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 latest in this series we hear from the journalist Christine Ockrent.
The EU is the product of political will. Forged by a small elite who did not consider it necessary at the time to involve the people, it has grown into a complex, incremental process which political leaders now seek to control exclusively on an inter-governmental basis.
Whatever the need for institutional imagination which we all agree upon and discuss regularly, I believe the emergency is elsewhere : trust – or rather the lack of – has become the crucial European issue. Distrust in our governments’ capacity to meet their citizen’s expectations, disaffection if not rejection of the EU, which has become increasingly unpopular all over the Union.
In France, more than one third of the voters at the last presidential election expressed their rejection of the EU by opting for the extreme right or the extreme left. Both traditional parties of government have been divided on the subject since the 2005 referendum. The parliamentary elections next June will be the occasion for another outpouring of anti-European arguments.
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 - Greece being of course the most acute case. Euroscepticism is on the rise in most European countries, including those which fare better than others.
I believe our priority is to reinvent Europe in ways which its citizens would find meaningful to their own lives and their children’s. Too many think-tanks keep producing essays which are read only by a small class of insiders. The problem in Europe, which has grown to worrying proportions, has to do with the ‘real people’, those who are more and more tempted by populism and extremism whatever its name and shape. Beyond the acute economic and financial crisis, politics is back on the European stage: in our democracies, the real people decide of the outcome of elections – for better or for worse – and they are more and more angry.
Reading Mark Leonard’s brilliant essay on the reinvention of Europe once again, one can measure how much has changed since last Autumn. The challenges remain the same, but we are in need of complementary answers. To follow George Soros’ encouragements to think out of the box, I suggest we discuss another approach.
Our efforts should go towards researching and supporting concrete European projects more palatable to people than institutions that they do not relate to. Such projects should be cross-border and double-track, involving the intergovernmental level as well as the private sector. In doing so, we could look for private sponsors involved in the same areas who would value our expertise without breaching our independance.
Some examples :
The list of issues of common interest to European citizens is endless. We should concentrate on a few which would illustrate the need for closer harmonisation between member states without interfering with existing treaties or asking for more institutional change.
We should support the reinforcement of the European Investment Bank, and the creation of ‘project bonds’ which our research papers could help promote.
We would thus subscribe to a ‘bottom-up’ process, which would demonstrate the need for a more federal approach to the concerns of European citizens.
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.'
Brendan Simms: 'In 2020, President Radek Sikorski of the Democratic Union could long back at a turbulent, but successful first term in office...'
24th May 2012 at 03:05pm
I think for the EU to adapt there must be a big education project aimed at 14+ so there is greater understanding. A marketing project should be introduced that reaches mass media as there is not enough of the day to day happenings publicised to get people’s awareness up which they can then make informed criticisms from other than the crisis headlines. More focus should be aimed at getting the MEP’s visible to the ‘ordinary’ and busy individual. Without more awareness the EU risks a legitimacy crisis which overshadows the positive strides made so far.
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