18 July 2012

European integration requires immediate innovative solutions

Donetsk Euroclub is happy to present a series of essays on the topic "Future of Europe" by former members of Euroclubs. Essays were submitted for a competition to participate in a Youth in Action exchange in Norway. Essays are presented as received.

Today Europe faces a set of serious problems that brought into discussion the subject of European decline. Scholars and politicians now talk more about the EU’s weaknesses and faults than about its role as a powerful actor in international arena. According to Prof. Kasaba from University of Washington, even Turkish public opinion on integration into the EU has shifted from 78% (2004) to 28% (2011). The wide range of economic, political, institutional, and social challenges hit European societies. These challenges include structural factors such as demographic decline, European reliance on Russia as main supplier of energy resources, and inconsistency between competitive economies (Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia) and weak economies (Spain, Italy, Greece). Other factors, which contribute to deepening European multiple crises, are institutional weakness at the EU level. The question of immigration, political leadership crisis, and enlargement remains the source of the headache for EU members, especially for its leading forces – France and Germany.

First, globalization brought with it the question of immigration. In this regard, Hitchcock uses the term “Fortress Europe”, underscoring the fact that Europe became a desirable and an attractive target for non-Europeans. However, the immigrants with their own cultural luggage create a threat not only for economic and social situations in Europe but also for its culture and fundamental principles, which European perception of the local and global is based on. In such circumstances, governments chose their own ways to respond to the challenge presented. Joppke’s title “mirror of identity” forces French, Germans, British to see who they are and to rethink about the kind of societies they want to have. In my opinion, multiculturalism, which celebrates the difference, was tried but it did not work. The French politics of assimilation was more successful in solving, on one hand, the rise of nationalism and preserving own principles such as the principle of laicite (secularism) and equality, on the other hand. Although, the tensions between diverse segments of European societies will continue to grow in the future. Especially, in light of EU enlargement and applying the country with different cultural mentality such as Turkey for the citizenship in the EU.

Secondly, the closer European integration might have completely opposite effect and lead to the negative output for all Europeans. In the movie “Deptocracy” it is said that euro zone is divided into the core and peripheral states. The tensions between competitive and weak economies are likely to increase. Today Germany demonstrates the reluctance to bail out the weaker members of the EU. According to realpolitik and concepts of national interests, it is understandable because the costs of integration for Germany become greater than benefits from it. Thus, the deeper economic integration threatens nation’s sovereignty and reduces the role of states in decision-making process related to their own problems. However, the European leaders understand that and I do not think deeper integration is possible.

Thirdly, the competition between European Commission and European Council over which president is more consequential in the EU also negatively contribute to the EU soft power in the international arena. Thus, we see that the EU institutions are not perfect and some tensions existed between them endanger the whole EU system. Unfortunately, the tensions are not limited to political aspect. The “Euro –pessimism” or “Euro-sclerosis” as the sum of shortness EU’s internal structures, starting from business and ending with the welfare state, to face the challenge of competiveness coming from Japan, the US and newly industrialized countries. The terms applied to reality of the late 70s and the early 80s are becoming popular again. Today BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), after demonstrating the speed with which they recovered from the crisis, marked a relative shift in power.

I agree with Tiersky who writes that “Europe today is growing and weakening at the same time…”. For example, Marquand claims that the EU, on one hand, is the most democratic institution in human history due to its commitment to universal values. Hitchcock supports him by saying: “with all of its faults, the European Union remains the greatest achievement of twentieth century Europe, a political and economic experiment of enormous proportions that Europeans must embrace and indeed defend.” (p. 463). Scandinavia remains the “happiest place in the world” with the best social order, combining free education and free health care systems with high living standards and developed tax system (Batker, De Graaf). But the fact of the EU crisis remains, putting the European integration on the edge. It requires immediate innovative solutions.
Author: Mariana Taraunekh

Mariana studies International Relations at the Donetsk National University, in 2011-2012 she participated in an exchange program at the University of Washington. She volunteers at the Center for Political Studies in Donetsk. Mariana is an active participant in discussion and debates about European integration and considers herself a promoter of European principles and values in Ukraine. In summer 2011, she was an intern in the Democratic Initiatives Foundation in Kyiv and within her internship she was organizing a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic club. Marianna implements a  project on gender issues supported by the Open Society Institute. She also does her research on Ukrainian NGOs in the position of confrontation with the government structure.
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