There’s a party going on.…

There’s a party going on…

These days the Trea­ties of Rome cele­brate their 60th bir­th­day. Pretty old! But luck­ily with seven enlar­ge­ment rounds and six treaty revi­si­ons there were quite some refres­hers for the Euro­pean Union.

Time to decide where one wants to go the Com­mis­sion thought and publis­hed a white paper on the future of the Euro­pean Union. Why this may sound tech­ni­cal, but should be of inte­rest to all of us, you will read here.

What’s all that about?

The Trea­ties of Rome foun­ded in 1958 today’s Euro­pean Union. They were signed by Ger­many, France, Italy and the BeNe­Lux coun­tries. Three com­mu­nities were crea­ted by the trea­ties: The Euro­pean Eco­no­mic Com­mu­nity, EURATOM and the exis­ting Euro­pean Com­mu­nity for Coal and Steal were com­ple­ted by a par­lia­men­tary assem­bly, a court and an eco­no­mic and social committee.

And now…?

60 years are a time one can think what to do next in life. Hence the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has pre­sen­ted a little bir­th­day pre­sent — a white paper.  Okay, not quite as fancy as a nice cake (though this was there, too) or a new bike. Ins­tead an oppor­tu­nity to redis­co­ver what it all is about: A jour­ney to the heart for the mem­ber sta­tes and institutions. 

This jour­ney of course does­n’t take place in a vacuum. The Com­mis­sion does pro­vide an honest ana­ly­sis, where Europe actually stands: To start with that in some parts of the word it seems en vogue to go back to iso­la­tio­nism. 2060 only 5% of the world’s popu­la­tion will live in Europe. Inter­ac­tions with the rest of the world the­re­fore are for us as important as is the case for only some few regi­ons of the world: Because of trade, but also because of how we Euro­peans live in the world. You can wit­ness this in work or tra­vel terms: Euro­peans like to tra­vel a lot. Which leads directly to the next topic.

Open bor­ders may feel self-evi­dent, but they aren’t — we saw this in the case of the migra­tion cri­sis. And also the rea­sons to migrate will become more diverse: Bes­i­des wars, poverty and famine cli­mate migra­tion will become rele­vant. Europe finds its­elf in the midst of the big trends of demo­gra­phic change, urba­ni­sa­tion and digi­ta­li­sa­tion. Yet chan­ces we obtain because bor­ders become less, work chan­ges its face and infor­ma­tion is avail­able ever­y­where lead some­ti­mes to us fee­ling over­whel­med — good grounds for popu­lism. To seize oppor­tu­nities and to con­duct a dia­lo­gue with the people which also reaches them — this important con­clu­sion is what the Com­mis­sion draws.

What can I do?

Choose. Bet­ween five sce­n­a­rios. Dis­cuss. But here comes first an over­view of what the Com­mis­sion pro­po­ses for lunch:

Scenario 1: Carrying on.

What this means: What it says: Car­ry­ing on. Pre­con­di­tion would be that you agree on what “on” means. Because in this sce­n­a­rio inclu­ded is that we keep what we have. And the­re­fore we will need fur­ther steps like a euro­pea­ni­zed bor­der pro­tec­tion or poli­cies to make the Euro more immune to exter­nal shocks. The­re­fore you will find invi­si­bly writ­ten in this option also the term of “soli­da­rity”.

In con­crete terms: No big jumps — neit­her for­wards nor back­wards. we con­ti­nue to tra­vel freely, the Euro remains our cur­rency. Maybe also in this sce­n­a­rio we will have a com­mon army. Not a lot would change — a sce­n­a­rio for con­ser­va­tive thinkers.

Was nicht gesche­hen sollte: “Car­ry­ing on“because you can­not agree on anything else. Because this means that were would exactly be no con­sen­sus for car­ry­ing on. The EU would on a per­ma­nent basis disap­point expec­ta­ti­ons, sim­ply because the com­mon ground for making a decision would not be there.

Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market.

What this means: Mar­ket, trade, eco­nomy. We con­cen­trate on this focus, the EU beco­mes a purely regu­la­tory body. The­re­fore a reduc­tion of legis­la­tion in other policy areas such as exter­nal rela­ti­ons or domestic poli­cies would have to be done. Coope­ra­tion in other policy areas out­side the topic of the inter­nal mar­ket would take place out­side the frame­work of the EU, be it on a bila­te­ral basis or in groups.

In con­crete terms: It’s get­ting com­plex. In ques­tion are the Com­mon For­eign and Secu­rity Policy, and also open bor­ders. But: Hea­vily cri­ti­ci­zed regu­la­ti­ons such as on the shape of cucum­bers will remain — they are exactly there because of the inter­nal market.

