The Commission has put forward a proposal for improving the institutional framework of the Schengen area. First, the Commission proposes a strengthening of the Schengen evaluation mechanism. Announced and unannounced monitoring visits to a given Member State by Commission-led teams with experts from other Member States and Frontex will verify the application of the Schengen rules. Second, the Commission tackles the problem of unilateral reintroduction of borders. Such a decision for the reintroduction of internal border controls for foreseeable events (such as an important sporting event or a major political meeting) would be taken at the European level on the basis of a proposal by the European Commission backed by a ‘qualified majority’ of Member States’ experts. If a Member State fails to adequately protect a part of the EU’s external border, support measures including technical and financial support from the Commission, from Member States, from FRONTEX or other agencies like Europol or the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), can be taken.
The proposed measures are a big step forward for the European border security policy. However, a few Member States have already expressed skepticism, citing the national sovereignty as the main reason. They seem to have forgotten the very poor response of France and Italy to the wave of sea-borne migrants due to the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa.
It will be very interesting to observe the debate on the Commission proposals, since border security is one of the factors that will define the viability of the European project.
The last two decades were very good for you. You were able to unify your divided territory and your people. You had your fair deal of growth and expansion of trade. You began to “normalize”, as experts say.
Today you have to solve a great problem. It is up to you to decide whether the eurozone project lives or dies. I will not go into the details of the problem and the possible solutions. In any case you know very well what is at stake and what the options really are.
But why should you choose to save the euro? Well, two reasons spring to mind. First, a breakup of the eurozone will be very messy and will likely hurt your banks, pension funds and ultimately – your own citizens. The breakup will negate some of the important benefits of the internal European market and will cause widespread economic troubles around the whole world.
Second, killing the euro will go against your own obligations. When you founded the eurozone you also agreed that any amendment of the rules of the EMU will go through an amendment of the Treaties. That means that countries such as France and Belgium must explicitly agree to the eurozone breakup, and I sincerely doubt that they would. So in case you want to print Deutsche Marks again, you will have to infringe the Treaties in a very blatant way.
If the internal political pressure is really high you might probably risk and do it. But going against the founding principles of the European Union will have a very high price for you. One of the reasons for the unification back in 1990 was that you were securely integrated in the European Community. Yes, you are very different now and yes, you are rightly demanding a stronger voice in the world affairs. But still – there are ambiguous feelings in Europe about a strong and expansionistic German economy, especially if combined with a rapprochement with Russia. You need to think carefully about those considerations.
Whatever you decide to do, I would strongly advise talking sincerely with your own people. Cheap propaganda about the lazy Greeks may sell the newspapers, but we’re not talking about entertainment here. Your choices will define the future of all European citizens, and that means Germans as well. The European Union will never be the same after the breakup of the eurozone, and you will not enjoy the position that you have now.
Please think carefully before making your decision. The world will not end with the euro, but it will be an uglier place.
Posted in Budget and Finance, EU Reform, Institutional Affairs
Tagged bonds, break-up, debt, Euro, European Union, eurozone, Financial Crisis, Financial Markets, Germany
Yesterday a terrible crime was committed in Norway, leaving more than 90 people dead. A lone terrorist was able firs to explode a bomb in the centre of Oslo and then to shoot at least 80 people, many of whom were teenagers. We know very little about his motivation, but it appears that he held far-right, and anti-Muslim views. So let’s say it bluntly: the ghost of racial and religious hatred is roaming in Europe. We have to stop it.
I have watched with indignation the rise of far-right parties in the EU – from Netherlands to France and from Bulgaria to Italy. Everywhere across Europe the narrative of cheap nationalism and populism, the language of hatred and discrimination has become fashionable. Even mainstream politicians have flirted with it. This has to stop.
Europe has suffered too often from its stereotypes of hatred. After all, we nearly exterminated a whole ethnos just 70 years ago. I refuse to look the other way when the same old disease is surfacing. And I cannot overlook the role of media in this. Yesterday, while it was still unclear who was responsible for the events in Oslo, an English newspaper put this headline on its first page, claiming that the bombing was orchestrated by Al Qaeda. This was happening while various counterterrorism experts on Twitter were explaining that it was quite unlikely that Al Qaeda was involved. This was not an innocent mistake. We live in a time when many people in the media business do enjoy flirting with far-right agendas, because they know that hatred sells. Mr. Murdoch’s publications are not the only ones involved. We have to stop this.
It is quite obvious that the European countries do have a problem with the integration of immigrants. A lot can be done here. First, we need to address border security. Second, we need to foster integration of immigrants, without resorting to defeatist language, while taking into account the security concerns of our citizens. Third, we need to redesign development programs for developing countries. Fourth, we need to help designing programs for adaptation to climate change in developing countries. Fifth, we need to persecute crimes motivated by religious hatred and crime.
This agenda is much more important than any other agenda of the European Union. It needs leadership and determination. The alternative is grim. The ghost of hatred is still a ghost. We have to stop it.
UPDATE: Please look at the faces of the victims from the Utoya shooting.
