need to adapt to the rise of new political abstractions, new universal values, which both Russia and China are actively developing and propagating? And yes, in this latter case, we shall still be dealing with universal, abstract values. Much of the European complacency has to do with the conviction that Russia and China cannot speak in a universal voice, but as I argued above this is historically and politically wrong.

    Evidently if as a European you are convinced that other superpowers have only one of two alternatives – remain mired in parochial and nationalist myths or embrace abstract European ideas – then there is no need to rethink the European Union as a political agent. We can just sit back and watch the superiority of the abstract and universal play itself out on the world stage. But let me repeat: Russia and China have their own political abstractions. The clash – if it happens – will happen at the level of powerful political abstractions.

    A clash is not inevitable, of course, but think about it: what better chances do we have to avoid conflict in the great Eurasian landmass than to spread European political concepts of cooperation and human rights outside our own European boundaries? The moment is a critical one. The tectonic plates have started moving – we need all our resources to balance this movement and make these pieces fit together as smoothly as possible. 

    There is one final reason why Europe should become more actively interested in the project of Eurasian integration: to combat the forces of disintegration within Europe itself. The European Union is in desperate need to strengthen its political capacity, its ability to act collectively. So far this has been defended through a vague appeal to history and feeling, but ultimately political capacity can only be strengthened if there is a goal for the sake of which it will be exercised. The European Union needs to become a stronger political agent not in order to fulfill a moral or historical commandment, but in order to perform the tasks which the future will call for: extend its influence outside its boundaries, manage the flows across the borderlands and work for a peaceful future in greater Eurasia.

    Bruno Maçães European Union Globalisation Values

    Bruno Maçães

    Europe and Eurasia: the EU beyond its boundaries

    Blog

    15 Jun 2016

  • A recent Guardian ICM opinion poll showed a fascinating difference between the views of participants in phone and online surveys regarding the upcoming EU referendum. Both were relatively divisive, only on different sides of the debate: those polled over the phone were eight percentage points more likely to vote to remain the in EU (47 to 39) whilst voters that contributed to the online poll were four points more likely to leave (47:43).

    A range of reasons for this split could exist, but it is a scenario that those of us close to online political campaigning have long foreseen.

    For anybody visiting social media platforms to analyse or involve themselves in the debate on Scottish independence, for example, the online reality provided a vastly different message to the one given by traditional polling: strongly in favour of leaving (or dissolving, depending on your point of view) the United Kingdom – a study I ran in August 2014 attributed approximately 90% of all public social media mentions of the referendum to supporters of independence.

    Analysis of the online debate on the EU referendum reveals a similar, yet more dramatic pattern to that underscored by the Guardian ICM poll.

    The visual in Figure 1 shows the structure of the referendum debate on UK Twitter during the second week of May. The network graph shows the inter-connectivity of the 1000 most influential tweeters in the United Kingdom that discussed the referendum in a variety of ways in the week commencing May 9 (hashtags, responding to campaign accounts, longer form mentions of the referendum or simply expressing views to leave or remain).

    Each node (dot) is a Twitter account and each edge (line) is a connection between them. Connections are conversational, rather than a simple look at who follows or @mentions whom, so show retweets, responses and quoted statuses. A full description of the network map is available here.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    The bulb-shaped cluster to the right of the map is almost exclusively made up of Twitter users strongly in favour of leaving the EU, whilst the strands to the left are largely accounts supportive of Remain. We can also quickly see that the Leave side of the network is both multi-faceted and tightly clustered: the multiple colours show that several sub-networks exist within this conversation, whilst the high density graph shows that the accounts are highly likely to engage directly with one another.

    The largest, most central node on the leave side (red, with thick links to other accounts) is Vote Leave (@vote_leave), perhaps to be expected, whilst the large node to the left of Vote Leave is campaigner Dr Rachel Joyce (@racheljoyce). The latter has only 3,638 followers (at the time of writing) but is crucial to the integrity of this specific conversational network, bringing otherwise disparate accounts together in the debate.

    The strands to the left are held together by two large nodes: Stronger In (@StrongerIn, top) and “British and European” (@polnyypesets, bottom). As on the Leave side, @polnyypesets is not an obvious agent of this debate with just 2,857 followers, but is central to networked discussion.

    Interestingly, the structure of this Twitter debate has changed little since we ran the same analysis a few weeks previously. Figure 2 shows the network graph of the referendum debate at the end of March.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    The shape is the same: largely pro-Brexit accounts dominating the online noise, whilst Remain supporters inhabit the fringes. Twitter accounts on both sides however, are linked in places, occasionally by media or polling accounts but more often by tweeters engaging in active debate.

    A key reason for the centrality of @polnyypesets in the network is that the account converses with both sides, providing a bridge between Remain and Leave (albeit having closer links to Remain, hence its location in the network).

    When we compare the EU referendum map to the factional, scattered network map of the European political parties (EPP, PES, ALDE etc) during the 2014 Spitzenkandidat race within the European Parliament election (figure 3) we see far higher levels of bipartisan discussion.

    In figure 3, each cluster is dominated by official campaign messaging by the European parties, with few connections between rival camps.

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    The crucial difference between figures 1 and 2 involves the maps’ density. Edges linking Twitter accounts are thinner, meaning fewer interactions between these people, whilst clustering of the map in general is less dense, meaning that fewer of these accounts were conversing with others in March. Bluntly, the online conversation has stepped up, accounts in the EU referendum debate have become more active and conversations between influencers more common.

    Figure 4

    Figure 4 below shows the volume of public social media mentions per week in the UK about the referendum, and the number of unique authors in the discussion (source: Brandwatch). Contributors on both sides are posting more frequently.

    Figure 4

    Reasons for the domination of the online debate by Leave advocates can be discussed at length. We may point to a more disparate coalition of groups of the pro-Brexit side in addition to the official Vote Leave campaign, or to an anti-establishment, anti-status quo sentiment of online discussion more broadly.

    And whilst this cannot be considered in the same vein as traditional polling as an indicator of the eventual result, its importance should not be underestimated. For the undecided voter that turns to online platforms for guidance or verification of whatever facts exist on either side, this is what they will encounter.

    Similarly, the noisy, crowded nature of this discussion highlights the importance of careful navigation and accurate targeting of the right content, to the right voters and the right times, particularly for those encouraging Remain and the official Stronger In campaign.

    Whilst the overall structure of the campaign shouldn’t necessarily be of concern to Stronger In, it further highlights that directing messages demographically or geographically is no longer adequate or necessary, and that it is possible to cut through the noise by engaging a relatively small set of influencers.

    With less than a month until the vote, understanding the changing nature of this debate structure is crucial to both sides.

    With the issue of Turkish accession to the EU entering the campaign in earnest last weekend, and with Sadiq Khan and City Hall diving into the campaign to actively promote Remain in the following days, network graphs provide an excellent way of understanding the impact and prevalence of such messaging, and which accounts are influential within this morass. This series aims to understand some of those facets over the upcoming weeks.

    This blogpost is the first from an Ogilvy London series analysing the online EU referendum debate from a variety of angles in the weeks before the vote on June 23. You can read the original blogpost here

    Gareth Ham Elections EU Member States European Union Internet

    Gareth Ham

    The online debate around the EU referendum: should Remainers be concerned?

    Blog

    13 Jun 2016

  • THE EU IS A VOLUNTARY UNION

    The fact that the British voters are free to have a referendum, and free to decide to leave the European Union shows that the European Union is a voluntary Union.

     It is not an Empire, which something a country would not be free to leave.

     Nor is it a Federal Union like the United States, which does not permit its member states to leave either.

    The EU’s voluntary character is one of the reasons why a number of states are still looking to join the EU.

    THE FIRST TIME IN 60 YEARS ANY COUNTRY HAS CONSIDERED LEAVING

    The 23rd of June 2016 will, however, be the first time in the EU’s 60 year history, that any state has contemplated leaving.

     This is a serious matter not just for Britain, but for all the countries of the EU.

     So British voters,  acting as a citizen legislators on 23 June, ought to think of the risks, that a British decision to leave might create for neighbouring countries in the EU, like Ireland. Voters here in Lancashire need to think about the consequences for peace in Ireland of the deepening of the border in Ireland that would flow from a Brexit decision on 23 June. 

    They also should consider the risk that Britain deciding to leave would create a precedent that would weaken the bonds that hold the remaining 27 countries together.  The Parliament in Westminster has passed to voters the responsibility for deciding if a possible breakup of the EU would really be good for Britain, and for Europe too. It is a big responsibility.

    STABILITY IN EUROPE HAS ALWAYS BEEN IMPORTANT TO BRITAIN

    Stability in Europe has been a long term British goal.

    Edmund Burke in the 1790’s favoured a Commonwealth of Europe.

     Castlereagh worked for a Concert of Europe, with regular Summit meetings like the EU now has, after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

     Winston Churchill, in 1930,advocated  a United States of Europe.  

    These statesmen did not advocate these ideas out of some sort of dewy eyed sentimentalism. No, they had a hard headed appreciation of the fact that stability on the continent meant greater security for Britain, and they made their suggestions to achieve that end.

     Now it is British voters, not British statesmen, who must decide what is best for Europe,

    +  a Union with Britain on the inside, or

    + a fractured Union, which Britain has left of its own free will.

     BREXIT COULD DOUBLE THE REGULATORY BURDEN

    We hear much about EU Regulations and the burdens they impose. But even if Britain left the EU, it would still have regulations of its own on things like the environment, financial services and product safety.

     In fact, to the extent that  a Britain that had left the EU wanted to sell  goods or services to Europe, it would have to comply with TWO sets of regulations,

    +  British regulations for the British market, and

    + EU regulations for the EU market, including Ireland.

    Arguably the duplicated post Brexit regulatory burden on  British business would be greater than the present one.

    A UK/EU TRADE DEAL COULD TAKE YEARS TO NEGOTIATE

    Some believe that the UK could leave the EU, and then quickly negotiate a free trade agreement which would allow British firms to go on selling in Ireland and the other EU countries.

     I am sure an agreement of some kind could eventually be worked out, but it would not be quick.

     Switzerland negotiated trade agreements with the EU, but that took 9 years.

     Canada negotiated a Free Trade agreement too, but that took 7 years.

    The British Agreement would be much more complicated than either of these, because it would  involve new issues like  financial services, and  freedom of movement ,and access to health services, for example for Britons in Spain. It would have to cover agriculture.

    Even with maximum goodwill from the European Commission, a post Brexit EU trade agreement with Britain would become prey to the domestic politics of the 27 remaining EU countries, each of whom would have their own axes to grind.

     There would be a lot of uncertainty, over a long period.

     STAY IN, AND MAKE EU BETTER

    I believe British people should accept that entities like the EU, which provide a structure, within which the forces of globalisation, can be governed politically are essential, if the prosperity that flows from globalisation is to be shared fairly.

     Rather than leave, Britons should consider how they can make the EU better than it is, and there is plenty of scope for that.

    [Speech by John Bruton, former Taoiseach of Ireland, in Stonyhurst College, near Clitheroe in Lancashire on Sunday 29 May]

    John Bruton EU Institutions European Union

    John Bruton

    Why I believe the UK should stay in the EU

    Blog

    02 Jun 2016

  • Almost everywhere in the EU we see growing doubts about the EU’s capacity to act: in many countries, populist parties are getting stronger. They reject European integration and call for a return of the nation state. The gap between high expectations and the harsh reality has undermined the public support for the European integration project. In particular, during the refugee crisis, the European Union has failed to meet expectations. But does this justify the calls for less Europe?

    The terrorist attacks which struck at the heart of Europe were planned across national borders: National actions alone will not counter them effectively. International terrorism, the conflicts in our immediate vicinity which are the cause of so much instability and human suffering, and the flow of refugees are problems which no EU member state can tackle on its own. Yet, what could a European solution look like?

    Despite of the different approaches taken by the member states, the refugee crisis has illustrated the need for a European Border and Coast Guard with far-reaching powers. The protection of our external borders, and consequently of the security of the whole Union, can no longer be the sole responsibility of, in some cases overburdened, national authorities.

    The March 18th agreement between the EU and Turkey shows that only a united European Union, in co-operation with its neighboring countries, can find sustainable solutions. However, further steps are necessary. We urgently need a reform of the Dublin system including a fair distribution of asylum seekers among all EU member states. The same rights, duties, and rules must apply to all refugees across Europe. The further development of the European Asylum System is therefore the only viable solution. One thing remains clear: In a globalized world, in which Europe is and intends to remain an important actor, we will have to deal with the question of migration for a long time to come, irrespective of the conflict in Syria.

    The numerous crises in our immediate neighborhood highlight the need for a coherent EU foreign policy. Europe should also be able to guarantee its own security – both internally and externally. Therefore, the EU has to step up its support of democratization processes, in its Eastern and Southern neighborhood. In the long term, we should aim for a common economic area with our neighbors. The common threats we face also call for an ambitious European security strategy with a vision for Europe’s role in the world. We need to strengthen the co-operation of our national military forces with the goal of joint military action. In the fight against terrorism, a better exchange of information between our intelligence services is indispensable, as well as a closer cooperation between both police and judicial authorities.

    European citizens justifiably expect the Union to act faster and more flexibly in order to fulfill these goals. To this end, we first need to speed-up the decision making process in the EU by expanding majority decisions, particularly in the area of foreign and security policy. This is the only way that the Union as a whole can act efficiently without always resorting to a “coalition of the willing”. Naturally, we must also strengthen confidence among EU members. The opinion of every member state should be heard and carefully considered before taking such decisions. Secondly, the EU should be able to expand its own resources, as to be more flexible in the prevention and management of future crises. In the long term, the European Union should not limit itself to mere crises responses. Rather, it should claim its position in shaping global developments and demonstrate leadership in its immediate neighborhood.

    The basis for this is a unified EU: the division into East and West, North and South which we are currently witnessing, presents a danger to us all. It is therefore of utmost importance that the United Kingdom remains a part of the European Union. And we should never forget that it is our common European Union values that connect us: human dignity, freedom, democracy, peace, and the rule of law. We should not waste our energy focusing on our divisions, but to concentrate on making Europe, “the community of destiny”, work again. We have no doubt that Europe can succeed in this.

    [This article was originally published in Komentare]

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Hans-Gert Pöttering Democracy European Union Values

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    Hans-Gert Pöttering

    Europe is doomed to succeed

    Blog

    08 Apr 2016

  • Regrettably, the concept of the European Union, its construction, way of working and fundamental values find themselves in grave crisis.

    Many factors, of varying intensities, have contributed to this problem. First and foremost: three consecutive crises have befallen the EU in recent years. The financial crisis, the sovereign debt crisis, and now the immigration crisis – they all have taken a heavy toll. In the public conscience, the EU has become a symbol of Western failure. It is frequently perceived as assuming responsibility for the economic pain imposed upon ordinary citizens. In many member states, especially in the South, “austerity” is now the Union’s middle name. The unprecedented (and uncontrolled) influx of immigrants and refugees from Syria, North Africa, Iraq and some Asian countries polarised public opinion and unearthed a sort of emotion and prejudice we had not witnessed for many years. Again, the EU is largely blamed for the mess.

    The EU does not provide health services, pensions nor education. In quiet times, that makes it less relevant in the eyes of an average citizen. But in times of crisis, a perverse process occurs in many member states in which budget cuts and decreased funding for public services and the welfare state are immediately attributed to the EU. The Union’s relevance grows, but unfortunately in a negative way.

    The EU seems distant, disconnected from ordinary citizens. Its very construction separates it from the people. From the very outset the EU was elitist and based on a wise but hardly comprehensible set of norms. Its founding fathers, like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, wouldn’t have even thought of the necessity for “connecting with voters” when they sketched their first declarations. Nor could they have imagined that one day the whole concept would necessitate explanation in 140 characters (or less!) on Twitter.

    The Eurozone crisis further deepened the impression that the whole system is undemocratic. Crucial decisions (that saved the Eurozone from collapsing) were taken in the shadowy cabinets of the Justus Lipsius building. Or in the ECB governing board meeting room.

    The holy trio of old arguments explaining the Union’s raison d’etre, namely “peace”, “stability”, “prosperity”, is no longer valid. These values, dear to our grandfathers (and maybe inhabitants of Balkan region) are taken for granted in most European countries. How often do we think of the air we breathe? The same goes for the EU. Add to the pot the lost credibility of many national elites – and a recipe for disaster is ready.[1]

    European institutions, willing governments and pro-European parties, and above all business entities that profit from the single market, must react.

    Many parallel efforts must be made to address the challenge. Firstly, the EU should defend itself by delivering. The EU should offer new solutions that feel relevant to citizens.  If it is to redeem itself by concrete action and performance, then creating the social security pillar of the EU should be considered as the priority.

    At the same time, the EU should urgently change the way it communicates and markets itself. It is essential that EU citizens rediscover the already offered “added value” of European Union membership.

    The EU mechanisms are complex. So are insurance and investment banking products, but it does not stop companies from advertising them. The trick is to simplify the message and multiply it massively. Companies do not try to explain how their products and services are prepared, instead they focus on what is important and tell people how much would they profit from using them.

    It is high time that the EU follow the business experience. It is not doing this right now. The EU must start telling people – like companies do – what it is delivering to them, directly or indirectly. There are easy to grasp benefits the EU could (and should) boast about such as the possibility to live, study and/or work in another EU country, the reduction of roaming charges, the Erasmus programme, cheaper flights, and improved consumer rights (especially in the online shopping business). Above all, the EU must communicate straightforwardly that it is creating – through the single market, free flow of capital and workers – hundreds of thousands jobs across the continent. Should the EU disappear, those jobs are gone too. This could be sold in a thirty second TV advertisement. Businesses can do, and do, exactly that: persuading us in thirty seconds how miserable our life would be, should we not buy the latest “Gizmo Pro 7”. The EU need not try to reinvent the wheel. It ought embrace the proven techniques, which are already successfully employed by business strategists.

    This idea is serious. Heather Grabbe and Stefan Lehne pointed out the lack of discussion on the enormous costs to citizens of rolling back the single market, reintroducing border controls or reversing trade liberalisation.[2] The European institutions and pro-European politicians seem to be failing in getting the message across. TV debates, lengthy interviews, press conferences, open doors – let’s not fool ourselves, it simply is not working.

    To some in the Brussels-bubble this may sound like blasphemy, but the EU should not be shy in resorting to massive and emotionally-intelligent advertising. Right now there’s no counterbalance to bad news (often untrue) aired and published by tabloid media outlets on a daily basis. There’s no counterbalance to all sorts of lies and downright propaganda, thrown at the EU by its enemies. They don’t hesitate, they use every possible mean of attack.

    It’s time the European institutions and stakeholders start to communicate like the most successful global companies do. Who should pay for it? The European Commission, the Parliament, the Council and the European political parties (while cutting expenses in other areas of communication) but also companies that profit from European integration.

    Advertising is not a silver bullet. It can’t replace improved EU performance in fields that matter to ordinary citizens. The problem is we also need short-term solutions to stop people turning away from the EU. That’s a job for advertising. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. But there is responsibility to shine a light on the EU’s many positive attributes.


    [1] M. Leonard et al., European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2016, ECFR, London 2016, 15

    [2] H.Grabbe, S. Lehne, Emotional Intelligence for the EU Democracy, Carnegie Europe 2015

    Konrad Niklewicz EU Institutions European Union Values

    Konrad Niklewicz

    The EU is a superb product. Time to advertise it seriously

    Blog

    17 Mar 2016

  • The concessions the UK is winning to encourage its citizens to vote to stay in the EU could make the EU even more complicated than it is. They could slow down decision making still further, at the very time when problems are becoming more, not less urgent. This would not be “Reform”. Yet David Cameron says he wants the keep the UK in what he calls a “reformed European Union”. 

    Already the UK is exempt from joining the euro, exempt from the common border rules of Schengen and does not have to take part in EU activities to combat crime (although it can opt into these on a pick and mix basis). It is a semi-detached member of the EU, which makes it harder for the UK to exercise leadership in the EU.

    Now the UK is seeking, and may be granted at a Summit next Thursday, new concessions. These concessions are being sought because UK public opinion is convinced that the EU is undemocratic and should be curbed. They are convinced the only locus of true democracy for the UK is Westminster. 

    The truth is that neither the EU, nor Westminster are a perfect expression of democracy. In Westminster a party can have an overall majority of the seats with only 37% of the vote. In the EU, while the members of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers each have democratic mandates, the people of Europe have only a very indirect vote on who is to be the President of the European Commission. EU voters, unlike Westminster voters, do not have a sense that they can throw the EU government out of office.

    But, instead of focussing on how to make the EU level governance more democratic, UK negotiators have concentrated on enhancing the capacity of the 28 national parliaments to block EU law making. Given that the UK is a global player, one would have expected it instead to focus on making global and EU wide governance more democratic, rather than slowing things down or simply repatriating powers to the national level.

    NEW OBSTACLES TO EU LAWMAKING DO NOT EQUAL “REFORM”

    As part of the package devised to respond to UK requests, EU rules are to be changed to allow 55% of national parliaments to apply to have an EU law blocked before it has been properly considered by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.  This “Red Card” power is to be exercised within 12 weeks of the law having been presented at EU level. This blockage is supposed to be grounded on a claim that the EU law breaches to principle of “subsidiarity”.

    Subsidiarity is a philosophical concept around which there can be so many differences of opinion, that it does not constrain this blocking mechanism being used for reasons of pure political opportunism. One could easily envisage an EU law that had been introduced to open up the EU market for legal services being opposed virulently by lawyers in every member state. Or one could imagine an EU law to open up the energy market across borders being opposed by high cost producers in a number of states.

    As it is, the lawyers and the energy companies can, and do, already fight such laws in the European Commission before they are presented, and then in the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament while they are being debated, voted upon, and compromised in and between Parliament and Council. Now, to allay UK worries, a new field of operation is being opened up for the lobbyists who want to stop an EU law: the 28 national parliaments of the EU.

    EU lobbyists will now be tempted to open offices in the capitals of all member states, so that they can be ready to lobby on behalf of clients to persuade members of national parliaments to use of the Red Card to stop a future EU law a client might not like.

    Parliamentary majorities can change and many EU countries are governed by coalitions or minority governments, so one could envisage EU lobbyists seeking to exploit domestic inter party rivalries, or domestic instability, to win support for the use of a Red Card by a national parliament.

    All national parliaments are equal in this system, so the 55% blocking vote could come from countries that represent only a small minority of the EU population. It is therefore surprising that the UK, which is a big country, is championing this mechanism. 

    It is also surprising for another reason. The UK is primarily an exporter of services rather than goods.  It is in the area of services, rather than goods, that the EU Single market is furthest from completion. Therefore, services is an area where the EU will need to pass the most laws to sweep aside national restrictions on competition from other EU states. 

    As a services exporter, the UK would have much more to gain than to lose from the EU Services liberalisation legislation. Yet it is the UK which is seeking a red card that would make it easier for opponents of liberalisation to delay and block EU liberalisation legislation!

    PREVENTING THE EURO ZONE TO ACT QUICKLY IN A CRISIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE “REFORM”

    Another proposed concession to the UK could also complicate EU decision making on economic and financial matters. Here the UK concern is about rules being made to govern the euro, which might inhibit UK financial operators making full use of the euro zone market.

    On the other hand, as we have learned from the crisis, banking problems in one jurisdiction infect others very easily. UK and US banks were exposed by the Greek crisis and did not complain when EU action protected their interests!

    The EU authorities may have to act very quickly if there is a new banking crisis. The EU banking union is not complete, especially as far as deposit insurance is concerned. Yet to satisfy the UK, it is now  proposed that a member state, like the UK, that is not in the euro zone, be free to appeal a proposed EU law, which is proposed to safeguard the euro, to the European Council (where it may be able to veto it).

    This is despite the fact that it is also proposed, in the special package for the UK, that non euro members are to be freed of any financial obligation for euro area costs and that in non-euro zone countries, supervision of banks be a “matter for their own authorities” according to the text.

    The proposed procedure would allow a non-euro member, like the UK, to delay an EU law that is needed, in the view of the states that are in the euro, to safeguard their currency or to ensure the solvency and proper supervision of their banks, in the interests of customers and depositors.

     It is unclear what happens when the appeal is brought to the European Council. The European Council usually decides issues by unanimity, so one could envisage an urgent EU law to safeguard the euro or the euro zone economy being vetoed there by the UK, which was not even in the euro. This is giving the UK power without responsibility.

    The proposal for the UK does say that “member states whose currency is not the euro shall not impede the implementation of legal acts linked to the functioning of the euro area and shall refrain from measures which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of the economic and monetary union”. But these are all matters of judgement on which it may not be easy to find unanimity, especially when time is short, and national interests collide.

    BRITAIN SHOULD RAISE ITS SIGHTS

    For the past two millennia, Britain has had a vital interest in the peace and prosperity of continental Europe. It has gone to war many times to preserve it. English is the language of EU governance. The EU Single Market is a modern application of the ideas of Adam Smith.

    Two hundred years ago, when European states were much less interdependent than today and were recovering from the Napoleonic Wars, the then UK Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, persuaded the European powers to make, in his words, “a systematic pledge of preserving concert among the leading powers and a refuge under which all minor states may look to find their security”. While his views on Ireland were mistaken, Castlereagh’s views on Europe were not.

    Rather than seeking a series of further exemptions and so called “reforms” that will slow even further an already complex EU lawmaking system, David Cameron should follow Castlereagh’s example and set out his country’s own comprehensive vision for the peace and prosperity of Europe.

    Then he might give himself a chance of winning the Referendum he has chosen to have. 

    John Bruton EU Member States European Union Leadership

    John Bruton

    David Cameron and the courage of real reform

    Blog

    15 Feb 2016

  • Next June the people of the UK may vote to leave the European Union. At the moment, a narrow majority favours remaining in the EU, but a large group are undecided. That group could swing towards a “leave” position for a variety of reasons, including what might be temporary EU problems with refugees. However temporary the reasons might be, a decision to leave, once made, would be politically irreversible.

    So it would be wise for Ireland to give thought now to how it might react to a decision by UK voters to leave the EU, and how it would play its hand in the subsequent negotiations. A number of scenarios will arise and Ireland needs to identify its red lines in each one of these.

    THE NEGOTIATIONS COULD ONLY TAKE 21 MONTHS

    The negotiation of a UK withdrawal from the EU will be done under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It will have to be a quick negotiation because Article 50 contains a two year time limit. In practice the negotiation of withdrawal arrangements will all have to be finished in about 21 months.

    From the date that the UK Prime Minister informs the European Council of his/her decision to implement the referendum decision, the two year time limit starts to run. Assuming a June 2016 Referendum, I calculate the Withdrawal Treaty would have to been negotiated, ratified, and brought into force by July 2018.

    So the negotiations themselves between the EU side and the UK side would probably have to be finished at latest by April 2018, to allow time for parliamentary ratifications. In the event that no agreement had been reached within the deadline, the EU Treaties “would cease to apply” to the UK. The UK would simply be out of the EU, without even a trade agreement.

    This would be exceptionally disruptive of the UK economy, and of some, but not all, EU states’ economies. It would be particularly bad for Ireland. Our exports to the UK would be at risk, and the border would be deepened with incalculable consequences.

    UNANIMITY OF ALL EU STATES NEEDED TO EXTEND THE TWO YEAR LIMIT

    The two year limit could be extended, but only with the consent of all 27 members of the EU. If the negotiations had become contentious, or if the UK demands bore heavily against the interests of one or two states, one could see the required unanimous consent for an extension of negotiating time being withheld.

    This risk of a single refusal to extend time for negotiation, adversely affects the dynamics of the negotiation, from a UK point of view, because the UK has more to lose from failure. It is not inconceivable that a populist government in a member state might hold a time extension for the UK hostage to obtain some other unrelated matter, such as debt relief.  A European Parliament in election year could also be a source of uncertainty.

    While a time extension would require unanimity, the actual negotiation of the terms of withdrawal would need a “Qualified Majority” within the European Council.

