Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.
Cornelius AdebahrAssociate in Carnegie’s Europe Program
One of the remarkable elements of the Greek debt saga, much maligned by some hard-liners, is that after each deadline, another not-so-dead-line looms. There are simply no more ultimatums in the Europe of 2015.
This is only possible because war has been ruled out between EU members—still the greatest achievement of European integration. Instead, marathon talks are a vivid though increasingly painful sign that Europe is one political family—with some members still waiting to move into the house.
So indeed, now is the time for more integration, given that the community is under threat from within and without. An agreement on a third bailout package for Greece can lead to a deepening of the eurozone along the lines of a recent report by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on completing Europe’s economic and monetary union.
At the same time, the contrary mood in Greece and other member states will necessitate more democratic elements at the EU level. The war in Ukraine forces the union to clarify its relations with Russia and, by extension, the role of values and interests in EU foreign policy (so far with little success).
Finally, discussion about a possible British exit from the EU will trigger a debate about a three-tier EU, with political union in the eurozone, a bigger single market group comprising the United Kingdom and possibly Turkey (as well as the Western Balkans one day), and a broader union of democracy and the rule of law based on membership in the Council of Europe—and therefore including Ukraine and the countries of the South Caucasus. Europe still needs more integration, but at different levels.
Thanos DokosDirector general of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy
The answer is an unequivocal yes. However, the Greek prime minister’s humiliating treatment during recent negotiations in Brussels (admittedly, to an extent the result of his own mistakes and those of previous Greek governments) and the chill caused in several European countries by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s shock and awe strategy opened a wound that will not easily heal. A vindictive Europe that treats a member state as the enemy and forces it to choose between humiliation and suicide is probably not what supporters of European integration bargained for.
Furthermore, the image that Europe projects has not increased respect for the EU among its strategic competitors: European leaders spend endless hours resolving the problems of a member state that represented 1.3 percent of the EU’s GDP in 2014 only to impose recessionary policies that will barely allow Greece to stay alive but will not help the Greek economy recover.
It took repeated warnings from Washington to remind Europeans of the wider geopolitical ramifications of a Greek exit from the eurozone. And it took spirited resistance by France and a few other countries (as well as individual German politicians) to prevent a black page in Europe’s history. All this does not bode well for deeper European integration—whose need is stronger than ever.
Andrew MichtaProfessor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Greek crisis should induce the European Union to recognize the limits inherent in building a larger political entity out of what are still distinct nation-states. The European project remains essential to the continent’s security and prosperity, but it is time to admit that as a treaty-based organization, the EU cannot function like a state, regardless of how many rules and safeguards its members put in place.
Although it might seem tempting to view the Greek crisis as an opportunity for deepening EU integration, such efforts now would likely only further polarize Europe along national lines. It is doubtful that European leaders could achieve a public consensus to accept such efforts.
Regardless of its final outcome, the Greek crisis will leave the EU with scars likely to run deep for years to come. And there are other thorny issues on the horizon that will require leadership and imagination. More top-down engineering in the EU at a time of crisis is a risky proposition. EU leaders need to refocus on building a community of democratic nations whose voices and aspirations are not lost in the larger whole.
The views expressed here are the author’s own.
Marc PieriniVisiting scholar at Carnegie Europe
European integration is witnessing two divergent trends.
On the one hand, many governments, populist political parties, and citizens are saying “enough Europe.” Some are actively engaged in advocating a looser form of integration (as an alternative to a British exit from the EU), challenging the EU’s fundamental principles (see the Hungarian government), or advocating their country’s exit from a given policy (as with the French National Front’s opposition to the euro). In fields such as migration and asylum policy, wide divergences among EU members lead to a blatant lack of consistency.
On the other hand, crises and external shocks repeatedly illustrate the maxim that “divided, we fall.” European nations are tiny by world standards and very few countries have either the financial or the military capacities to matter as regional powers.
Looking at the Greek financial crisis, Russian aggression, or the tragedy of refugees, one thought comes to mind: if they were united, EU countries would be able to weigh in significantly on a given issue.
Is it time for more integration? Intellectually, the answer is certainly a resounding yes in the case of the eurozone or key foreign policy subjects like Ukraine, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and refugees. But on each of these topics, the political mood utters an equally resounding no.
It will probably take a crisis of major proportions to turn the EU’s integration reflex into policy.
Ulrich SpeckVisiting scholar at Carnegie Europe
If Greece had left the eurozone after the EU’s emergency negotiations on July 12–13, eurozone leaders would have announced urgent steps toward closer integration to prevent implosion. And traditional EU federalists like German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble may have hoped that with Grexit, the rest of the eurozone would become more homogeneous and better able to take a great leap toward a federal architecture.
But for most political leaders, more EU or eurozone integration is a no-go. They may sing from the federalist hymn sheet in their Sunday speeches, but once they’re back at work they continue business as usual, which is to use the EU as a framework to advance national interests. And many leaders have to fight growing hostility toward the EU, which may lead to rather less integration in some areas.
It seems that the limits of integration have been reached. EU capitals want to keep control of national policies, and voters are happy with that. The pressure to work more closely together, especially in the eurozone, will lead not to more integration but to more cooperation.
Is this sustainable? As federalism is not an option, the choice is between disintegration and a new effort to build a sui generis union, an entity that further develops existing mechanisms and policies but without the teleological federalist perspective.