debate in the House of Europe

For those of our readers who are in the Netherlands and understand Dutch, an invitation to a debate we organize  in the framework of the Jean Monnet centre of Excellence: (for registration details, please go to the link to the Jean Monnet Centre)

On 27 April, 2012 the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in cooperation with the Montesquieu Institute and the European Parliament Office organize a debate (in Dutch) on ‘The New Europe after the Crisis’:

Currently the Euro crisis is dominating the public debate in the Netherlands and in the rest of Europe. While politicians are bargaining for a solutions to this crisis, we already have to think about how we see a role for the Union after the crisis. Several questions come to mind, such as whether the EU is more than an intergovernmental cooperation in support of an open market? Or what is European solidarity? And can it exist without a shared European identity?

These and other questions will be discusses between two panels: a panel of MEP’s and a panel of academics:

Members of European Parliament:
– Thijs Berman, MEP PvdA (Labour Party)
– Wim van der Camp, MEP CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal)
– Bas Eickhout, MEP Groenlinks (Greenleft)

– Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law
– Bernard Steunenberg, Professor in Public Administration
– Richard Griffiths, Professor of Social and Economic History

Roel Janssen, financial-economic journalist and author of several books, will moderate this debate.

Time and Location:

The debate will take place on 27 april, from 15.00 to 17.00. It will take place in ‘Het Huis van Europa’ , the European Parliament Information Office (Korte Vijverberg 5/6) in The Hague. After the discussion there will be an opportunity to discuss in an informal setting with drinks.


another warning from Polish minister Sikorski in the light of the ‘constraining dissensus’ on European integration

In a speech to Polish MPs in Warsaw on 29 March (via euobserver, link here), Polish Foreign Minister said the EU could unravel, dismantling common projects such as open markets and labour mobility and neglecting new initiatives such as the External Action Service. His warning was apparently of Poland’s fate if the EU disintegrated and the US abandoned its Atlantic orientation and NATO and turned to Asia. Quite clearly, other new(er) member states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia or Bulgaria and Romania would fare even worse than Poland if such a scenario were to materialize. More importantly, however, why should we all take Sikorski’s warning seriously?

Rereading, with my students, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks’s seminal British Journal of Political Science article of 2008, ‘A Post Functionalist theory of European Integration: From Permissive Consensus to Constraining Dissensus’, I am struck by their precise formulation of what seems to be one of the key problems of European integration today: ‘Citizens care – passionately – about who exercises authority over them. The challenge for a theory of multi level governance is that the functional need for human cooperation rarely coincides with the territorial scope of community’ (2008: 2). The EU’s current set of responses to the crisis, for example the reform package for Greece put together by the IMF/ the Troika, illustrate this point very well: the functional need to resolve the crisis comes up against the lack of a sense of community on both sides – in this case in the North and South of Europe.

But as Hooghe and Marks also state in their article,  when individuals do not have the time and inclination to determine their response to European integration measures, they rely on cues to determine their response (2008:10) – cues provided by the media, by politicians and political parties. The EU has long ceased to be just a vehicle for economic integration, but is ‘a part of a system of multi-level governance which facilitates social interaction across national boundaries, increases immigration and undermines national sovereignty. …(2008:11).  Based on a broad range of studies, they argue that ‘the jurisdictional shape of Europe has been transformed, but the way in which citizens conceive their identities has not’ (12)…but, they further state that  the connection between national identity, cultural and economic insecurity and EU policy issues cannot be induced from experience, but has to be constructed politically, through priming, framing and cueing (2008:13).

Mr Sikorski, to get back to his speech, has been campaigning consistently in the last year or so to provide fellow politicians and citizens in Poland and other EU member states with reasons to consider the positive sides of European integration and the dangers of European disintegration. His speeches provide a cue for possible responses to the current insecurity in Europe by seeing national identity as reinforced and defended  in a broader European framework, rather than weakened.  In my view, it is a  perspective very much worth considering.

Euroscepticism, Norway

Why are Norwegians Eurosceptic? For the exact opposite reasons that Britons are Eurosceptic

JCMS has a new article which tries to explain the persistent Euroscepticism in Norway. According to Marianne Skinner, neither economic interest nor identity politics can account for the strong Euroscepticism of the Norwegian people. Instead, the author argues that it is a concern for (1) post-materialist values, (2) a particular political culture, and (3) emphasis on rural society that determine the lack of desire of ordinary Norwegians to join the EU*.

I had always assumed that Norwegian Euroscepticism has a lot to do with the facts that Norway has natural gas and a dislike for the common European fisheries policy. So the interpretation offered by Marianne Skinner is rather intriguing. Let’s unpack the arguments a little bit. The focus on the ideal of rural society is quite peculiar (and as far as I know uniquely Norwegian/Icelandic). I can easily see why idealization of the peasants and the countryside doesn’t sit very well with European integration, so it seems plausible that if one values strongly rural society, he/she would dislike the EU. Political culture in this case refers mostly to emphasis on participatory democracy, anti-bureaucracy, centralization and technocracy feelings, and pride in national independence. Now, pride in (hard-won) national independence and history are definitely not uniquely Norwegian – just ask the Irish, or the Bulgarians – so I am not convinced  that they are incompatible with support for European integration. But the emphasis on participatory democracy seems rather relevant. Finally, post-materialism values imply that ones cares strongly about the environment, equality, solidarity, quality of life and has anti-war sentiments. But in Norway, the EU is associated with liberal economic philosophy, prioritization of economic growth above all else, increased consumption, discriminatory trade policies with the rest of the world, etc**. In short, in Norway ‘opposition to the EU is a question of morality’ (p.432).  Quite interesting!

