Friday, 24 March 2017

EU future - added value is key

EU has always been about added value. Its predecessor The European Coal and Steel Community was established in 1951 as a way to prevent further war between France and Germany. These two countries had time after time ended in war when they acted separately. By placing French and German production of coal and steel - vital resources for a country to wage a war - under a supranational common High Authority, peace was preserved and France and Germany got added value. The idea of using regional integration to achieve more than the participants are able to do separately was developed further, and when the flag of The European Coal and Steel Community was lowered for the final time outside the European Commission building in Brussels in 2002, it was replaced with the EU flag - symbolizing how an innovative idea had prevailed.

But no tree grows into heaven. The EU integration project has met obstacles and crisis. People in Europe want to keep the EU, but they want changes. And the EU establishment should listen. What they call populism is democratic feedback. People react because they don´t feel the European Union gives added value - or more precise: they recognize and appreciate some important aspects of the integration, like a common market, but the project has gone to far. Especially when it comes to democracy many oppose the development and say "this is not added value, this is less democracy."

So instead of an ever closer union, the leading star must be a supranational cooperation which gives added value to everyone. This means a less ambitious integration with respect to "volume", but a more ambitious integration when it comes to identifying areas and tasks where the EU can give added value for a diverse Europe.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

EU 60 years - shaky, but important

The EUs 60th anniversary will be celebrated in many ways, with a special European Council summit in Rome on 25 March as the most symbolic. It was on this date Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

EU summarizes the developments on its website
Sixty years ago in Rome, the foundations were laid for the Europe that we know today, ushering in the longest period of peace in written history in Europe. The Treaties of Rome established a common market where people, goods, services and capital can move freely and created the conditions for prosperity and stability for European citizens.
On this anniversary, Europe looks back with pride and looks forward with hope. For 60 years we have built a Union that promotes peaceful cooperation, respect of human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality and solidarity among European nations and peoples. Now, Europe's shared and better future is ours to design.
The description points to important positive contributions, but does not reflect the European Union´s current crisis. However, it is necessary to deal with this in a good way for the EU to survive and provide added value in the future.

And it should not be impossible to achieve a workable compromise between europhiles and -sceptics. The common vision must be an appropriate mix of decentralization and supranational power. "An ever closer union" is a dead end street.

Even if the UK don´t want to be part of the single market and is heading for a "hard" Brexit, other sceptics are less radical. E.g. said one of the participants in todays Dutch elections, Geert Wilders, a few days ago to Norwegian journalists that he wanted the national sovereignty back, but that he might accept a Norway-model with EEA-membership. So the EEA, which includes the single market and some other cooperation areas, might give some ideas for development of a new EU vision.

Friday, 10 March 2017

EU future - everything in play

While the European Council today is preparing the EU´s 60th anniversary declaration without PM May attending, the growing lack of European unity makes it hard to deliver anything other than general phrases about the future EU.

At the summit yesterday Poland refused to accept a continuation for Donald Tusk as European Council President. The traditional consenus was stalled. “We know now that it [the EU] is a union under Berlin’s diktat,” the Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, told Polish media.

Earlier this week France, Germany, Italy and Spain - "the big 4" - backed multispeed Europe (Juncker´s scenario 3), a future which the Visegrad group - Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic - does not like.

The leaders participating in the summit yesterday agreed to let a group of willing go ahead with plans to set up a European public prosecutor to probe financial crimes against the EU budget. EU Observer writes: "The move is largely procedural but also symbolic for an EU currently debating the possibility of a so-called multi-speed Europe, where some countries can forge ahead with deeper integration."

The multi-speed strategy is an old idea. When the frontrunners successfully achive added value, the slow ones will be tempted to follow. And integration will be strengthened. 

But the consequences of multi-speed seems more likely to be confusion and disintegration. What matters most is the tasks unifying all the 27 member states. They are the basis and the core of the Union. So instead of escalating multi-speed, the strategy should be to democratize, concentrate and streamline a one-speed European Union.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Vision impossible ?

Last week the European Commission published a White paper on the future of Europe. 5 scenarios were presented: 1. Carrying On, 2. Nothing but the Single Market, 3. Those  Who Want More Do More, 4. Doing Less More Efficiently and 5. Doing Much More Together.

