Judy Asks: Is This Europe’s Time for Political Union?
Rosa Balfour - Senior fellow in the Europe Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States
Rarely has Europe been in such dire need of more integration and cooperation, but rarely have Europeans been so far apart from each other. It was refreshing, after years of stale debates on (non)treaty reform, to hear French Economy MinisterEmmanuel Macron on August 31 make brave proposals for a new economic government within the eurozone.
But political union will not work without addressing underlying problems of democratic representation and deliberation in contemporary advanced societies. Those problems show just how great the distance is between Europeans and their governing elites, and how difficult the relationship is between the competence to govern a complex polity and democratic representation. Creating a eurozone parliament will not be enough to counter a fragmenting social, political, and economic Europe in which interests are splintering, states are renationalizing, and events are driving Europeans apart.
The risk that political union may backfire to underscore existing fractures is possibly greater than the benefits that such a union aims to bring. The elite-led integration of the past two decades has been the source of the EU’s discontent, yet it continues to be seen as the solution to Europe’s ills. Reforming the EU will not be sufficient either to give governing elites legitimacy or for Europeans to patch up Europe—or parts of it—together.
Stephen Szabo - Executive director of the Transatlantic Academy
Yes, this is the time for European political union, but there are no signs of where the leadership (and followership) required for this will come from.
European integration often seems to take leaps forward when Europe is confronted with crisis. If that is the case, this should be an optimal time to deepen European integration, as the EU is facing a confluence of crises from the confrontation with Russia through the Greek debt saga to the new challenge of uncontrolled migration. This latest challenge is the most serious as it is directly visible to citizens of the EU member states at a time of slow economic growth and high unemployment.
It is also clear that only a European response will have any chance of succeeding, but the reaction has been just the opposite. In Brussels, the European Commission and the European Council are at loggerheads, while some member states are pushing the problem onto others, especially Germany and Sweden. The humane responses in these two countries and elsewhere only seems to encourage European versions of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump—but with a deeper political base than Trump enjoys in the United States.