Stanley's blog

Europe faces – together with the rest of the world – a frightening economic and financial crisis. How will this affect the EU itself? Will it lead to further integration or disintegration? How will it influence the June elections to the European Parliament?

Paradoxically, EU citizens recognize that none of the major challenges facing their countries (economic recession, climate change, terrorism…) can be met at national level alone. And yet the EU is generally unpopular.

The principal blame for this falls upon Member State leaders who take the credit for successes and blame ‘Brussels’ for failures; and do not explain the value of the EU. The European institutions do not help in the way they frequently behave and badly communicate.

There is also a lack of understanding between what the EU can and does do, and what the Member States do collectively. The Commission has a leading role in the former and only a coordinating role in the latter. What is publicly perceived as EU ineffectiveness is so often in fact the failure of the 27 Member States to work effectively together, bearing in mind that unanimity is required where the Union does not have direct competence.

The national leaders are not working satisfactorily together in order to cope with economic recession, foreign policy, global warming and energy security, to mention only three policy areas. And yet, the public perception is that the EU itself is failing.

It is natural therefore to believe that the economic and financial crisis will weaken the Union and lead to economic disintegration. However, there is another view.

While the US and China are also tackling the crisis at national level, an increasing body of opinion is calling out for a global approach As Philip Stephens puts it, “A crisis of global capitalism has thrown up a crisis of global politics.” “[O]nly good politics has the capacity to clear up the mess left by bad economics.”

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