    NO GUARANTEE OF PROTECTION OF IRISH INTERESTS IN WITHDRAWAL TREATY

    That means that the terms of the Withdrawal Treaty would need to support of 72% of the 27 EU governments, collectively representing at least 65% of the total EU population. Ireland, on its own, could not block a Withdrawal Treaty that contained terms that were against Irish interests. Nor could Ireland guarantee it would be agreed on terms that would adequately protect Ireland’s interests. For example, Ireland could not necessarily prevent passport controls or customs posts on the border in Ireland.

    While 72% of  EU member state governments must agree to the Treaty terms, 100% of the 27 national parliaments must do so, and ratification could become entangled in General Elections  in some states in the interim. While our fellow EU member states will undoubtedly recognise the Ireland will suffer more than any other EU state from a UK withdrawal, which does not guarantee that Irish interests will be taken into account in all cases. Quid pro Quo will apply, and that could cause difficulties on vital Irish interests on EU issues that have little direct bearing on the UK Withdrawal as such.

    Given the short time involved, the UK will not have the option of pursuing a relaxed post referendum exploration of different types of external association with the EU. It will probably have to decide at the outset what form of relationship it is seeking. It will have to choose among options that do not require the EU itself to change its Treaties. The options were well described in a recent paper by Jean Claude Piris, former legal advisor to the European Council.

    SCENARIO 1: UK JOINS THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA

    The simplest would be to join the European Economic Area (EEA), while leaving the EU itself. The EEA allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to take part in the EU Single Market, but without being in the EU Agricultural, Fisheries, Judicial and Foreign Policies.

    In the EEA, the UK would still have to contribute to the EU budget, to apply EU Single Market rules without having the say it now has in them, and to allow free movement of EU migrants to work in the UK on the same terms as locals.

    Ireland’s problem with this option would be the departure of the UK from the EU Common Agricultural Policy which would raise issues of fair competitive access for Irish farm produce to the UK market. Management of Atlantic Fisheries would also become more contentious.

    SCENARIO 2: THE SWISS APPROACH

    Less simple would be for the UK to seek to make tailor made agreements with the EU, like Switzerland has. This negotiation would be a very complex process where tradeoffs would have to be sought between different sectors and national interests. The Swiss model has not worked well from an EU point of view, and one could expect EU negotiators to take an exceptionally tough line if this is what the UK seeks. The issue of access to the UK labour market for EU citizens would certainly be a demand from the EU side in such a negotiation.

    In practice, if not in theory, the UK would have to implement EU law in all the areas for which it sought access to the EU market. This would be very problematic from the point of view of the financial services exports from London to Europe. 

    Once such a deal had been concluded, the EU side would be under pressure to tilt its own internal rules to favour financial service providers in the EU itself. If a system of mutual support and mutual supervision of financial service providers existed within the EU, and the UK was not part of that, there would then be valid grounds for objecting to UK financial service providers benefitting from a market they were not supporting on the same basis as EU providers.

    This could hurt London, and Dublin could be a beneficiary.  Outside the EU, the UK could do little to stop this. The European Banking Authority would have to leave London and there would be a good case for relocating it in Dublin.

    SCENARIO 3: A CANADA STYLE AGREEMENT WITH THE EU

    Another option would be for UK just to seek a trade agreement with the EU, like Canada has. This option is favoured by some of those who want the UK to leave the EU, so it needs to be studied. 

    The first thing to say about this is that it would have to be negotiated within the two year time limit applying to a Withdrawal Treaty under Article 50, and would presumably have to be part of the Withdrawal Treaty. The existing Canada Agreement took 6 years to negotiate and dealt with a much less complex relationship than that between the UK and the rest of Europe.  It is very hard to see how all this could be done in the time frame. The European Parliament would actively involve itself in the details. The UK would be excluded from the European council discussions on the topic.

    A Canada type agreement would not necessarily mean continuing tariff free access to the EU for all UK goods. Some tariffs remain on some Canadian goods for the time being. It is unlikely that a trade agreement like this, or even a Customs Union of the kind Turkey has with the EU, would allow the UK access to the EU financial services market and financial services are one of the UK’s biggest exports.

    It is clear that under a Canada style agreement, the UK would have to comply with EU rules on any goods or services it wanted to export to Ireland or to any other EU member state. The UK would have no say in the framing of these rules, but it would still be bound by them.

    Of course, the UK would be free to make its own rules for goods and services sold within the UK, but the downside of that would be that UK firms would then have to operate under two different rule books, one for the UK and another for the EU, thereby adding to their costs and damaging their competitiveness.

    Once a Canada style agreement had been made, the UK would be out of the EU and would have no control over any further rules on new topics that the EU might need to make. The Canada agreement is clear that it does not restrict the EU making “new laws in areas of interest” to it. If the Canada model was followed there would be a Regulatory Cooperation Forum to cover this sort of thing. In the Canadian model, this Forum would allow: 

    •  “exchange of information and experiences”,
    •  “only provide suggestions and make no rules”
    •  “not have decision making powers”.

    In other words, the UK would be in a worse position than it is as a voting member of the EU. If, after the UK had withdrawn, the EU deepened its service market further, allowing new access rights across border  for service providers within the EU, the UK would miss out on this and would have to negotiate  access for its service providers on a case by case basis. The rights of the 1.8 million UK citizens now living in EU countries would also be less secure. UK citizens, living in Ireland or the continent, would enjoy only what Canadians enjoy.

    WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO EXISTING EU TRADE DEALS, AND TO EU LAWS NOW ON THE  UK STATUTE BOOK?

    Furthermore, the UK would have to start from scratch negotiating trade agreements with countries all over the world, to replace the trade agreements it now has with all those same countries as a member of the EU. The UK Parliament would certainly be busy as well, in that it would have to pass new UK laws to replace all the EU regulations that are now part of UK law.

    The only alternative to this would be for the UK to decide to leave all the “acquis” of EU rules and regulations, which are now supposedly so objectionable, on the UK statute book, as they are, for a long time to come. One proponent of UK exit from the EU, Lord Lamont, admitted, in a debate with me recently that this is what they would have to do. Leaving the EU, only to leave EU rules on the UK statute book, seems like a lot of trouble to achieve very little!

    A SECOND REFERENDUM?

    There would be no second referendum on the final terms of any Withdrawal Treaty. This has been made clear by Chancellor Osborne. That has to be his position because, if there was to be such a referendum, the choice would presumably be either to leave on the basis of the terms of withdrawal Treaty, or stay in on the basis of the EU membership exactly as it is today.

    If such a second referendum was formally in prospect, it is hard to see that the EU side would have any incentive at all to offer the UK any concessions at in the Withdrawal Treaty negotiations. They would be mad to do so, because all the concessions would achieve, would be to make withdrawal more attractive.

    CONCLUSION

    I believe that the architects of the UK’s renegotiation/referendum strategy did not adequately consider how hazardous the voyage is, on which they have so casually embarked. They may have overestimated the EU’s political capacity to devise yet another special deal for the UK. Ireland, for its part, will have to adopt a very tough, deliberate, and multifaceted negotiating strategy, as long as this avoidable uncertainty prevails.

    John Bruton Elections EU Member States European Union Euroscepticism

    John Bruton

    BREXIT scenarios

    Blog

    29 Jan 2016

  • As a consequence of the dramatic events in 1989 and the fall of the Berlin wall in Europe, the introduction of the Euro and the speedy EU enlargement some years later gave an impression that the EU’s future development would continue at a very rapid pace.

    Those years were also a source of optimism and inspiration for EU integrationists, who realised that EU integration could and had to move forward quickly. The assumption was that the end result would be, in a relatively short amount of time, something close to a political and economic union.

    Meanwhile, however, memories of the 2nd word war started to fade away and the stated purpose of the European Union as a guarantor for peace started to have less meaning for the voters. In most  cases, peace in Europe was taken for granted. On the other hand, as the European Union started to develop, it started to have an influence on the national sovereignty of  EU member states.

    In addition to these developments, Europe’s long term economic prospects,  demographic changes and rapid globalisation created worrying concern. While globalisation provided many opportunities for European firms, it also had a profound impact on many areas of citizen life, which was perceived by many as a threat. Citizens felt that the European Union had not been able to perform in relation to the big challenges facing the economy and security in Europe.

    As a result, the idea of a united Europe became less and less convincing. The ongoing crisis within the European Union was understood as a crisis of the future existence of the European Union – and the question of whether or not the European Union had a long term future emerged.

    In his article on the development of the EU, Steven Hill made a point to compare the development of the United States with the development of the European Union. He emphasised the fact that severe crises, even existential, were essential to the development of the US. It took around 80 years before the idea that the US would be one country became accepted by mainstream thinking.

    Before reaching that point, the US had to deal with the fact that, in the beginning, there were various currencies, various religions and various languages which citizens could not unite around. Only after various financial crises and one civil war did it become clear that the US would be accepted as a single national project by everybody. Similarly, Hill points out that we should not see European integration as a technical process, but rather as a cultural and social one, which by definition will take decades rather than years to achieve.

    Can we accept the fact, just maybe, that the EU will become both psychologically and emotionally important for the people in the distant future, much like a nation state is today? And if so, what shall we do in the meantime?

    Offering “More Europe” as a solution for problems may resonate well in many establishments, but obviously it has become less and less popular as an argument for the voters. In fact, if we look now at the rise of populist parties and the challenges that the EU is currently facing on many fronts, it seems unlikely that the EU will move forward very quickly in its integration process.

    But the EU has been taking great steps in integration throughout the last 7-8 years. The motivation for that was not found “values” or in a principle based debate, but rather in the need to quickly create instruments to tackle urgent challenges of the economic crisis.

    What we, those who are in favour of a closely-integrated Europe, need to accept is that, before we find a solution to the challenging questions of security and economy, it is rather meaningless to focus on bold visions of the future of Europe when communicating with citizens– because the popular support is just not there today. The EU has a toolbox, rich with instruments, so we need to concentrate on solutions with instruments that we currently have.

    Secondly, we need to challenge our thinking of the linear development of the EU and be ready for unorthodox ideas. The idea of a united Europe is a precious one, but it should not be taken as a religion. A dogmatic approach is futile. Situations and conditions will change, so the EU needs to be able to adapt.

    Comparing the idea of a united Europe to the Soviet Union is unfair and incorrect, but nevertheless, some historic lessons can be drawn. The Soviet Union did stick to its communist ideals rigidly almost to the very end  and did try to adapt too little too late. As a result, the system broke down. In contrast, China came to terms with reality and took a path clearly contradicting its original communist ideology. The result: the Soviet Union collapsed but China became a global superpower. The lesson: you should be ready to challenge your basic assumptions, even if those assumptions are very dear to you.

    We should not be scared if the solutions we find now do not correspond strictly to  views on the EU as they were presented a half century ago. The reality that we face will force us to accept options which today may seem unconventional. As an example, the sacred token of the EU, Schengen, is today de facto only partly functioning and we need to redesign that basic element of the EU. Furthermore, if the UK would leave the EU, we would be forced to rethink the entire European construction.

    The European Union is not only about technical and political decisions, but it is also about the psychology of the people – commitment, emotions and feelings. What we are asking nations and people to do is to commit to each other in a manner unseen in human history. While some of the positive sentiment is already there, it needs time to grow. We now realise that this will take decades, maybe even more than a lifetime.

    So what is left of the dream of a united Europe? If we who believe in the united Europe stick to our main argument that deeper cooperation among European states is the only way to deal with the global challenges that we face, then there is a future for deeper European integration. For example, the majority of European citizens are unsure of rapid integration but a great majority agree that the dilemmas which we face, namely the refugee crisis, ongoing terrorist threats, and Russia’s challenge, need to be met with stronger cooperation from within the EU.

    People are today reluctant to accept deeper integration, but are very willing to accept a model on which they have the confidence to provide a solution even if it means strengthening the EU’s level of cooperation. Therefore, the main issue is to focus on the problems.  While the EU’s institutional set up is relevant, it is secondary.

    We need to accept that that the development of the EU will be done to some extent by trial and error and we should not panic when setbacks happen. Let us not live in denial. It is possible that the Schengen area will be reduced temporarily, or it is even possible that Brexit will occur. But let us go beyond defeatist pessimism. Those events may seem dramatic if they happen, but if we employ a longer historical perspective, we can understand these events as invitations to recalibrate our common European institutions and political instruments.

    We will not find a new narrative for the European Union as, at the moment, there is no overarching story to sell the tale of a united Europe.  If one existed, it would have already been found. In order to gain the support of European citizens, it will be necessary to find solutions to the challenges, case-by-case, and communicate our success stories to the rest of the world – and that is the narrative and vision that the majority of Europeans can agree upon. 

    Tomi Huhtanen European Union Euroscepticism Leadership

    Tomi Huhtanen

    What future for the EU? Beyond pessimism and denial

    Blog

    22 Jan 2016

  • Let’s be clear: This is not about ‘punishing Poland’. This is about proving that we are a Union built on values, that among those is liberal democracy (based on separation of powers, checks and balances and iron-clad guarantees for minorities), and that no member state government, however democratically elected, can flout its basic principles. And it is about reaching out to the many Poles who actually like the EU and are now worried about their country’s role in it.

    Poland’s new government is losing no time: In its first couple of weeks, it has brought the intelligence services under the control of a politician earlier convicted for abuse of power, severely weakened the Constitutional Court (declaring it a politically biased institution) and undertaken rather strange shenanigans against a Polish-Slovak NATO Centre for Counterintelligence. Now it is about to bring public radio and television under the direct control of the government.

    Next may be the Public Prosecutor and the rest of the judiciary, and then the Constitution itself. Law and Justice (PiS) is legitimising these steps by two main arguments: That all of this is necessary to ‘cure Poland of some illnesses’ and that the predecessor government by the Civic Platform (PO) did the same.  And protests from Brussels meet with indignation in Warsaw, and when they are made by Germans, with open historical resentment.

    Let’s tackle these arguments and then ask what precisely the EU institutions and Poland’s partners should do now. As to the Constitutional Court’s fifteen judges, it is true that PO had nominated two too many in summer (when the risk of losing the elections was already clear), but when the Court declared PO’s move unconstitutional, PO took the blame and apologised.

    Over the past eight years, the Court had annulled several of PO’s legislative projects. PiS’ actions, however, are of a completely different magnitude, such as: Having the PiS-supported President refuse to swear in any of the five, then nominating its own five judges overruling the Court’s protest, and finally the law severely hampering the Court (f.e. introducing a two thirds majority). When a right wing MP declared: ‘The interests of the people are above the law. When the law doesn’t serve the people, it becomes injustice!’ he received standing ovations from PiS – and summed up an ideology which rings ominously familiar to anyone who remembers Communist rhetoric before 1989.

    The attack against the NATO facility may be just a bizarre episode but it has already enraged the Slovak government. Nothing of the sort ever happened under PO. But more importantly, the media law goes far beyond anything PO did. Four major international journalists’ associations[1] have already officially complained to the Council of Europe. The OSCE sees the ‘independence, objectivity and impartiality of public service broadcasters’ in danger. Surely, in Central Europe in general, parties winning elections often put their people in high positions in media and administration. The PO majority in Polish media supervisory bodies also gradually put people friendlier to the government into key posts. But it left a larger margin for pluralism: 3 months after the 2007 elections, a PiS-appointed functionary was still at the helm of public TV. And PO never thought about passing a law that would put the government directly in charge of media personnel decisions.

    Hence, for all its sins in terms of arrogance and sloppiness, PO tried to follow the path of liberal democracy, navigating most of the time through the fallout of the global crisis. More importantly, it immensely increased Poland’s standing and influence in Europe. PiS, however, is making no false pretence: it wants the illiberal detour. Jarosław Kaczyński might be a very intelligent and well-educated leader, some even say: an erudite – but he’s no friend of Montesquieu’s trias politicaToutes proportions gardées, he’s more into Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’. And we all remember: That old Italian recipe had a lot of ingredients, but checks and balances were not among them.

    Let’s spell it out: what PiS is doing, comes dangerously close to violating the Copenhagen criteria which are conditions for membership, which Poland signed up to and which clearly postulate the rule of law with stable institutions, minority rights etc. When Viktor Orbán’s government in 2010/11 made moves that were not in accordance with media freedom and an independent judiciary, the Commission raised its voice, and some laws were altered. At the very least, one should expect the same now. Consequently, Commission Vice President Timmermans[2] sent two requests for clarification to Warsaw.

    The Commission is discussing PiS’ moves on 13 January, and the European Parliament on 19 January. There is talk about starting the Rule of Law mechanism created in 2014 which might, theoretically and after many intermediate steps, lead to a Council procedure to curb a member state’s rights, including voting rights, according to Article 7 of the EU Treaty. That’s what is called the ‘nuclear option’ in Brussels, and it would, in its last phase, require unanimity among all 27 remaining member states: Improbable, looking at the new sympathy between Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński.

    But the main purpose of clear words from Commission and Parliament in the upcoming weeks would be a different one: Demonstrating to Poles how quickly their government is dismantling the pole position in the EU that its predecessors had built up, and encouraging Polish civil society which is stronger than PiS expected, and which is criticising its government without restraint. For the EU’s popularity in Poland is one of the highest in the EU: Year by year, Eurobarometer polls show that the Poles’ image of the EU and its institutions is one third higher than the EU average.  

    Many in PiS will claim that such criticism, published abroad, amounts to high treason, as the dirty laundry should be a family’s best kept secret. We strongly disagree. Poland has been a member of the European Union for more than ten years. It has grown into the community the same way the community has grown into Poland. Poland has become a part of a common political, social and economic endeavour, its citizens are at the same time ‘Polish’ and ‘European’. What happens in Europe, influences Poland, and vice versa.

    Moreover, Poland is not Hungary. After eight years of PO, its economy is in very good shape for a Central European country – so there is a lot of room for deterioration by PiS, whether we like it or not. There are now two opposition parties, PO and Nowoczesna, which are well organised. Polish Civil Society has responded forcefully to PiS within days. Opinion polls, for the moment, indicate that PiS has only a minority of voters on its side. Especially in Central Europe, governments can unravel if they don’t deliver. In this situation, the EU has a role to play.    

    And one last point: No one is happier about Central European governments’ illiberal drift than Vladimir Putin, for two reasons: First, because the rise in Euroscepticism weakens the EU and therefore the West, and second, because the weakening of checks and balances in EU member states gravely undermines our posture when we complain about Russian authoritarianism.

    So, please, Brussels institutions, show some cojones and stand up for the values that our united Europe is built upon! But do it smartly. Germans, particularly, must be aware of historical sensitivities, but they should not stay silent just because of their nationality. Let Poland’s partners and friends have their say!


    [1] European Federation of Journalists, the European Broadcasting Union, the Association of European Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    [2] Timmermans is no mere ‘unelected bureaucrat’, as Foreign Minister Waszczykowski would have it. He has not only been an MP several times, and a Dutch state secretary, but his knowledge of Russian dates back to his time in Dutch military intelligence during the Cold War – his job would have been to interrogate Soviet prisoners. If anything, that should please PiS.

    Konrad Niklewicz Roland Freudenstein Democracy EU Institutions European Union Euroscepticism

    Konrad Niklewicz

    Roland Freudenstein

    The new Polish government’s illiberalism: What the EU should do about it

    Blog

    08 Jan 2016

  • What we are going through now … will change our country. – Angela Merkel

    We don’t want to change! – Viktor Orban

    Just like previous crises, the one about the refugees has highlighted a deep split among member states of the European Union. The Euro crisis seemed to divide the Union into North and South. This one goes East-West. It could actually become the most destructive split we have seen since the Union enlarged to 25 in 2004. Mind you, it is an East-West rift only on the government level. The electoral successes of national populists such as Front National show that the picture is more complex. So does the fact that in Central Europe, parts of civil society valiantly fight back against their governments’ tendencies. And yet, the conflict is now largely perceived as East vs. West, new vs. old member states.

    Why is this so significant? Because the Big Bang enlargement of 2004, and the two smaller ones 2007 and 2013, by taking in mostly former Iron Curtain countries, were the embodiment of a Europe Whole and Free. After the plus jamais la guerre entre nous (the prevention of war as the initial rationale for integration) of the 1950s, the year 1989 added a second grand narrative to European integration: The irreversible end of Europe’s postwar partition, and its firm anchoring in the West. This went along with the recognition that the essence of the West, and the optimal pattern for successful societies, were liberal democracy and the market economy – i.e. political and economic freedom, and their mutual dependence. This narrative of 1989 is now in jeopardy.

    That is because the rift is not only about refugees and immigration. It is ultimately about the question of how we define Europe in the 21st century: Who do we want to be in 20 years? Will we be globalised, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, or closed, white and Christian? Are we defined more by (maybe all too dark) fears, or by (possibly too starry-eyed) hopes?  And on that backdrop, a pattern is emerging in which the two sides also disagree about European integration, social norms, and the question of the type of democracy we should live in. None of these conflicts is really new, but thanks to the spat over refugees they have consolidated into a broad disagreement.

    On Europe, one side advocates moving towards stronger competences for EU institutions (Parliament, Council, Commission) where it matters: bigger on the big things, smaller on the small things. Opposing this is a movement to rather re-nationalise central EU competences, or at least not allow any further transfer of powers to ‘Brussels’. On norms, we have, most prominently, the remarkable changes on LGBT rights in many member states – which are resisted by those who define them as West European moral imperialism. On democracy, we see a sharp division emerging between the proponents of liberal democracy, i.e. free elections plus checks and balances, independent media and strong civil society – and on the other hand, those of an ‘illiberal state’ where the majority rules but institutional limits to its power are considered as only helping the rich, the liberal elites or the political Left. The governments of Hungary and Poland are excellent examples of the latter tendency.

    Like all meaningful political conflict, this here is ultimately about reality and about time. It is about who has their feet firmly on the ground of facts, and who lives in Lalaland. And it is about who is stuck in the past, and who owns the future. Consequently, Central Europe’s ultraconservatives and Western Europe’s national populists are regularly accused of living in a 19th or early 20th century mindset, and in denial of global facts, demographic necessities etc. Whereas West European governments and liberal elites in Central Europe are seen as stuck in the hippie dreams of the late 20th century, and in denial of the dangers of ‘anything goes’, the coming ‘migration of peoples’ and the decline of the West. So the rift is deep indeed.

    But if such sizeable parts of governments, elites and public opinion cannot agree on a common narrative for Europe anymore, hence, if the narrative of 1989 is no longer valid, then Europe is in deep trouble. So how can we make a revamped European narrative majoritarian again? This will be a major task for the upcoming years. And I see it going to the Centre Right in a very broad definition – Liberals, Christian Democrats and moderate conservatives.

    It must contain the universality of Human Rights and our commitment to human dignity – this is not negotiable. But regaining control of our borders is equally legitimate and in itself not to be confused with xenophobia. And: Europe will not be able to absorb all the suffering of the world. Liberal democracy is a form of government and not to be confused with liberal policies, and checks and balances are in no way negotiable. On European integration, subsidiarity should become the ruling principle: that includes referring some competences to national or regional levels, but increasing EU-level integration in defence, security and immigration policies, for example, because there is simply no progress on these topics for individual countries. Economic success will be key to regaining political majorities and weakening the extremes. And that means opening up, not closing ourselves in. It means fiscal consolidation (this is where the Left is useless) and constant modernisation. In immigration policy, we need to face up to the fact that we need immigration but we have to be in a better position to decide who actually joins us, and we have to become much more self-confident about the values that immigrants must accept if they want to be successful. What counts in 20 years is not how white or how Christian we’ll be but whether we’ll still be an open society. Much to learn here from North America and other immigration societies around the globe. Last but not least, a renewed commitment to the West as a globally attractive model, is necessary as well as possible.

    All this is just a sketchy outline of what is needed. But what may well be the most important element in the new rift on what Europe is really all about, has to do with language and communication. Both sides, at least among governments and ruling political parties, must calm down and return to a more rational dialogue. No one in Europe should accuse someone else of belonging to a different century or living outside of reality. If we could achieve that in the upcoming months, it would be a good start.

    [This text was written for the SAC Château Béla Central European Strategic Forum 2015]

    Roland Freudenstein European Union Foreign Policy Migration

    Roland Freudenstein

    A Clash of Cultures ? Refugees and the new East-West divide in the EU

    Blog

    17 Dec 2015

  • Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in the blogpost are those of the author and thus they do not reflect the official position of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies. 

    Indeed, the huge majority of Muslims are not terrorists. But the majority of perpetrators of terrorist acts in Europe since 2001 are Muslims. That fifteen million European Muslims generate more terrorists – including the thousands that travel to join ISIS – than half a billion of Europeans shows that their integration in Europe, especially in France, is failing.

    What can’t Europe do?

    Campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq achieved little but a regrouping of radical Islamists into a different organisation. Bombing the Middle East to Stone Age will not achieve much either. We should stop the migration flows and improve border controls. This would make sense at least until we learn how to better integrate Muslims into our societies.

    But what about all those who are already in Europe? Again, I do not believe much can be achieved by violence. Fencing off Muslim ghettos or sending young jobless people to labor camps is unjust, inhumane and stupid. Policing and security checks are just the last line of defense. Battles with Islamists may be won with weapons, the war not.

    Maybe we need more social workers for Muslim neighborhoods. More basketball and football fields. More and better teachers at schools. More jobs and/or higher welfare. Maybe. I am not so sure, because these services are quite extensive already.

    Win the culture war

    Recently, it became politically incorrect to claim that at least in the last five hundred years, the European civilization has been by far the most successful one on the planet, with clearly superior achievements to its neighbors across the Mediterranean. Calling that Eurocentrism does not make these claims false.

    Europe did not achieve that because of some kind of racial or genetic superiority. We did not have better hardware, we had better software. The fight with Islamic extremism is a fight of two softwares – one that enabled the most successful civilization on earth and the other that – if used dogmatically – was keeping whole nations in the middle ages.

    Simply put, being a member of the European civilization needs to become more attractive. It should be “hip” not to be a member of a local gang of immigrants, but be part of the civilization that built the Champs Elysées, Tulleries and the Arc de Triomphe, Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Church of Saint-Sulpice and the Eiffel Tower, the civilization that has painted the artwork in the Louvre and Orsay, be a part of a country that gave humanity Joan of Arc, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie and Claude Debussy.

    How does this compare to the achievements of the countries that Muslims came from? Politically incorrect question? Here is a politically incorrect answer: at the climax of their power, they added minarets to the largest building on earth at the time, the Christian church of Hagia Sophia. This might be a dramatic exaggeration, Arab Science in the Middle Ages had quite a few achievements, but was held back in the ivory towers. It was Western Science that changed the world.

    Why are we Westerners unable to share the pride for the achievements of our brilliant civilization to immigrants? Why don’t all of them want to become a contributing force to this? Muslim youth could participate in the construction of the largest aircraft and the fastest trains in the world; instead, some are planning to bomb them. Europe had an open border for a long time, they were welcomed, and yet so many remain strangers.

    But not with relativism

    Perhaps this is so because some of the Westerners have lost faith in themselves, have stopped to take pride in their own achievements and roots. Yes, I am talking about the readers who were appalled by the deliberate political incorrectness and Euro-supremacism of the last couple of paragraphs.

    How can we give an African or Arab the desire to become part of this great civilization, when some Europeans prefer to deny their fathers, religion, civilization and its achievements? How can becoming European be attractive if values that are immanently European are labelled “universal human values”?

    No, comrades, liberté, égalité, fraternité are not universal human values. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness neither. These are Western values. Fabriqué en France, made in the USA! As long as some are ashamed to be European, we can’t expect immigrants to want to become a part of our society and culture.

    This society is secular in principle with enough room for Muslim and other faiths, cultures and identities, but without genital mutilation of women, arranged marriages of minors, gender inequality, stoning of gays and bloggers etc. If being European is not able to inspire people, then it is only right that Europe is occupied by a culture that can. The vacuum created by relativism, conceptual entropy and cultural capitulation will be filled with something else. Anything, including Salafism and the sooner, the better. There will be fewer victims.