What should not hap­pen: That we cut back on areas where we would like to coope­rate. I haven’t heard anyone com­p­lain that there is the ERASMUS pro­gramme. And we also should­n’t cheat our­sel­ves: Inter­nal mar­ket without the Euro? If we stick to a com­mon cur­rency, the eco­no­mic union will have to be refor­med. This means: This would be Bre­xit light for all mem­ber states.

Scenario 3: Those who want more do more.

What this means: The sce­n­a­rio com­bi­nes the “car­ry­ing on” with one or mire coalition(s) that can move for­ward in policy areas they choose.  The Com­mis­sion espe­cially sin­gles out the area of defense, but also police and domestic poli­tics. Taxa­tion and social poli­tics would be fur­ther areas. What is not inclu­ded: That mem­ber sta­tes can do less than right now agreed.

In con­crete terms: For those who con­ti­nue as before, not­hing chan­ges. For those who opt for more coope­ra­tion inte­gra­tion con­ti­nues. The Euro coun­tries for example could have a clo­ser eco­no­mic union, Ger­many, France, Poland, Italy and the Bal­tics a com­mon army. The dif­fe­rent inte­rests would lead to sta­tes being more or less inte­gra­ted. Pro­bably this would hap­pen in any case, also if deci­ding to “carry on” — the EU moves since years accord­ing to this principle.

What should­n’t hap­pen: That poli­ti­cal areas get dis­con­nec­ted and don’t fit any­more, that legi­ti­macy gets lost. To choose from the menu is ok t a cer­tain degree, but at the end still someone has to pay the bill. Ano­t­her inte­res­ting ques­tion would be that of how to involve the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment: Should danish MEPs also vote on the Euro­zone poli­tics, alt­hough the coun­try has­n’t adop­ted the Euro? What is the alternative?

Scenario 4: Doing less more efficiently.

What this means: The EU con­cen­tra­tes on spe­ci­fic policy areas like the fight against ter­ro­rism, migra­tion etc. In other areas less inte­gra­tion takes place, e.g. with regard to envi­ron­men­tal or employ­ment stan­dards. The key word is sub­si­dia­rity. Fits well with Juncker’s word on “Big on big things, small on small things.”

In con­crete terms: You have to agree on what you want and what is important to ever­yone. This would be the core of the EU — in addi­ti­ons other coali­ti­ons might arise. Of course those could­n’t balance too well — some coun­tries agree to poli­cies in areas they don’t like, because they get some­thing else in exchange. This makes the agree­ment func­tion for ever­yone like in a rela­ti­ons­hip — and would be much more complicated.

What should­n’t hap­pen: That ever­yone will argue for some­thing else to be important. Honestly: This is the likely case.

Szenario 5: Doing much more together.

What this means: Much more EU — moving towards a federal state, all mem­ber sta­tes in the same pace. In all areas where coun­tries find it use­ful to coope­rate coope­ra­tion would indeed take place, coor­di­na­ted or gover­ned by the EU. Expec­ta­tion gaps close down — for example on labour mar­kets where people expect a lot, but the EU has almost no com­pe­ten­ces. But poli­tics also moves away fro the citi­zens: Legi­ti­macy, demo­cracy and par­ti­ci­pa­tion become even more important principles.

In con­crete terms: A com­mon for­eign policy, a com­mon defense policy, a com­mon eco­no­mic policy, a com­mon employ­ment policy would pro­bably the big­gest buil­ding blocks. Europe would become more power­ful and ins­tead of first loo­king to Paris, War­saw, Rome, Athens or Ber­lin one would look to Brussels.

What should­n’t hap­pen : Europa does ever­ything. It does make sense to decide on poli­cies at the level clo­sest to the citi­zens. Dog­ma­tic solu­ti­ons that do not take a look at our glo­ba­li­zed, inter­con­nec­ted situa­tion are so 20th century!

How to move on?

Now the floor is open for dis­cus­sion. Ever­yone can give his or her input.  At the same time more papers of the Com­mis­sion will be publis­hed, for example on social Europe or glo­ba­liz­a­tion. Also on these chan­ces will be there to par­ti­ci­pate in the dis­cus­sion. And there are public events where ever­yone can take part in — best to watch the site of the Com­mis­sion repre­sen­ta­tion whe­re­ver you live.

Last, but not least:

In the past years some decisi­ons have been made that will shape our lives: BREXIT, elec­tion out­co­mes, choices in the Eurocri­sis. If we don’t want to be spec­ta­tors in our own life we have to take sides, to take a stance. This we can do with a lot, but also with some and little invol­ve­ment. To vote, to be infor­med. Ever­ything around us is poli­tics. we should use the oppor­tu­nity to create the life we want to live — the decision on what Europe is going to look like will not be irrele­vant for this.

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