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
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 21:00

Beyond the yellow leotard

In March, E&M wrote an open letter to the Director General for Enlargement, protesting against an official promotional video which was supposed to encourage young people to support EU enlargement. We wrote the letter together with www.die-euros.de out of a sense of embarrassment: we felt that the video underlined racial stereotypes and implied that all threats to European unity come from the outside. The DG Enlargement said (and still says) that the video was meant to communicate with young people who don't already know a lot about the EU, and who will recognise and respond to references to video games and martial arts films.

You can read the response we received from Director General for Enlargement, Stefano Sannino, here

So what should the DG Enlargement have spent its money on, instead of a glossy martial arts video? In his response, Mr Sannino invited us to give him our suggestions, saying: "tell us what you would like to know about EU enlargement and how you would like to receive the information. We will be happy to discuss your ideas together with you."

E&M Magazine is not affiliated with the European Commission, and nor is it our job to help the Commission with PR. But we asked our authors what they would have liked to see rather than the triumph of twelve identical women in yellow leotards. Here are a few of their ideas.

1. no need to bring a passport

For most of us, EU-membership does not mean the ability to defeat aggressive samurai-wielding men. It has concrete, everyday benefits, and that's what we want to hear more about. Currently, Ukrainians often have to wait hours before crossing the Polish border, for example. Why not create videos showing how easy it is to cross borders within the EU, or how consumer law helps keep trade secure and fair? A video could follow a group of young people interrailing around Europe, or going off to study in other European countries.

2. Tell us a true story

How have real young people benefited from the Common Agricultural Policy (even if they don't know it?) How have individuals been affected by consumer law or EU funding for local development? We'd like to hear some true stories. The American project StoryCorps has been collecting recordings of real life stories for years - the format is generally an interview in which people ask each other about their experiences. Why not ask a young person from a candidate country to interview someone from a member country about their everyday life, and how it has changed since their country joined the EU? Animated videos of interviews could be more fun to watch than classic head-shots.

The recent "Science: It's a Girl Thing" campaign by the Directorate General for Research and Innovation has shown that true stories work best: while the barely-relevant video of three girls dancing around in high heels created so much outrage that it had to be withdrawn, the interviews with role model scientists are a great way for young women to find out what scientists actually do all day and what a lab looks like!

A handful of artists make enough money to live solely off their art, but most can barely survive. And in an economic climate that has led almost all EU member states to cut back on arts funding, volunteers in cultural activities are left high and dry. The financial struggle is exacerbated by a problem with public image - volunteering in the arts is often not seen as "worthy" as, say, caring for the elderly. Delegates expressed their frustration at this lack of recognition, arguing that people volunteer in the arts with the same motives as those who volunteer in other areas of society.

The overwhelming consensus, though, was that creative pursuits are good for the individual and good for society as a whole, and they are likely to rely more and more on the third sector for support. So the group's report left volunteers with a desperate plea: "keep creativity alive".

What do you think? Should artists and not-for-profit cultural organisations get state support? Do they deserve the same financial contributions that we might give to charities? And can volunteering carry European arts through an economic downturn? 

Volunteering and Integration: Building Bridges From Below?

Published in Live from Landau
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