    Remember Paris 1789

    But if it matters to be European, then our response to the atrocities must also be European. Civilized not barbaric, determined not wishy-washy, proud not shy. Guilt is always individual and never collective. Their way is to kill the innocents, our method is to process the suspects. Sharply, strongly and fairly. If we want to win the war of culture, the last thing we should do is abandon our principles and values.

    As long as proven otherwise, everybody, Muslims and non-Muslims, are free and equal first-class citizens with all their freedoms, rights and duties. They were, are and will be equal, maybe because 2,000 years ago someone said that we are all children of God. And definitely because it was in Paris in 1789 that someone wrote: “People are born free and with equal rights.”

    Not only if we forget what that means, but also if we deny who and in what tradition invented it, Europe as we know it, will be dead.

    Žiga Turk Democracy European Union Society Values

    Žiga Turk

    Remember Paris!

    Blog

    18 Nov 2015

  • HOW TO SEE THE REFUGEE CRISIS

    We are in a time of war, war not in Europe itself, but close enough to Europe to have led to massive outflows of refugees across borders and into Europe. I heard this described at the EPP Congress in Madrid as the “most serious crisis for the European Union since its creation”. This is not an exaggeration. This refugee crisis is on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War and the Spanish Civil war, because this is a war, in Syria and Iraq, of a ferocity and intensity not seen since then. 300,000 people have been killed in the Syrian War. Most of these people are not coming to Europe for economic reasons, or because they are on a mission of any kind, but because they are in fear of their lives. They are seeking refuge. They are the human embodiment of the price of war. Their plight is a human manifestation of what the voluntary European Union was created to avoid in Europe itself: war.

    A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: UNITY OF SOME KIND IN EUROPE HAS BEEN THE RULE, NOT THE EXCEPTION OVER THE PAST 2500 YEARS

    If the EU is facing its most serious crisis ever, it is important that we keep a sense of historical perspective. Only thus can we realise how much is at stake. Over the past 2500 years, Europe has tried various methods to create internal security on this continent. The idea of European political unity of some kind is not something new. It was achieved, initially by force, in the form of the original Roman Empire.

    Because it was created by force, its unity also had to be maintained, from time to time, by force. When it came to an end there was a dramatic collapse in living conditions, because Roman money, as a continent wide means of exchange,  and access to silver to make it, was lost. Living standards in Britain, for example, fell dramatically in the 5th Century AD. There are lessons in this story for the 21st century.

    Later, from the Middle Ages up to the Reformation, there was a form of unity in Europe when, apart from his religious role, the Pope exercised, without the use of military sanctions, a role of arbiter between European states, analogous to that of the European Court of Justice, combined with elements of that of  the United Nations. Even after the Reformation and the Thirty Years War, a form of unity in part of central Europe persisted in the continuance of the Holy Roman Empire, until, after 100 years,  that was dissolved by Napoleon, who attempted to impose his own form of secular European unity by force of arms.

    1815 TO 1950: THE SHORT AND BLOODY ERA OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY

    When Napoleon failed at Waterloo in 1815, Europe entered the era on nation states, supposedly based on absolute national sovereignty and the balance of power. That era ended, after a mere 150 years, in the holocaust of two world wars, the last of which was preceded by an economic crash and the collapse of democracy across the continent.

    1950 TO DATE: THE RETURN TO UNITY AS THE GOAL OF EUROPE

    In response to that failure, something entirely new was attempted, a union of European states held together not by military force, or even by  religious sanction, but by a free and voluntary pooling of sovereignty, based on freely agreed rules. That in the European Union of today. There is much to criticise about the EU, and I will voice some myself this morning, but we should not lose sight of the bigger picture.

    The Union has attracted a stream of new member states, starting with 6, and which has now reached 28. Other federal unions and confederations, in other parts of the world, have not had that experience. It has created  a single market of 500 million consumers, although some barriers still remain.

    2008: ANOTHER ECONOMIC CRISIS, BUT NO RETURN TO PROTECTIONISM, DICTATORSHIP OR WAR

    The EU has come through an economic collapse in Europe, similar to the one that occurred in the 1930’s, but , in contrast to the 1930’s democracy has been preserved in Europe, protectionism and competitive devaluation have been avoided, and, most importantly, European states are still at peace with one another.

    2015: AN UNPRECEDENTED AND UNEXPECTED REFUGEE CRISIS

    Now, just as it has begun to put in place a banking union to underpin its currency, and fiscal rules to ensure that this generation does not rob the next by excess borrowing, it now faces a challenge for which it seems quite unprepared, a flood of refugees fleeing war in their own countrie (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea) and impossible living conditions in the countries in which they originally sought refuge (Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey) who have so many refugees they cannot cope with them. 70% of Turks say the 20 million Syrians in their midst should go home.

    In an ideal world, one would say that this refugee crisis is a global one and all the countries of the world should come together to receive them on a shared basis.  But this is not going to happen. They are heading for Europe.

    Controls on the movement of people across Europe’s external borders, notably between Greece and Turkey, have broken down. As a result of that failure, barriers are now being re erected between countries within the EU, undermining one of the freedoms on which the EU is based, freedom of movement of people. If this persists, one could see it leading to interference with the freedom to move goods across Europe too.  This is an existential challenge.

    But a pooling of sovereignty can only work if states are able and willing to exercise the sovereign powers they have, one of which is controlling their portion of the EU,’s external border. So the next step will be a major EU border force, and EU reception centres where those who qualify as refugees can be separated from those who do not and the latter sent home.

    Those who are refugees will need to be shared among all 28 EU states, which will not be easy as living standards vary within the EU and refugees themselves will  all want to go to the more prosperous states. That said, I believe a majority of them will want to go home to their own countries if peace can be restored.

    2008 TO DATE: THE EU WAS TOO SLOW APPLYING THE LESSONS OF THE FINANCIAL CRISIS

    Meanwhile the EU is moving too slowly in applying the lessons of the financial crisis. Most money in use is not coins or notes, but bank credit of one kind or another. So a currency union without a banking union never made sense.

    We have some elements of a banking union now, a single supervisor for most European Bank and a common EU rule for winding up banks. But these have not been tested yet. That test will come when the EU has to close down a bank in a member state, imposing losses on shareholders bond holders and even customers. Will the EU authorities have the political capital to do that?

    It will be particularly hard to do because Germany has resisted the idea of a common euro are wide deposit insurance system which would spread the losses. The burden will fall solely on the country in which the bank is being closed down. That is not politically viable….an EU institution closing down a bank, which it had supervised,  in a state and that state alone bearing the depositor insurance costs.

    There also may be problems with the Fiscal Rules designed to reduce the debt levels of EU states. These debts are just about bearable now, but if interest rates returned to normal levels, what would happen. For example, the proposed Italian budget for next year, which should be reducing the deficit, is actually increasing it. That may make sense in the context of Italian politics, but it undermines the rules, in the same way that France and Germany undermined the rules 10 years ago.

    Europe does not need to create a complete political or economic union to solve these problems. That is politically impossible. But the European Union does needs to come to a shared pragmatic understanding on all of these problems, and think out a long term plan that serves the interests  of a very diverse group of countries in a fair and speedy way.

    MEANWHILE, THE EU MUST DEAL WITH THE UK PROBLEM

    At a time when the EU is grappling with its own existential issues, it has the deal with one member state which wants to reconsider whether it should be in the EU at all or not. I will not say much about the details of the UK case, and will just make a few brief points.

    • At a time when Polish and Baltic state populations are being asked to accept refugees to relieve the pressure on Italy, Greece and Germany, it will not be easy to persuade them that their citizens should have less “in work” social benefits in Britain than locals enjoy, when Britain is exempt from taking any refugees because it opted out of the Schengen system
    • If Britain wants to be exempt from paying any of the costs of future EU banking failures, it is hard to grant it a veto over rules that might be designed to prevent such failures
    • On the other hand, British demands for a speedy conclusion of the TTIP agreement with the US, and for a completion of, the  long delayed,  EU single Digital and Services markets, are a big opportunity for Europe. They should be grasped with both hands.
    John Bruton European Union Immigration Migration

    John Bruton

    The challenges that the EU must meet today

    Blog

    26 Oct 2015

  • The current refugee crisis is primarily one of collective action between the EU’s national governments. This In Focus argues that without cooperation between the EU states, the situation is not going to improve.

    Among the EU institutions, the Council, that brings together the heads of state and government, plays the decisive role in showing direction and facilitating agreement. As for specific policies, the EU’s dysfunctional asylum system, which is based on 28 national systems, needs to be reformed, including by allowing asylum applications in the countries of origin.

    Member states need to start supplying Frontex, the EU’s external border agency, with personnel and equipment so that the border can be better protected. Turkey, which hosts the highest number of Syrian refugees, is the EU’s main partner in the Middle East.

    The EU also needs a new deal between host countries and newcomers on the refugees’ integration into European societies. One side of this deal is for European governments and societies to demand that newcomers respect basic values, such as freedom of speech, equality between men and women and individual liberty. The other side of the deal is that those who are granted asylum are given opportunities in employment and civic and political life.

    EU Member States European Union Integration Migration

    The Refugee Crisis: Towards better cooperation between Europe’s national governments

    IN FOCUS

    16 Oct 2015

  • The title of this article has positive connotations. It infers that European parties are doing very well and, by taking a few fresh ideas into the 2019 European elections, will be able to do even better. This article will present the current situation of the European political parties and assess the main areas in which improvements can be made to further integration. It is not surprising that this is one of those topics on which researchers have widely divergent opinions.

    Do we really need parties in the EU?

    The EU has evolved into a fully-fledged political system with public opinion, institutions, regulation, and ordinary and extraordinary decision-making procedures. It deals with critical issues, not always visible to the majority of the citizens. These include areas such as agricultural policy, regional development funding instruments, monetary policy, economic policy coordination, the regulation of the internal market and the establishment of the rules governing trade with the rest of the world, among others.

    Although today’s EU is the product of a gradual evolution from the original treaties of the 1950s, much of its current structure is the result of the Maastricht Treaty. The last five years and the enduring financial and sovereign debt crises in the eurozone have further advanced European integration, through the introduction of new institutions and policies to address the design limitations of the monetary union.

    The history of the European political parties and of the pro-European movement are mutually bound together. After several years of sluggish progress on integration in the 1960s due to French reluctance, the 1970s saw significant steps being taken in the European project through the preparation for and introduction of direct elections to the European Parliament (EP). The commencement of the preparatory steps for these elections gave impetus to the creation of European federations.

    Read the full FREE article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Michalis Peglis Elections European Union Political Parties

    Michalis Peglis

    How can European political parties maximise their success in the 2019 elections?

    Blog

    08 Sep 2015

  • Paul Krugman, in the New York Times, urges the Greeks to vote “No” in the referendum next Sunday. So does Joe Stiglitz in another article in the Guardian. Is this serious advice, or an unhelpful extension to Europe of an ongoing American polemic?

    Paul Krugman says the Euro was a “terrible mistake” because he claims it failed to insulate the public finances of the states of the euro zone from bubbles in particular countries, like he says the US system does. In fact, the US only does this to a limited extent, and, unlike the EU, it has no general bailout fund  for states.

     If I recall things correctly, our present collapse in confidence originated in the United States, in a housing bubble in a small number of US states, that eventually engulfed the whole world! The US system did not prevent that.

     Puerto Rico, a US dependency which is in the dollar zone, has got itself into a Greek style debt trap, without the US monetary union, which is much older and stronger than the EU one, being able to prevent it.

     Krugman says that “most of what you hear about Greek profligacy is false”.

     He makes this bizarre claim on the basis that Greece has made cuts and tax increases since 2010. He completely ignores the profligacy, poor tax collection and the debt accumulation that went on for decades before that, when Greece erected a completely unsustainable pension regime, on the strength of borrowed money.

    He says that since 2010, the Greek economy has collapsed because of “austerity”.

    He fails to outline what the Greeks might have used for money since 2010 if, as he seems to advocate, they had continued with their previous “non austere” spending policies. They would not have been able to borrow the difference on commercial markets. Where would they have got the money? Just because a country is in the eurozone it does not mean it can have an unlimited call on the taxes  or loans of other euro members.

    While there is more to do, like euro area wide deposit insurance, the EU has remedied many of the initial design flaws in the euro, something Paul Krugman does not acknowledge .

    He says that “even harsher austerity is a dead end”, as if cuts and tax increases were all that the EU has been urging unsuccessfully on the Greeks.

    Product and labour market reforms, opening up the professions, better tax collection, and privatisations, have been an important part of the recipe urged on Greece by the EU, and these would greatly improve the allocative efficiency of the Greek economy, and promote growth. Greece needs to move its human resources out of unproductive activities, into areas that will earn money from abroad and the EU reforms will assist that.

    Another Nobel Prize winning economist, Joe Stiglitz, in his article in the Guardian also calls for a “No” vote, but is more extreme.

    He claims the eurozone was ”never a democratic project”. He seems to have completely forgotten that the Maastricht Treaty, which created the legal basis for the euro, was approved by the elected parliaments of every state that is currently a member. It was approved in referenda in several countries, including France and Ireland.

    Furthermore, each of  the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers, who make all the key decisions, represent democratically elected governments.

    Greece was not forced to join the euro in the conditions and at the time that it did. This was a free choice of the Greek government.  Now, governments everywhere would sometimes like to repudiate some decisions of their predecessors, but if that luxury is to be afforded it would destroy the basis for credit and inter state relations.

    He makes a more substantial point when he says that a good deal of the money lent to Greece by the taxpayers of other EU countries and the IMF has gone to help them pay debts they owe to private creditors. But he fails to point out that, unlike those of Ireland and Portugal, Greece’s private creditors have been obliged to take a haircut.

    It is true that the money from the EU has  been used in part to repay banks money they had put into Greek government bonds. Some of these banks were indeed French and German. But some were from outside the euro zone altogether, including from Professor Stiglitz’s own country and from the UK, in one of whose newspapers he is writing.

    Back in the 2010/2012 period, thanks the crisis which started after Lehman Brothers went south, there was a legitimate public interest, a public good, in preventing a run on ANY of these banks. 

    There remains a justifiable argument, however, that it was unfair that the taxpayers of a few countries should now be bearing a disproportionate share of the cost of this public good, which the whole world has enjoyed.

     Yes, the taxpayers of the rest of the euro zone should, in moral terms, bear more of the burden.

     But if that is so, so also should the taxpayers of non euro zone countries like the US and the UK, whose banks were also saved when Ireland, Greece and Portugal got help . 

    Why should German taxpayers, whose personal incomes have grown more slowly than elsewhere in Europe, and who face substantial extra costs in the near future due to ageing, be the focus of all the wrath?

    But then neither Professor Krugman, nor Professor Stiglitz are writing for German, Slovak, Latvian public opinion.

    They are writing in journals, published in countries, whose governments are not being asked to write more and more cheques for a Greek Government, that seems to blame everyone else for home grown problems.

    There is, I believe, an argument for a comprehensive debt conference to consider whether the burdens of dealing with the aftermath of the Lehman collapse, have been fairly distributed between the governments of the world.

    But the convening of any such conference, and eligibility for any help from it, should be something that might happen five years from now, and be conditional on growth promoting reforms, and budget balancing, already having been fully implemented by governments seeking debt relief from it. Perhaps a Third Party might put such a proposal forward, as a way of getting out of the terrible situation Greece is bringing upon itself.

    John Bruton Crisis Economy European Union Eurozone

    John Bruton

    Krugman and Stiglitz: dispatches from a far far away land

    Blog

    02 Jul 2015

  • In an act of irresponsibility and opportunism, Alexis Tsipras put on the shoulders of the Greek people the burden of the decision about the country’s destiny. The referendum, scheduled for next Sunday, 5 July, rests on shaky grounds for several reasons.

    1. Is it legal? It is questionable whether it is in conformity with the Greek Constitution as it concerns an issue of fiscal economics. There are also serious procedural deficiencies.
    2. Is it late? The referendum is untimely as it will be waged five days following the date on which Greece failed to make a debt payment to the IMF. The Tsipras government has planned to receive the people’s verdict when it might be too late.
    3. Is it fair? The Greek people are asked a very cunning question. They are called to say whether they approve or not a program consisting of a series of austerity measures, following five years of recession. The ‘Yes’ vote is set to signify approval of some version (as negotiations were never completed) of the bailout program. The ‘No’ vote, that carries the endorsement of the government, indicates disapproval for the program and, allegedly, nothing more. Although the crux of the matter is the country’s position in the Eurozone, Tsipras deceitfully tries to conceal or downplay the true consequences of the people’s choice.

    The Greek government has admittedly committed a series of mistakes since its election in January. To be fair, the creditors too have underestimated the socio-economic consequences of a long array of austerity measures that have been applied since 2010. There is widespread ‘austerity fatigue’ in the country and despair for the lack of a clear vision for the return to growth.

    Yet, the overwhelming majority of the Greek people unequivocally supports the country’s EU membership. The most vicious part of this campaign is that the government uses a deeply divisive nationalistic rhetoric that seeks to alienate and separate the Greek from the European identity. But this is a nonstarter.

    • Are the ‘Yes’ voters less Greek?  On the contrary. In the referendum, most Greeks are expected to vote ‘Yes’ in order to protect their country’s place in the European family. In an unprecedented demonstration of wisdom and bravery, thousands of low-income pensioners and employees may vote themselves (in the place of their government and contrary to the latter’s suggestion) in favor of a bailout plan containing measures that will affect their lives directly.
    • Are the ‘No’ voters less European? Far from the truth. Those who will vote ‘No’, do not collectively form an anti-European constituency. Many pro-European forces may buy into the rhetoric of Tsipras that Greece’s position in the Eurozone is not in jeopardy and cast a vote for ‘No’ out of fear of prolonged austerity.

    The outcome of a referendum revolving around a complex and nastily articulated question that additionally takes place within just a week in a climate of fear and uncertainty is hard to predict. Although the country’s European future is at stake, we should not hastily read the referendum result as a vote containing a genuine answer to the question, in or out of the EU. Remember, the government has not dared to articulate such a clear-cut question.

    Irrespectively of the referendum outcome, the EU is urged not to turn its back to the Greek people. For every Greek, being European is not a matter of choice. It is self-referential. And the EU should not lose sight of the insidious way Tsipras attempts to extract the ‘No’ vote. In all circumstances, the EU partners should be ready to help the country to overcome a hardship that has lasted for too long. If the ‘Yes’ vote prevails as I am expecting, the referendum will be studied in the future as a paradigmatic case of a demos that defied its government in times of crisis and put its European identity above and beyond any other discussion. 

    [Photo source:www.bloomberg.com]

    Nikolaos Tzifakis Crisis Democracy European Union Eurozone

    Nikolaos Tzifakis

    The right answer to the wrong question

    Blog

    01 Jul 2015

  • The British Governments plan to renegotiate the terms of its membership of the EU do not come at a good time. The EU is tackling the possibility of Greece leaving the euro, and Ukraine going bankrupt while simultaneously being dismantled by force by Russia

    Now, while doing all that, the EU has also to address itself to a, yet to be revealed, British re-negotiation agenda. It is likely that this agenda, to some extent, will be shaped around David Cameron’s assessment of what he has a good chance of being conceded.  He is touring EU capitals to find that out. That is a sensible and pragmatic approach on his part.

    What he gets will probably not satisfy the 100 or so Tory MPs who simply want the UK to leave the EU. And with a majority of only 12, David Cameron cannot ignore these MPs.  Other EU leaders will have to judge how close they should go to their bottom line, just to satisfy opinion in a country which may  leave the EU  anyway.

    There is one issue on which David Cameron’s demands are already very explicit and clear…the rights of recent EU immigrants living in the UK. This may, or may not, include Irish immigrants living in Britain, but I expect it could be difficult in EU law for Britain, inside the EU, to discriminate in favour of the Irish against other EU nationals. 

    The Conservative Manifesto could not be clearer on the position of recent immigrants from other EU countries. It says that: “If (EU) jobseekers have not found a job within 6 months, they will be required to leave.“ This seems to be in direct conflict with Article 20 of the EU Treaty which gives EU citizens a right to “move and reside freely within the territory of (other) member states.”

    Furthermore, the Manifesto recalls that the Government  has  already banned housing benefit for EU immigrants, and goes on to say “We will insist that EU migrants who want to claim tax credit and child benefit must have lived here for five years”. This seems in flat contradiction of Article 45 of the EU Treaty which requires
    “the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers as regards employment, remuneration, and other conditions of employment.” Tax credits are a form of negative income tax. If discrimination in respect of tax credits were to be permitted, it would become impossible, within the EU, to resist a proposal to apply different income tax rates, or different tax free allowances, to people of different EU nationalities.

    The irony of the UK Governments position is that they want a stronger Single Market, with greater freedom to sell goods and services, and move capital, across boundaries within the EU. But they wish to resist the freedom of movement of workers across EU boundaries ! This will be seen by many in the rest of the EU as ideologically biased, as well as discriminatory.

    Angela Merkel, a politician who always looks for hard evidence, will be interested to discover that, between 2005 and 2014, only 33% of immigrants to the UK came from other EU countries, like Ireland. Only 2.5% of all benefit claimants in the UK originate from other EU countries, and EU immigrants to the UK are only half as likely, as native UK subjects, to claim benefit.

    Another knotty question, within the UK itself, will be the position of the devolved governments in Scotland , Northern Ireland and Wales. For example, given their electoral support level, how can David Cameron exclude the Scottish Nationalists from the UK negotiating team? Offering to include them could be good politics. Excluding them from the negotiating team, if they requested a place, would make a Scottish exit from the UK more likely

    A UK demand  is likely to be the repatriation of more powers, from Brussels to the 28 member parliaments, including Westminster. The difficulty here is that a comprehensive “Competence Review” by the  UK Foreign Office, across the whole range of EU powers, failed to come up with  many concrete suggestions for powers that ought to be repatriated.

    The UK may also demand a “red card “ system, whereby EU laws, already approved  in the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament ,where the UK is already well represented in both, could be derailed  by vetoes from a number of national parliaments. This would prolong and delay, the already laborious, process of EU law making.

    It would also run directly counter to another UK demand, for completion of the EU Single market. For example, the outstanding matters of creating a Single market in Digital Services, in Energy, and in Capital for lending, all in the UK’s interests, require more new EU laws,  not less. 
    The unintended often happens in politics.

    The proposed “red card” would, I believe, be more likely to be used by other EU states  to block things the UK wants, than the other way around.

    These difficulties all suggest that David Cameron should seek to reframe the entire negotiation, both in the way he presents it at home, and in the rest of the EU.

    Rather than looking for exceptions for the UK, he should emphasise Britain’s capacity to take the lead in  the EU in clearing away barriers to economic growth across all of Europe, a stance that would play to his country’s strength, and would  put others on the back foot.

    John Bruton Elections EU Member States European Union

    John Bruton

    Cameron’s renegotiation will not be easy

    Blog

    27 May 2015

  • Walking in the streets of Pristina nowadays, you may be surprised to find a magazine discussing sexuality, Kosovo 2.0, in a region where these issues are usually never discussed. Inside, articles on seduction techniques, on homosexuality and on discrimination against young women; a stark contrast to the reality in the country, where there remains a wall of silence on such topics. The publication of this issue has caused great public discussion and even aggression on the street close to a stand where the magazine was being sold. The culprits were immediately condemned by the courts and by a large part of the population.

    This event exemplifies the pride the European Union (EU) should feel for social dynamics that fall in line with its values. Yet, political and economic advances are slow. The new Juncker Commission stated it would not support the integration of new countries in the EU over the next four years. European public opinion explains that stance partly: support for the integration of new members has fallen to 20-25%. Brussels insists on the need to stabilize a ‘28 nations EU’ — Croatia having recently joined in 2013 — and the need to accelerate the pace of reforms in the area.

    Conditioning the integration of the Western Balkans on progress re; corruption, unemployment and public services makes sense. Rumours abound linking political manipulations to a shootout in the northern Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia town of Kumanovo, leaving twenty-two dead, including eight police officers, on May 9th. In Kosovo, a corruption case opened in 2014 against the rule of law mission EULEX, was used as one of the pretexts for an entrenched institutional stalemate while the rule of law makes little progress. The gains of twenty years of US/EU stabilization efforts are at stake.

    Those gains are now up for grabs. Vladimir Putin is making headway in the Western Balkans as well. The Serbian President presented Putin with the highest honour of the country in October 2014, a ceremony that owes much to the Russian control of Serbian oil and gas companies. Moscow also encourages the secession of the Serb Republic of Bosnia (Republika Srpska), which was ultimately discouraged by Belgrade in 2014 for the sake of its European integration perspectives. Given that growing regional competition, is Europe as decisive as it is demanding? Are we influencing events through assistance injected through our EU missions and delegations?

    The European integration dynamic still works and some Balkan countries, such as Albania, moved towards pre-accession negotiations. The EU brokered an essential agreement between Kosovo and Serbia in 2013. Overall the knack for Europe still outweighs external pressures and ethnic divisions. Nevertheless, Brussels remains cornered by the dilemma of a potential Balkan shift towards Russia and Turkey on one side, and the prerequisite of reforms needed before joining the EU on the other, to prevent a major migration and economic shock. Eventually, bar German activism in the area, Europe offers little love in that uneasy transition period. Few EU politicians travel there to insist that Balkan societies share our values and are part of our family.

    That is a shame. Civil society has finally woken up after decades of communism, ethnic conflicts and peacekeeping interventions. They feel European but still need our attention to progress further as their elites are only viewing policies in a self-serving light. In Bosnia, citizens’ groups’-dubbed “plenum”- have organised anti-government protests since February 2014. A year earlier, the Bulgarian government had fallen due to protests denouncing the rise in electricity bills and rampant corruption. Again, on May 17th, thousands gathered in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to demand the resignation of long serving Prime Minister Gruevski.

    What is Brussels doing in the meantime to show support for democratic and anti-corruption movements? We need to continue to show an interest in the progress made by reformist Balkan politicians or otherwise support popular movements. Only then will the EU foster political alternatives in line with its values and interests, creating the space for further integration in Europe. Failing states on the European continent should not be an option.

    Michael Benhamou Paolo Brandi Balkans Democracy European Union

    Michael Benhamou

    Paolo Brandi

    Western Balkans and Europe: showing the love, finally?

    Blog

    19 May 2015

  • With the increasing terror threat in Europe, even politicians from mainstream parties are beginning to toy with the idea of reintroducing national border checks inside the Schengen Area. This area consists of 26 European countries that have agreed to abolish internal border controls. ‘Schengen’ includes the so-called ‘compensatory measures’ that take into account the interests of the signatory governments and incorporate the Schengen Information System, better judicial cooperation, a common visa policy and controls at the external borders.

    Unfortunately, responding to the terror attacks in Paris in January 2015, certain politicians have called for national borders being gradually reintroduced. In some cases, policy proposals may just be using sloppy language; in other cases there is an intention to go back to the old days.

    For example, there has been talk of ‘strengthening of border security with targeted controls’. Under the current Schengen regime, national authorities are allowed to conduct routine police checks on their territory but are not allowed to undertake border controls, except for strictly limited periods of time. Executing police authority inside a member state is a country’s duty.  Imposing ‘targeted controls’ could mean a return to border checks, a highly questionable move. 

    There has also been talk about introducing ‘internal border checks’. The existing Schengen Border Code states that ‘internal borders may be crossed at any point without a border check on persons being carried out.’ Schengen rules are exactly about that, about NOT requesting travellers’ documentation on the internal borders. ‘Internal border checks’ would thus abolish the main pillar of Schengen. The complex architecture of Schengen rules would simply collapse – there would not be much ‘Schengen’ left.

    Another phrase that has appeared is ‘an intelligent use of the ‘Schengen internal control mechanism’. The problem is that there is no such thing as a Schengen internal control mechanism.’ If this were to mean a better sharing of data within the Schengen Information System or better judicial cooperation, that would help to catch suspected terrorists. But if this were to mean internal border checks, it would be a move contrary to the letter and spirit of the Lisbon Treaty.

    Schengen is not some ‘naïve’ project that has simply abolished internal borders controls. Schengen consists also of many measures which could help us in fighting terrorism. For example, police cooperation, judicial cooperation in criminal matters, control of firearms, guarding and policing the external border of the Schengen Area and a better operation of the Schengen Information System could all help in identifying and tracking suspects. All these activities can be made to operate better, without internal borders in Europe being reinstated. As a related point, including Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen Area would help in tackling terrorism as the sophisticated internal Schengen rules would have to be applied by these countries.

    So rather than introducing new legislation, let us make better use of our existing rules and let us invite Romania and Bulgarian to join Schengen. That way we would do a better job in preventing further deaths in Europe. And if we come to a conclusion that the Schengen Border Code needs to be amended, preserving the legality of controls will be extremely important.

    It has been said many times before but it is worth repeating: Islamic jihad and other forms of terrorism have succeeded when they have made us curtail our rights and liberties. Let us not make the terrorists’ ‘job’ any easier.

    (with thanks to an anonymous reviewer)

    Vít Novotný European Union Extremism Foreign Policy Immigration

    Vít Novotný

    Europe’s Passport-Free Zone Needs to Remain Free

    Blog

    25 Feb 2015

  • A significant town in the north of France – Hénin Beaumont, 26.000 inhabitant-strong – has recently decided to shift from seventy years of socialism to Front National (FN), France’s extreme right anti-EU party. The 2014 Municipal elections gathered 64% of voters and 50,3% of their ballots went to the new FN Mayor, Steeve Briois. No second round was needed.

    What caused that conversion ? Where is Europe’s responsibility ? Think tanks Atelier Europe and the Martens Centre went on the spot to listen, hear Henin’s complaints and exchange views.

    The first source of discontent turned out to be the former Mayor’s fraud scandal and budget mismanagement, yet the debate revealed a deeper feeling of abandonment : « after World War II, French governments took a lot of taxes from our coal, textile and steel outputs and when all that closed down, nobody invested in our region to transform it ». Workers, engineers were left with the choice of unemployment or migration to other regions in France’s East-central areas. When asked about Charlie Hebdo and the recent terrorist attacks, the answer is quite blunt : « all of this is very Parisian here, far from our concerns. We want jobs ».

    The European Union is perceived as being unsupportive of those violent social changes : « Europe forgets the young and the old, […], Europe only brings more austerity to our problems, […] Europe is breaking up social achievements and serves the interests of free marketeers ». Others complained about the difficulty of filling FEDER’s paperwork, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in small towns where none are trained  for it.

    For many citizens of Hénin, despite their proximity to Belgium, Brussels is perceived as a cold place where few of them are at ease. Bringing a case or a project to the EU is « simply distressing ».

    Panelists answered back that Europe actually brings more opportunity and solidarity. The example of a participant’s close friend was mentioned : Italian born, she studied in France thanks to Erasmus and later on found a job in Sweden, learning two new languages in the process. One listener interjected that « she also sent her kids abroad, to Germany, and Europe requires a lot of efforts, a lot of contortions to reach employment. Eventually what you see scares you ; the lack of activity is everywhere in the south, in Spain, in Italy ». And Europe’s institutions are « just confusing ».

    Hénin residents believe they have accepted a lot of compromise and adapted to the best of their abilities. Many left their families and region to find work elsewhere with very limited support from Paris and Brussels, in their view. They wonder where all those economic and political disruptions are leading them to, for what Europe ?

    This is where Front National plays its best cards : you are making sacrifices for a Europe that accelerates that instability and favors immigration […] bring back your energy to a project you can control and understand : your nation and your community.

    Combating that fatigue, and the egoistic temptations conveyed by far-right parties, reminds us of the challenges that awaits political representatives and all of us:

    • Engage citizens in towns where participation at EU’s elections is low or negative ;
    • Persevere in explaining Europe and the direction of its policies ;
    • In a nutshell : make Europe a frontier that can be reached again.

    Michael Benhamou Democracy European Union Populism Values

    Michael Benhamou

    Defending Europe in Hénin Beaumont

    Blog

    23 Jan 2015

  • In response to the terrorist attacks in Paris between 7 and 9 January 2015, Marine Le Pen, head of France’s Front National, made several statements. She was right to blame Islamic fundamentalism as an ideology that inspired the terrorists. But most of her responses to the attacks deserve to be refuted.

    Firstly, on the day following the murders at Charlie Hebdo headquarters, Le Pen suggested a referendum on the death penalty in France. She would introduce this referendum if she were to be elected as French president in 2017. Secondly – and she was not the only European populist to do so – she seized on Paris attack by targeting European immigration policies. Specifically, she stated that President Hollande should suspend French membership in the Schengen Agreement. This Agreement governs the functioning of a visa-free zone of people on the territories of its European signatories.

    Le Pen’s proposals are not only populist, they are also ineffective. A return to death penalty would bring France’s law closer to countries with whose political systems Le Pen probably would not want to be associated, such as Syria. And the record of the death penalty in preventing crime is more than questionable.

    [Photo source: www.lemonde.fr]

    The suggestion that France should suspend its membership in Schengen is even more absurd. The perpetrators of the terrorist attacks, the Kouachi brothers and Ahmed Coulibaly, were French citizens born in France. They learned the terrorist trade not in the countries that their parents originated from, that is Algeria and Senegal. Instead, these terrorists were trained in Yemen and Syria, countries where they had no family connections. They did not require Schengen visas to be able to commit terrorism. Withdrawing from the Schengen Agreement thus would not contribute in the slightest to preventing similar attacks in the future. And linking terrorism to immigration would mean focusing on the wrong factor, thus wasting precious resources in tackling terrorism.

    On a more general level, it’s not clear how changes in immigration policies would help in tackling jihadist violence on Europe’s soil. Improving cooperation among our secret services, monitoring suspects and defeating ISIS seem like much more effective policies. When it comes to immigrants or people with an immigrant ancestry, the real policy challenge in front of us is the integration of these people into society.

    The 3.7 million of people who demonstrated in support of tolerance and free speech after the Paris attacks, demonstrated that liberal democracy is not dead in Europe. If our liberal democratic systems are to survive, we must not wreck them by annihilating our freedoms. We must also be much more confident in our efforts to integrate immigrants and their children in European society.

    Vít Novotný European Union Immigration Values

    Vít Novotný

    The Paris terror attacks should not influence EU immigration policies

    Blog

    15 Jan 2015

  • There already have been two or three enquiries by outside experts into the things that went wrong in Ireland between 2000 and 2008, that led to the banking crisis.

    Now that ground is being traversed again by a Committee of elected politicians.

    What extra value can this Oireachtas Enquiry add to what has been found by the expert enquiries?

    The crucial job to be done by the Oireachtas Enquiry is to discover whether, since 2008 and since the completion of the earlier expert enquiries, the Irish state and the EU, have done enough to prevent this sort of banking crisis happening here again. It is hard to see how the latter part of that task can be dealt without some input from the ECB.

    Some may think a similar property led banking crisis is most unlikely. They assume everyone has learned the lesson, and that the memory of 2008 will stay fresh for decades to come .I am not so sure.

    The present artificially low interest rates, and the lack of sufficient investment opportunities outside property could easily lead to another property bubble.

    A recent paper by Larry Summers for the US National Institute of Business Economics suggests that we may be in for a very long period of low interest rates on a global basis,  combined with few opportunities for productive investment.

    If that proves to be the case, the temptation for that cheap money again to seek returns by speculatively lending to buy property, in the hope of a capital gain, will be very strong.

    We must not forget that it is really hard to apply the brakes during a boom, so we need to work on the road signals well ahead of time.

    The reason it is hard to put on the brakes in mid boom is because so many people would lose if the boom stopped. If people have borrowed money on the assumption that property prices will continually rise, they will go bust if property prices stop rising. These borrowers will punish the politician or institution who stops the boom. In such circumstances, everyone (including regulators) will prefer to leave the blowing of the whistle, and the blame taking for the resultant property price decline, to someone else.

    A similar problem would arise if a government decided to take the heat out of the market, by running an exceptionally large surplus of taxation over spending, instead of giving in to spending demands.

    In politics, it is difficult to run a large budget surplus, as one will tend to have during boom, if there is one family without a house, one patient untreated by the health services, or one pay demand unmet. Anyone who urged the government to do that would be shouted down, by the very people who would subsequently condemn that government for letting the bubble develop.

    The crucial task for the Banking Enquiry is to help Ireland develop institutions that will have the popular respect, and the legitimacy, to lean strongly against the wind of popular opinion during a boom, without doing so when the economy is not in a boom. This is an art, not a science. But if that is not done, we will have another banking crisis.

    I do not believe we have such institutions in place yet. Even the new European Single Supervisory Mechanism for banks will be subject to political pressures from member states. The recommendations of the European Commission in favour of fiscal prudence are being undermined by some governments, and by much economic commentary.

    Those who give bad news during a boom, put their careers at risk. In the pre crisis years in Ireland, an intolerance of dissent existed within the banks themselves, and within the in the institutions supervising the banks, including government.

    Dr. Nyberg found that, in Ireland in pre crash period,

    “A minority of people indicated that contrarian views were both difficult to maintain during the long boom, and unhealthy to present to boards or superiors. A number of people stated that had they implemented or consistently supported contrarian policies, they may ultimately have lost their jobs, positions, or reputations.”

    Will that be any different the next time?

    The Oireachtas Banking Enquiry needs to ask itself honestly, if enough has changed since 2008, to ensure that this sort of conformist response to a new bubble, would not recur in political parties, in the media, in the economics profession, in the Department of Finance, and in the banks in Ireland.

    In other words, has Irish human nature, or Irish culture, changed sufficiently as a result of the experience of 2008, to avoid a repetition?  If it has not, new institutional structures are needed to safeguard against these weaknesses of human nature and culture.

    Blaming individuals is all too easy, but devising new institutions that counter natural human instincts is very difficult indeed. But these are the questions that matter.

    It is also important to look at the macroeconomic forces that led to the Irish property bubble.

    We must remember that an infinite amount of credit, trying to buy into a finite commodity, developable land, is a recipe for disaster.

    In the years before the crash, there was an almost infinite amount of credit on offer to buy into something that was in inherently limited supply, land on which property could be built.

    A situation like this will always be volatile.

    If the unlimited credit was, instead, able to find a home producing new products or new services, of which (unlike land) the supply was not inherently limited, there would be a much less volatile situation. But sufficient such opportunities may not be available.

    As Larry Summers points out“it used to require tens of millions of dollars to start a significant new venture, but significant venture can be seeded(nowadays) with tens of thousands of dollars”.

    This is because the big new ventures today are in software, which does not require big capital spending. In the past, the big breakthroughs were in the motor industry, steel, or aviation, which required huge amounts of capital.

    If there is too much capital, and too few productive opportunities,the risk is that  all the cheap money, now being pumped into the system by the Central Banks all over the world to revive the economy, will find its way into another property bubble, simply because it will have nowhere else to go.

    If this is so, a higher risk rating should be placed by the Central Bank and by the European Supervisor of banks on that portion of a loan that covers the value of the site on which a property is built. This is because, in an era of cheap money, site values are more volatile, and more subject to speculative pressures up and down, than any other subject of bank lending.

    John Bruton Banking European Union

    John Bruton

    Ireland’s banking equiry… what it needs to find out

    Blog

    13 Jan 2015

  • Book review: European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess and How to Put Them Right, by Philippe Legrain

    The efficiency of Europe’s reaction to the post-2008 economic crisis continues to fuel a vibrant debate. Was austerity the best solution to the problem or did it make things worse by creating a vicious circle of underdevelopment? Did European leaders respond effectively to the challenge or did they get carried away by developments which they just couldn’t control? And what about the European Union itself? Was the crisis a positive test for its coherence or did it prove that it was ill-equipped and badly prepared to deal with extraordinary conditions?

    This debate lays the background of Michael Legrain’s analysis which can be found in his much discussed book, European Spring. Legrain argues that Europe has made a series of mistakes, the most important of which is the obsession with fiscal austerity. For Legrain austerity measures not only did not cure the illness of public debts, but on the contrary plunged the members of the European Union into a much deeper recession. The ‘medicine’ had exactly the opposite results than the ones expected. It drained economies of valuable resources without dealing with the deeper underlying causes of the problem: Europe’s low productivity and low competitiveness in comparison with the United States, China, India, Brazil, as well as other emerging economies. He even suggests that the German example, which is presented as the model that other European countries should follow, is nothing more than an illusion.

    Apart from describing the grim picture, Legrain makes suggestions on how to build a brighter future for Europe. He seeks the answer in a combination of economic and political renewal. European economies should try to become more adaptable to rapidly changing conditions: openness and flexibility seem to be the key words here. From a political point of view, he argues that Europe should not hesitate to experiment with new forms of democracy (including direct democracy) which will make citizens more actively involved. Economy and politics are seen as the two sides of the same coin. Despite the great obstacles, the author remains optimistic. On condition that European countries make the necessary reforms, he believes that they still stand a good chance of overcoming these obstacles and that the European Union will continue to remain a focus for development in the long term.

    Legrain’s book is crisply and obviously benefits from its firsthand knowledge of EU decision making at the highest level based on his period as an Economic advisor to then Commission President Barroso.  His arguments are very well articulated and can be easily understood by the average reader. He appears to have an answer to every question. However, one cannot refrain from thinking that many of the things he proposes are easier said than done. Innovative ideas often seem too good to become reality. But that’s exactly what makes them ever more appealing!

    Antonis Klapsis Crisis Development Economy European Union Macroeconomics

    Antonis Klapsis

    Easier said than done

    Blog

    16 Dec 2014

  • “Mantra” (Sanskrit मंत्र) means a sacred utterance… or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power. –  Wikipedia

    As 2014 is drawing to a close, let’s take a look at how the West has debated its reaction to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. With all the controversy, there is nevertheless a number of statements that more or less everybody can agree on, at least in Europe. I call them the four mantras of the Ukraine debate. I don’t claim they are false or mistaken. But the way they are formulated, none of them stands closer scrutiny, because they all are more or less massively beside the point.

    1. ‘The West has made mistakes, too’:

    Actually, the statement as such is what Americans call a no-brainer. Who doesn’t ever make mistakes? The question is: which were the mistakes? And here we get some interesting disagreement. One school claims that the West was too triumphant after the end of the Cold War, expanded NATO ignoring Russia’s fears, and crossed another Russian red line with its attempt to drag Ukraine into the West (thereby also forcing an unwanted choice upon the poor Ukrainians: Russia or us). This argument, or at least parts of it, has been made by many – probably in its most coherent form by the neo-realist U.S. pundit John Mearsheimer.

    The other school is best represented by the American journalist Anne Applebaum: If anything, the West has nurtured the illusion of a cooperative Russia modernising along Western lines for much too long. Even when those who know better (i.e. the Poles, the Balts and a few others) had warned their Western partners that it was an illusion. As Estonian President Toomas Ilves likes to say: Georgia in 2008 was the wake-up call but we’ve been hitting the snooze button ever since. From France’s sale of the Mistral assault ships to our slow reaction to Russia’s blatant attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in February 2014: It was our mistake not to challenge Russia much earlier and more decisively. We might actually have saved Ukraine, ourselves and the whole of Europe a lot of trouble.

    2. ‘We need to keep the channels for dialogue open’:

    Sure, talking always feels good. Some say that ‘as long as people talk, they don’t shoot!’ – Nice. The problem with this conventional wisdom of Western diplomacy is that by the time it is uttered, the shooting usually has been going on for some time – just not by NATO, the U.S. or the respective coalition of the willing. Because to talk it takes two, but to shoot it only takes one who has at least a Kalashnikov and the determination to use it. And as we have seen, the shooting in the Donbas can very well go on while the talking is being solemnly carried out in Geneva, Vienna, Paris or Minsk.

    It all boils down to the street thug techniques that Vladimir Putin learned as a teenager in the backyards of Leningrad, in what he still proudly calls his ‘street university’(look it up in Masha Gessen’s book). A good khuligan (=hooligan) first punches you in the nose, and then leaves you a choice: you can be unreasonable and escalate the situation, or you can be reasonable and work out a mutual compromise: You give him your wallet, and he will even smile at you again.

    So where does this leave us? Communication is good, but only if it serves a purpose and if it doesn’t keep us from calling a spade a spade, and from doing what needs to be done, such as broad-based economic sanctions. The West needs to have a position that is based on our core values, and back up this position with hard power, otherwise it’s pointless.

    3. ‘There is no military solution’:

    This one is really popular. From UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to Chancellor Angela Merkel, even to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, everyone agrees on this one. Again, there is nothing wrong with the sentence as such. Of course wars never solve anything. They never sort anything out (except for slavery in the US, the holocaust and a few dictators, as P.J. O’Rourke likes to point out). The trouble with Russia’s new cold war is that there is no quick solution to it, period. Ed Lucas from the Economist has pointed that out brilliantly.  As long as Putin wants it to drag on, it will continue, no matter what he signed. The fate of the Minsk agreement should have demonstrated that. What amazes me is that anyone in their right mind and not on the Kremlin’s payroll still believes that Mr Putin’s public statements, assurances in interviews, or even signatures, have any true meaning whatsoever.

    Now, instead of uttering banalities such as ‘There is no military solution’, the much more interesting question is: Can there be an improvement in the situation as long as Ukraine is militarily as hopelessly inferior to Russia as it is at the moment? As for me, the answer is a clear no. Ukraine, after a democratic revolution, has been wrongfully attacked by its neighbor who is now bullying the whole neighbourhood. To take Western military intervention off the table from the very beginning, was tactically questionable but may have been necessary to calm down public opinion in Europe and America. But that does not mean that the West, or at least individual countries, shouldn’t help Ukraine to at least partly redress the imbalance militarily. That goes from training to the delivery of non-lethal equipment to modern small arms and anti-tank and air defence weapons.

    The simple truth is that sanctions may not be enough to make Russia change course. The military price tag of Russia’s aggression counts: The more of those ‘vacationing volunteers’ come home in body bags, the more precarious Putin’s image will become at home, all Novorossiya talk notwithstanding. All this does not mean stability will return if and when military options are brought back to the table. But it means that the Ukrainian government will be able to talk and act with more self-confidence. Which should be a worthwhile goal, and would spur the domestic reform effort of Ukraine.

    4. ‘There is no stability against or without Russia’:

    This is another beauty. As if Putin’s Russia was interested in stability as we define it – or at least most of us do. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how people can consider a Europe with buffer zones and spheres of influence a stable place. I thought we’ve been through that for a few centuries. I cannot see why we should even endorse the idea that some countries which have the bad luck of being close to Russia, cannot freely choose their political system and alliances, and are somehow doomed to live in an authoritarian kleptocracy.

    So it all depends on which Russia we’re talking about. As Mikheil Saakashvili said in 2013: We will have stability in Europe when Russia becomes a normal nation state. Because at the moment, it isn’t (and hasn’t been for a long time). Instead, at least in its self-description, Russia is an empire and empires have no borders. As long as that is the case, there will be no stability. We’d better prepare for a long conflict with Putin’s Russia. It will have political, diplomatic, psychological, economic and military aspects. It will neither be all-out war nor a repetition of the Cold War. It will even still contain elements of cooperation. But it will only be over when there is a fundamental change in Moscow.

    If we really want a better future for the Ukrainians and the people in Eastern Europe (including Russians) and if we seriously aim at a Europe Whole and Free, we should go beyond the mantras. We need to shape up and win this. Otherwise, Mr Putin wins. And that would mean the end of NATO, the EU and Europe as we know it.

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia European Union Foreign Policy

    Roland Freudenstein

    Ukraine beyond the mantras

    Blog

    15 Dec 2014

  • 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, for most Europeans, personal reminiscences mingle with historical reflections and a certain idea of an uncertain future. The opening of the border between East and West Berlin on the evening of 9 November, 1989, not only opened the road to the unification of Germany. It also brought European communism to an end, the classical East-West confrontation (a.k.a. Cold War) to a close, and it paved the way to a ‘Europe Whole and Free’, in the words of the then U.S. President George H. W. Bush.

    In the midst of so many comments and observations about that magic year, here are three simple insights:

    First, the Wall was brought down by the people, not by Mikhail Gorbachev. The revolution of 1989 was, first and foremost, not made by somehow enlightened communist first secretaries that had suddenly come to their senses, or fallen in love with free elections. The Wall came down because the people had had enough of it, and were willing to risk everything, even their lives, in order to change their political system. That was also because a functioning alternative, Western Europe’s liberal democracy, was there. And it was because there were leaders in the West that were alert and determined enough to help the freedom movements in the East at the right time: Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior. The reason why most party leaders of the Warsaw Pact and their henchmen in army and secret police did not use force, was that they did not believe force would ultimately be able to save communism. But saving communism was still their project – from Warsaw to Moscow via East Berlin, different speeds notwithstanding, they all tried an organised retreat, step by step, until it was too late for them to keep the Wall standing.

    Second, the fall of the Wall was a great moment in time. On the backdrop of what came before, but also what we seem to go through today, 1989 and the decade that followed were a time of universal human progress. Democratic revolutions were achieved almost bloodlessly, and the transformation to the rule of law, democracy and the market economy in Central Europe was a huge success, compared to any other attempt made elsewhere since then. Economic, political and cultural globalisation received a huge boost in the two decades after 1989, thanks to that. Even Western economies felt a need to reform and become more globally competitive as a consequence. The Eastern enlargement of the two decisive Euroatlantic institutions, NATO and the EU, was another achievement. But maybe even more importantly, democratic capitalism spread globally. Political and economic freedom, and the idea that they are deeply interlinked, made dictators recede and emboldened democrats in Latin America, Africa and Asia as well.

    But, third, the end of the Wall was not the end of history. Liberal democracy and democratic capitalism, 25 years after 1989, seem in retreat. The Slovene neo-Marxist Slavoj Žižek recently said that global democracy was shaken by 9/11, and global capitalism took a hit in the economic and financial crisis since 2008. China seems to prove every day that economic prosperity and impressive growth figures are possible without political freedom – and that authoritarian systems may even be better for the economy than multi-party democracy. From Vladimir Putin to the jihadists of Islamic State, the rejection of ‘Western decadence’, and a broad refusal to take any ‘lessons’ anymore, seem to be gaining ground. But it would be very short-sighted to believe that the West is finished. Authoritarian systems, and illiberal democracies without proper checks and balances, feel much less secure than they like to pretend. Witness the intensifying crackdowns on internet freedom in China, Russia and other countries, even Turkey. And note that from Kiev’s Euromaidan to Hong Kong’s ‘Occupy Central’, the people refuse to believe that multi-party democracy is not good for them.

    Remembering 1989 makes sense only if we seriously try to define what that year means for our future in the 21st century. Liberal democracy has taken many more hits in the last 25 years than we hoped in those crazy days of November. But as much as the triumphalism of the 1990s may have been exaggerated, the belief in the decline of the West of recent years has been an error at least as dangerous. It will not stand the test of time. Many walls are still standing around the globe, and some have been freshly put up. It is the mission of the EPP political family to help the people bring them down, and replace them with a more durable order based on political and economic freedom. As former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in 2013, history may not have ended in 1989, but freedom remains its motor and its horizon.

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy European Union Values

    Roland Freudenstein

    The meaning of ‘89

    Blog

    10 Nov 2014

  • As the eurozone starts to emerge from the deep financial crisis of the last three years we should maintain a sense of economic urgency. The fact that Europe had a growth problem before the financial crisis was common knowledge. This is still the case. The growth trend, in total factor productivity, has been negative for quite some time and the performance of the European Union’s economy relative to the United States’ economy has been deteriorating for at least twenty years.

    This is all the more striking in light of the fact that the EU has undertaken a number of growth initiatives and reforms since 1992, which promised to deliver a significant growth boost, as well as welfare gains. Does this mean that structural reform has not worked in Europe and that some other factor must explain why we still have a growth problem?

    I was recently asked to answer this question. My answer was simple: structural reform must be supported and promoted, otherwise it will fail to deliver. It is this element — the political and institutional framework for reform — that we need to focus on as we return once more to Europe’s growth puzzle. The best example we have of structural reform in Europe, the reform agenda of the last ten new member states, was actively promoted by institutional arrangements whose main goal was to expand the policy range of governments during the reform process.

    In brief, there is an obvious contradiction between affirming the crucial role of structural reform for economic prosperity while doing far from enough to create the right framework and the right instruments to support and encourage it.

    Often structural reform is so difficult because it pits governments against organised interest groups that have a lot to lose from a more open and competitive economic environment. Other times, severe financial constraints force governments to undertake reforms in less than optimal conditions and may even render them entirely unfeasible. Clearly the best way to involve national stakeholders such as social partners and national parliaments is to smooth the rough edges around structural reform and make it much easier to carry out than it is at present.

    The good news is that an increasing number of people in Europe have come to realise that there is a better way. Both the European Commission and Council have put forward proposals that aim to mobilise the public for reform, strengthening the hand of governments against organised interest groups and providing financial support where it is needed.

    In its December meeting the European Council defended the need for a system of mutually agreed arrangements and associated financial support mechanisms designed to support a broad range of growth and job-enhancing policies and measures. This was a good start, but the conclusions did not sufficiently emphasise the structural reform element. This is above all a political issue. Structural reform partnerships are elements of what I would call a political union. They would help countries become politically closer, allowing them to overcome social and political standstill in order to learn from each other and from the policy dialogue going on between them. Political fragmentation (by which I mean complete path dependence, the inability countries have to break from their habitual way of doing things) is just as dangerous as financial fragmentation.

    At the current moment we face a paradoxical situation. Either structural reform is implemented in an emergency, when the right conditions for it are mostly absent, or then it is simply postponed. These structural reform partnerships would introduce a much needed preventive logic into European economic policy making. It makes little sense to wait for structural economic problems to develop into a fully-fledged economic and fiscal crisis before putting together the instruments and political will to address them. At the same time, favourable conditions for reform cannot be wasted if we want to seriously tackle Europe’s growth problem.

    [Note: a previous paper on how to create the right framework for structural reform can be found here: http://ces.tc/1fLa7nJ ]

    Bruno Maçães Crisis Economy European Union Eurozone Macroeconomics

    Bruno Maçães

    The structural reform puzzle

    Blog

    05 May 2014

  • With the hottest phase of the European election campaign approaching, it is hardly surprising that the attacks of the most rampant Eurosceptics against the EU are multiplying. Populists of all sorts describe it as a power-hungry leviathan keen on controlling people’s lives, hampering businesses with its regulatory fury and bound to stifle European freedoms and democracy in the grip of its bureaucratic tentacles. There may well be a grain of truth in some of these criticisms. However they all overlook the fundamentally liberalising force displayed by the European project in the last sixty years.

    The origins of European integration were as much about peace as they were about individual freedom. This is hardly surprising in light of the mighty enemy these two ideals had in common in pre-war continental Europe: aggressive ideologies aimed at totalitarian control of individuals and societal resources, allegedly in the superior interest of the community. It is no surprise that the first architects of the European project were to a large extent liberals and Catholics, both committed to the preservation of an individual sphere autonomous from state control, while the collectivist left stayed largely hostile to it. After centuries of centralizing tendencies, nation states accepted an unprecedented pooling of sovereignty under common supranational institutions. Where threats to freedom used to come from the ambitions of aggressive foreign powers, such as in Eastern European countries and the UK, it may be difficult to understand that national rulers and overbearing nation states have been for a long time one of the most acute dangers to individual liberty on this continent. It was the European project that finally addressed this problem.

