As part of ECFR's 'Reinvention of Europe' project, we are running a series of responses from leading thinkers and academics to Mark Leonard's recent paper 'Four scenarios for the reinvention of Europe'. The paper outlined four possible routes towards solving Europe's current crisis, and argued that Europe's main challenge was to solve the acute euro crisis without exacerbating the chronic crisis of declining European power. In the sixteenth in this series of responses, we hear from Brendan Simms, Professor of European International Relations and the Director of the Centre of International Studies at the University of Cambridge.
Mark Leonard reminded me that projections into the future are a useful way to think about the process of European Union- or the lack of one – and a way to come up with innovative policy options. All of the possibilities he outlined – ‘asymmetric integration’, ‘a smaller Eurozone’, ‘political union through treaty change’ and ‘federalism without the federalist’ – seemed plausible enough to me, but none of them really fired my imagination. For this reason, I thought the best way of stimulating debate, of undermining the ‘gradualist fallacy’ which I recently critiqued in International Affairs, and of encouraging the political mobilisation necessary to create a might union, was by ‘inventing’ the history of the Eurozone a decade from now:
In 2020, President Radek Sikorski of the Democratic Union could long back at a turbulent, but successful first term in office. His country stretched from the French Atlantic coast to the western border of Belarus, from Malta to the Skaggerak. Croatia had just joined, and negotiations to establish close partnerships with Libya, Lebanon and post-Baathist Syria well underway. The first Secretary to the Treasury, Declan Ganley, had succeeded in stabilising the finances through the introduction of a Union Bond, with a controlled insolvency of bankrupt institutions and substantial ‘haircuts’ for private creditors to the distressed Mediterranean and Celtic periphery. Those states with a Triple AAA rating when the Democratic Union was established back in 2015 were permitted to run budget deficits for a transitional period of twenty years, while the rest agreed to balance income and expenditure within five.
The new Union Army – which was fully integrated into NATO - was still struggling to standardize procedures in all garrisons, but officers and men, even the French, quickly adapted to English, the language of command. Close relations were maintained with the other great democracies: with Great Britain, which had opted to remain outside of the Union for the time being and which retained the pound sterling, through the ‘European Community’; with the United States and Canada through the ‘North Atlantic Confederation’ [the political pendant to NATO]; and with Israel, Australia, New Zealand and all other states committed to the defence and export of representative government through the ‘Democratic League’, which was fast replacing the ‘United Nations’ as the principal forum of global multilateral deliberation.
This was not an outcome anyone would have predicted seven years earlier. The old European Union had staggered through 2012 with great difficulty, but in early 2013 the fuses began to blow with successive defaults of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. It all culminated with a complete collapseof the French banking system, whose toxicity had been an open secret for some time, and had been on an ECB morphine drip for more than a year. The German economy, hit by reduced demand in Europe itself and the Chinese slump, stuttered. As the lights literally went out across Europe in the terrible winter of 2013, with the collapse of public services in many member states, the great beneficiaries seemed to be the parties of the xenophobic right and the neo-communist left. Governments and institutions appeared paralysed. The rising powers of the east alternately jeered at Europe’s predicament, and fretted for the security of their investments there.
It was against this background that a group of intellectuals and concerned citizens came together in London in Easter 2013 to found the Project for Democratic Union to campaign for a fully federal Europe, in which sovereignty, national debts and defence resources would be pooled for mutual benefit. They argued that if ‘Europe’ was designed to escape the past, the solution was also to be found in history: in the extraordinary successful Anglo-Saxon union models of Great Britain and the United States. Despairing of the established elites and national governments, they soon turned the ‘Project’ – as it became widely known – into the Party of Democratic Union, which fielded candidates in all states of the Union in the European elections of 2014. After a slow start, the party quickly built up not only a committed membership but also began to attract donations from business figures on both sides of the Atlantic worried about the disintegration of the Eurozone; it was given a fair wind by administrations in London and Washington who passionately wanted the Euro to survive and profoundly feared the looming political fragmentation of the continent.
The movement found its earliest adherents on the European periphery, but very soon the German mainstream – uneasy at the hegemonic role into which their country had been thrust – reverted to their traditional federalism. Using their right to approve the Commission, the new PDU majority in the Brussels parliament forced the national governments to agree to a pan-European constitutional convention which was ratified by a subsequent referendum. Most of the old Eurozone members, and many of those states planning to join in the future, created a single state with a directly elected President, a Senate made up of an equal number of representatives from each acceding polity, and a House of Citizens elected by population. In recognition of the fact that the appellation ‘European’ had temporarily lost its appeal, out of respect for the older European democracies, such as the United Kingdom and Switzerland, and as a signal that it did not intend to confine its activities to the continent of Europe, the European union was dissolved. The ‘Democratic Union’ was born.
Also in this series:
Harold James - 'The more Europe suffers, the more its people will see that a reform agenda that is just an exercise in incrementalism is also nothing more than an exercise in futility'.
Richard Rosecrance - 'if Greece or Spain did not exist, they would have to be invented. Their participation in the euro keeps the value of the currency down from $1.80 to $1.20 or $1.30 or so, thereby ensuring the success of German exports to the rest of the world.'
Brigid Laffan - 'as the Union intrudes more and more into domestic budgetary and public finance choices, can party politics in Europe adapt to a very different governance regime?'
Charles S. Maier - 'The British can imagine that their banks will suffice, the Germans their autos, but such comparative advantage can dissipate quickly. I’d as soon wager on Greek beaches.'
Georg Sørensen - 'a substantial part of the present euro crisis has less to do with European cooperation and more to do with member states that are fragile, ineffective, have serious corruption problems...'
Chris J. Bickerton - 'Populism, after all, is politics without policies; technocracy is policy without politics.'
Carlos Gaspar - 'In an enlarged “Euroland”, Germany’s pre-eminence could be balanced by a Catholic coalition led by France, Italy and Poland.'
Dimitri Sotiropoulos - 'we still live in an era in which the nationalist project is more seductive than any project of integration among nations'.
Pawel Swieboda'no-one dares to ask the question if the euro is still a political project, as its founders tended to believe, or if it is today about nothing else than damage control'.
Claus Offe - 'Europe is not just needed as a defensive mechanism to prevent the weak being overpowered by the strong, who first administer an austerity cure without then providing the requisite support for recovery.'
Mario Teló - 'what is abusively decried by populist voices as a “German Europe” might in fact look a lot like the broadly endorsed “EU2020 strategy”. Input legitimacy may complement output legitimacy.'
Josep M. Colomer - 'For democracy to survive and retrieve in Europe, responsiveness and accountability of rulers should be moving from the state level to the EU level, where so many crucial decisions are already being made'
Marco de Andreis - 'a critical mass has been already assembled to make of Europe’s integration a possibility rather than an impossibility. And to at least consider the United States of Europe a fifth scenario for the reinvention of Europe.'
Miguel Maduro - 'the creation of European politics must go hand in hand with a change in the character of politics. For that, changes in policies may be even more important than changes in institutions.'
Narcís Serra - 'If we wish to favour economic growth in European countries we must address income redistribution. This must not be done through fiscal measures alone but also by dealing with the heart of the productive structure itself.'
Christine Ockrent: 'In all the countries where people struggle with the economic crisis and fear for their children’s future, Europe has more than ever become the scapegoat'
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