Now contrast this Norwegian brand of Euroscepticism with the one prevalent in the UK (and in England, in particular). The public and elite (political parties) level Euroscepticism in the UK is fueled by feelings that the EU regulates too much and not too little, that it is not supporting the market and economic growth enough, and that its economic philosophy is not too liberal but too dirigiste. Norway and England are Eurosceptic for the exact opposite reasons! At least this seems to be the conclusion when the regulation/economic policy dimension of Euroscepticism is in focus; both countries share a negativity towards the EU’s democratic process.

*Note that the article is based on analysis of letters to the editor, commentaries and other journalistic materials published in one Norwegian newspaper (1960-1994) rather than a survey of peoples’ attitudes. So it is best described as a study of the Norwegian Eurosceptic public discourse rather than Norwegian Euroscepticism as such.

** This seems a bit paradoxical to me: Norwegians value ‘normal people’s ability to … choose where they live’ but dislike European integration which leads to ‘extreme mobility and economic migration’ (p.433). So you can choose where you live as long as you don’t move?!

Europe in the news, Future of the EU

Forthcoming debate on Europe

Munk Debates will hold a debate under the slogan ‘The European Experiment Has Failed’. Niall Ferguson and Josef Joffe will argue that it has, and Peter Mandelson and Daniel Cohn-Bendit will defend the good other side. Brace yourselves, the EU debate of the year is coming!

The teaser from Niall Ferguson is already rather irratating: “For more than 10 years, it has been the case that Europe has conducted an experiment in the impossible.” Not sure what he means, but as a historian he should know that the dominance of the nation-state is a relatively short and recent episode in world history and that the domain of the possible often proves to be surprisingly vast.

Here is some (highly selective) background on Niall Ferguson: link, link. Felix Salmon has an entertaining post on the forthcoming debate here.

Economic policy and the Single Market, Future of the EU

Europe’s Growth: An Optimistic Perspective

Europe gets a solid ‘B’ for its economic growth and an ‘A’ is within reach’.

That was the evaluation given by Indermit Gill, Chief Economist for Europe and Central Asia at the Wolrd Bank, at the annual Jean Monnet conference hosted by the Leiden University‘s Institute of Public Administration. The assessment summarizes a 112-page overview of a 500+ page new report prepared by the World Bank on the past and future of Europe’s economic growth. Mr. Gill presented some of the conclusions of the report and discussed his vision of the challenges facing the European economies. The overview of the full report is well-worth reading – it is quite accessible for non-economists and richly illustrated. In this post we want to take up just a couple of issues that seemed especially salient to us.

The report points out that by the late 2000s, the ease of doing business in South Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal) has plummeted below the levels of the Central and East European countries. This is remarkable if we remember that 20 years ago the CEE countries still had state-led planned economies. Many people imagine that setting up a market economy requires just cutting state interference and then the market would grow on its own. But this is hardly the case – in fact, the establishment of a market and the right environment for doing business requires a huge effort in state-building. Installing the rules and regulations conductive for business growth is by no means an easy achievement, and the CEE countries should take the credit they deserve for that.

In the questions and answers section, Dr. Gill pointed out that while the low labour mobility in the EU has not impeded the working of the European ‘convergence machine’ (a very apt metaphor used in the report to describe how Europe has been helping poorer countries to grow and converge with richer EU member states), it is a problem for the eurozone. Inside the eurozone, as the monetary policy instruments are removed from the toolbox of governments, one way to compensate for the imbalances that have occurred since the eurozone is not an optimal currency area, is to allow labour mobility. Without it, the balances become even more glaring. The implications for the current policy of many European governments of restricting immigration cannot be clearer.

Another finding emphasized by the report is that the EU is a huge trading partner for the whole world, but also that a large part of trade happens inside Europe and among European partners. This was presented as the strongest pillar of the European economic success and it’s worth remembering that it is, by and large, an achievement which can most directly be linked to the Single market established by the EU between 1986 and 1992. Again, if any political leaders would seriously consider what their economy would look like without the EU, it’s worth relaying the comment of Dr. Gill, that there is no such thing as a successful small closed economy in today’s world.

Antoaneta Dimitrova and Dimiter Toshkov 


Future of the EU

Delors attacks non-socialsit EU leaders

Former Commission president Jacques Delors has attacked several current European politicians over their leadership of the Union. Euractiv reports:

Delors said that in recent years, the European method had been “disguised”, marking a return to the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna, and to the “cynicism” of nationalistic power play.  “If we go this way, it means that someone wants to kill Europe, that it should not exist and should not have existed in the first place,” he said.

Delors goes on to put the finger on José Manuel Barroso, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Van Rompuy among others. The attack is beyond any doubt ideologically motivated: at the same event Delors advocated  an European Socialist Alternative representing “an offensive of Social Democracy in the broader sense” (as quoted by Euractiv). The transformation of Delors from the ideal-typical technocrat leading the apolitical European Commission to a visionary ideologue of Eurepean socialism is quite remarkable indeed.

[via Georgi Gotev]

On a somewhat related note, here is an animated map of the changing ideological landscape in Europe since 1948.