    In spite of the many mutations and difficulties of the following decades, European integration has stayed loyal to this original inspiration, constantly increasing the range of individual possibilities and restraining state powers. Under the Treaties of Rome, member states relinquished control of their trade policy and committed themselves to the abolition of state-imposed obstacles to the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers. For that purpose, they resorted to the most liberal of all possible means: a new supranational judicial system, under which the centuries-old dream of the rule of law replacing the rule of force in interstate relations was realised. In fact, in the first decades of European integration it was the rule of law that enlarged the scope of individual freedom against the statist tendencies of most national governments. It was the ruling of the European Court of Justice in the Cassis de Dijon case (1979) that fired the first salvo of what was to become the long and still ongoing battle to complete the European common market. In the 1980s, with the Single Market project on track, freedom-loving politicians from all member states enthusiastically joined the Commission in its effort to open up national markets, break up state monopolies, encourage competition and roll back the frontiers of the state in national economies. We owe a great deal of our economic freedom, the great variety of goods we enjoy and the high quality of many of our services to this unprecedented liberalising effort.

    In the 1990s Europe made yet another gift to its citizens: the freedom to move, take up jobs and settle anywhere they liked within the common market, soon to be transformed into a fully-fledged European Union. Plans for the creation of a new common currency were also advanced. The euro did away with state control of the money supply, one of the most ancient pillars of state grip on society and the economy. For centuries, and until the very eve of the European Monetary Union, political institutions had used their monopoly of the money supply to surreptitiously extract resources from recalcitrant societies. While the ancient kings were used to debasing their gold and silver coins, modern democratic states have consistently resorted to the printing press to artificially support increasing levels of public debt. For past generations, this vicious practice came at the price of higher and higher inflation, the most unfair tax one can imagine; an even greater pain is inflicted on many contemporary Europeans, upon whose shoulders the short-sightedness and irresponsibility of past governments have placed a heavy burden. Once again, it is the European project that has unmasked the traditional deceptions of national politics and restrained the tendency of many governments to treat their economies as the ancient kings treated their hunting reserves.

    I am very well aware that the European Union of our days has many severe limitations and contradictions and that its liberal spirit has taken on a scary appearance to many of us. However, I am firmly convinced that the European project can still be the most cherished endeavour of freedom-loving people all over the continent. If there are problems, let us fight hard for them to be tackled and overcome; if the project seems to have derailed, let us get together and hurry to put it back on track. Let us never forget the prescient words of Friedrich von Hayek, the doyen of twentieth century liberalism, in 1939: ‘There seems to be little possible doubt that the scope for the regulation of economic life will be much narrower for the central government of a federation than for national states. Since the powers of the states which comprise the federation will be yet more limited, much of the interference with economic life to which we have become accustomed will be altogether impracticable under a federal organisation’. All Europeans of the twenty first century should remember that.

    Federico Ottavio Reho Democracy European Union Euroscepticism Values

    Federico Ottavio Reho

    Would we really be more free if the EU had never come into existence?

    Blog

    28 Apr 2014

  • Heavy soul-searching has been the trademark of the European Socialists for the past decade. Lost elections in country after country led to strong reflections about the future of Socialism and Social Democracy in Europe.

    The victory of Hollande in France gave European Socialists a new hope. Finally Socialism would have a new flagship, President Hollande, who would turn the tide not only for France, but would also give a badly-needed boost for socialists across Europe. Or so they hoped.

    From the beginning it was obvious that it would not work out for Hollande. Hiring 60000 teachers and 75% taxation on those earning more than €1 million a year were popular for some voters, but it could not return France to economic stability. No real reforms or fiscal balancing was on the shopping list.

    Thus, from the beginning one could guess two possible outcomes for Hollande. The first scenario was that he would promote the policies he was proposing in his electoral programme, which would lead to an economic disaster for the country, to an electoral disaster for his party and ultimately, to a political disaster for himself. That is, if he would try to re-run as a President, of course. The second scenario was that he would very soon understand that the only way out for France is to push for reforms. This way he would be able to put France on the right track. However, the stark contrast between the things he said he would do and what he actually did ultimately disappointed his core voters and is costing him and the French socialists dear.

    What we see now is that in fact both scenarios happened. French government was paralysed for almost two years and the economic indicators got worse for France every day. At some point he came to realise that he needed to totally change the fundamental philosophy of his economic policy. And so he did. One of the many witnesses of this fundamental change was Krugman’s article bashing Hollande for abandoning the “out from crisis by spending” strategy ( http://nyti.ms/1eSEZiA ). Nevertheless, by his initial inaction Hollande had burned the political capital he had, and so half-hearted attempts for reforms with a demotivated team were very unlikely to produce a success story. Unfortunate for France. And for Europe.

    In addition, the understandable U-turn of Hollande in economic policy has led the socialist candidate for the position of Commission President, Martin Schulz, into a difficult position. Schulz’s vision of debt-driven growth matches badly with the current French Economic policy. Often the discrepancy creates odd situations both for the socialists and Schulz. For example, during the visit to Paris, Head of the Spanish socialist list Elena Valenciano was preaching against “the tyranny of austerity”, in a common political rally with the socialist candidate Martin Schulz, only a day after new Socialist French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced an unprecedented and comprehensive package of austerity measures in France, heading to save over 50 billion euros in the next three years.

    Thus, there is a substantial disparity between the programme of Schulz and the policies of Hollande’s administration. But then again, Hollande has to deal with economic reality – and Schulz does not.

    Tomi Huhtanen Crisis Economy European Union

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Schulz’s vision meets Hollande’s reality

    Blog

    25 Apr 2014

  • This paper argues that a fully-fledged European banking union is needed to stabilise the euro and to prevent a decade of high unemployment and low growth in the Vulnerable Euro Area Periphery Countries (VEAPs). What has been agreed by the European Council and the European Parliament in March 2014 is a step forward but remains insufficient.

    A further transfer of responsibilities to European institutions and more risk sharing are essential to sever the doomed loop of banks and sovereigns because individual EU countries are too weak to address this challenge alone. Ideally, we need a treaty change, but we also need to develop a second best solution that is based on the current treaty, while using its institutional and legal capacity to the full.

    However, a European banking union is not enough, given that banks’ assets exceed the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) threefold. The banking industry needs restructuring so as to prevent systemic risks and the legislator needs to have the power to intervene efficiently when needed. Finally we stress that any European banking union should be open to future eurozone member states.

    Banking Crisis European Union Eurozone

    A Banking Union for an Unfinished EMU

    Policy Briefs

    24 Apr 2014

  • Speech by Bruno Maçães at the Second Germany-Portugal Forum, Berlin, 11th March 2014. [Translated from Portuguese to English].

    The idea of a European Union is an idea imagined by artists and thinkers. It originally represented a project that sought to expand the limits of our experience, discovering different ways of thinking beyond our nearest community. Europe represents a specific ideal, dating back to the eighteenth century: the good European, a refined cosmopolitan, who knows how to harmoniously combine the best of several countries or nationalities, becoming himself a means of communication between countries. Think of Goethe and his voyage to Italy: the discovery of a new form of life, so different from what he had known in his youth and thus a kind of second youth.

    But this ideal emerged and submerged many times. A number of times it even risked disappearing altogether. And it was always an ideal limited to a small class of people. The European Union as we know it is a project to make this ideal safe and perpetual.

    How can we make it safe and perpetual?

    First, we must understand that the European Union does not seek to create a new nationality. It aims to be a communication vehicle between a number of different ways of thinking and living: a combination of these differences.

    Secondly, it is a space for free flowing communication where borders tend to fade. There is no free communication in a world of borders. When we think of communication, we think of trade, exchange of ideas and knowledge, mobility of persons, and of course, political communication as well. Politics cannot fall outside this scope. If we want to create a large communication space, that space must be based on rules and institutions. Eliminating barriers is not enough. If intuitions continue to be merely national, then a true European space will never exist, because those institutions will work themselves as barriers.

    This was very clear in the case of financial markets. Financial markets are unable to operate without institutional structures that, for example, define the right approach for bank supervision and resolution. If these are national institutions, then we will inevitably witness financial fragmentation along national borders. Perhaps not under conditions of credit expansion, but sooner or later borders will reappear, as was the case in 2008.

    The euro was not sufficient to create integrated financial markets. We could say that the euro was a further, and no doubt, crucial step in financial integration, but one element was still missing: common supervision and resolution tools — which are being developed in the meantime. Banking union plus monetary union plus free movement of capital, only together can they build a genuine financial union.

    Financial markets need a common institutional structure. A structure that allows agents to act freely, while creating a centripetal force at a deeper level. The same will of course be the case for other institutional structures. Fragmentation can just as easily be found in labor markets, product markets, as well as the education system.

    It’s not about creating a European power. It’s about creating a centripetal force to fight political fragmentation, just as the banking union fights financial fragmentation. For example, if a country does not implement the necessary reforms, growth and employment will suffer, with a negative impact on import demand. This becomes even more apparent when markets become more integrated. For this reason, political communication is essential, allowing member states to have a word on certain aspects of policy reform within other member states.

    The establishment of a financial union where financial borders progressively disappear is essential. But one must also see the logic behind the existence of an open space in which communication on public policy can take place. Let me reiterate again, my claim does not call for the establishment of common public policies. It is about creating a space where different public policies are in fluid communication with each other. I neither believe in a common European state nor in states that live reclusively within their borders. These ideas represent two extreme options, equally to be avoided.

    My key question today is: how do we ensure that national policies can communicate?

    Let me give you an example, which directly concerns Germany. We are all aware of the strong German industrial sector, especially its Mittelstand, a complex web of middle-sized businesses that are extremely competitive and extremely innovative at the global level. But its service sector is not anywhere nearly as competitive. I know this well because I lived in Germany. I am aware of the entry barriers new competitors are faced with, the resistance to competition, the regulatory obstacles, the weak productivity in law firms and pharmacies. What Germany needs is a service sector that matches its industrial strength.

    Is this an issue that concerns only Germany? Of course not. An open and competitive service sector would encourage more investment, the opening of new businesses, with the transfer of less qualified workers in the industrial sector to the service sector. The German industrial sector would move up the value chain, and countries like Portugal would have the opportunity to occupy those manufacturing activities from which German industry would be moving out. Productivity would grow in both Germany and Portugal.

    How can we guarantee that all countries implement the reforms that other countries need? This is the decisive question.

    I admit that for me it is difficult to understand why this communication is so difficult. Constructive criticism, learning from others, all this should contribute to the normal functioning of the Union. Friendship is built on sounder foundations where honest criticism is possible and accepted. It is for me quite easy to openly say it on this occasion: Germany needs to implement many of the structural reforms that Portugal has implemented during the past few years.

    A more difficult question and one where EU institutions will inevitably come in, concerns the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that structural reforms in different member states are better combined and coordinated. It is at this point that we move from economic theory to political practice.

    I don’t want to get into the specifics of this mechanism. I will just cover three points I think are fundamental.

    First, we need to adopt a preventative logic. Up until now structural reforms were implemented in situations of emergency, or constantly postponed. That is, they are applied in the worst possible conditions or they are simply not done.

    Second, this new mechanism would need to resolve the political problem. In other words, it would need to reduce reform costs in the short-term and ensure that returns do not have to wait for the next electoral cycle.

    Third, it must work as a form of collective responsibility. The costs must be shared because the advantages in an integrated economy will also be shared. At the same time the responsibilities and obligations of each member state before the others must be firmly established.

    To conclude:

    The European Union establishes an intermediate space where we can see things from another perspective, from a number of perspectives, rather than merely our own. This is a space where we can also contribute with our perspective so that others will be able to access it.

    Even more than Goethe, it is perhaps Fernando Pessoa who truly represents the European ideal. In his The Book of Disquiet (Livro do Desassossego), Pessoa is a man who wants to know and explore everything, who wants to be a lot of different things at the same time.

    Goethe and Pessoa are two magnificent examples of the European spirit. This European spirit is not limited to the cultural sphere. It is not merely an economic space. It should also be a political space. This is the true essence of political union, that elusive goal we have been seeking for over fifty years.

    Bruno Maçães Democracy EU Institutions European Union

    Bruno Maçães

    Political Union: establishing a communication space

    Blog

    31 Mar 2014

  • Europe is strong on soft power. An integrated civil society can exert unified influence beyond its borders. European civil society, while increasingly integrated, benefits from being free from the homogenising forces of a fully developed political framework. It is able to establish flexible networks, links and communication channels, which combine the global power of its media, the brand appeal of its lifestyle industries and the diverse landscape of its many NGOs and political organisations. While largely invisible and diffuse, tireless interactions between civil societies help make the European Union a powerful global actor.

    But soft power is limited, especially when it not supported by traditional foreign policy tools. First, it works much better in periods of peace than in emergencies. Second, it is naturally unstable, disorganised and scattered. It is difficult or impossible to use soft power to bring about specific outcomes.

    The paradox of European soft power is that it seems to work much better outside than within the borders of the Union. By this I mean that it is often much easier for European civil society to exert a direct influence over civil societies in other parts of the world than to shape European policies and institutions. This may actually be the reason behind the global strength of European civil society. Its agents know that their best hope is to establish direct links across borders. They feel pressed to do so by the relative lack of an established political channel.

    My opinion, however, is that this absence poses fundamental problems for Europe and this will have to be addressed. Obstacles to a more direct form of communication and influence between European civil society and EU political institutions are a great source of weakness. On the one hand, EU institutions will suffer from discontinuities for as long as they cannot receive some more direct form of support from European civil society. On the other, social and economic actors in Europe will increasingly feel the need for more traditional tools of foreign and security policy in order to adequately protect their interests. The European Neighbourhood Policy and Maritime Security Policy are two examples of this lack of political integration.

    The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is based on the Union’s own experience of economic integration. This “size fits all” approach is difficult to implement in light of a changing global environment; deprived of a deeper kind of democratic accountability, the ENP is fated to remain excessively legalistic, technocratic, and almost exclusively focused on long-term engagement. Stefan Lehne, among others, has argued that the next stage of the ENP should be more political and incorporate instruments for short-term impact. The abilities to establish distinctions and to act swiftly are properties of political power.

    Similarly, the EU should reassess its Maritime Security Strategy in view of on-going changes to the maritime environment, which challenge its economic interests. International trade is largely affected by interconnected production chains but also non-state actors like pirates and terrorist networks. Rising economic powers will no doubt question the limits of their territorial waters, while deep-see mining is becoming more and more feasible and economically attractive.

    What we have here are two ways of looking at the same problem. The ENP has suffered from the fact that the links now existing between European civil society and EU institutions are not strong enough for higher levels of democratic legitimacy. The European Security Strategy is a good example of how European civil society will quickly need stronger political instruments to ensure that its economic interests are adequately pursued and protected.

    In the coming months, European policy makers will have to think hard about the best ways to start invigorating these links, so that European soft power – the network power of civil society – can work as well inside our borders as it does outside them.

    [Summary of a speech given at a conference entitled “Is Europe Still a Global Player?” at the EU House in Nicosia, Cyprus on 26th February 2014].

    Sources:

    Timo Behr, et al., “Maritime Security in a Multipolar World: Towards an EU Strategy for the Maritime Commons”, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, May 2013. Available at: http://www.ui.se/eng/upl/files/91707.pdf

    Stefan Lehne, “Time to Reset European Neighborhood Policy”, Carnegie Europe, February 2014. Available at: http://carnegieeurope.eu/2014/02/04/time-to-reset-european-neighborhood-…

    Jan Techau, “How to Breathe New Life Into the European External Action Service”, Carnegie Europe, 7 January 2014. Available at: http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=54102

    Susi Dennison, et al., “Why Europe Needs A New Global Strategy”, European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2013. Available at: http://ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR90_STRATEGY_BRIEF_AW.pdf

    Bruno Maçães European Union Foreign Policy

    Bruno Maçães

    The Paradox of European Soft Power

    Blog

    05 Mar 2014

  • The referendum against “mass immigration” in Switzerland has reminded us of the importance of the principle of freedom of movement at the heart of the Single Market. The principle is based on four pillars or freedoms – goods, people, capital and services. However, there is another pillar which has been overlooked but is intrinsic to the principle, one that we often use to justify the other four freedoms – the freedom of knowledge.

    This fifth pillar is not a new concept. Janez Potočnik, the former European Commissioner for Science and Research, introduced the idea. Potočnik identified that lack of cooperation between member states on R&D rendered the European Research Area less dynamic. He argued that there should be greater synergy across national borders, reducing costs, promoting economic growth and job creation.

    To me it always seemed that the idea went a bit beyond what Potočnik had in mind. Knowledge is not limited to R&D, technology and science. It includes culture and the arts. The fifth freedom offers us a way to think about knowledge which is free from many of its traditional limitations.

    We cannot speak of a fifth freedom without taking into account the digital economy, which is of course key to innovation – making it faster and borderless. Telecommunications, high speed internet and services are integral to the economy. However, this sector is not getting the investment it needs, gravely increasing our competitiveness gap with other markets such as the US and Asia. A recent study [http://ces.tc/1nJnm5W ] estimates that by 2020, if the current year-on-year drop in investment in the telecoms market continues, Europe will not meet its EU Digital Agenda targets for broadband coverage and penetration. We will find ourselves having missed a huge opportunity for the broader EU economy.

    A new approach to the digital economy and smarter EU funding will make Europe more competitive and unlock further investment.

    Strengthen links

    Too much funding might be distributed to duplicate research or funding may be mismatched [http://ces.tc/1gyTKrH ]– i.e. it might go to a region that lacks know-how in one area, instead of going to a stronger region unaware of available funds. Creating meaningful consortiums by bridging universities, research institutions and businesses will help fill these unnecessary overlaps and gaps. You can do this by investing in facilities that enhance the transfer of knowledge between institutions. The exchange of cultural experiences and skills can unlock further funding, investment and ideas.

    Knowledge mobility

    Member states, research bodies, universities and EU institutions can facilitate knowledge mobility:

    • Member states could reform laws by making them innovation friendly. They could offer tax incentives to innovative enterprises similar to tax breaks for low emission vehicles [http://ces.tc/1nJnHWl ]. Member states should also agree to harmonise telecoms regulation at the EU level, unlocking wasted money for much needed investment in technology and increasing innovative capacity.
    • As part of the new EU’s research programme Horizon 2020, designed to make Europe a more competitive economy, the EU could simplify bureaucracy for funding applicants and also help identify partners – the EUapp report [http://ces.tc/1m4sx1j ] is a good example of EU support aimed at finding opportunities in the digital economy.
    • Universities and research institutions should raise the awareness of European organisations in these areas and work in collaboration with other universities on specific projects and look to partner with private enterprises. This in turn, will help them gain international recognition. Consortiums may be more appealing for investors, like multinationals looking for breakthrough ideas. Microsoft [http://ces.tc/1jN2OfC ] alone spends $10 billion per year just on R&D.

    David Bohm famously conceived of knowledge as the stream of thought flowing among, through and between us. The freedom of knowledge is an ideal high enough and noble enough for all Europeans.

    Bruno Maçães Economy European Union Growth

    Bruno Maçães

    The fifth freedom: transforming the single market

    Blog

    18 Feb 2014

  • “Capitalism is not a form of spontaneous order or the embodiment of a basic structure of human rights, but one of the great constructions of the human mind”, so says David Sainsbury, former UK Minister in the Blair Government in his book “Progressive Capitalism, how to achieve economic growth, liberty and social justice” published last year by Biteback Publishing. Inevitably, the book does not fully live up to its unrealistically ambitious title, but it makes some really important points and goes beyond putting forward a critique of what wrong, but also some constructive solutions.

    Capitalism will only work if politics works. Capitalism allows resources, human and material, to be constantly allocated and reallocated in a way that meets people’s needs, as they express those needs by way of the relative price they will pay for different goods and services. Without stable money in which to set those prices, the system would not work. Money is a promise. One must have a stable political system to underpin those promises if one is to have stable money. Without order and security and laws to prevent theft, fraud and unsafe products, capitalism would collapse. Again one has to have a stable political system if these requirements are to be met.

    If capitalism leads to outcomes that are socially, financially or environmentally unstable, or are perceived as grossly unfair, the stable political order on which capitalism itself rests will fail.

    These are some of the things that David Sainsbury tackles in this book. He points out that:

    1. In 1965, the average US CEO earned 24 times as much as the average worker. But by 2007 he earned 300 times as much. That trend is not socially sustainable.
    2. UK pension funds earned a 5% return on capital between 1963 and 1999. But between 2000 and 2009, they earned only 1.1% return. That’s not financially sustainable.
    3. Between 1950 and 1973, the western economies grew at twice the rate they had grown during the period from 1800 to 1950. That was not economically or environmentally sustainable. But the West built welfare states during that period on the premise that the 1950-1973 growth rates were permanent.

    These problems can only be tackled if the rules governing capitalism are updated. Sainsbury makes some useful suggestions.

    Company law and taxation should be changed to require CEO’s to be paid on the basis of longer term goals and achievements, rather that short term share price movements. Remuneration of fund managers should be restructured to reflect a similar philosophy of long term returns and stable investment strategies. The threat of takeover, to the extent to which it incentivises pursuit of purely short term share price gains, may have to be mitigated. Firms should have incentives to use scare materials like energy, water, clean air, metals and chemicals extracted from the earth sustainably and renewably. These things cannot be done by one country acting on its own. They need to be tackled at international level, in the European Union and/or between the EU and the US.

    This book may not have all the answers, but it asks all the right questions. They are questions that could usefully be tackled in the forthcoming European Elections which are, after all, the only multinational elections that take place anywhere in the world.

    John Bruton Crisis Economy Elections European Union

    John Bruton

    Saving capitalism from itself…a topic for the European elections?

    Blog

    27 Jan 2014

  • Due to strong growth rates, BRICS countries are more confident than ever and seek contact with each other. The increase in BRICS to BRICS trade over the last ten years has been impressive: approximately a 1000%, from 29 Billion in 2000 to 319 Billion in 2010.

    In a time when Europe is fighting a severe recession and growing economic divergence between its member states, China proposes a currency swap with Brazil to assure access to its raw materials and large consumer market and a BRICS Development Bank including a contingent Reserve Arrangement up to 100 Billion to support these countries is in the works. Will Europe become a victim of intra-BRICS closeness and miss out on trade opportunities? Will Europe have to step aside as a global leader in the near future?

    In classic international relations ‘realism’ as opposed to ‘idealism’ is still the dominant theory to make sense of the international world order. In this view, each actor is only concerned with its individual and relative gain instead of absolute gain for multiple countries. Self-interest and survival are their only concern. Is there a danger of deriving to a Hobbesian state of a war of all against all for, for example, natural resources?

    We would argue that the EU is still a very rich and competitive continent and all actors (EU, BRICS, etc) also have an interest in developing their so-called ‘Leviathan’. All actors should engage in concluding and creating bilateral or multilateral trade agreements and institutions to enforce a level playing field. At that levelled field, businesses can compete, innovate and generate welfare for an ever growing number of citizens.

    Although it is a well-known fact that the Asian countries experience a much higher economic growth than Europe at the moment, the EU-economy is still three times the size of China, measured in GDP. Low growth rates in a large economy still generate more new market demand than high growth in a smaller economy. Other than that, the majority of the BRICS countries export-basket still consists of raw materials and the EU market remains one of the biggest destinations. Brazil for example is the single biggest exporter of agricultural products to the EU.

    Furthermore, the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. It illustrates that these emerging economies for a large part still rely on the EU, so a strategy based on pure relative gain might not be the smartest move.

    Despite recent trade liberalizations, the Brazilian market for example, is still relatively high protected with an applied customs averaging tariff of 12%. The EU therefore consistently encourages Brazil to reduce tariff barriers and to maintain a stable regulatory environment for European investors and traders. Russia and China on the other hand recently joined the WTO and the latter has made good progress in its membership commitments but industrial policies and non-tariff measures in China still discriminate against foreign companies. India has embarked on a process of economic reform and progressive integration with the global economy that aims to put it on a path of rapid and sustained growth. Negotiations on a free trade agreement with the EU started in 2007.

    Considering the theory of ‘realism’, the EU does everything in their power to develop sustainable trade relations with the BRICS countries. So will the rise of the BRICS mark the end of the EU as a global leader? According to the Global Competitiveness Index 2013 from the World Economic Forum, the EU is still miles ahead of the BRICS when it comes to key factors like infrastructure, higher education and business sophistication. This lack of development in some of the most essential market characteristics will keep the BRICS from taking over EU’s top position in the world market in the short to medium term.

    However, the EU is challenged and should keep up its focus on increasing its (cost) competitiveness In times of global challenges and economic crises, emerging and established economies should unite in bilateral FTA’s and WTO memberships in order to create a level playing field. Striving towards absolute gain for all the aforementioned continents might in fact be the best way to serve both EU and BRICS’ self-interest.

    NOTE: This blog is based on a public presentation in the framework of a Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Conference in Berlin on 25th September 2013, “Twilight of the Gods in Europe, A Golden Age of the Emerging Countries? The EU and the BRICS States Facing New Global Challenges.”

    Stefaan De Corte Barend Tensen Economy European Union Foreign Policy

    Stefaan De Corte

    Barend Tensen

    The rise of the BRICS countries: threat or opportunity for the EU?

    Blog

    14 Oct 2013

  • The European Union affects our daily lives. National governments implement regulations and laws which have been made at the EU level. The EU removes barriers between Member States, and we all profit from the freedom of movement of people and services in the EU. However, it is not always clear how these decisions are made, what policies are in place or the consequences these have for citizens and the EU as a whole.

    With much ongoing debate about reforming Europe, it is now more important than ever to know more about EU policies. This book contains 16 chapters on various EU policies, from financial topics to justice issues and foreign policy. It gives a broad and in-depth overview of the EU’s and Member States’ efforts to work together on issues that concern all of us, across the borders of the Member States. It provides information on the state of play and offers a glimpse of where we are headed.

    The book is intended for anyone who would like to learn more about EU policies, but especially for policymakers who wish to gain deeper knowledge of specific areas of EU policy.

    EU Institutions EU Member States European Union

    EU Policies: an Overview – From Decision-Making to Implementation

    Other

    01 Oct 2013

  • EU summits without Angela Merkel? It sounds somewhat unimaginable. Although there is an off chance that power shifts completely to the Left in Germany’s Bundestag election on 22 September, the likelihood is that she remains Chancellor, albeit maybe in a different coalition.

    A lot has been written about the lacklustre campaign, about the lack of palpable alternatives and the focus on domestic policy at the expense of a vision for Europe, and about Germany’s unwillingness to lead. Although it seems that for many of Germany’s partners, German leadership means, above all, Germany doing what its partners want, and this all too often entails underwriting the debts and financing stimulus for troubled Eurozone countries.

    True: The style of the campaign was often less than passionate. That is partly typical for Germany, and partly due to the summer holidays and the tendency of German voters to take their decision closer and closer to election day, which causes parties to devote more resources and energy to the very last days of the campaign. Moreover, the CDU has , up to now, adopted a strategy of ‘asymmetrical demobilisation’: a deliberately low key campaign hoping that the opponent will not ‘get out the vote’. That may change now that some fear complacency may actually cost CDU and CSU more votes than the opposition.

    On many topics, from minimum wages to the shift from nuclear power to renewables, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats have spectacularly moved to the centre and often adopted positions formerly held by the left-of-centre parties, just in order to provide fewer opportunities for attack. And wherever differences did appear, such as in the Greens’ vegetarian initiative, or all three leftist parties’ plans for tax hikes, the governing parties could style themselves as the defenders of individual freedoms and of middle class interests.

    Much has also been made of the relative closeness of the core positions of the top candidates: Angela Merkel is a perfect representation of German society’s middle ground, both in substance and in her bland style, while Peer Steinbrück is known as the fiscal conservative he was as finance minister in the CDU/CSU/SPD coalition 2005-2009. This in turn rubs against his current emphasis on social justice. And on top of that, despite – or maybe because of – all his eloquence and brilliance, he comes across as slightly arrogant.

