Schengen, or not Schengen?

The Schengen Agreement abolished the EU’s internal borders and retain one of the most significant roles in the symbolic construction of the EU. However, dissatisfaction with it has greatly increased in the past months because of the refugee crisis and the November attacks by IS in Paris. This week’s debate has heavily focused on whether the Schengen Agreement should be changed. In particular, Angelo Panebianco, on Corriere della Sera, questions whether it is possible to save Schengen. From his point of view, the EU needs unified police corps to control the European borders. This of course would constitute a symbolic sacrifice, which is nonetheless less dangerous than a substantial one. More specifically, Jim Brunsden, Kerin Hope and Peter Spiegel, on The Financial Times, note that the problem with Schengen lies in Greece’s handling of the refugee crisis and the deluded promises of the Syriza government to get all the state’s hotspots fully operational by the end of last year. However, as Damian Grammaticas argues on the BBC website, that the Greek government can do little without some help from Turkey. It is clear that the problem of how to rethink and reshape Schengen – maybe by introducing a mini-Schengen – is crucial. As Wolfgang Streeck says in an interview for Eurozine, without some redistribution of immigrants among European countries, the return to border controls seems just around the corner. However, how such redistribution should be organized is difficult to envisage.

Economy and democracy in the Eu

The different systemic crises the EU has been facing over the past five years have had a tremendous impact in Europe by showing the vulnerability of existing institutions of the European Union in dealing with economic traumas and economic disparities between member states. Moreover, they also have worsened the problem of the EU’s democratic deficit. One of the contributing issues has to do with econocracy, namely a sort of cultural hegemony of economists at the EU level. The point, as The Economist argues, is that economists love to think of them as scientists, but this is not the case: not only they cannot make predictions, but also there is no agreement on a shared methodological approach to reach accepted knowledge. Finally, it is an empirical fact that there is a correlation between the economists’ views on ethics and on economics. The correlation is not limited to matters of debate but also encompasses more empirical questions, such as how fiscal austerity affects economies on the ropes. This is particularly worrying with respect to the EU and its democratic legitimacy. As Alexandros Kyriakidis writes on Ideas On Europe, to tackle the unprecedented situation created by the Eurozone crisis, economists have introduced a number of institutional modifications, including most notably the provision of financial assistance to member-states conditional upon structural adjustment. However, such modifications are problematic in terms of democratic process, given the fact that the ideological basis of the approach adopted seemed to offer no alternatives. From the side of both creditor and borrower states fiscal austerity has been presented as the only way forward, with Germany’s ordoliberlism as the only option on the table. The lack of discussion at the economic level questions the very nature of the EU: if, as Aristotle suggested, every political system should be tested as to whether there is any contradiction between its founding principles and the implementation of its governance, the EU needs to think carefully about its grounding principles. These problems have their origins in the EU’s faith in negative integration, which refers to the opening of national spaces (primarily markets) and the removal of national barriers to exchanges, without focusing on the adoption of common rules. As Amandine Crespy writes on Social Europe, Europe needs to think and balance the short run dimension of crisis management and the long run dimension of the construction of the EU democracy.

The road to Brexit

Brexit is a common concern, both from within and outside the UK. At the domestic level, the timing of the referendum seems crucial and problematic. As Gerry Hassan writes on openDemocracy, it seems that David Cameron wants the referendum to take place as soon as possible, but his plans may be in jeopardy because of all the needed institutional steps to organize it. Moreover, one important issue refers to the potential disunity of the UK if Scotland votes one way, and the rest of the country the other way. From a European perspective, Patrick Wintour reports on The Guardian that Britain should be punished by its European partners if it votes to leave the EU, so to discourage other countries from leaving the Union.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: pastalane


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