The state of the Union

The dynamics of European integration have changed, and the multifaceted crisis we are experiencing today is threatening the state of the European Union. As Florian Trauner writes on EurActiv, the EU is entering a playing field in which it has little experience: European disintegration. The problems with migrants, Schengen, and the UK referendum represent great challenges with respect to the question of how to balance functional needs for more “Europe” with the increasing desire of many European governments and citizens for less “Europe”. And yet, as Francesco Giavazzi writed on Corriere della Sera, some political tools are available, it could be possible for some politicians to behave as statesmen in navigating these crises. Why should we not transform difficulties into opportunities? For example, starting from the migration crisis, it could be possible to appropriately fund the European Union Agency Frontex, in order to create a proper European security institution. Furthermore, at the level of banks, a EU general fund to deal with the possible collapse of European banks is needed.

What the EU needs is democracy

To solve the different problems the EU is facing today, some have argued for a renewal of democracy. Drawing from the Gramscian idea of “morbid symptoms” occurring in times of crisis, Srecko Horvat, on The Guardian, advocates for a Pan-European Movement for Democracy. The idea is that we need new political tools to re-invent democracy in Europe in order to stop a possible catastrophe, which will turn Europe into failure. Yanis Varoufakis seems to have accepted Horvat’s suggestion. On The Guardian, the former Greek finance minister argues that the EU is administrated by bureaucrats, who fear the demos and reject the idea of government by the people. Such political regime has caused the failure of policies apt to solve the economic crisis and has lead to irrational and authoritarian solutions to it. This is why, Varoufakis argues, seeking democracy in the EU is so important: political accountability, transparency, and checks on political power are necessary to stop the disintegration of the Union.

The road to Brexit

The heart of this week’s debates is, yet again, the in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Different issues revolve around the possibility of Brexit. From a domestic point of view, the problem lies in the relation between Scotland and the rest of the UK: as Robert Colvile argues on Politico, the Tories in London and the SNP in Edinburgh mirror each other for they are both dominant and, at the same time, opposite in the sense of defining themselves against the other. If England votes to leave and Scotland to stay in, this will most probably turn into an end of the United Kingdom. At the same time, it is important for the British referendum not to become a referendum on immigration. The Economist warns on the danger for the referendum to be hijacked by the right-populist UK independence Party and its anti-immigration campaign.

From another perspective, if Brexit becomes a reality, the UK may be deprived of the benefits that a banking union could bring about. Pia Huttl and Dirk Schoenmaker, on Bruegel, writes that joining the banking union could provide a stable arrangement for managing financial stability for the UK and other non-Euro countries. And Brexit would make such arrangement impossible. There are other reasons why Brexit could be a disaster. As George Friedman argues on Euractiv, it is true that if the British leave, the EU is finished. Indeed, Brexit would open a floodgate to other countries that oppose the transnational power of EU institutions and their unelected bureaucracy. In the end, it is a matter of national sovereignty, and the feeling of it being usurped. Moreover, as David Aaronovitch notes on The Times, the referendum may have tremendous impact on the EU by contributing to its disintegration. In this scenario, the migrant crisis would take off, nationalism would rise and liberal democracy would suffer.

In the end, it is not easy to understand how the British people should look at the referendum. George Monbiot, on The Guardian, writes that although Britain should stay in the Union, it is a fact that the EU project is being torn down. In this sense, a reasonable attitude towards the referendum may be that of a pro-European Eurosceptic, who wants to remain within the EU, but does so in the spirit of true scepticism about it.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo credits: Filippo Minelli


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