    There is indeed an introspective tendency in German politics. But that is nothing new; rarely has foreign policy played a decisive role in German elections (or very few other countries’, for that matter). It is also true that Germans have, in polls, often given the impression of wanting to become a big Switzerland, rather than a leading power. But now that the crisis has catapulted Germany into the pole position, this lack of a strategic debate, of a proper definition of national interests, and of a good communication strategy has become painfully visible. Eventually, Germany will get there, too, but it’s going to take a long time.

    So which election scenarios are likely, and what would they mean for Europe? First, but not necessarily most likely, is a continuation of the current coalition of Christian Democrats and Liberals. Berlin pundits predict some major reform projects for the years 2013-2017 – largely domestic, such as Germany’s sometimes clumsy federalism. Everyone agrees that Chancellor Merkel would also have to declare herself more clearly on Europe – but it’s very doubtful whether that would entail a full treaty reform, not only because her enthusiasm for a United States of Europe is limited, but also because she knows that the ratification process bears an enormous risk of failure here. On banking union, there will be a compromise with France, and some measures to institutionally strengthen the Eurozone will be adopted, but without creating the two-speed Union so popular with many in Paris and Brussels. And Eurobonds simply won’t happen in this constellation.

    But what about a Grand Coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD? Some of the domestic projects would actually be easier to enact because there would be a clear government majority in both chambers of Parliament. On the European level, very little would change. German insistence on fiscal consolidation in the crisis countries might soften a little, but would not disappear. A commitment to Eurobonds is still unlikely because the CDU/CSU’s middle class core electorate is so opposed to them.

    What would signify a major shift, however – and send the financial markets southward – is the a coalition with the SPD in the lead, and the Greens and the Left Party on board, the latter possibly remaining outside of the government but rendering support in parliamentary votes. This has been tried on the regional level but so far ruled out by Greens and SPD in Berlin. But many observers would bet that if a left-of-centre majority emerges in Parliament, such a coalition will be made. It would imply huge risks for German’s economy, and cause the Eurocrisis to sharpen again.

    The biggest unknown in this election, possibly determining the outcome, is not whether the FDP will enter into Bundestag – that is highly likely. It is whether the eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) gets more than 5 %. Because this is a new party, pollsters have problems predicting the size of their electorate. If AfD gets in, a Grand coalition will automatically follow because neither of the two political camps will have a majority. If they stay slightly below 5 %, they may have deprived CDU/CSU and FDP of a good many votes, and handed a majority to the three parties on the Left. If they fail completely, a continuation of the current coalition is likely.

    When in 2005, after a cliffhanger election and haranguing coalition negotiations, the journalist Judy Dempsey asked: “Frau Merkel, you are Bundeskanzlerin! Are you happy?”, she answered with a coy smile “I’m in a state of heightened attention!” – which is probably a good description of the mood Europe will be in on the evening of 22 September.

    [Originally published in www.euractiv.com]

    Roland Freudenstein Elections European Union

    Roland Freudenstein

    The German election: What’s in it for Europe?

    Blog

    10 Sep 2013

  • Speech by John Bruton, Former Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland (1994 to 1997), to a meeting of Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Convention Centre, at 9am on Sunday 1 September.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    A COUNTRY TRANSFORMED

    The last time I was here in Guangzhou was in 1978 when, as a relatively young member of the Irish legislature, I came here to observe the beginning of the modernisation of China , under the leadership of the late Chairman Deng.
    My impression, at the time, was that everybody travelled by bicycle, and wore uniform clothes. The sound of China for me, was the tinkle of a thousand bicycle bells. China struck me, then, as a sensibly frugal society, which let nothing go to waste. There was a sense of order, a sense that people knew where they were going.

    I also found a people who were was immensely welcoming towards a European like myself, who came from a continent whose interactions with China, over the previous 150 years, had often been marked, on the European side, by exploitation and racism.
    I even saw the remnants of the European concessions here in this city, where, until 1949, European nations had applied their own rules, even though on Chinese sovereign territory. In the French concession I came across a disused Catholic church, that had been converted into a clothing factory. I sometimes wonder if it has since been restored to its former use.

    I also had a strong sense, then, that China was a society on the move.

    Now, 35 years later, I am back in a very different city. In one of the great commercial centres of the world, to see the results of the modernisation initiated 35 year ago.

    Most people in the west did not really understand what China was doing then.

    THE FOUR MODERNISATIONS

    Many may have thought that the Four Modernisations were only rhetoric.

    I came across a phrase recently that will probably be familiar to many here, that sums up the Four Modernisations policy initiated here in 1978.

    It was that the country was “wading across a river, by feeling for stones underfoot”.In other words, it was a policy of experimentation, of trial and error, of allowing mistakes to be made, of trying different approaches in different regions, and allowing competition between the different approaches and the different regions.This flexibility explains the difference between Chinese and Soviet economic policy at that time, and explains why the first succeeded, and the other failed.Indeed, the strength of the western capitalist economic model, is that it, too, encourages experimentation and trial and error, but uses different methods to do so.

    China has made huge strides since 1978. It is now well established, on an income per head basis, as a middle income country according to World Bank classifications.

    FROM A MIDDLE INCOME COUNTRY TO A HIGH INCOME COUNTRY

    In 1960, there were 100 middle income countries in the world. Ireland was one of them.By 2008, only 13 of those 100 countries had reached high income status. Ireland was one of the 13 that made it, along with Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Spain, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal and Greece. The remaining 87 countries, which were middle income countries in 1960, have undoubtedly made progress since, but they are still middle income countries, and some of those who attained high income status by 2008, may now be falling back into the middle income category.Nothing stands still. Progress to the next stage is not automatic.

    Economic growth is, as the economist Schumpeter put it, a process of constant creative destruction. Growth is about change. Change is often painful, and painful, but necessary, change can easily be confused with mindless austerity.

    When a country is moving from less developed, to middle income, status, it is often able to compete by doing things , that are already being done, more cheaply than established competitors can do them. It does not have to come up with brand new technologies. it can use existing technologies, but apply at less cost and with minor improvements.

    Moving a country, from middle income, to high income status, in contrast, often requires it to push at the boundaries of technology, to find a niche that no one else if filling, to invest in people and ideas as well as in concrete and metal. That is the stage into which China is now moving its 1.4 billion people, a move that promises to be one of the great transformations of human history.

    ENGINES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH

    The size of the transformation involved explains why China is today spending 2% of its GDP on Research and Development (R&D), which is more, as a proportion of GDP, than Ireland, Netherlands, the UK, Norway, Luxembourg, Italy, and Spain and many other European countries are spending.
    Incidentally, Israel, Korea, and Finland are the biggest proportionate spenders on R & D.But R&D alone will not move a country from middle to high income status. It must be made easy for entrepreneurs to use the R&D, by setting up new businesses and to recruiting talented local people to help them do it.Here, Ireland has a strong advantage in that it is one of the easiest places in Europe to set up a new business, and one of the easiest in which to recruit young well educated people at competitive salaries.

    This has already attracted 18 different Chinese companies to set up operation in Ireland. Ireland is particularly interested in Chinese companies that are in fields like Life Sciences, Clean tech, financial services and information technology.

    Ireland is also active in food exports to China ,which have grown by 92% in just two years!

    I believe there are aspects of the Irish educational system from which China could benefit . 5000 Chinese students study in Ireland. Numerous agreements exist between Irish and Chinese Universities. These must be built upon, especially in key areas of research ,like financial services.

    REMOVING BLOCKAGES IN THE SYSTEM

    If China is to exploit its investment in R&D to the full , it needs to liberalise its system of local residency permits, which discourage migration within China, and to make it easier for new Chinese companies to set up, in competition with existing state owned or established enterprises.
    The European Union, with its 0.5 billion people is a much smaller entity than China with its 1.4 billion people, but in the European Union, there are still restrictions on internal migration, analogous to the Chinese residency permit scheme, in that the EU does not have full transferability of Social Security rights, and full mutual recognition of professional qualifications, for internal migrants within the EU.

    THE DANGER OF PROPERTY BUBBLES….THE IRISH EXPERIENCE

    But it would be unrealistic for me to come here and fail to refer to some of the recent economic difficulties Ireland has encountered. These difficulties are being overcome. Growth has been resumed, foreign investment in the country is at an all time high, and the government is following a careful plan. But it is also important to analyse objectively how Ireland got into these difficulties, and I believe that would be helpful to a country, like China, that is also undergoing rapid development and wants to avoid converting that into a destructive bubble.

    Indeed, the latest IMF report on China, contains warnings that will sound familiar to those who have studied recent Irish economic history. It talks of the risks of “a steady build up of leverage eroding the strength of the financial sector”, of “a boom in non traditional sources of credit”, and of the need to take “steps to reduce moral hazard to ensure that banks do not engage in potentially destabilizing competition” in China. On the other hand, it recognises that China has very well capitalised banks.A few years ago, these risks existed in Ireland, and were not adequately addressed by the authorities in Ireland itself, or in the European Union. We have suffered for that, and these are useful lessons for China.As I see it, this is what happened in Ireland. Thanks to artificially cheap credit, and rapidly rising property prices, Ireland experienced a property bubble between 2000 and 2007. This bubble led to a radical distortion of the country’s economic structures, and to a big increase in private and government debt.The cheap credit was available because of decisions taken by the US Federal Reserve and by European Central Bank. Both favoured low interest rates. They did so to avoid dislocations to the economy, that might have arisen from the dot com burst, 9/11, and the costs of German reunification. In these goals they succeeded.But the extra credit found its way across national boundaries into housing markets in various countries, causing a bubble in prices, most notably in Ireland. In 2008, the bubbles burst.

    BUBBLES DISTORT THE ECONOMY

    The bubble distorted the Irish economy in ways that will take years to repair. There was distortion in the form of a doubling in the size of the construction sector, large and uncompetitive pay increases across the economy, and rapid increases in numbers of people employed in the public sector. The fact that money flowing in, temporarily, to government coffers, made it hard to resist demands to increase the size of the government sector, permanently. In just five years from 2001 to 2006, the share of the workforce in the public sector reached 29%, as against 19% in Germany. The numbers in top grade positions in the civil service grew by 86% .

    Bubbles misallocate human capital. Instead of choosing careers and skills, for which there is enduring global demand, talented people were drawn, by quick rewards, into activities for which demand is inherently temporary, like construction.

    WHY BUBBLES HAPPEN

    In a way, it is easy to see why people made the mistake of thinking, in the 2000 to 2006 period, that house prices in Ireland (and household wealth) would never stop rising. Recent history seemed to suggest that the only way house prices could go was up. House prices had already risen by 133% between 1994 and 2000. These increases were justified by rapid economic growth, immigration, and new family formation, all of which created a genuine demand for housing. The trouble is that the increase in house prices continued after 2000, and was financed, not by improved competitiveness, but by excessive lending, and by income generated from, inherently temporary, construction spending.

    The assumption of the bankers, who were lending this money, seemed to be that demand for housing could go on growing, to infinity. A moment’s thought would have shown how nonsensical that was. But, in the middle of a boom, people are often too busy, to take a moment to think. The revenue of the Government became unhealthily dependent on taxes derived from property sales such as stamp duty, capital gains tax, and VAT on house sales. Property related revenues reached 18% of all revenues in 2006, whereas they were only been 8% in 2002. But once house sales stopped or slowed down, of course, that revenue growth stopped, leaving a huge hole in the Government’s budget.

    Again, a moment’s thought would have shown how dangerous it was, to build up permanent spending programmes, on the back of inherently temporary streams of revenue. But very few people, in politics or outside it, took a moment to think. For a country like China, the relevant question to ask about Ireland’s recent experience is

    “How can sensible, and generally public spirited, people make mistakes like this, and how can such mistakes be avoided ?”

    THE CAUSES OF BUBBLES………….SILO THINKING, AND FOLLOWING FASHION, WITHOUT REFLECTION

    I would identify two tendencies of policy making in both the public and private sector, that were at the heart of the problem in Ireland
    1. “Silo tendencies” within institutions, charged with mitigating risks, where people only thought about their own immediate responsibilities, and did not question wider assumptions.
    2. A “consensus approach”, which encouraged a single view to be taken of any issue. Human beings are followers of fashion. We need institutions that deliberately challenge fashionable assumptions, and those institutions did not work, in Ireland or in the wider European Union.
    These errors can occur in ANY country, under ANY political system. They are not unique to Ireland, Spain, Arizona, California, Florida, or any of the other parts of the world where property bubbles arose.
    China must be wary that these problems do not arise here, and I know the authorities here are fully alive to these risks.

    THE GLOBAL CHALLENGES…..AGEING, MIGRATION, CLIMATE CHANGE, AN ERODING TAX BASE , AND SOUND FINANCE.

    These are the five big problems that the counties of the world must come together to tackle. They are all loosely related to one another. With the exception of the finance problem, they are all problems that are silently creeping up on us, so silently in fact that it is difficult to create a sufficient sense of immediate crisis, to get anything done about them. Technology will provide some of the answers, and I know China is devoting a significant proportion of its R&D to some of these issues.But sacrifices and compromises will be needed between and within nations. Pension entitlements will have to be limited in some countries, working lives extended, and elder care vastly expanded with the aid of technology. Migration will have to be accepted in ageing economies, and that is a big cultural challenge.CO2 emissions and pollution will have to be tackled by making the ultimate polluter meet the full cost of what he does.

    We may eventually need some form of global taxation, to meet the cost of preserving out common global heritage, but, in the meantime, we need to restore the tax base of states, in a cooperative way. We cannot expect Governments perform functions if its revenues are artificially depleted.

    And finally we need to put banking on footing that will be sound enough to allow incompetent banks to be closed down without putting the whole economy at risk. “Too big to fail” and “ too interconnected to fail” should no longer be characteristics of our banking systems.

    THE EURO….WHAT IS ITS FUTURE?

    The existence of the euro, the single currency, has not created the economic crisis in Europe.This was going to come anyway because of lost competitiveness, the emergence of new competitors, like China, for traditional European industries, and the progressive ageing of European societies. Expansionary monetary policy could only have postponed the emergence of the symptoms, it could NOT have prevented the illness.

    What the existence of the euro has done is impose discipline and mutual solidarity on Europe.

    Without the euro, countries would have pursued the route of devaluation and inflation in response to their problems. Savings would have been wiped out. This is not possible now, and that is good. Instead problems are now being tackled at their source.Without the euro, wealthier and stronger European countries would not have come, so quickly, to the aid of other European countries in difficulty. They have now done so on a systematic basis, and that too is good.The EU is moving toward a common system for winding up banks that need to be wound up, without putting the overall system at risk. It is moving toward a common system of deposit insurance. These are issues that also require attention here in China.Much better systems are now being put in place in the European Union, to ensure that, in future, public finances, and underlying competitiveness, do not get out of line again. Out of the crisis, we are now facing up to problems we had ignored for the past 20 years in Europe.

    The euro will survive. Not only that, I believe it will eventually be imitated in other parts of the world.

    To sum up, the euro
    + is a protection against the expropriation of savings, through inflation and devaluation.
    + is a factor for economic stability in the world, and
    + is a major political step forward for unity Europe.

    John Bruton Crisis European Union Eurozone Foreign Policy

    John Bruton

    China, Europe and the Political Economy of the World

    Blog

    05 Sep 2013

  • Youth politicians all around Europe are thrilled. The topics of the young generation are finally high up on the political agenda: the Youth Guarantee, Youth Unemployment, and ‘Employability’ are now established in the political jargon. The political focus on the younger generation and the amount of policies made is evolving for each day that goes by.

    As much as we embrace the fact and try to make our – the young people’s – voice heard, we still have to ask ourselves which tools would enable us to live a self-determined life – and which are the ones arousing covetousness at its best but add, in fact, little to a sustainable solution. Don’t get me wrong! Any efforts embracing what the young generation calls for should be appreciated. While elderly have their own strong representations, every young generation has to fight for their spot. Two initiatives are highly debated at the moment: The Youth Guarantee and the Loan Scheme for Master students.

    While the Youth Guarantee is aiming at sudden support for the youth and tries to offer training or employment opportunities within four months to young people under the age of 25, we have to question whether the allocation of funds to achieve these goals is granted properly: the idea to focus on regions is good since it follows the principle of subsidiarity, solutions should be found on the level on which the problem actually exists. Nonetheless, by setting the measurement that youth unemployment needs to reach a level above 25% in the region, moral hazard behaviour might be triggered. Regions will have an interest in presenting themselves in a worse state than they actually are.

    Even if an improvement would be achieved – that means young people will have found their way into the labour market or into training – the regions will have an incentive to present their levels of youth unemployment to remain above 25%. While this race to the bottom will aim at securing cash flow into the region, it weakens the efforts to move the youth out of its misery. It is effective, sustainable solutions that need to be considered. The grants provided in the Youth Guarantee program need to be orientated to programs that ensure sustainable educational programs and trainings. They need to focus on the actual demand in the labour market.

    It is important to point out that actual achievements are not the main factor in the planning of policies. It is rather the opposite, if we take a look at the Master Loan Scheme Guarantee. It is a mean that shall empower students to move across Europe, in order to study in a master programme in their desired field of studies. Both, the EU Commission and the European Parliament tasked the European Investment Bank (EIB) to channel through guarantees to private banks. These will then be able to hand out student loans at a reasonable interest rate. It is a tool envisioned to particularly fill one gap: provide financing for students that desire to complete their entire master studies abroad. Conventional Erasmus funds cannot be tapped for such, they can only be utilized if a student is enrolled in a university program from which he then takes parts of his study for a semester or two abroad.

    It is more than just closing a financing gap, it is also considering the regional diversity and richness we provide in Europe: in the 21st century, it is more important than ever to invest in human capital ad in education. While technology is certainly a tool in helping to bridge distances, this is only true within a limited scope. When education cannot be delivered to the student wherever he may be, then the student must be enabled to go get this knowledge at another destination. Specialized learning at the best can be achieved easily with the loan scheme guarantee. 300.000 students shall benefit from this mean in the period 2014 – 2020. It is 300.000 young, highly-skilled students that do believe in their abilities. They are willing to put their claims onto the future and their prospect in life.

    Opposing this idea of creating opportunities will only result in the creation of a ‘lost generation’: Not a ‘lost generation’ in a sense as some politicians refer to these days when speaking about the unemployed youth. But we need to be careful not to create a lost generation that is being patronised! No one is forced to apply for any loans, but if people want to achieve great things in their lives and have trust in their abilities; they should by no means be stopped.

    We need a generation that believes in its bright future here in Europe!

    Eva Majewski Crisis European Union Jobs Youth

    Eva Majewski

    Freedom and the Prospect of Education

    Blog

    25 Jul 2013

  • Much vigorous debate, as well as some initial steps in response to the eurozone crisis, have established some groundwork for a more integrated economic and monetary union. But much less discussion has been devoted to how to redesign European-level political institutions, despite widespread recognition that a political reset is the other side of the coin. Aided by the widespread perception of a “democracy gap” at the European level, Eurosceptics are using this vagueness to spread uncertainty and doubt that is undermining the European project. It’s time to put some meat on the bones of what a functioning continental democracy could look like.

    The eurozone crisis has stretched the European Union’s governance capacities to its limits. That’s because the E.U.’s current political institutions are those of a loose confederation of member states — but a loose confederation is inadequate for maintaining a monetary union. Yet several key E.U. member states are tenaciously resistant to the type of federalizing of power that a monetary union requires and other member states desire, so a proposal for redesigning European-level political institutions must be predicated on the reality of a “two speed Europe.”

    This proposal outlines a two-tiered structure of: 1) a more federalized and integrated eurozone, and 2) maintaining a more decentralized – but also more streamlined — structure for the European Union, with these two structures co-linked in sensible ways.

    A New Structure for Political Europe

    As a starting point, Europe can learn something from the political and economic structures that a young America originally designed at the federal level, and how they evolved over two centuries. Granted, the American example is more of an inspiration than a blueprint, due to historical and cultural differences. But nevertheless the U.S. is a successful and longstanding monetary and political union spread over a vast geographic area, and lessons can be learned.

    Initially America empowered member states’ legislatures as well as individual voters, both because each member state was sufficiently diverse to have legitimate state-based interests, but also because they needed buy-in from the political elites of each member state (and many political elites, like George Washington, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, truly didn’t trust the average voter, much less than European elites today). So while voters directly elected the federal House of Representatives, the member states’ legislatures were given the mandate to elect the powerful upper chamber of the Senate, as well as to elect presidential electors that chose the national president. For the next century after the first government in 1789, both the member states and the elites played a significant role in selecting the political leadership of the federal government. But eventually America amended its constitutional structures to empower individual voters over the state legislatures (both with popular direct election of U.S. Senators, and with state legislatures agreeing to abide by each state’s popular vote in selecting presidential electors.

    So in drafting a more federalized political structure for the eurozone, it would be wise if both a direct popular vote as well as member states’ legislatures were empowered initially in a parliament. German statesman Joschka Fischer and others have proposed a similar design. How would this look in practice?

    A more democratic eurozone governance would have a parliament with two chambers, one directly elected (like the current European Parliament) by voters using a system of proportional representation, with the number of representatives per member state a close reflection of each state’s population (so the more populous member states would have more representatives). The second chamber would be selected by member state legislatures (as the European Council and Council of Ministers sort of are now), with the number of representatives being mostly proportional to the population of each member state, but with a few additional representatives granted to the low population states so that they are not easily overrun by more populous member states. It also would be wise to establish a process for amendment that would allow the second chamber to evolve over time into direct popular election as a pan-European political consciousness and culture takes root.

    The lower chamber of this eurozone legislature would then select a prime minister, who would in turn nominate her or his government cabinet, with one cabinet member each from a eurozone member state (similar to the current selection process for the Commission), to be approved by the upper legislative chamber. In addition, a largely ceremonial post of president of Europe would be directly elected on a continent-wide basis (similar to what various leaders such as Guy Verhofstadt, Wolfgang Schäuble, Tony Blair, and Radosław Sikorski have expressed support for). At some point down the road, this directly elected president could be invested with more power via the amendment process if that better matched the zeitgeist.

    This kind of streamlined structure – a two chamber parliament that provides direct representation to voters as well as to eurozone states, and empowers an executive branch selected by both types of representatives, as well as a directly-elected figurehead – would do much to simplify continental governance for eurozone citizens, as well as to clarify lines of authority, make decision-making more efficient and transparent, and better connect the public with their continental government.

    The Reality of Two-Speed Europe

    The likeliest scenario is that the eurozone’s 17 (or so) member core will be the entity that adopts this sort of federalized structure, as the momentum of monetary union drives the need for a more cohesive and effective political union. This entity would have its own common laws, political institutions, budgetary agreements, banking union and tax policies. The eurozone states would have merged their political economies and bound their destinies together in a way that is irreversible.

    This new eurozone-based entity would co-exist with a more loosely confederated European Union, composed of the current 27 (soon to be 28) member states. The EU could retain its present governance (albeit with some streamlining recommended below), and retain its degree of confederation but operate under much less pressure to integrate more than its disparate members are willing. And those who want to use the euro currency would be able to forge ahead not only with a fiscal and monetary union but also with the political institutions that are necessary to properly regulate a monetary union and to maintain democratic legitimacy.

    Just as important, this two-tiered structure should be constructed so there is the possibility of individual member states moving from the non-euro EU into the eurozone when it made sense.

    There are historical precedents for such a two-tiered, inside-outside arrangement, such as the 54-nation British Commonwealth (now known as the Commonwealth of Nations), or even the current United Kingdom, where there is a core Great Britain and other “members” (like Northern Ireland and some islands) that are more loosely confederated.

    Note that this design has to do with the STRUCTURE of government, and less to do with the function and specific powers attached to each player within this structure, which requires a separate but parallel conversation too long for this short article. But as we have seen again and again during this eurozone crisis, in which inadequate E.U. structures have made decision-making excruciating and prolonged the crisis, function in many ways follows from form. So it’s important to get the structure right.

    The E.U. also could use some streamlining. Without going into great detail in this short article, there are several institutions and practices that are ripe for a redesign. On a basic level, the E.U. should employ more originality for naming its offices and institutions. Currently the terms “president” and “council” are much overused, with a European Council and a Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers, or simply “the Council”). Outside the E.U. there is the Council of Europe. All of them have their own president, as does the European Commission and the European Parliament. With names so similar, few but the most ardent Europhile can tell them apart. The E.U. also is governed by an odd form of tricameralism (or even quad-cameralism) between the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council of Ministers. That’s too many branches, even for a decentralized confederacy. And the Commission being both the executive and the branch that proposes legislation fosters additional confusion and a loss of checks and balances.

    Europeans have passed only the first few bends in the road of a years-long journey to overhaul their key economic and political institutions. It is important to understand that, just like a young America in its “Articles of Confederation stage” prior to its first government in 1789 – which had neither a common currency nor federalized institutions — Europe today is entangled by many contradictions and tensions as it tries to fashion its union and decide how integrated it wants to be. The integration process took decades for Americans to sort out (see http://ces.tc/14sJ6L3 for more details ); indeed, those “united” states fought a civil war over not just slavery but states’ rights and member states’ sovereignty, a full 70 years after its founding. The road toward union is a long and winding one because it takes time for people, cultures and laws to adapt. Europe is a “work in progress,” and it may require a change of a generation or two for a new identity and institutions to form and take root.

    Clearly this is a big step, yet at this point it’s also clear that the demands of a monetary union require it. Either that, or abandon the euro. There appear to be no other options. And given the economic rise of population behemoths like China and India that are increasingly assertive in international markets, globalized forces will continue to put great pressure on Europe’s much smaller member states to band together or become less relevant and secure.

    This essay is meant to inspire discussion and debate, not to be the final word on a very complex subject. Isn’t it time for European leaders to put forward some specific proposals and ideas about Political Europe, and push that conversation forward? Sometimes the best way to instigate debate is to provide something very concrete and simplified that people can react to. Doing so might give the public more ease over this integration process, if people could see a vision for the future, and get used to the idea of a more federalized eurozone alongside a loosely confederated E.U.

    [Steven Hill (www.Steven-Hill.com) is a political writer and author of “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age” (www.EuropesPromise.org).]

    Steven Hill Democracy EU Institutions European Union Eurozone Integration

    Steven Hill

    Political Europe: A Blueprint to Close the “Democracy Gap”

    Blog

    20 Jun 2013

  • For the European Union, democracy support is both a moral obligation and an expression of enlightened self-interest. Those who live in freedom have an obligation to support those who don’t, if and when such support is desired. At the same time, historical experience shows that democracies are in general more peaceful and more prosperous than countries under authoritarian rule or failed states. Hence, the European Union, its Member States and its citizens have good reasons to assist democrats, support the transition to the rule of law and good governance, and help the development of civil society in the countries of its Southern and Eastern neighbourhood.

    The years 1989-1991, with the peaceful revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, were a perfect example of such a development. Western support for the democracy movements was crucial, and the successful transition of the last two decades has by far exceeded all initial expectations.

    In the last ten years, however, it has become clear that the transition to democracy, good governance and the rule of law in the Eastern neighbourhood is by no means as easy (in hindsight) as in the Central and Eastern European countries that have by now joined NATO and the EU. That is because in the Eastern neighbourhood, contrary to Central Europe, civil society is generally less developed, traditions of statehood are often lacking, economic development is far below Central European standards, and Russia has often played a rather nonconstructive role in what it still considers its ‘near abroad’. Since the ‘colour revolutions’ of the early 2000s, there has even been a backslide into more authoritarian rule – for different reasons – in countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia.

    In the EU’s Southern neighbourhood, the enthusiasm after the initial Arab revolts of 2011 has given way to a more sober assessment: Here, too, civil societies are generally poorly developed (although Lebanon and Tunisia look comparatively good), good governance and the rule of law are rudimentary, societies are sometimes deeply divided along sectarian lines or the paradigm of the role of religion in public life – and, above all, some countries are in a civil war (Syria) or and some economies are near free-fall (Egypt). Equally important, Europe as part of the West is tainted in the eyes of many democrats because of its former support for authoritarian rulers. All this makes for a substantial difference to the situation in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989.