The White Paper does not recommend one of the scenerarios, the purpose said to be to inspire a broad discussion in the coming months. After that, in September 2017, Juncker will present his personal views.

The White Paper´s most important contribution to the EU reform process is perhaps that it apparently recognizes and authorizes the existence of different visions for the European Union´s future. None of them should be excluded from the reform discussions.

The Commission´s openmindedness for discussing reform alternatives might be hard to swallow for the different camps, and already today EurActiv reports that "a scenior Commission official" says Juncker has a preference for the latter option, where the 27 EU members share more powers, resources and decision-making across the board. According to the official Juncker is not a supporter of a two-speed Europe, the third scenario. Juncker alleged rejection of scenario 3, which he has previously preferred, is related to the Visegrad countries' strong dislike for this option.

But in France the En Marche presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron outlines plans for scenario 3. The Eurozone is held back by "shame" and we must "dare to go for a multi-speed Europe", he says.

And in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations the UK, as a backdrop for the EU reform process, will try to show that participation in the internal market is not needed.

Status seems to be that agreement on a EU vision is far away, and the most likely scenario is number 1. Carrying On.


Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Commission rides again

After years with a Commission looking like a bystander to the crisis management of the European Council, President Juncker finally had the leading role yesterday. He presented a White Paper on the future of Europe.

The White Paper, which gives "reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025", is interesting, and the Juncker commission deserves credit for this initiative.

5 scenarios are presented:

1:  Carrying On
2:  Nothing but the Single Market
3:  Those Who Want More Do More
4:  Doing Less More Efficiently
5:  Doing Much More Together

Together they cover critisism of the status quo and the different views of which reforms are needed. There are many overlaps between each scenario, and they are therefore neither mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive.

The White Paper does not recommend one of the scenarios, the purpose is to inspire a broad discussion in the coming months. Then, in his State of the Union speech in September 2017, Juncker will present his personal views.

To preserve and strengthen the EU, a combination of number 2 and 4 seems to be a possible path to follow. Number 3, which is already a reality for some areas, should not be the vision for the future of Europe. This scenario means several unions - not a common European Union.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Brexit and the internal market

According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) Article 26(2)
The internal market shall comprise an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties.
The UK, which today participates in the internal market, is now heading for a future outside this EU integration. Instead the government will go for a lower level of integration with the EU and try to negotiate a good trade agreement. This strategy is very interesting, because it represents a deintegration and an exit from the process which regulates the internal market.

There is another option the UK could have chosen. The EEA agreement allows Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein to participate in the internal market without being EU members. The EEA agreement is also dynamic, new relevant EU-laws are incorporated as soon as they are adopted. The UKs strategy is more like the Swiss-EU relationship. Switzerland participates in the internal market based on a lot of separate agreements outside the EEA.

The Brexit-negotiations will show if it is possible for the UK to get satisfactory access to the internal market without participating in it. One of the challenges will be to cope with the dynamic development of the internal market.

The Brexit negotiations will also provide more insight into integration as a supplement to national governance and integration as an end in itself.


Monday, 20 February 2017

EU-reforms must be bottom up

The European Union has been an elitist project from the very beginning. The French proposal to establish a European Coal and Steel Community, the predecessor to the EU, was a top down initiative. The aim - to make war not only unthinkable but materially unpossible - was of course very praiseworthy. And the supranational basis for the Community was an important innovation. It is also understandable that efficiency was a priority and that cumbersome democratic processes were avoided.

But although the Coal and Steel Community successfully survived difficulties and was followed by an even more ambitious supranational Europan integration project, the democratic shortcomings has never been rectified satisfactorily. An illustration is that the EU today has three presidents, neither of them directly elected by the European people.

EU as an elitist project now seems to have hit the wall. The supranational organisation has ended up in its biggest crisis ever. And the Brussels-bubble seems incapable of identifying and taking the necessary steps forward. The expectations for good reform ideas to be presented at the EUs 60th anniversary in March are low. 

The populus is dissatisfied. "Populist" parties and movements demand changes and challenge the elites in EUs member states. Brexit and Trump show that breakthroughs are possible. The elites perceives this as a dangerous problem. But in reality it is democracy working. And this is also how the EU hopefully can be reformed: from bottom-up by the populus who generate enough pressure to achieve necessary changes.