Saturday, 29 September 2012 10:11

Differentiated integration – why not?

"Differentiation is already a fact, the question is what kind of differentiation." That's how you could briefly sum up the fascinating final panel discussion of the Allianz Alumni Academy that took place on Saturday close to the Brandenburg Gate in shyly sunny Berlin. Allianz Alumni Academy is an annual meeting attended by young European leaders who participated in summer schools organised by the Allianz Cultural Foundation. Coming back to the witty phrase in the beginning of the paragraph (belonging to Janis Emmanouilidis from the European Policy Centre) we must admit that this is sad, but true. The EU is not as consolidated as it supposedly was in the pre-crisis past, nor can we still stick to the simplifying narratives of a two-speed Europe, because there are actually far more "integration speeds." The crisis has only catalysed this phenomenon. While we can still warm ourselves with Jean Monnet's ideas about crises that foster integration, we can't avoid acknowledging that Europe's future is not clear at all.

The necessity of flexibility

The crisis provides us with a unique chance to reform Europe. It has revealed some of the diseases that remained (or were kept) secret before. Hence we should use it and try to find appropriate conclusions. It seems almost obvious that reaching a compromise and finding a solution to our mess will be easier and quicker, the fewer states are involved. However, as far as I remember, the statistics of voting in the Council (before and after the Lisbon reform) do not confirm this assumption: the member states are in unanimous agreement just as often now as they were before, even though a larger number of members are now involved in decision making.

Nevertheless most of the discussion participants I've talked to thought it would make more sense to give the eurozone what belongs to eurozone - it would allow them to deal with the problems more effectively without the whimsical assistance of 10 other states.

It is also important to keep in mind, as the European Parliament President's diplomatic adviser Arnoldas Pranckevicius points out, that it is not only the currency that's at stake. We're facing "the greatest existential crisis ever in the history of the EU." This demands something more than dealing with finances, debts and ratings.

Open Core

Incidentally, the EU luminaries made the same observation and put it down in a report by the four EU presidents [Council, Commission, Euro Group and ECB], "Towards a genuine economic and monetary Union" in June, 2012. As one participant noticed - somewhat symptomatically, the president of the European Parliament did not participate in the report.

On the basis of this document Janis Emmanouilidis proposed his 4-phase vision of the EU's future at the Allianz Alumni Academy. According to his plan, after the banking union and the securing of EU financial stability we'll discuss the ratification process of a new EU treaty in 2016/17. This will decide whether we are going to live in a functionally differentiated Europe or a defragmented continent administered by individual institutions and ad-hoc coalitions.

Published in E&M Reports
Thursday, 31 May 2012 07:26

No austerity without representation!

In 1760, British citizens from the Thirteen Colonies coined the slogan: "No taxation without representation." They were unhappy with the economic measures implemented by their Parliament without having a political voice in return. Are European citizens echoing this message today?

Brussels seems to have interpreted the latest election results in Greece, France and Northern Westphalia as a rejection of austerity. But even if the economy remains the main concern, I believe the main message to be heard is political.

After all, if the economy was the only electoral key and we took votes as a referendum for or against austerity, would the massive voting of conservatives in Spain have meant that citizens supported the austerity measures later implemented? Hardly believable considering that one of PP's main campaign videos (and promises) claimed: "jobs are the priority."

This being the case, is there any common message being sent by these voters in Greece, France, Germany, Spain and other countries? It is general discontent. On the one hand, for fake promises on the national level, and on the other, because EU officials have failed to make citizens understand the need for austerity. The result? A quasi revival of the years of enlightened despotism, where "everything is for the people, but without the people." 

Published in Brussels Bubble
Tuesday, 24 April 2012 18:54

Hablais European?

Madrid welcomed us with a hideous hostel and overpriced tapas. Instead of enjoying a heavy Spanish red wine at a nice restaurant and uploading our latest pictures via free Wifi access, we were hunted down by ominous figures in the streets who offered us free drinks at even more ominous bars. We were surprised. Is it really profitable to pay someone to lure tourists into cheap bars on a Sunday night? Not to mention that this was Easter Sunday. But our first impression was quickly superseded when we glanced at the streets of Chueca the next morning and walked towards the Parque del Retiro to interview young Madrilenos about Europe, the crisis and German tourists in Spain. (This article was originally published for the Euroskop project, a travel blog about today's Europe.)

The park is crowded with people who don't want to miss the extraordinary weather on this bank holiday. Perfect conditions for us. We approach a group of young Spaniards in the shade. Before they can think of an excuse not to talk to us, we have set up the camera and mic and begin to ask them our questions. How has the crisis affected the young Spanish population? Are the Indignados angry at national or European politicians? What is the justification for European support to Spain? Paula and her friends react a little shyly, but then she says: "All of my friends are looking for work abroad, none of them counts on finding a job in Spain. Europe has to help us, unless you want to leave us behind." Paula is about to finish a postgrqaduate degree in tourism, one of Spain's traditionally strong economic sectors. But tourists don't seem to like groggy economies. The number of visitors has drastically declined, no longer ranking Spain among the top tourist countries.

National pride has certainly suffered, as has the social structure within Spain. 50% youth unemployment and mass emigration of well-educated people doesn't leave a country unaffected. "But it doesn't make any sense to cut Erasmus support, as the government now intends to do," says Diego, who is studying political science. Young people are frustrated by their politicians. Some prefer European politicians, but no one wants to be governed by an anonymous institution abroad. As Christian, a young entrepreneur, puts it: "About 60 percent of the Spanish population don't speak any English, they cannot grasp what is going on in Europe. And they aren't interested either. This was reflected in the national elections last November; no eurosceptic party evolved, the conservatives received an absolute majority. If at all, people are continuing to think in old political terms." His picture of Spain's future isn't exactly bright. If there's a way out, he says, it has to be more Europeanisation and globalisation. 

Published in Reader Submissions
Saturday, 18 February 2012 17:27

Good Reads - Author Special 21/02/12

This week, two of E&M's best writers share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.


Ziemowit Jóźwik

Not only for parishioners

Even though tons of paper were wasted explaining the sources of the current economic and financial crisis we (including the world leaders) still seem to have more questions than answers. Within dozens of narratives, one is especially interesting for me. Remember some of the points which the Archbishop of Canterbury (or "the turbulent priest" to stay in the British context) Rowan Williams made as a Guest Editor of the New Statesman magazine last year? Well, now Pope Benedict XVI has also decided to take part in the discussion and call for global financial reform. The magazine Foreign Affairs gives us a detailed analysis of the Pope's Note, which was presented at the last G20 Summit. Are the world's leaders ready "to cede their own sovereignty in the interests of global humanity's common good?" I'd argue that the Catholic social teaching can still provide us with some rerum novarum ("new things").

Modern Islamism

Once we've acknowledged that Europe isn't supposed to end up as a cathedral, nor as a cube let's see what's happening in its Southern neighbourhood. Almost a year after the Arab Spring, it's still not easy to assess the outcomes of the revolutionary wave that swept across the North Africa. The elections held in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco led to the victory of Islamist parties. Will they have a pragmatic stance or try to introduce Sharia rules to the law? What kind of problems are they going to face in the near future and what did they inherit from their authoritarian predecessors? And finally, how will the Islamists' electoral triumph influence relations with the EU? Professor Moha Ennaji gives a fascinating response in his article "The Maghreb’s Modern Islamists" at Project Syndicate.

Published in Good Reads
IN -1647 DAYS