The topic of a United States of Europe which would include a further politicisation process of the EU has dominated the affairs of European politics in recent years. There are arguments for and against a United States of Europe and a further politicisation process of the EU so is the EU’s problem that it didn’t go far enough in the first place? Should the EU became more or less politicised? Atakan Uzun discusses.
Establishment Of The European Union
When the EU was established and eventually replaced its predecessor, the European Economic Community, under the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, it included a further federalisation process of the EU and plans for a federalised Euro currency. However, there are profound differences in the period of time that the world of politics is currently in, in comparison to the 1990s. First of all, the EU was in much more of a golden age with the New World Order being established after the collapse of communism in Eastern bloc countries. The overall feeling towards the EU wasn’t so negative as it seems today and a majority of citizens in the EU were overly satisfied with the EU at that time, despite its federalisation process. Second of all, the EU was much smaller at that time without the inclusion of many Eastern bloc countries who didn’t join until 2004 and 2007. What were the events that triggered the EU becoming stagnant and does this lead to arguments in favour of the politicisation and federalisation process of the EU?
A stagnant EU
There have been several crises in recent years which have raised questions amongst many European academics and political affiliates on whether the EU should federalise and politicise further. One crisis would be the migration escalation in 2014. The EU wasn’t able to negotiate a sufficient migrant deal with EU member states and this led to the outbreak of the migration crisis across Europe. Many member were accused of not contributing their fair share towards taking in migrants. If the EU became more politicised and more federalised, it could be able to act as one voice and impose more influence on member states to agree on a migrant deal which would benefit the whole of Europe. While many may believe that migration imposes difficulties on the EU, migration actually helps the EU itself with the integration of migrants being positive as they could end up contributing to taxation for the EU. It will also decrease the ageing population in many European countries such as Germany. Another crisis in which the EU was stagnant was the Balkan War in the 1990s where the EU itself was accused of not reacting and preventing the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims from escalating further.
This has led to arguments for a European army with the increase in terror attacks across European countries and to defend fellow European countries.
What are the arguments for and against a further politicisation and federalisation of the EU?
For and against
An argument in favour of a further politicisation and federalisation of the EU would be that the EU could act as one voice and solve the deadlock on several crises across Europe. The EU has demonstrated that over recent years it has a reluctance to go further with the European project and create a platform for a federalisation or a United States of Europe. While it demonstrated its desire to proceed with the European project under the Lisbon Treaty such as the plan for a federalised European army under PESCO, the EU has become stagnant on showing any action to go further with federalisation of the EU. Millions of spending each year on military activities doesn’t go a long way unless the EU introduce a federalised army. However, they must also respect the neutrality of countries such as Ireland.
Crises such as the migration issue demonstrate the argument that the EU has become stagnant, because if the EU and member states across Europe acted as one voice, they would be able to solve such issues as the migration crisis by negotiating a fair deal that works for everyone and not just the elite member states. This would break the political deadlock within fellow member states with clashes from governments in EU member states directly. One example of this would be the clash between French president Emmanuel Macron and Lega Nord leader in Italy, Matteo Salvini over the migration crisis as Macron complained of Salvini’s lack of desire to take in migrants from shores across Italy as these boats entered Italy. The federalisation and politicisation of the EU would solve these deadlocks. However, it wouldn’t replace the individual governments of particular countries.
If the EU went along with the federalisation process, it would solve the outdated policies of the EU and modernise the EU. The EU must introduce reforms for this to work for the many across Europe, rather than the few. Reforms could include an alternative to capitalism across Europe instead of the requirement of member states being to have a government in favour of neo-liberal policies and allow for the inclusion of socialist governments. The negative feeling amongst citizens of Europe is that the EU only works for neo-liberal policies and the elite and it doesn’t work for the ordinary working class. Reforming its neo-liberal policies would raise citizens’ attitudes towards the federalisation of a union that has been undermined in recent years. The EU must also decrease its focus on the populist movement if it is, to go further with the federalisation process, because despite the increase in the populist movement, it hasn’t increased to the degree predicted across all member states.
If the EU became more federalised and politicised under its current model, it would only work for the elite and not for the ordinary working class. It would also only increase citizens’ further confusion with the process of how the institutions of Europe work and function. As the EU has become more politicised, the negative feeling of the EU has increased. The EU is now seen amongst many people as only a ‘talking shop’ like that of the UN where people speak but take no action on certain policies. Politicians such as Guy Verhofstadt resemble this frustration across citizens in Europe as he makes constant unhelpful statements towards Britain in this ongoing frustrating process for the EU. While negotiations carry on, Verhofstadt resembles the frustrations of many people with the institutions of Europe as it is seen as a talking shop. One must also recognise that MEPs such as Nigel Farage further increase the frustration of the institutions of the EU because Farage has focused on one issue across his political career in the European Parliament which is to take Britain out of the EU. If it becomes more politicised, the EU must ensure that it doesn’t encourage candidates like Farage to benefit out of a salary in the European Parliament whilst having a poor attendance record for almost every committee in the European Parliament.
Another argument against a European army is that it wouldn’t solve the democratic deficit that the EU currently experiences. Many politicians use the issue of this democratic deficit to their advantage by claiming to people that what they vote for in a certain committee in the European Parliament doesn’t matter because the elites in Brussels decide what happens for each EU member states. In fact, this was focused on the leave side of the referendum campaign in the Brexit referendum in 2016. Politicians on the leave side of the campaign claimed that Brussels was controlling Britain and if it left the EU, they would be able to control their own affairs by ‘taking back control’. Just because the EU may become more federalised, it doesn’t mean that the democratic deficit will just disappear. It may even increase the appeal of populism across member states and it may spread to all member states in Europe. The EU is at a crossroads at the moment because if they federalise further and further, citizens’ attitudes may grow further against the EU and if they stay as they are, the populist movement will also continue to grow.
The lesson on the idea of the federalisation of the EU is, plan carefully before executing such a radical plan.