Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Re-invention of Europe? Trouble with the Political Union

While the public is more interested in the European Football Championship, Europe’s decision makers try to fix what can still be fixed, before it breaks apart for good. While the monetary union is facing its demise, and Spain is joining Ireland, Portugal, and Greece under the ESM, the EU decision makers gather in Strasbourg for plenary meetings of the European Parliament these days to discuss feasibility of a fiscal and political union.

If you take a look into the history of the European integration process, you will notice that a “political union” in Europe is not a brand new concept. Basically, it was the very idea of the beginning of European integration even before the official settlement of the legal frameworks in the 1950s, through a “pan-Europe” idea. Later, in the 1970s, the European Political Cooperation (EPC) was introduced and succeeded in the overall legal frameworks of the Maastricht Treaty which came into force in 1993, which was in fact genesis for the subsequent Treaties of Amsterdam (1997), Nice (2000), and Lisbon (2009).

If you look even closer, you will figure out that the acronym EPC was also used in the 1950s for the attempt of a political union in the view of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) from 1952. The plan back then was to combine both concepts of the ECSC and the proposed European Defence Community (EDC) into an overall cooperation on the political level. However, the entire idea of closer political cooperation beyond the economic level failed due to the veto of the French National Assembly in 1954, which feared a significant loss of national sovereignty.

National sovereignty. That is the crucial key issue in the rekindled discussion about fiscal and political union. In the imminent view of the rising crisis, where critical voices against the EMU and the entire EU as a whole increase and Euro-bashing becomes an on-vogue topic for every single actor and media tool, it is doubtful that a fiscal or even a political union would be even adopted in the entire EU, specifically, since it is mostly Germany who calls for this fiscal and political union to fight the monetary and economic crisis. Since the very beginning of the integration progress, Germany was one of the leading actors in the economic union, although slightly reluctant in terms of the monetary union, since it was a French idea to break up the monetary predominance of the “Deutsch Mark” in Europe.

Now, with Germany as one of the last remaining unconditional supporters of the Euro, the idea is that that only a closer union and “more Europe” would be the ultimate solution to rescue Greece, to rescue Spain, and all of the European Union. But there are three harsh realities:
The first one is rather obvious and has already been mentioned: the backup for such a wider union is rather limited, in political terms as well as in public terms. A more united Europe would be communicated as a more “bureaucratic” one which is lacking transparency about the decision making procedures. Additionally, it is doubtful that the member states would agree on transferring more sovereignty from the national to the union level. This was already a knock-out criterion for some member states not to join the EMU – especially for the UK.

Secondly, there is the legal dimension. Although the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, claims that a possible bank-union (something opposed by Germany) could be done without changing the treaties, it sounds like a daydream. Everyone who has monitored the prolonged debates on the treaty reform in the view of the current Lisbon Treaty knows very well that any change on the European scale requires a long-term implementation and debate process in all member states. Under the current situation, Europe doesn’t have any time left for such a reform.

And last but not least, time is running out. Christine Lagarde, President of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), just recently stated that the EU only has three more months left to solve the crisis. Three months, however, still sound rather optimistic, since other voices believe that Greece would leave the Euro-Zone even earlier. And when this happens, the idea of a fiscal and political union will be obsolete, and the crisis will be really kicked off on a full scale.

The Greek elections will take place this weekend, and the people in Europe have to choices: look to Greece with fear and see what will happen afterwards, or keep them distracted by the European Football Championship.

“Circenses” is still going on; but for some, “panem” might become a luxury good pretty soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment