On this page you can read articles of our members of Belgian Youth Diplomacy and non-members can participate to contests by providing your opinion on current International Relations and Foreign Affairs topics.
How deep could/should EU integration go?
“We are not forming coalitions of states, we are uniting men”
– Jean Monnet, EU founding father
The European Union is a strange yet fascinating creature. It is neither an intergovernmental organization like the United Nations nor is it a federation like the United States government. Instead it is a hybrid organization, partly intergovernmental and partly supranational with a Byzantine political structure. But the EU is above all a political and civilizational endeavor, not a purely economic zone or customs union to the great dismay of some Eurosceptics.
The EU’s vision is political in nature, but the means to achieve this grand vision are primarily economic. In these politically turbulent times, the EU seems to have lost purpose in the eyes of the average citizen. The European economic engine is breaking down and so is public opinion, hence the EU needs to give purpose to its structure otherwise its very own existence will be put into jeopardy.
The vision outlined by Jean Monnet and Angela Merkel nowadays is clear, the European Council shall become the European Senate; the Commission shall become the European government and the European Parliament, the democratic house of the peoples of Europe. It is not a question of ‘Will this ever happen?’ rather it’s a question of ‘When will it happen?’ but above all we should ask ‘How do we get there?’.
It’s the politics, stupid –
“We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it” – Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
It is often said that economics is the science of the invisible (see Adam Smith’s invisible hand) and that politics is the art of the possible.Giving up national sovereignty to a supranational entity is by definition political suicide for any head of government. Yet, in our globalized 21st century, it is an imperative that the European integration process moves forward. Only Europe can compete against titans the likes of China in the global arena. Therefore only a strong outward-looking and fully integrated European Union can protect the wealth, prosperity and security of the peoples of Europe.
The Eurozone crisis we’ve experienced was not just a sovereign debt crisis, it was after all a political crisis. When the 2008 financial crisis occurred in the US, only 3 government officials (Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner) were in charge of rescuing the US economy and took action to fix the financial system.
When the sovereign debt crisis hit Greece, which by the way only accounts for 1.4% of the EU’s total GDP, 27 heads of states took action; every time too little too late. It was only thanks to the leadership and pro-activeness of ECB’s president Mario Draghi that the contagion ended and markets were tamed. Eurozone heads of states realized that we needed a new European decision-making institutions and policy tools. They’ve all agreed to the creation of a banking union, ESM, Fiscal compact… things that would have seemed impossible in pre-crisis times. As they say, never waste a good crisis to reform.
But the biggest challenge is yet to come. Having completed the banking union, it is time for the creation of a fiscal and political union. A fiscal union implies a non-negligible transfer of sovereignty but this cannot happen without a democratic control of the process. Indeed, “No taxation without representation!”. And with politicians scapegoating Europe for all economic ills, this will not be an easy task. Hence, overall reticence for new treaty changes, especially after the 2005 European Constitution fiasco.
Yet, the Eurozone will not survive without a fiscal union; no monetary union in recorded history has survived without a government backing the currency. And without a political union, the Eurozone cannot be democratic. To paraphrase former French president Clemenceau: “money is much too serious a matter to be left to the Central Bankers.”
The political integration of the Eurozone and the EU by extension, is a necessity and unavoidable in the long run. The multi-speed Europe is a reality today. We see a more economically and politically integrated core Europe namely the Eurozone on the one hand. On the other hand we see a less integrated outer layer Europe.
“England will not agree to become integrated into Europe, only if so compelled by events” – Robert Schuman, EU founding father
The UK is an essential part of the puzzle when it comes to building a European Defense, strengthening transatlantic relations, pushing for more free trade and less red tape or even hosting the largest financial hub in the world namely the City of London. Therefore any further integration of the EU should not come at the expense of the transatlantic relationship and should not antagonize the UK for not being part of the core. The UK may oppose further European integration for the moment, but it will join if so compelled by events.
At the end of the day, the EU will have to transform itself into a Federation if it wants to be democratically legitimate, economically powerful and politically relevant in the 21st century. A European federal government, not in the sense of an almighty centralized super state but a government akin to the Swiss federal government where the principle of subsidiarity is enshrined, would solve the institutional and economic problems that the European Union is currently facing.
Author- Hamza Serry-Senhaji
Writing contest on European Integration.
Belgian Youth Diplomacy launches a writing contest where participants can give their opinion on how deep could/should European Integration go? (maximum 3000 words)
The best article will be published on our website and will win a price and receive a one year free membership of Belgian Youth Diplomacy.
Articles must be handed in the latest on Friday 19 December by email to firstname.lastname@example.org