Posted in Foreign and Security Policy, Human Rights, Institutional Affairs, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged border security, Climate change, developing countries, European Union, far-right, hatred, Immigration, nationalism, Norway, Oslo, populism, racism, religious hatred, terrorism, Utoya
The contemporary European history is often overlooked by many. It sounds so intuitive, so well-known and even a little bit boring. But the devil is in the details, and not knowing our past can hinder our future.
This is where the new book by Hanneke Siebelink – The 50 Days that Changed Europe, comes to help. The book is a concise, well-written story of the European integration process that presents the most important events that really changed Europe. It’s well suited for students and academics alike, since Siebelink has done some detailed research and the text includes some very interesting insights. The book is written in a very accessible style and language, which is always a benefit.
I have done some calculations based on the selection of events in the book. Below you can see the dynamics of the main events throughout the recent decades. A clear trend of increasing intensity of the integration process is obvious. Let’s hope that the new decade that we’re in will not end with the infamous turkey chart.
The Commission has put forward its proposal for the new Multiannual Financial Framework of the European Union for the period 2014-2020. The Multiannual Financial Framework is the main budgeting document of the EU for the seven-year period, and little can be changed once it is adopted. The proposal has to be approved by the Member States and the Parliament.
The main innovations:
- A new fund for financing infrastructure, the Connecting Europe Facility that includes a preliminary list of transport, energy and ICT projects;
- Stronger link of cohesion financing with the Europe 2020 objectives;
- New category of ‘transition regions’;
- New conditionality provisions;
- Partnership contracts with each Member State to ensure mutual reinforcement of national and EU funding;
- An integrated programme of €15.2 billion for education, training and youth, with a clear focus on developing skills and mobility;
- A common EU strategy called “Horizon 2020” for investment in research and innovation worth 80 billion €;
- 30% of direct support to farmers will be conditional on “greening” their businesses;
- €4.1 billion for the fight against crime and terrorism and €3.4 billion for migration and asylum policies.
- New own resources for financing the budget- a financial transaction tax (Tobin tax) and a new modernized VAT;
- Simplification of the existing correction mechanisms.
You can also read the critical assessment of the proposal by Charlemagne. Real Time Brussels looks at the fierce political battles that will likely emerge in the process of adoption of the Multiannual Financial Framework.
Posted in Agriculture and Fisheries, Budget and Finance, Education, Science and Culture, Energy, Enterprise, Environment, Foreign and Security Policy, Institutional Affairs, Justice and Internal Affairs, Regional Policy, Taxes and Duties, Transport
Tagged 2014-2020, cohesion, EU funds, Europe 2020, European Commission, European Union, infrastructure, management and control, Multiannual Financial Framework, own resources, Tobin Tax
The Commission has proposed a set of measures to address the harm that corruption causes to European societies. The Commission is setting up a new mechanism, the EU Anti-Corruption Report, to monitor and assess Member States’ efforts against corruption and encourage more political engagement. Supported by an expert group and a network of research correspondents, and the necessary EU budget, the Report will be managed by the Commission and published every two years, starting in 2013. It will identify trends and weaknesses that need to be addressed, as well as stimulate peer learning and exchange of best practices.
How effective will the report be? It’s a very good sign that the EU will have a more focused approach towards diagnosing serious corruption in Member states. But it’s far from certain that ample treatment will follow the diagnosis. If we consider the experience with the reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Bulgaria and Romania, it appears that the Commission reports stir a lot of emotions and produce fewer practical results.
Any effort to independently monitor corruption levels in any Member state should be commended. The Commission should also consider benefiting from the existing monitoring mechanisms set up by Transparency International and OECD.
The Greek financial crisis now threatens the whole eurozone. It appears that without substantial debt restructuring Greece is likely to default, and would have to leave the eurozone. This could lead, however, to substantial collateral damage and unintended effects for the whole European banking and financial system. The other option is a very large fiscal transfer from the eurozone core. This second option will lead donor Member States to demand substantial political guarantees for fiscal discipline in Greece and other possible recipients (i.e. Ireland and Portugal).
It looks like the crisis has brought back the idea for a true European political union on the table. The president of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet, himself has called for the establishment of a European financial minister.
Now, the idea is not really new. Back in the 1950s there was such a project, called the European Political Community (EPC) that aimed to politically unite the Member States in the European Economic Community (read more about it in the excellent paper by Berthold Rittberger). The main institutional innovation in the EPC was the central role of the bicameral parliamentary body in adopting the budget and the legislation. The EPC project failed, but some of its ideas were later implemented by including the European Parliament in the legislative and budgetary procedures.
Going back to Mr. Trichet’s ideas, we see something completely different. In his framework, the Council would act on the basis of a proposal by the Commission, in liaison with the ECB, to take some measures directly affecting the economy of the Member State that has not implemented its fiscal stability program. There is no role for the European Parliament whatsoever. Apparently Mr. Trichet believes that the very agreement on a stability program is substantial legitimation for a direct involvement in the economic and fiscal policies of a Member State by the Council.