    In conclusion, it is clear that in most neighbourhood countries today, South as well as East, the basis for democracy support does not exist to the same degree it existed in 1989 and the following years in Central and Eastern Europe. That does not mean one should give up trying to promote central democratic values. But it means that the EU needs a new instrument to make its efforts more political, more sustainable, more flexible and more efficient. Hence, the six key challenges for the European Endowment for Democracy are the following:

    • Elections vs. rule of law, good governance and civil society: If there is one overriding lesson of democracy support over the last 20 years, it is that democratic elections alone do not secure democracy, let alone make for a stable and prosperous development. Much more work and resources have to be invested into civil society and its actors and institutions, as well as into the understanding of the rule of law, due process and good governance. Hence, the support for elections and political movements must go hand in hand with a more long-term effort to secure the other factors.

    • Good analysis: Democracy support in the EU’s neighbourhood is only possible based on a thorough analysis of the situation on the ground. Assessments of the overall political situation, as well as the crucial actors in the respective countries, and a good overview of NGOs and civil society organisations, cannot come only from diplomatic representations. but must be based on information and analysis from European NGOs that have a permanent presence, as well as local actors themselves.

    • Identify the Unsupported: It is often a challenge to identify actors and organisations that are efficient, and fulfil the criteria for support (above all, public traction and/or access to decision makers), and that are not yet supported by any other European or Western donor. This, too, will require close cooperation and coordination with other actors of democracy support.

    • Risk management: In many neighbourhood countries , authoritarian rulers pose increasingly high challenges to NGOs and individuals accepting support from external actors (cf. Belarus’ ‘foreign agents’ legislation). In the Middle East and North Africa, there is often not only the danger of legal action against Western democracy support organisations (cf. in Egypt against 17 US & German NGOs), but also a risk of public stigmatisation as ‘agents of the West’. Hence, support must be carefully calibrated to the actual risks for local actors, and damage to them must be avoided.

    • Capacity building: In both the Eastern and the Southern neighbourhood, due to the rudimentary structures of civil society, many NGOs and CSOs have poorly developed administrative and analytical capacities. Hence, while they may be politically attractive, any effort to support them must take into account the need to train personnel and provide long term support. This can only be ensured by close cooperation with other democracy support organisations.

    • Rivalry/Complementarity: While the EED is an independent private law foundation, it will nevertheless have to not only avoid duplication with existing organisations (such as the EIDHR, or big national political foundations) but also closely cooperate with them. Rivalry is to be avoided, and complementarity is the only way forward.

    Hence, the EED will need to carefully balance between political organisations and classical civil society actors, build a solid analytic base (country files), specify the criteria for recipient organisations, take into account the inherent risks in democracy support, be conscious of the need for capacity building, and – above all – cooperate with all other European and extra-European donors and actors in the EU’s neighbourhood.

    [Photo source: http://democracyendowment.eu/]

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy European Union Foreign Policy

    Roland Freudenstein

    Supporting the Unsupported: Mission & Challenges of the European Endowment for Democracy

    Blog

    16 May 2013

  • There is a tendency whenever a eurozone country gets into difficulty and needs help from its neighbours to blame Germany for the severity of the terms imposed and to say there is bullying involved. In both Greece and Cyprus, we hear references to the Second World War, as if offering Greece a low interest loan to keep its state functioning was equivalent to a military invasion of the kind Greece experienced in 1941.

    There is also talk of the “solidarity” that Germans ”owe” the rest of the rest of the eurozone, even though any money Germany might pay has to be raised from German citizens, under the German tax system. This is the way it has to be done, only because there is no common eurozone tax system, applicable to all euro zonecitizens, from which the money might otherwise come. Indeed those who call most loudly for “solidarity” would probably be the first to object if a common eurozone tax system, equally applicable to all eurozone citizens, was proposed. Others criticise Germany for insisting on “austerity” in spending by countries that are spending more than they are earning, as if there was some alternative to spending less in those circumstances.

    The fact is that some countries, including Ireland, are still spending more than they collect in taxation, even after one has left out of account the interest paid on past debts. Such countries have what is called a “primary deficit”. Ireland had a huge primary deficit in 2010, has a small one today, and hopefully will have a tiny primary surplus next year. But if it is to reduce its debts, and thus not be vulnerable to disaster, if there was to be a sudden increase in international interest rates of the kind that occurred in 1979/80, Ireland will have to have a primary surplus for many years to come.

    That is the only way to reduce the debts it ran up through the primary deficits it ran in the recent past. This is not something “imposed by the Germans”, it is imposed by the rules of mathematics, and by compound interest in particular. Of course there is one alternative, inflation, the alternative of inflating debts away. Inflation devalues everything. It reduces the value of money, and in so doing, it also reduces the value of debts and, of course, of savings. If inflation is greater than the rate of interest, debts will reduce.

    But the value of pension funds, of bank deposits and of life assurance policies would also reduce. Inflation would mean falling living standards all around, because if a country is to stay competitive, wages would have to increase at a slower rate than prices. Those on fixed incomes would see their living standards decline even more, because they could buy much less each year with their fixed income. Inflation is very hard to keep under control, once it starts to take hold.

    Germany tried to inflate away its First World War debts in the 1920s, and the experience was a complete disaster. Understandably, it does not see inflation as a solution to Europe’s debt problems today, and nor should we. Some argue that Germans themselves should spend more and save less, and say this would help other countries in Europe. This is already happening to some extent.

    German imports were 10% higher in 2011 than they were before the recession, whereas almost every other European country is importing less now that it was then. It is fair to say that Germany’s balance of payments surplus, at 6% of GDP, is very high indeed, too high, and that this surplus is not being used all that wisely. Germany could do more to free up its own internal market, and the OECD has been critical of it on that score, but that offers a long term, rather than a short term solution for the rest of Europe.

    It is also important to deal with the myth than Germany is a terribly wealthy country, that it can afford to bail everyone else out. Germany’s present competitiveness is of recent origin. A dozen years ago it was the “sick man” of the European economy, struggling with the unexpectedly high costs of absorbing East Germany. Germany got a big bonus from the opening up of China, which imports a lot of German engineering goods, while other European countries (eg. Italy) have lost for the same reason, because Chinese consumer goods are undercutting them in their specialist markets.

    Germany is an elderly country, with far more people approaching retirement age than preparing to enter the work force. Probably for this reason, its medium term growth potential, and thus its medium term debt repayment potential, is low by comparison with other countries in Europe. The OECD did an estimate of real growth potential for different countries from 2016 to 2025. Its estimate for Germany was only 1.2% pa over the ten year period, for Netherlands 1.4%, for Italy 1.5%, for Portugal 2.1%, for Spain 2.3%, and for Ireland it was projected to be 2.7% a year!

    German families are apprehensive about the future, and if those OECD figures are to be believed, it is hard to blame them. German families do not FEEL wealthy. Only 44% of Germans own their own home, as against 58% of French people, 69% of Italians and 83% of Spaniards. According to a recent Bundesbank study, the average household wealth in Germany is 195,000 euros, as against 229,000 euros in France and 285,000 in Spain.

    This is the reality with which German politicians have to cope. It does not mean that they are always right, but it does mean that they have to be cautious. It also means that Germany alone cannot solve Europe’s financial problems.

    John Bruton Crisis European Union Eurozone

    John Bruton

    Can Germany bail out all of Europe?

    Blog

    28 Mar 2013

  • All resolutions of banking crises involve imposing and sharing sacrifices. As far as possible, people should know in advance how sacrifices are to be shared. No way of saving is completely risk free, but the greater the risk, the greater should be the reward and vice versa. A high yield bond should be riskier than a low interest deposit.

    It is on this basis that the terms of the proposed bailout of the Cypriot banking system should be scrutinised, because it illustrates how Euro Zone policy makers are thinking. The initially proposed bailout of Cypriot banks involved imposing haircuts of the depositors in Cypriot banks who have been covered by the deposit guarantee scheme, that is depositors with amounts less than 100000 euros. Whose idea was this? Setting aside the terms of a deposit guarantee like this would be a very serious step for Euro zone policy makers to have taken. It calls into question the integrity of deposit guarantees generally. That is hardly a good idea when we are trying to restore confidence in banks and rebuild their capital bases

    SENIOR BONDHOLDERS TO BE PREFERRED TO DEPOSITORS?

    According to today’s Wall Street Journal, an alternative to burning the guaranteed depositors was proposed by the IMF. This was “radically shrinking the two largest banks, including bailing in senior bondholders, and letting deposit insurance kick in. In that case, depositors in Laiki Bank and Bank of Cyprus would have faced losses of 30 to 40% above the insured 100000 euros.” It would appear therefore that an explicit legal guarantee of deposits is to be set aside so that senior bondholders and un-guaranteed deposits are to be reduced, or, in the case of senior bondholders, no haircuts. The net effect of this is that a deposit guaranteed euro in a Cypriot bank is not worth the same as a euro in a bank somewhere else in the eurozone.

    This is contrary to the underlying principle of having a single currency. The philosophy behind the decision to afford protection to the position of the admittedly small number of senior bondholders of Cypriot banks at the expense of guaranteed depositors has yet to be explained. Senior bondholders are commercially well informed investors, depositors are not. Senior bondholders also earn a better interest rate than small depositors do.

    SHOULD BONDHOLDERS OF BANKS BE PREFERRED TO BONDHOLDERS OF STATES?

    It is also hard to understand why the EU policy imposed a haircut on the senior bondholders of the sovereign Greek state a few months ago, but it did not impose a haircut on the senior bondholders of private Cypriot banks, when that was suggested by the IMF. Indeed, part of the problem of Cypriot banks is that they were themselves senior bondholders of the Greek state, who suffered a haircut on those bonds as part of the terms of the Greek bailout. Who are the senior bondholders of Cypriot banks who are so deserving of 100% protection? Who are the big depositors whose haircuts were to be reduced by attacking the under 100,000 euro guaranteed depositors?

    A credible and consistent banking system is essential to a modern economy. The EU is committed to establishing a banking union, including a single system for winding up banks and guaranteeing deposits. The precedents being set in the Cypriot case are important and, in my personal view, troubling. They do not indicate clarity or consistency of thought by either the eurozone, finance ministers, or the European Commission. The rejection of the deal by the Cypriot Parliament now gives eurozone policymakers a chance to think again about the underlying philosophy of their approach to the financial crisis.

    John Bruton Banking Crisis European Union Eurozone

    John Bruton

    Cyprus, a test case for future European banking policy

    Blog

    21 Mar 2013

  • Rafał Trzaskowski Democracy Elections EU Institutions European Union

    Rafał Trzaskowski

    MEP Trzaskowski speaks on redistribution of seats in the EP

    Blog

    13 Mar 2013

  • The Schuman Report on the State of the Union is a work of reference which everyone now looks forward to reading every year. For decision makers and observers of European policy it is a source of original thought and ideas, underpinned by a strong requirement for quality. It is a tool for those who are looking for reliable sources in terms of European statistics and macro-economic data. Some eminent people have chosen to contribute their ideas also. In 2013, Josef Ackermann, former CEO of Deutsche Bank, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Zurich Insurance Group , offers his analysis of the banking Union, Lord Dykes, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson for the LibDems in the House of Lords, provides readers with his view of the future for the UK in the European Union and Alain Lamassoure, MEP, Chairman of the Budget Committee in the European Parliament, suggests a budgetary federation.The very best specialists help to throw light on the major trends ongoing in the economy and also in international and European politics. This book includes around 35 maps that are often unique, in explanation of the major issues the Union is facing. It also includes a summary of political Europe which analyses the 2012 electoral year (among France, Greece, The Netherlands, Romania), looks into the political and economic representation of women in Europe and draws up an overview of normative output in the Union in 2012. A unique series of commented statistics and maps covers all of the main topical issues (growth, buying power, economy, demography, immigration, energy, environment) and enables the Schuman Report 2013 to present a full view of the European Union and its policies.

    Crisis Economy European Union Eurozone Values

    Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2013

    Collaborative

    25 Feb 2013

  • The European Council has agreed upon a proposal for the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020. The next step will be to seek consent of the European Parliament.

    As it goes with political decisions where 28 negotiators have to agree, the result of the discussions has been a compromise. This is how the European works and this is how democracies work in general. The more relevant question is whether the prosperity and wellbeing of the European Union’s citizens will benefit from the result.

    Some general comments can be made:

    – The overall envelope of EU spending will decrease. We could consider it as a missed opportunity to see the EU budget as an investment budget, to be used in counter cyclical spending.
    – The relative weight of expenditure on competitiveness for growth and jobs and economic, social and territorial cohesion will increase from 44.8% today to 49% in 2020, whilst direct payments in the framework of the common agricultural policy, although important, will decrease from 30.9% to 26.8% in 2020. This change is irreversible and strengthens the EU budget’s role as a multiplier of Member States’ efforts to increase social cohesion and competitiveness.
    – If the Parliament agrees, the Commission will have the authority, upon agreement of the Council, to ask for a review of funding programmes to maximise the growth impact. The Commission may as well propose suspension of commitments and payments. All these measures will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public service delivery and with this, the positive impact of the projects on the Member States’ economies.

    Therefore, although one should regret the overall decrease in funding, the budget contains a clear choice for growth, social cohesion and better spending. Legislators should now focus on translating this philosophy into the sectoral legislation of each relevant funding instrument.

    Stefaan De Corte Economy EU Institutions European Union

    Stefaan De Corte

    A budget for the wellbeing of EU citizens?

    Blog

    13 Feb 2013

  • Five years ago, when the Centre for European Studies was founded, we set out four main goals to guide our activities: to advance centre-right thought, to contribute to the formulation of EU and national policies, to serve as a framework for national political foundations and to stimulate public debate about the EU. To achieve these goals, the Centre and its young, dynamic staff started organising conferences, seminars, training events, as well as producing research in the form of policy briefs, research papers, books and collaborative publications with like-minded partners.

    The fifth anniversary of our foundation provides an excellent opportunity to look back and take stock of some of our milestones, highlights and achievements. Our research to date now covers all of the major topics of European policy-making; we constantly strive to examine burning issues and cover pressing topics, whether it is the Arab Spring, new ways of political organisation or the increased role the internet and social media are currently playing in politics. We have travelled to almost every European capital to host events, welcoming many distinguished speakers, including Prime Ministers, European Commissioners, Members of the European Parliament and renowned academics. We have also managed to expand our network of member foundations and like-minded organisations, acting as a bridge between them and as a catalyst among them.

    We are of course delighted and honoured when members of our political family acknowledge our work and endorse our mission; this was the case during the last European People Party’s Congress in Bucharest, when EPP leaders stopped by our stand, wished us “Happy Birthday” and shared their views on our work and future role (you can watch a highlights video on this topic on our new homepage). At the beginning of this year, we were equally thrilled to see that our results have also been recognised internationally: according to the prestigious Global GoTo Think Tank Index released yearly by Pennsylvania University, CES is ranked 31st in the Top 150 Think Tanks Worldwide (you can read more about the results of this ranking in our news section).

    However, we do believe that now is the perfect time to be Thinking Europe more than ever: the European Union is still recovering from the economic crisis, while the next European elections are approaching fast. Citizens, voters and policy-makers alike need to be able to access quality research in order to take informed decisions and grasp the long term consequences of their options.

    Our new website aims to provide you with a valuable resource: we wanted to give our stakeholders and target audience a state of the art platform, with easy to access content, as well as a user-friendly way of keeping updated about our past and upcoming events; last, but equally important, we wish to encourage interactivity and dialogue and offer tools for feedback. We believe our new website to be an online mirror of our offline efforts: connecting people, organisations, publications and events in order to create the best research out of these synergies. We thus invite you to take a tour, discover the new features and send us your feedback so that we can fine tune the website further!

    Welcome once again and keep Thinking Europe!

    Tomi Huhtanen European People's Party European Union Leadership Party Structures

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Welcome to a new way of Thinking Europe!

    Blog

    06 Feb 2013

  • 2012 was a pivotal year in European politics. The economic crisis reached a peak, but after four years of non-stop crisis management it would appear that the worst is behind us. While parts of Europe still face a long road to recovery, a consensus seems to have emerged on the necessity of the measures that have been taken and the positive effect they are having. Beyond our borders, the Arab revolutions and transitions to democracy in North Africa and the Middle East continue to be a foreign policy issue which requires constant and close attention.

    Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    Activity Report 2012

    Activity Report

    31 Jan 2013

  • The Conservative plan, as set out in David Cameron’s speech, is to try to renegotiate the terms of UK membership in the EU, if it wins the next general Election, and put the terms to a referendum. The risk is that Labour may feel under pressure to adopt a similar policy, so as to prevent a leakage of its votes to UKIP.It is very unlikely that the results of any such renegotiation, whether conducted by Labour or the Conservatives, will satisfy British popular expectations.  And if that is the case, the UK electorate may choose in a referendum to leave the EU. This renegotiation is likely to be a disappointment because the expectations in Britain are vague and unrealistic. David Cameron did not offer any clear negotiating objectives in his speech.

    SINGLE MARKET IS NOT A FREESTANDING ENTITY

    He seemed to think that the EU Single Market was some sort of freestanding entity separate from common EU policies on regulation, working time, transport, and education. But for other EU nations, it was in return for policies on these things, that they opened their markets to the rest of the EU, in the first place. The Single Market is a delicate political construct that cannot be easily unpicked. And while accepting that the EU needed to resolve the euro crisis, he wanted  “contrition” to be expressed  by those who created the euro, notwithstanding that  Economic and Monetary Union was on the EU agenda before a previous Conservative Prime Minister negotiated the  UK’s entry terms! He also wanted the goal of “ever closer union” dropped from the EU Treaties, even though that too was part of the Treaty before the UK joined. He is 40 years late with these ideas

    RENEGOTIATION WILL BE WITH 26 OTHER GOVERNMENTS

    The UK renegotiation will not be   with bureaucrats in “Brussels”. It will be with the Governments of every one of the other twenty-six states in the EU. Britain may want to pay less, but other countries may want it to pay more. Many other EU countries see the very things British negotiators would most like to be rid of – like the working time directive – as part of what they gained, in return for their opening  up to the Single Market in the first place. Concessions on these issues will, in particular, be anathema to left leaning Governments, of which there are an increasing number.
    Exempting Britain from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), another possible British demand, will get nowhere. Repatriating regional policy will not go down well with countries who have recently joined  the EU, and  whose incomes per head are much lower than those in Britain

    ALL EU RULES HAVE BEEN MADE WITH BRITISH INVOLVEMENT

    British popular opinion has been constantly led to believe that the  EU is a foreign entity, with which Britain has a sort of treaty,  and not as what it actually is – a Union of which the UK has  a participating member with a vote on every decision.The role of British MEPs, British ministers, and a British Commissioner in EU decisions has been systematically ignored in the UK media and all decisions inaccurately presented as emanating from an “unelected” bureaucracy.

    If possible results of a renegotiation are hyped up in the next British General election, and  lots  of “red lines” promised, the actual results of the renegotiation will prove to be paltry by comparison. That could lead to UK exit.

    IMPACT ON NORTHERN IRELAND PEACE

    I am particularly worried about the effect of Britain leaving the EU on the fragile situation in Northern Ireland.

    Northern Ireland, and its reversible peace process, is being ignored in the debate taking place in Britain. It is also being ignored in the rest of Europe, where the impatience with the British is palpable.

    Obviously if the UK leaves the EU, it will negotiate a new relationship with the EU.

    But what sort of relationship will it be?

    One of the big drivers of anti-EU sentiment in Britain is immigration of EU citizens from central and eastern European countries, like Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltics. Gordon Brown famously encountered this sentiment during the last British General Election.

    IMMIGRATION CONTROLS AT NEWRY?

    If the UK leaves the EU, it would be free to restrict immigration from some EU countries. But, as a continuing member of the EU, the Republic of Ireland could not do so. So if the UK wanted to prevent these EU citizens entering the UK through the Republic, it would have to introduce passport controls at Newry, Aughnacloy, Strabane and on all other roads by which such EU immigrants could cross the border from the Republic into the UK.

    CUSTOMS POSTS AT STRABANE?

    If the UK is outside the EU, tariffs would have to be collected on UK exports entering the Republic and vice versa. Average EU tariffs are quite low, but some tariffs, on things like dairy products and clothing, are quite high. Customs posts would have to be placed on all roads leading across the border to ensure collection of these tariffs. Smuggling, with all its potential as a funding source for other forms of illegality, would become very profitable again. But the human and political cost in border counties would be the worst aspect of it. Nationalist communities would again feel cut off from the Republic by the inconvenience of passport controls, and of customs posts. Since Northern Ireland came into being as a separate entity in 1920, the large nationalist minority there has retained a very strong sense of identification with the rest of the island. The possible reintroduction of customs posts, and of immigration controls, would undermine the efforts that have been made , in the Good Friday Agreement, to reduce the divisions between North and South and between Ireland and the UK. Given that UK Prime Ministers have had to devote so much time to the so called “Irish Question” for the last 150 years, it is amazing that the current UK debate on EU membership is being conducted as if Ireland did not exist, or the UK had no interest in it. Some might say that  fears of the UK having customs posts and passport controls on the Irish border are exaggerated because they think the UK outside the EU could  easily negotiate a free trade and free movement deal with the EU

    UK CANNOT BE BOTH IN, AND OUT, OF THE EU AT THE SAME TIME

    There is a big snag here. To enjoy continued free access to EU markets for its goods and services, Britain would have to continue to apply EU rules, as now, but WITHOUT having had any say at all in them – something the UK does have as an EU member. David Cameron had a point yesterday when he argued that the nature of the EU is changing in response to the euro crisis, and as a non euro member the UK’s relationship with the EU will change anyway. But there was absolutely no need for him to promise an in or out  referendum, which places him in a straight jacket.

    video source: www.euractiv.com

    John Bruton European Union Eurozone Values

    John Bruton

    David Cameron’s speech

    Blog

    04 Jan 2013

  • The European Union has been a remarkably successful institution-building project. It is the first ever example of sovereign states voluntarily coming together and pooling some of their sovereignty in order to do more together than they could separately. Almost every other political unification or state-building exercise in history has involved the use of force, including the creation of the United Kingdom and the preservation of the United States. The EU came together peacefully and voluntarily. However, some might argue that European integration was necessary only in order to cement a post-war reconciliation of Germany and France, and now that this has been achieved, the EU has done its job and needs no further development. This is wrong for two reasons.

    WHY THE EU IS STILL AN ASSET

    First, the fact that states continue to line up to join the EU shows that the EU still provides a necessary political and economic umbrella under which reconciliation and mutual security between states can be assured in the twenty-first century.

    This was why the Baltic states, Poland and other central European states joined, and it is the reason several Balkan states, and even Georgia and Ukraine, might like to do so. It is also the reason why Greece, much to the surprise of many, has favoured Turkish membership. While the United States of America is remarkably successful in many ways, there is no queue of other American states lining up to join. Even Puerto Rico has not done so after more than one hundred years of Washington’s rule. Second, the EU is the most advanced effort in the world providing a measure of democratic supervision of globalisation. Unlike other efforts to supervise globalisation, like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, the EU has a directly elected Parliament which co-legislates for the EU alongside the 27 governments, who often decide issues by majority. Other international organisations operate on a purely intergovernmental basis, which means that there has to be unanimity in order to reach a decision, and democratic involvement only arises when a deal, already negotiated in private, has to be ratified in a national parliament without the possibility of further negotiation or amendment. As a result, other organisations like the WTO and the UN can do much less, and they have to do much more of what they do behind closed doors than is the case with the EU. My view is that the EU provides a unique model for democratic rule making at the supranational level, something which will become more—not less—necessary as we proceed into the twenty-first century. Indeed the failure of the world to deal with climate change is a good example of the weaknesses of present intergovernmental models of global governance. If the different regions of the world were unions like the EU, which could negotiate seriously and with genuine political legitimacy as the EU can, the failures of Copenhagen and other climate change summits would not have happened. If the EU were to break up, either because of the collapse of the euro or because a major country like the UK feels it has to exercise its right to leave the EU, and either event were to set off a 2 breakdown of the trust that keeps the EU itself together, we would have lost a unique instrument for security building in Europe and for problem solving in the wider world. I would now like to analyse those two potentially existential threats to the EU, the euro crisis, and the UKs possible desire to leave. Of these, a breakup the euro is undoubtedly by far the more serious existential threat to the EU, because the scale of the economic losses is potentially much greater and the means of controlling those losses are much less.

    THE EURO CRISIS IS NOT SOLVED

    The euro crisis has become slightly less acute in recent weeks. The announcement of a new bond buying policy by the European Central Bank has calmed the markets. But there is no doubt that the markets will test the ECB’s willpower at some stage. Meanwhile the link between the solvency of European banks and the solvency of European states has not been removed. A default by any EU state would wreck the banks of that state, because each state’s banks tend to be big purchasers of the bonds of that state. Similarly a potential collapse of a bank in a state would force that state to inject capital into banks if it did not want a run on banks generally to take place, and contagion to spread to other countries. The confidence loss caused by a major bank getting into difficulty could lead to a dramatic collapse in state revenues, leaving it with a greatly increased budget deficit at the very time it would also be having to find the money to recapitalise the bank.

    FOUR THINGS THAT MUST BE DONE TO SOLVE IT

    If these problems are to be resolved, four things will have to happen, more or less at the same time: 1. Greek government debt will have to be forgiven; 2. The ESM will have to be seen as big enough to stand behind Spain and other countries that might get into difficulty, on a contingency basis; 3. The new mechanisms to supervise, and if necessary rationalise, Europe’s banks will have to be put in place; 4. The already-agreed reforms to reduce deficits, and to promote growth by opening up the job and service markets to competition, will have to be demonstrated as being fully implemented in letter and spirit in order to show creditors that, if one forgives debt or enlarges the ESM, one is not throwing good money after bad. At the moment, the Greek debt issue is not being tackled, and it seems to have been postponed until after the German election in September 2013. The delay may not be the worst thing in the world if it allows time for Greek reforms to begin to establish credibility. It also allows time to educate public opinion in creditor countries like Germany, and in countries sitting complacently on the side lines, of the true consequences for themselves of a euro breakup. Greece also needs immediate help to finance itself until the end of 2013, and that bridging finance cannot await elections in Germany or anywhere else. The EU has already enacted a raft of legislation, including the Fiscal Compact Treaty, to ensure that countries reduce their deficits and liberalise their labour and service markets. One of the reasons growth potential has been low in Greece, Italy, and Spain is the lack of competition or flexibility in key sectors. But Germany is not yet satisfied. It wants to have an EU Commissioner with the power to veto state budgets, and enforceable contracts on reforms between states and the EU. But not enough attention is being paid to the fact that Germany, France and other core countries could also be doing a lot more themselves to open up their own digital, financial, energy, retail and professional service markets. While Germany has set a good example in labour market and pension reform, there are other reforms it could initiate that would help other EU countries to 3 sell more goods and services into the German market, and thereby trade their way out of their problems. There is understandable political resistance in Germany to any further debt forgiveness for Greece. But debt forgiveness within the euro is one thing. A Greek exit from the euro is an entirely different matter. It would be far more dangerous, and that needs to be explained to German public opinion.

    WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THE EURO ZONE BROKE UP?

    Even a disorderly default by a country within the euro, no matter how severe its consequences for its own people and for its creditors, would have far less severe consequences for the euro, and for the EU itself, than an exit of a country from the euro would have. I have heard a view from some northern Europeans that an orderly exit of Greece from the euro could be contemplated if it would be accompanied by building up a huge fund—much bigger than the existing ESM—to stand behind all the other euro area states so as to prevent a Greek exit leading to a loss of confidence in the financial position of the rest of the euro zone. I believe this view, that a Greek exit from the euro can be managed, is profoundly mistaken. The whole edifice of the EU rests on law. The EU has no police force to enforce its will. It relies on Member States freely respecting the interpretation of EU law by the European Court of Justice, and implementing the Court’s decision, however unpleasant that may be. The exit of a country from the euro is, quite simply, a breach of the treaty obligations, and treaty obligations have the force of law. The euro was established on the basis that it is irreversible. A Greek exit, particularly if it would be condoned or encouraged by other members, would say loudly that the euro is not irreversible. That would lead to constant speculation in the markets as to who would be next. And as speculation would increase, so too would the size of the funds or guarantees needed to check it. That in turn would lead to a heightened risk that some of the creditor countries, who would have to provide these funds and guarantees, might decide that they themselves should exit the euro and re- establish their own currencies. That would be the end of the euro. Breakups of currency unions have happened before, in Austro-Hungary after the First World War and in Eastern Europe in the 1990s when the rouble zone broke up. As described in a recent article by Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute of International Economics, the consequences of this were disastrous.

