Europe at a crossroads

The political crisis of the European Union retains a central and crucial role within this week’s debates. Monika Eigmüller, on Eutopia Magazine, writes that the failures of the European Union and its member states are irrefutable facts. In this respect, the management of the refugee crisis has been particularly revealing. However, such failures should not be discouraging because the crisis represents a unique opportunity: only throughout the democratic process of the EU, it is possible to put an end to the Dublin protocol and initiate a common humane asylum policy. Jean Pisani-Ferry, writing on Social Europe, shares Eigmüller’s worry about the capacity of Europe to deal with the refugee crisis. From his perspective, the problem is that the EU’s western and eastern members do not share the same concept of a nation, which makes it difficult to provide a common plan to absorb migrants. However, according to Pisani-Ferry, that of the refugee crisis is not the only fault of Europe. The possibility of Brexit and the different political priorities of Germany and France are also affecting EU’s capacity to become a stable political actor apt to address and overcome the challenges it faces. Indeed, as Nouriel Roubini argues on Social Europe, given the current circumstance, one could be either very pessimistic or constructively optimistic about Europe’s prospects. But it is important to believe that Europe is not doomed to collapse: the crises that it now confronts could lead to greater solidarity, more risk sharing, and further institutional integration.With risks to the survival of both the Eurozone (starting with Greece) and the EU itself (starting with Brexit), it will take enlightened European leaders to sustain the way toward deeper unification.

Troubling Schengen

The refugee crisis may also have a crucial impact on the Schengen agreements and, thus, the feature of the EU that is considered most positive and important by EU citizens. As Timothy Garton Ash observes on The Guardian, we are seeing in 2015 a Europe’s reverse 1989, with the building of walls between member states. Indeed, that of the re-establishment of border controls, even inside the Schengen area, is becoming a hot issue. In his analysis, Ash considers three distinct developments that, on his understanding, have led to the return of walls. First, there is the sheer scale of the movement of people inside the EU -represented by the symbolic figure of the Polish plumber, but now as likely to be replaced by that of the doctoral student or bank manager. Second, there is the refugee crisis. Third, there are the Islamist terrorists and the impact that the Paris attacks have on European citizens. The problem with Schengen may have its primary effect of Greece, which may be kicked out of it because of its dealings with the refugee crisis. However, as Apostolis Fotiadis writes on The Guardian, blaming Greece’s lax border controls for the influx of refugees into central Europe is an easy way for the EU to abdicate its own responsibilities. Indeed, Greece may not have the most effective and efficient administration, but the EU has been dragging its feet in providing help for the extremely difficult situation in which the Greek boarder currently is. Blaming Greece for its ineffectiveness in dealing with the refugee crisis is much easier than admitting that the entire EU relocation system is not working as a whole.

Europe after Paris

One of the main concerns raised after the Paris attacks regards the possibility to give unprecedented powers to political leaders in the name of security. Cas Mudde, on openDemocracy, warns against the risks of “emergency measures”, which may be extended for a significant long period, without a real check on their effectiveness in terms of political and public debates. The aftermath of the Paris attacks is a reminder of how easily people are scared into accepting far-reaching “emergency” measures and of the vulnerability of liberal-democratic institutions. But some measures are to be taken, given that no European country with a large Muslim minority has solved the problem of integration – writes The Economist. From their perspective, drawing a parallel with the city of Bruxelles, where many of the Paris terrorists planned the attacks, Europe is vulnerable to terrorism and this raises urgent questions not only about the need to share intelligence and data among member states, but also about integration in general.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: Eric Fischer


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