The Prime Minister's proposals might be just what the Union needsby Anand Menon / February 18, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Twelve things you need to know about Brexit
Consider the following news report: “The leaders of the… European Union nations went home after a failed two-day summit meeting in anger and in shame, as domestic politics and national interests defeated lofty notions of sacrifice and solidarity for the benefit of all… the failure of the summit meeting laid bare the deep divide with the European Union.” Such criticisms of the EU are commonplace right now. Yet its problems are of older provenance—that report appeared in the New York Times in 2005.
But this crisis may be the worst yet, as the EU grapples with problems such as migration, terrorism and the rise of Eurosceptic parties. Any political system would struggle to deal with so many challenges on this scale. And the EU is arguably more constrained than any other such system, fragmented as it is both in Brussels between different institutions vying for authority, and between those institutions and member-states anxious to preserve their power.
Such fragmentation is built into the EU. Its origins lie in the end of the Second World War, and thus it was designed to prevent hegemony by diffusing rather than concentrating power. The roots of this crisis, though, can be traced to the early 1990s, when member states resorted to what might be called “competence dumping.” Confronting problems to which, individually, they could find no easy solutions, they turned to the EU for answers. Yet they did this at the very moment when their tolerance for handing power to Brussels was wearing thin. What resulted was partial integration in key policy areas—something that is coming back to haunt them.
Sensible suggestions for improvement can be found in an unlikely source. For all his rhetoric on the EU, David Cameron only embarked on his “renegotiation” for domestic (read: Conservative Party) reasons (today he will reiterate them at a crunch summit in Brussels). Yet alongside the flannel—token moves on benefits that won’t affect migrant numbers—his proposals include ideas…