    A SCENARIO THAT MIGHT LEAD TO THE END OF THE EU ITSELF

    New currencies would have to be established. The relative value of these currencies would be unknown and unknowable. Some would lose value very quickly and others would shoot up in value. Exports would become dramatically uncompetitive in some cases, and in others they would become so cheap that there would be accusations of dumping, currency manipulation, and calls for the immediate reintroduction of import duties to level the playing field. Such duties, if imposed, would end the Single Market, which would be tantamount to the breakup of the European Union itself. Open markets, the assumption on which Ireland built its entire economy over the last fifty years, would be gone. In some countries the banking system would break down, and people would have no access to credit for even the most basic transactions. In others, people would cease to trust the value of their own money, and money, after all, is based on a promise. If people can no longer trust the states standing behind the promise that underlies their money, the basis for money itself is gone. This is not fiction. It is what happened when the rouble zone broke up in the 1990s and explains why incomes fell by 50% in the former rouble zone countries. And the exporter nations within the rouble zone, like the Russian Federation, suffered just as much hardship as the importer nations like Latvia and Estonia. The political stresses that this scenario contains for the 500 million people of the EU and their governments would be such that trust between European nations would easily break down 4 completely. We see signs of that happening already, but it is being held in check by the hope that problems can still be resolved on a collective basis. A breakup of the euro would show that it was impossible to resolve matters on a collective basis, and it would then be a case of every nation for itself, with particularly severe consequences for smaller countries like Ireland.

    …AND MEANWHILE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

    As if Europe did not have enough problems, one important EU country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is preparing to renegotiate the terms of its own membership in the EU, and hold a referendum on the outcome, which would potentially decide whether the UK would stay in the EU or leave. The first point is that the UK is entirely free to do this. Unlike other unions like the United States or the United Kingdom itself, the European Union is a union in which states are free to leave so long as they fulfil their normal obligations under international law, which arise when any country withdraws from any international treaty. The UK has been an uneasy member of the EU from the outset. While Churchill envisaged a United States of Europe, he did not envisage the UK, which still had a global empire at the time, being part of it. The UK did not attend the 1955 conference in Messina which led to the Treaty of Rome. When it eventually joined the Common Market, a decision endorsed by a referendum, the idea was sold to the electorate as an economic arrangement, whereas even the most cursory reading of the Treaty of Rome would have shown it to be much more than that.

    A THREAT TO VETO THE EU BUDGET

    The United Kingdom is now threatening to veto the entire EU budget, something it is legally entitled to do unless there is an absolute freeze on the size of the budget. The difficulty with this stance is not legal, it is political. The EU Single Market, which guarantees the free movement of people, goods and services, was created as a political deal. Weaker economies opened up their markets to stronger ones, and removed protection from local businesses on the basis of a promise that they would qualify for structural funds to modernise their economies. These funds are what the EU budget provides. (Some of the EU budget also goes on agriculture, but that has fallen from almost 80% of the total originally, to only 30% today.) The political difficulty with the UK stance is that of fairness. In the past, when countries like Ireland, Spain, Greece, Portugal, and even the UK itself joined the EU, we all qualified for very substantial EU structural funds in the form of aid for agricultural modernisation, general infrastructure, training, communications etc. Now, when the EU has taken in 10 central European countries, of which almost all are relatively far poorer by comparison than the rest of the EU countries were when they joined, these 10 are to be told that if the freeze the UK wants is to go into effect, they are not to get even a fraction of the help that Ireland, Spain, regions of the UK and others qualified for right after joining. This is causing resentment. I recently heard an Estonian Minister complain that, under the existing EU budget which is already an unfair compromise, his farmers have to compete in the same EU market with western European farmers who are getting three times the subsidies. Unless there are to be drastic cuts, this sort of anomaly can only be put right by an increase in the EU budget. The problem is that the UK government has made the size of the budget a red line issue without getting into any informed debate about what the money is actually spent on, or about what sort of EU budget is necessary to ensure that the EU Single Market, to which the UK itself is very much attached, works fairly and is preserved. The UK wants access to the Single Market, but is not prepared to pay any entry fee.

    AND A DEMAND TO RENEGOTIATE THE ENTIRE BASIS OF UK MEMBERSHIP OF THE EU

    The same problem arises in the renegotiation of the terms of membership that the current UK government wants. In preparation for this renegotiation, the UK government is now doing a 5 comprehensive audit of all EU laws in order to identify areas of activity that could be taken back from the EU and instead administered exclusively under UK law. There may be some good ideas emerging from this, on which all other members could agree, but there may also be a lot of problems. The difficulty is that the UK wants to take back, yet to also be specified, powers while also retaining full and unfettered access for all its goods and services exports to the EU Single Market. Fifty per cent of UK exports go to the euro zone, whereas only 15% of euro zone exports go to the UK, so this is important to the UK. The difficulty is that the EU Single Market, like any market, is a product of common rules, regulations and conventions. A market is a political construct. Without common rules or understandings nobody could rely on what they are buying. That is why, for example, there have to be common EU quality standards to construct a common EU market. Otherwise, one country could impose peculiar quality standards designed to exclude competitors from its market and enable its own producers to make monopoly profits at the expense of consumers. Any rulemaking power that could be abused in this way cannot be handed back to the national level without endangering the Single Market. That is the problem the proposed UK renegotiation of its EU membership terms will encounter. The competition in any market also has to be fair, and someone has to regulate that. If competitors have different environmental or product liability standards, or if some firms are operating monopolies or cartels, the competition will not be fair. These matters cannot be handed back to be decided by national authorities without also endangering the Single Market. If the UK were to draw up a list of EU rules it would like to make in Westminster rather than Brussels, the other 26 could also do the same, but they might come up with a very different list. The process could become bogged down in the serial reopening of compromises made years ago on issues that have little relevance to the urgent existential threat the EU faces today. One gets the impression that many in the UK do not really care about that. The EU is still regarded by many in the UK as a foreign country, not a union of which the UK itself has been an integral part for the past 40 years. Membership in the EU is seen as a convenience rather than as a commitment. If the price of satisfying UK voters is to cause more problems for the ‘foreigners’ in ‘Europe’, that is not seen by some UK political leaders as such a bad thing. The difficulty is that the ‘foreigners’ in Europe may not see it that way. With so many genuinely urgent things to do such as safeguarding the very existence of the EU itself, the other 26 Member States may not be inclined to devote time to a painstaking case by case analysis of a series of requests for new UK opt outs from some bits of some rulemaking authority, with UK opt ins to others, and to a judicious analysis of whether each one of these decisions might affect the integrity of the Single Market either now or at some time in the future. And the European Court of Justice would certainly have difficulty interpreting the consistency of a special EU menu for one country with the basic freedoms for all on which the EU is based. There is also the old question of whether UK Ministers and MEPs should continue to have voting rights on things they are opting out of. As it is, one has to say that it is distinctly odd that the present Chairman of the Committee of the European Parliament that deals with euro currency matters represents a constituency in the UK which has no intention of joining the euro. If, as is likely at the end of its proposed renegotiation, the UK is dissatisfied with the result, because not enough powers are being handed back to Westminster, it will have little option but to recommend that the UK withdraws from the EU. It is setting itself up now to find itself in exactly that position in 2016.

    THE UK’S OPTIONS OUTSIDE THE EU

    This will require careful handling because 50% of UK exports go to the EU, and London is Europe’s main financial centre, for the time being anyway. How is the UK to protect these interests if it is outside the EU? One possibility is to join Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein in the European Economic Area, which would guarantee full access for UK goods and services to the EU market. But the price for that would be to implement all EU legislation that was relevant to the Single 6 Market, and to contribute to the EU budget, but without having any say in EU decisions. That would be worse from a Eurosceptic point of view than the UK’s present position, even though it would guarantee continued access for the UK to the EU market for both goods and services. The other possibility would be to follow Switzerland and negotiate a series of bilateral trade deals with the EU. The UK would not be entering such negotiations from a position of strength, because it relies more on the EU market than the EU relies on the UK market. Switzerland has negotiated full access to the EU market for goods, but not for services. Services are the UK’s key export sector, so a Swiss-style deal would not be attractive. Alternatively, if Britain negotiated a customs union with the EU, like that of Turkey, it would find its trade policies with the rest of the world still being determined in Brussels, but with less input from London than at present. Again it would also only have a guarantee of access for goods exports, but not for services. Finally, the UK might simply leave the EU without negotiating any special deal. That would leave it paying tariffs on its exports to EU Member States, including Ireland, and would necessitate the reintroduction of customs posts on the border in Ireland. It would undermine years of peace making by successive Irish and UK governments, and would cost thousands of jobs in export firms in both the UK and Ireland.

    CONCLUSION

    My sense is that the pressures that cause fracture in the EU derive from a lack of understanding among the general public of the extent to which their livelihoods depend on economic developments in other countries and of how unrealistic, in modern conditions, an ‘ourselves alone’ policy really is. Political leaders make little effort to explain this, because to do so would undermine the nationalist myths which brought most states into being in the first place and also because it is often convenient to blame the EU for the effects of decisions that were necessary but are unpalatable. For these reasons, little effort is made to forge any form of patriotic pride in the EU or its achievements. No venue has been created in which an EU-wide public opinion might be formed. This must be done if sufficient mutual understanding and support is to be established to allow the EU to create the degree of burden sharing and mutual supervision that is necessary to guarantee the long-term robustness of the euro, and thus of the EU itself. In a word, the EU needs more democratic cement to hold itself together. European Parliament elections are not truly European. They are 27 different elections in 27 different countries, in which national issues predominate. The European Parliament itself has refused to contemplate the election of some of its members from EU-wide party lists, which would begin the process of creating an EU-wide debate, because it would necessitate an EU-wide political campaign on behalf of the rival EU-wide lists of candidates. The President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council are selected in private meetings by heads of government. They do not have to win the votes of EU citizens, and consequently EU citizens do not have the feeling that they can vote the government of the EU out of office in the same way that they can vote their national governments out of office. Thus, the EU does not enjoy democratic legitimacy in quite the same way that national governments do. As a member of the Convention that drafted what eventually became the Lisbon Treaty, I urged unsuccessfully that the EU should have a presidential election on these lines. I suggested that the President of the European Commission should be selected in a multi-candidate election in which every EU citizen would vote, rather than be selected, as at present, by 27 heads of government meeting in private, the outcome of which is then approved in a single candidate vote in the European Parliament. This proposal received almost no support at the time, although it has since been adopted as policy by the German CDU. If that had happened when it was proposed, the EU would now be in a much stronger democratic position to devise a more coherent response to the euro crisis, and to find a solution to the UK’s difficulties. The UK press would not be able to argue that EU leaders were ‘unelected’. The Commission, headed by a President with a full EU-wide democratic mandate, would have more authority to propose solutions. The Council of 27 heads of government would still play a vital role, but the EU would be less constrained by the electoral timetables of individual countries, as is the case with the German elections of 2013.

    John Bruton European Union Euroscepticism

    John Bruton

    EU: Sticking together or not?

    Blog

    21 Nov 2012

  • Turkey’s growing assertiveness on the international stage, difficulties with EU accession, rapidly rising economy, and the long and controversial reign of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are all necessitating a need for analysis. The present study of the Centre for European Studies presents two papers which look at Turkey and the AKP from different perspectives. Svante Cornell’s paper argues that AKP has moved away from democratic reforms and that Turkey’s ‘zero problems with the neighbours’ approach to international relations has failed. Gerald Knaus maintains that the AKP and the EU’s influence on Turkey have effected radical changes in the balance of power between the military and civilian actors, thus bringing Turkey somewhat closer to Western democratic standards. Both authors advocate continued EU engagement with Turkey, irrespective of the progress of accession negotiations

    European Union Foreign Policy Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy

    Dealing with a Rising Power: Turkey’s Transformation and its Implications for the EU

    Research Papers

    01 Oct 2012

  • The Schuman Report on Europe, the State of the Union 2012 edition is a unique, unequaled reference work on Europe. The Report is a source of information, analysis and proposals in which the most eminent thinkers express their ideas on governance, federalism, the euro, regulation, European industry, European budget, energy, international policy, social model, in other words a complete review of the European Union and its policies. This publication is also a practical tool with 34 unique maps, a summary of political and legal Europe and a complete range of statistics on the European economy. The third edition is devoted to the means to implement to overcome the crisis, with an exclusive interview with Jean-Claude Trichet, former President of the European Central Bank. All 26 contributions in the Schuman Report converge to one message: “the reasons calling on Europeans to stand together have never been as numerous as today”. Basing themselves on 67 commented tables and graphs and 34 colour maps, most of which are unique, the authors invite you to understand all of the challenges that the European Union faces today.

    Crisis Economy European Union Mediterranean Values

    Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2012

    Collaborative

    05 Mar 2012

  • Europeans and Americans have a lot to learn from one another when it comes to higher education. The US offers a wider and more diversified range of choice in higher education, and more Americans than Europeans attend higher education institutions. Conversely, European universities are more intellectually oriented, and European students generally are better equipped to analyse and adapt to new situations. This paper analyses the strengths and weaknesses of both systems and assesses how each can benefit from the other.

    Education EU-US European Union Transatlantic

    A Higher Education for the Twenty-first Century: European and US approaches

    Research Papers

    01 Mar 2012

  • 2011 proved to be a year of change and uncertainty, a challenging time both for decision-makers and political analysts. In the European Union, austerity measures became a painful but nonetheless necessary step towards tackling the sovereign debt crises, while a wind of change blew across North Africa with new calls for freedom. At the Centre for European Studies we believe that visionaries can turn times of political upheaval and change into opportunities. This is why we have focused our activities and research efforts on the Arab Spring, particularly through our ‘Springeneration’ initiative, which is an innovative online tool designed to create a bridge with people in Arab countries who are experiencing profound political and social changes. Through its research and policy papers, the Centre for European Studies contributed significantly throughout 2011 by enriching the discussions taking place at the European level from a centre-right perspective. Research projects covered a variety of issues ranging from European economic governance to populist movements, among others. Working independently or in close collaboration with its member foundations, the Centre for European Studies organised more than 70 events throughout Europe in 2011. With the aim of contributing to the academic arena, two issues of the European View journal were published in 2011. These editions were devoted to protest culture and populist movements, on the one hand, and to the rise and fall of states in the international arena on the other hand. Committed to the values of the EPP political family, the Centre for European Studies will build on its successes of 2011 and will keep working hard by ‘thinking Europe’ in the years to come.

    Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    Activity Report 2011

    Activity Report

    27 Feb 2012

  • Migration into the EU and the integration of immigrants are matters that will be decisive for the future of Europe. Debates on these issues have been taking place at all levels within European society and government. These debates have also been held within the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and are playing a prominent role in many election campaigns. This has strengthened the need for knowledge to be shared about national approaches in the EU context and for policy-oriented research from a centre-right perspective. The Centre for European Studies (CES), the political foundation of the EPP and its Member Foundations, has therefore created this in-depth study of immigration and integration policies in countries across the EU. This book, the first produced by a European political foundation in cooperation with its member organisations, covers thirteen EU countries and one region, as well as the EU itself. It offers policy recommendations for the EU and its Member States. Its aim is to assist experts, politicians and other stakeholders with the adjustment of immigration and integration policies so that they are suitable for twenty-first century Europe.

    EU Member States European Union Immigration Social Policy Society

    Opening the Door? Immigration and Integration in the European Union

    Other

    09 Jan 2012

  • The 2011 edition is devoted to “Europe and the Crisis and Threats at Large” (economic crisis, budget, Euro, reciprocity, defence, terrorism, industrial policy populism, etc) notably with articles by Jacques de Larosière, Anne-Marie Idrac, Alain Lamassoure, Joachim Bitterlich, Philippe Camus, Arnaud Danjean. It also includes an exclusive interview with Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council. 26 specialists offer readers original analyses, supported with unique data (48) and maps (28), covering everything there is to know about Europe in 2011. The articles focus on the following themes:

    • the European Union and the crisis, the rise of populism, Germany 20 years after reunification.

    • lessons to be learned from the world economic and financial crisis, outlook for the next European budget, the debt crisis, central banks and monetary policy, Europe and industrial ambition, economy and speculation.

    • the threat of al-Qaeda, EU’s new trade policy, European Defence.

    • the results of the electoral year, the representation of women in Europe, the protection of human rights, legislative output.

    Crisis European Union Foreign Policy

    Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2011

    Collaborative

    29 Apr 2011

  • It was supposed to be a historic meeting when EU leaders convened in March of 2000 to establish the Lisbon Strategy—a new goal for making the EU the ‘most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world.’

    Ten years later, the EU has realised that the goals of this strategy are not realistic, to say the least, especially given that Europe’s growth has been severely disrupted by the economic crisis.

    Therefore, last year, once again in March, the European Commission moved away from the Lisbon Strategy in favour of the more modest, but still ambitious Europe 2020 strategy, which aims to pave the way out of the crisis via three key aspects of growth: smart growth, sustainable growth and inclusive growth. Today, the EU leaders are meeting again to reach a deal on the package of economic measures, already knowing that economic growth alone is not likely to lead to the success of the Europe 2020 strategy unless EU governments restore their public finances. This comprehensive package includes deciding on priorities for structural reform and fiscal consolidation in conclusion of the first phase of the “European semester’- instrument of economic policy coordination established through the Europe 2020 strategy.

    It also involves approving six legislative proposals already agreed by Economic and Financial Ministers earlier this month aimed at the reinforcement of economic governance. The leaders will also adopt the Pact for the Euro, thereby committing euro-zone countries to taking all necessary measures in order to foster competitiveness and employment, make public finances more sustainable and strengthen financial stability, while also allowing non-euro countries to adopt the Pact if they wish to do so. Several components of the Pact were inspired by the European People’s Party’s 5-point-plan adopted at the meeting of EPP Heads of State or Government and Party Leaders in Helsinki at the beginning of this month.

    Finally, an amendment to the Lisbon treaty proposed by the European Council last December will be approved with regard to a future European stability mechanism. This will be a ‘limited’ treaty change adopted by the simplified treaty revision procedure which, fortunately, does not require a referendum. The amendment will create a legal basis for a permanent management tool for the euro area with an effective lending capacity of 500 bn EUR to replace the current temporary mechanism, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), in mid-2013. What will happen with the larger and more flexible temporary EFSF fund is still hard to predict and we have to wait for the Council’s conclusions. However, what one can predict is reaching a common agreement on the treaty amendment. Slovakia, which voted against the Greek bail-out, sent Prime Minister Iveta Radicová to Brussels today with the mandate to vote in favour of the ESM. The Czech government was also heard saying that it would fully support the creation of the mechanism, but since it is not a euro-zone member, it would not directly participate in the ESM. Ireland, another Lisbon treaty trouble-maker, has a new centre-right government and fully supports measures that can help Europe move beyond the economic crisis. Prime Minister Enda Kenny, before leaving for Brussels, stated that no referendum was required to enable Ireland to ratify the amendment on the ESM after the amendment’s draft wording was carefully examined. Prior to today’s meeting, a number of other summits have been happening in March – including an un-planned summit due to the dramatic events unfolding in North Africa.

    In addition to official summits, there has also been an unofficial one, namely the first ‘shadow’ summit launched by the Spinelli Group consisting of prominent Members of the European Parliament who called for the establishment of a federal policy for economic convergence in the euro zone. One thing has to be granted to EU leaders: they have no time for Frühjahrsmüdigkeit (spring fatigue). And what in the past used to take the EU years to decide is now often decided in days or weeks. This European Council is supposed to be another meeting of ‘historic importance’, as Hungarian Foreign Minister Martonyi said after the General Affairs Council earlier this week. Whether he is right and this Council meeting will really be a game-changer in terms of economic governance, which was also underlined in Barroso’s speech at yesterday’s pre- Council briefing in the European Commission, remains a question. However, one thing is clear even today. Tony Barber, Brussels bureau chief for the Financial Times, was right in saying that the essential ingredient for rebuilding Europe’s economic growth potential is political will.  

    Setting goals is one thing, but achieving them is another. With the Lisbon Strategy the EU succeeded only in the first aspect. Let’s hope that the lesson has been learned and that this time the EU will succeed also in the latter.

    Katarina Králiková European Union Leadership

    Katarina Králiková

    The EU and the Leadership Deficit

    Blog

    24 Mar 2011

  • 2010 proved to be a successful, while at the same time challenging year for the European centre-right. While addressing challenges and struggles over a new model of economic governance and the future of the Eurozone, Europe had to accustom itself to the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. The functioning of the European Union had been affected by the need for better cooperation between the institutions and had created many constructive debates in our society. The Lisbon Treaty reinforced the role of European political parties; therefore these parties and their foundations had to keep up their political efficacy and use to a larger degree the capacity for action and influence that the Lisbon Treaty gave them. In view of reinforcing civil society and awareness about the EU, think tanks started to play a more significant role. The Centre for European Studies in cooperation with its member organisations had an impact on crucial political debates in Europe as well as on the citizens of Europe. Through our successful activities in 2010 we made a further step in our ambitious path towards “thinking Europe”.

    EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party European Union

    CES Activity Report 2010

    Activity Report

    01 Feb 2011

  • European integration is continuously a topic that needs attention. Although in different opinion polls Estonian people do appear EU friendly, it is not clear if, and to what extent they actually relate Estonia as a state and themselves as individuals to Europe and to different European processes. Therefore the Pro Patria Training Centre with the support of the Centre for European Studies (CES) and in co-operation with research partners conducted a research project using both quantitative and qualitative research methods to thoroughly understand public opinion and anticipation towards European integration.

    European Union Integration

    European Union and Public Opinion in Estonia

    Collaborative

    01 Dec 2010

  • After the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and in the wake of the financial crisis which has challenged a number of certitudes and just as a new world order is emerging, it is now more important than ever to understand the issues affecting Europe today. The 2010 Schuman Report is a reference work to understand the European Union’s progress, its needs and the opportunities open to it. Once more the authors offer you original analyses which are supported by unique data and maps so that you can understand everything about Europe in 2010. The Report includes 22 articles written under the guidance of Thierry Chopin and Michel Foucher with a preface by Jean-Dominique Giuliani. The leading European experts address the following themes: the European Union after the Lisbon Treaty – opportunities and challenges; the European economic model after the financial crisis; the European Union an its neighbours : how are they progressing? What can Europe offer them?; the European Union in the world : how should it position itself in relation to the new powers? What kind of a relation can be established with the USA? What can be done for the Middle East?

    Economy EU Institutions European Union Globalisation Leadership

    Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2010

    Collaborative

    04 Oct 2010

  • This paper focuses on the political and economic impact of the ‘Big Bang’ enlargement of 2004, and discusses the question of the capacity of the enlarged EU to cope with the financial and economic crisis

    Enlargment EU Institutions European Union

    Six Years after the 2004 Enlargement: Taking Stock

    Research Papers

    01 Jun 2010

  • In the 2009 elections, the European centre-right emerged victorious, thus affirming its political domination in contemporary European politics. The aim of this book is not to provide an analysis of the factors that contributed to the EPP’s political prevalence. Instead, it is to help this large political family maintain its vigour of political thought and policy prescriptions. The book provides a forum for prominent centre-right thinkers to debate the major European problems of our times, with particular emphasis on the management of the financial crisis and the next institutional steps regarding the European integration project. It assembles the views of politicians, academics and think-tank fellows from different national backgrounds and dissimilar ideological perspectives (Christian Democrats, conservatives and neo-liberals) who unfold their vision for Europe’s future. Moreover, it reflects the origins of contemporary European centre-right parties in order to reaffirm the core values and main priorities that have historically informed their policies. Overall, the book attempts to both highlight and stimulate the centre-right contribution to the discussion of Europe’s main contemporary challenges.

    Centre-Right Christian Democracy Crisis European People's Party European Union

    Reforming Europe: The Role of the Centre-Right

    Collaborative

    18 Dec 2009

  • The goal of this paper is to make available to European policymakers a general and consistent framework to design the competition policy of the future, as well as to reform existing competition policy in the EU

    Economy EU Institutions European Union

    European Competition Policy: Design, Implementation and Political Support

    Research Papers

    01 Sep 2009

  • Politicians and academics have warned against a surge of protectionist measures in light of the economic and financial crisis. Although the World Trade Organisation has extensive rules regarding tariffs, it offers few options for contesting protectionist subsidies and procurement conditions that favour domestic suppliers. This paper examines stimulus packages in both the US and EU, international rules governing protectionism and advocates a policy of greater market access.

    Economy EU-US European Union Trade

    Good for the Economy – Bad for Trade: The Effects of EU and US Economic Stimulation International Trade and Competition

    Collaborative

    01 Jul 2009

  • Globalization, international tension and security, economic and financial crisis, institutions and integration: these are some of the questions the European Union has to face in this election year for the European Parliament and the renewal of the European Commission. To understand what is at stake now and in the future, the Schuman Report 2009 is a reference work that offers unique analyses and maps along with vital data for everything the reader should know about Europe and the EU.

    Elections EU Institutions European Union Globalisation

    Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2009

    Collaborative

    01 Apr 2009

  • European views on Turkey’s membership in the EU have been split between those in support of its full integration and those advocating a privileged partnership. To the extent that many of the latter proposals imply that Turkey will be partially integrated within Europe in certain areas, the question of Turkey’s accession is probably not about ‘if’, but about ‘how much’ integration there will be within the Union’s structures. The purpose of this book is not to offer a definitive response to this question. The book aims instead to examine the complexity of the issues pertaining to Turkey’s prospective EU membership by presenting several, often divergent, accounts of the political, security and socio-economic dimensions of the entire process. The book provides a forum for an exchange of views among distinguished scholars and researchers from different national backgrounds in order to contribute to the ongoing public discussion of Turkey’s accession.

    Enlargment European Union Foreign Policy Integration Security

    Turkey’s Accession to the European Union: An Unusual Candidacy

    Collaborative

    05 Jan 2009

  • What kind of Europe do we want to have? In order to answer this question we must consider the past, present and future. When we look at the past we see a rich European tradition and culture, and a Europe that stands for strong values that are still alive today. In the present we see decreasing involvement in Europe. When looking to the future we see questions for which common policies are necessary. What kind of future is desirable for the European Union from a Christian democratic perspective, and from the same perspective, what are the available means for improving citizen involvement in the European Union? We seek the answer along three lines. First of all we consider the values that Europe represents. We subsequently look at the present day reality of the EU and examine ambitions that the EU holds. We conclude with suggestions for how to strengthen the relationship between the EU and its citizens.

    Christian Democracy European Union Religion Society Values

    The citizen and Europe – A Christian democratic vision for the EU community

    Collaborative

    01 Oct 2008

  • NATO and the European Union have developed, enlarged and grown closer to each other. With common security threats, which are global in nature and hold both new and old elements, the tasks of these two organisations have aligned. Now it is important to ask what must be done to avoid overlapping ef orts and to create beneficial synergies. The nature of these organisations offers possibilities and generates standards for further cooperation and integration. The purpose of this paper is to describe developments in the ever changing security environment of Europe, and the steps the EU and NATO have taken to tackle these threats. Could there be more profound defence cooperation between the EU and NATO? 

    Defence European Union Foreign Policy Security

    The Finnish Perspective: European Defence

    Collaborative

    02 Jun 2008