The European Union must redefine its role on the continent and further afieldby Zoe Alipranti / July 4, 2019 / Leave a comment
A current of polarisation and fragmentation is sweeping across European politics. That was reflected in the unwieldy and challenging process of settling the next round of top EU jobs—a process that was always going to be complex due to considerations of gender and nationality. It remains to be seen if Ursula von der Leyen will be approved as President of the European Commission and indeed whether the rest of the package will be signed off, but the wider issues that will define the EU’s next cycle stretch beyond the selection of individual candidates. What will be the EU’s role during a period of changing geopolitical realities?
The two most intense challenges the EU had to grapple with during its past cycle were the refugee and eurozone crises. Worryingly, intractable differences between different countries are unlikely to significantly change. Migration remains a sticking point after the 2015 refugee crisis, resulting in the lack of comprehensive reform of the Dublin asylum regulation or a clear mechanism to be implemented in the wake of a future crisis. Some consensus was reached among leaders on the protection of European borders, but the next Commission must collaborate with heads of state to chart a long-term approach to immigration on a continent with negative demographics. This is complicated by the outright hostility of some governments to liberal values and the reluctance of many other governments to expend political capital on immigration issues.
On the future of the eurozone, the selection of Christine Lagarde as the next President of the European Central Bank sends a signal about the political nature of the job. The avoidance of a hawkish ECB President, however, does not settle the debate on the future of the single currency. The idea of completing the economic and monetary union is floated in EU documents, but remains an unlikely prospect. The emergence of the Hanseatic League, a group of fiscally conservative Northern European countries, in combination with Germany’s strict stance on fiscal discipline, will block any strong movement on fiscal transfers and reduce the likelihood of a eurozone budget.
On EU economic development, the completion of the single market has long been an ideal and was recently raised again by 17 member states, but it will be difficult to clear hurdles on a number of fronts such as regulation and taxation. Competition…