What political project for the future of Europe? What institutional settings to overcome the lack of citizens’ support to the EU? How to reinforce the democratic legitimacy of the EU, and thereby containing the rise of euroscepticism and populism? Based on interviews with senior officials and political figures in 19 EU Member States, ECFR’s director Mark Leonard sets out in this report four scenarios for solving the euro crisis without exacerbating the chronic crisis of declining European power and rising populism.
Indeed measures taken to solve the euro crisis, yet economically necessary, are challenging the democratic aspects of the EU. After long debates and controversies, EU leaders now seem ready to go further into economic integration (fiscal compact, six pack, European Stability Mechanism, etc.). What EU leaders are currently lacking, though, is public support for these measures. Citizens and many other actors are no longer willing to simply accept measures without having participated in a serious debate about them. “The best hope of regaining European credibility, and stemming the tide of disintegration, may be to develop political rather than institutional responses to the anti-European arguments of the populists” therefore argued the author. But what political project for Europe is likely to emerge? Mark Leonard proposes the following four scenarios for the "reinvention of Europe", without giving a clear answer about which path the EU should take:
1. Asymmetric integration is often perceived as the “least worst” option. It means finding ad hoc solutions without changing the treaties. It can be implemented via an intergovernmental treaty outside the EU acquis, like with the Fiscal Compact or the forthcoming European Stability Mechanism. Yet Mark Leonard points out that it might not be sufficient to solve the euro crisis, and would especially raise the complexity of the EU decision-making process, therefore exacerbating the nervousness of financial markets and more important the resistance of European citizens.
2. A smaller Eurozone would make concrete the concept of a “core Europe”, put forward already in 1994 by German Christian Democrats Karl Lamers and actual German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaüble. Therefore it is no surprise that the idea of exiting Greece, and maybe others, from the Eurozone to focus only on economically similar – “Northern” – countries has been considered by some German analysts and policy-makers. Yet it could lead to a wave of panic among financial markets, banking sector, as well as a rise of mistrust among citizens of leftover Member States. Mark Leonard notices that it would be a “political tsunami” that could endanger the existence of the common currency, as well as jeopardize the idea of a common future for Europe. Without mentioning that the treaties do not enable a country to leave only the Eurozone, but the EU itself...
3. Political union through treaty change would be the most complete and durable solution according to Mark Leonard. Setting up a “mini-constitutional convention” has already been proposed, that would gather representatives from national parliaments, national governments and EU institutions. Yet it is unlikely that all Member States would agree on the content such a convention should debate on: a “stability union” with the creation of a “European Stability Commissioner” to enforce budgetary rules reassessed in the Fiscal Compact; or a ”fiscal and political union” with a “Euro area Finance Minister” to oversee economic and budgetary convergence inside the Eurozone? Moreover it would carry the risk of being rejected by referendums or parliaments, which could ultimately lead to the disintegration of the EU itself, comments the author.
4. Federalism without the federalists could exist in case a “core Europe” is put in place outside the EU treaties. Facing the reluctance of Great Britain and some others (Czech Republic, Denmark, even Slovakia or Finland) to go further into political integration, Mark Leonard suggests that members of the Eurozone could sign a legally binding agreement outside the scope of the EU treaties, therefore avoiding the threat of failed ratification in some countries. But it would also mean the marginalisation of EU institutions such as the Commission and the European Parliament, as well as of pro-integration countries that currently stay outside the Eurozone, such as Poland. The Euro Plus Pact and the Fiscal Compact have been two attempts in that direction. Yet both treaties have failed to limit themselves to Eurozone members.
Further details about these four scenarios proposed by Mark Leonard, as well as reactions from EU leaders and analysts can be found here.
Contribute to identifying the Green scenario for the future of the EU!
Is there a need to rethink the degree of integration inside the EU and its main fields of competence as Mark Leonard suggests? How to tackle the dangers of asymmetric integration that at the same time appears also as a chance to advance Green issues, such as the increased promotion of renewable energy, for example through the creation of the European Community for Renewable Energy (ERENE) the European Greens are asking for? This is the kind of issues the various national events that make up this project should tackle, in order to participate defining a Green scenario for the future of the EU!
As a movement supporting greater political integration of Europe, the Greens have so far backed solutions that would go further into a political union and that, unlike any proposal of a “core Europe”, would not leave aside some member states. Therefore whatever scenario EU leaders would favor, it would first require enhancing European democracy in the Green view.
By asserting the EU’s distinctive feature as a “living democracy”, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung’s report “Solidarity and Strength” calls for direct participation of EU citizens through the use of the European Citizens’ Initiative; transnational lists to complement national ones for the European elections; and the emergence of a European public sphere enabled by the increasing role of information networks. These concrete proposals now need to be discussed and confronted with other ideas about the future of the EU together with national Green foundations, in more European countries.
If the option of a political union through treaty changes might be the best solution according to the Greens, one has to acknowledge the potential threats to the EU as a whole a popular rejection of this mini-constitutional rejection would represent. Therefore we first need to understand the main reasons of the rise of euroscepticism, and the way the Greens can respond to it. How could the Green narrative help reconnect people with the European project? How to put forward the Green New Deal as the only Europe-wide political project that is able to respond to both short-term and long-term challenges the EU is facing?