This is quite doubtful. It’s very difficult to imagine how the same people that violently oppose to austerity measures taken by their democratically elected governments will somehow accept direct interference by an institution of the European Union. It’s equally difficult to imagine that the European Parliament will approve such an institutional framework. I can certainly understand the reasonable motives for proposing such a second stage of austerity enforcement, but I’m afraid that such a procedure will decisively worsen the democratic deficit of the European Union.
If and when the governments of the Member States decide that a more profound Treaty revision is needed for establishing tighter fiscal coordination, they will have to consult their national parliaments and the European Parliament. Such consultations are in fact inevitable, since TEU requires the summoning of a Convention to adopt the draft text of the revision (art. 48, para. 2-5 TEU).
Posted in Budget and Finance, EU Reform, Institutional Affairs
Tagged debt, European Central Bank, European Parliament, European Political Community, European Union, eurozone, fiscal policy coordination, Greece, Jean-Claude Trichet, political union, proposal
The Commission has put forward an important proposal for the reformation of the so-called Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) which grants specific tariff preferences to developing countries in the form of reduced or zero tariff rates or quotas.
Key elements of the proposal include:
1. Concentrating GSP preferences on fewer countries. A number of countries would no longer be eligible to benefit, including:
- Countries which have achieved a high or upper middle income per capita, according to the internationally accepted World Bank classification (such as Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar).
- Countries that have preferential access to the EU which is at least as good as under GSP – for example, under a Free Trade Agreement or a special autonomous trade regime.
- A number of overseas countries and territories which have an alternative market access arrangement for developed markets.
2. Reinforcing the incentives for the respect of core human and labour rights, environmental and good governance standards through trade by facilitating access to the GSP+ scheme which grants additional, mostly duty-free preference to vulnerable countries.
3. Strengthen the effectiveness of the trade concessions for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) through the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) scheme.
4. Increasing predictability, transparency and stability.
European citizens should think more about their demands when talking about the EU. Here’s why.
These are not the best of times for the European Union. There’s a financial crisis; an immigration crisis; a crisis of trust, and who knows what else. In a nutshell, the EU is in trouble.
What is more difficult to comprehend is the malignancy and the “I-told-you-so” attitude of so many politicians, commentators and European citizens. The poignancy of the negative feelings is really remarkable. That is why I would like to do something unusual for this blog and address these skeptics. My objective is to provide a merciless, subjective and heavily normative critique of the complacency of those that seem to prefer a European future without a European Union.
In order to do that, I need to make an important observation. Homo Sapiens has not evolved substantially during the last 60 years. That being said, the claims that a new war on the European continent is impossible seem strange. It was not the tanks and airplanes that destroyed Europe during World War II, it was the people in them. What is more, our physical and genetic ancestors have waged war on one another for at least two millennia on this continent. In fact, the only longer peaceful episode in recent history has been the period of European integration. It’s true that NATO and the dynamic of nuclear deterrence also played a part. But it was the cooperation of European elites within the European Community that cemented this security pact.
Nowadays many believe that wars are part of the history, but not of the future. Others think that wars may be a useful instrument of foreign policy. What unites them is the lack of any wartime experience. This virus of complacency and ignorance is widespread. It has caught up with politicians, journalists, and all kinds of experts. The McDonalds rule is their flag, although it has already been broken. This virus makes them think that states are well equipped to solve emerging problems using the classic instruments of intergovernmental cooperation. The problem with their narratives is that this type of cooperation has recently failed spectacularly – with the UN Climate Change Conference failing to agree on new rules for climate change mitigation, WTO failing to agree on the completion of the Doha round, and the G-20 failing to agree on anything except for the summit menu. These are not just incidents; these are symptoms of the limitations of the classic forms of international cooperation.
Someone might argue that if the EU were so successful, it wouldn’t have experienced its recent crisis. That is true. The EU is not perfect, and we are now bearing the fruits of the lax rules of the Economic and Monetary Union. But it is much better than any other form of cooperation especially given the small economies of many Member States. This issue of economic efficiency is usually not discussed by euroskeptics. The truth is that without the European Union economic life in Europe would definitely slow down, and businesses know that. This is the problem of some anti-EU parties: their constituencies will actually suffer from any possible withdrawal from the Union. That is why they prefer to grumble about the EU without taking a meaningful step towards resolution of their grievances. Referendums should be held in each and every Member State that feels the need to take a different path to prosperity. The United Kingdom should be particularly encouraged to conduct a referendum on its EU membership. The European Union is not a club of convenience; its success depends on the high motivation of its members.
The European Union is not at a crossroads. It is a well-functioning and unique mechanism for political integration. It’s up to its users – the European citizens, to use it properly. It will deliver results only if we command it to do so. That is why from now on I would like to hear more demands, and less chaotic criticism when discussing the EU.
Posted in EU Reform, Foreign and Security Policy, Human Rights, Institutional Affairs, Internal Market, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged COP16, Europe Day, European Union, G-20, history, intergovernmental cooperation, war, WTO