New year, new challenges face the EU

Saluton amikoj! A new year always allows one to try and predict what will happen. It’s a good basis for discussion and so I have written this to get your juices flowing.

As a result of the economic crisis, many pro-EU minded people hoped Santa would bring much needed constitutional and structural reform (Being the exciting bunch they are). Instead the gift was a garish knitted jumper knitted by Sarkozy and Merkel covered in the muck of Cameron’s tantrum. The jumper is too small, and will not cover all the necessary bases required to strengthen the Eurozone’s economy in the long term, and will not cope with the stress of a probable recession. As the European states, excluding Britain, come together to help each-other with structural funds and political concession looking for short and long term stability and growth, a cap on debts is looking less of a solution and more of an appeasement for the markets.

2012 therefore brings us the fallout of these decisions as early as January where Presidents, Chancellors and Prime Ministers will meet once more. Van Rompuy and Barroso face the challenge of trying to facilitate a negotiation which most commentators seem to have come to expect little progress. Indeed part of the agreement is to have more regular meetings, which shows many things. Partly a desire to keep power in the hands of national leaders, rather than delegating power to EU institutions, and partly a necessity to be seeming to make progress. (what a cynic).

Van Rompuy said once that “politics is the art of making the necessary possible”. This lacklustre approach shows how the role of the EU will be to facilitate the demands of Governments and that the prospect of Eurobonds is unlikely to come in the earlier part of the year, but cannot be ruled out if the markets and root causes are to be taken seriously. Both Barroso and Van Rompuy have shown support for them, and as time moves on it is possible that necessity may require them. I am not an owner of a crystal ball however.

The possibility of referenda stands in the way of progress too. It is certain that the leaders will try to avoid them, after the legnth of time which previous treaty change has taken in the past.

Europe cannot avoid public votes. France faces its election in May, germany preparing for theirs in 2013. The Finns, Slovaks, Czechs and Lithuanian can expect some grandstanding as well, with the Euroskeptics likely to try and capitalise on perceived weaknesses and leaders likely to take a more populist approach before their elections. There is a huge amount of work which Pro-EU campaigners have ahead of them, and a struggle to make sure debate does not crumble into banal flag waving Euroskepticism.

These challenges put another pressure on the more neutral European institution, Van Rompuy must focus on finding compromise and leadership, reminding leaders with fast approaching elections that co-operation is in the interest of all member states and their citizens. This is economically one of the most vital times for the EU to be working together, it is the role of the EU institutions to facilitate it and make it happen.

Other challenges arise, which may or may not not come to the fore as I am certain that Economics will be in the limelight. Some of these challenges are of a  constitutional nature. The public has always been detached slightly from Europe, especially in the UK. However, with its importance for finding and end to economic turbulence (as well as Cameron’s dithering performances) has brought it to the limelight. So issues of what legitimacy each state has to dictate another state’s finances comes up, and how to manage closer economic integration in a way that is accountable and fair. Although from the looks from the current approach and past approaches, I wouldn’t expect too much. (Being the terrible cynic I am…)

As well as this, things such as Shengen Enlargement will come to the fore, with some MEPs raising concerns about the new membership of Bulgaria and Romania. This will probably become more of an issue closer to the time of their entry, and the Pro-Europeans must fight against much of the prejudices which parts of the right wing have towards these states.

Even with the resistance and the slow pace of progress, progress is still happening (unless you are British). States in Europe are recognising their responsibility to each other and each others’ citizenry. The Golden Rule, although crap, is a recognition of this increased responsibility and is an outlook on how to achieve long term stability (and hopefully will spark debate). For me, I look forward to seeing more of what the PES will come out with under its new leadership concerning the direction which Europe will head (I’d hope it’d be more radical, and there are signs its approach may be). It will be an interesting year, with a lot on the line and a lot of debate. Of course crystal ball gazing is boring, and lacks analysis, so I hope most of all that this blog will be more of a ground for discussion come 2012.

Note: It is a question which I am asked, why suddenly Europe became my number one topic. When the EU becomes important in the media, there is much spin (or barefaced lies) from many news sources, with others being a little too parochial. There’s no point sitting at the side watching things happen, why not get involved? Also, it’s not the EU itself that should concern the pro-EU community, but what it can bring. It is a great tool for development, rights, social justice and progress and it is those values which we should fight for.

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