Post-crisis European Union is at a crossroads. Today’s decisions and the developments in the coming months and years will determine not only the shape of the European Union in the longer future but also the very existence of the Union.
The repeated shocks after the 2008 financial crisis in the European project that revealed major deficiencies in the EMU architecture, accompanied by an unprepared political leadership to act promptly and decisively to correct those deficiencies, brought the European Union face to face with significant challenges. At the same time, and despite of the crisis, Europe has to cope with a number of internal imbalances such as demographic aging, youth unemployment and an eroding productive basis and competitiveness.h6. Europe has to win a bet
On top of those a hyperactive global environment in which major power shifts occur with new prospects and challenges being created for countries until very recently not included in the hegemonic pantheon. Significant shifts in the diffusion of world power are likely to have happened by 2034. For example, even if expectations about the BRICs’ hegemonic role will not be realized, a more balanced and multipolar global community seems likely to emerge.
In such a changing environment Europe has to find a way to sustain its global leadership and compete effectively, to remain united against national egoisms fed by economic problems during the last five years and to progress towards a sustainable and socially balanced growth path.
This is the bet that Europe has to win in the coming years. And this can only be done if Europe remains today committed to the causes and values that brought about Europe’s existence; namely peace, democracy, solidarity, equality, progress and prosperity. This commitment is not only a matter of words but mainly a matter of deeds including the steps towards the completion of the monetary union, but also the steps towards an economic and political union.
If this is the case then jumping forwards, and up to the dawn of the fourth decade of the century, Europe, despite its declining share of the global income, will have coped with the wounds of the post 2008 era and following a decade of stabilization and fiscal discipline, the Europeans will have realized the necessity and pushed for more economic and political integration. Bail-out agreements and austerity-led balanced budget sheets will have been followed by a functional banking union that guarantees financial stability and encourages investment.
By 2034 a real fiscal union should have been established with stronger common budget and a common Finance Commissioner for all member states. The Eurozone that survived from a long credibility crisis will expand the powers and responsibilities of the European Central Bank, which will finally have to become a real central bank that can also operate as member states’ lender of last resort, while central debt management including Eurobonds has been established.
The continuous deepening of the Single Market should result in a strategic reallocation of funding resources focused on the reconstruction of European production, new manufacturing techniques, clustering and new technologies to support export-led growth, especially for the Southern member states. At the same time Europe will have sustained and expanded her leadership in green technology confronting the challenges of increasing urbanization, climate change and the expansion of a world middle class.
On the political front, in the coming twenty years the world will hopefully have undergone a gradual democratization process as a result of a rising global middle class. In such a context the EU and Eurozone should manage to successfully enlarge eastwards and avoid centrifugal tendencies triggered by xenophobic and extremist voices that gained momentum in this decade. A common European Immigration Policy that will succeed the “Dublin II” Regulation, could also be supported by an Immigration Fund, which will be assisting countries to equally share the burden of massive migration flows with their northern counterparts and implement integrated policies against organized crime and in favor of migrants’ social and economic integration.
Down with pessimism!
Finally, in the aftermath of the major political risks and the crisis caused by the increased power that the extremist parties will probably have in the 2014 elections in the coming decades we would be able to heal the wounds and build a new consensus across moderate and progressive political powers to move towards a political union and introduce a new constitutional Treaty before the 2024 European elections.
All of the above thoughts may today be considered as a wishful thinking or an elaboration of the new “Renaissance” forecast for our Old Continent. Neither is true. In a period of existential dilemmas on the future of our common destination, the words of Mark Leonard, author of the book “Why Europe will run the 21st Century” come to mind: “My aim is to help cast off the oppressive yoke of pessimism that has enveloped our continent before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy”.