The future of Europe and the EU
Amid rising populism, xenophobia, and anti-establishment moods globally, several European countries including the Netherlands, France, Germany, and possibly Italy are preparing for an election cycle that may have significant impact on the future of the EU and indeed Europe. The combination of Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S., Britain’s Brexit vote, and successes of anti-establishment parties in Europe has raised concerns and the stake.
For a start, the forthcoming national elections in the Netherlands on March 15 will be an early indicator of whether right-wing populism still continues to generate support across Europe. As the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV), led by Geert Wilders, is leading in polls, it dominates political debates in the Netherlands with its Euro-skepticism, anti-immigration, and anti-Islamist stances. The same can be observed in France, where far-right Marine Le Pen leads the polls for the upcoming presidential elections, albeit only for the first round.
Under the prevailing anti-EU sentiment across the continent, the European Commission (EC) has drafted a White Paper on the future of Europe to set the agenda for the Rome Summit on March 25. The various future projections by the EC also coincide with the 60th anniversary of the EU’s founding Treaties of Rome.
Although it would be naïve to expect any sudden and substantial reform for the EU immediately, it is a timely debate for members to talk about life after Brexit.
The report envisions five alternatives for the future of the EU by 2025, ranging from the status quo to focusing on the Single Market, to create one or several “coalition of willing,” to do less in selected policy areas more efficiently, and to do more together. All the scenarios assume that the remaining 27 members will wish to stand together within the EU. In other words, the EC do not entertain the possibility of EU’s break up.
While the EU is starting to debate post-Brexit world, there is still no consensus in Britain about Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan on how to quit the bloc. First, the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament must give its approval before invoking Article 50, which is the legal mechanism to take the U.K. out of the EU. Then, this week, the House of Lords voted for an amendment that empowered the Parliament to have a “meaningful say” in the negotiation process, which will clearly undermine the negotiating position of the prime minister.
As the bill for separation became clearer with an estimated cost of around 60 billion euros to the U.K., many even started talking openly about how to reverse the implementation of the Brexit referendum decision.
Arguing about the future of Europe is not a new exercise, as it has been passionately and continuously debated since the end of the Second World War. While the ideas of Winston Churchill’s United States of Europe, Altiero Spinelli’s the European Federalist Movement, Robert Schuman’s declaration, and Jean Monnet’s plan, etc. paved the way for the foundation of today’s EU in post-war conditions, today’s discussions has somewhat deviated from those ideas and ideals. While an environment of heated controversy and criticism has always been an essential part of the EU, the international system today is slowly transforming itself into a somewhat multipolar world, where the choices of citizens of several member states in their national elections with their avarice toward European integration and its multiculturalism will not only decide the future shape of the EU, but also determine the role of Europe in the world. The outcome will no doubt have an impact on the future of the world, considering the two world wars we have witnessed so far were started essentially as European wars.