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The prospects of further EU integration
6 May 2013 Radka Minarechová Politics & Society
THE EUROPEAN Union works on the principle of so-called sovereignty bargains. When a country gives up something, it receives something back. This principle disproves some claims that states receive nothing in return, according to Jan Techau, director of Carnegie Europe, the European centre of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a foreign-policy think tank. These bargains, according to him, are key to the further integration processes now being discussed by EU member states.
The Slovak Spectator spoke to Techau about further European integration, the importance of a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the USA, and EU foreign policy, during the GLOBSEC 2013 Bratislava Global Security Forum, which took place between April 18 and 20.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What is your opinion of further integration within the EU? Is it important to have a more integrated EU?
TSS: In which specific areas is there a need to have more integration?
The European integration process needs another big boost in another field, and that field is foreign policy. That is how Europe can position itself as a more cohesive player in the world. Europe is often portrayed and described as a peace project to pacify Europe, so the nations of Europe cannot go to war with each other as they have done for 2,000 years. That is true and that remains a very important rationale, but at the same time you cannot think of that peace project in Europe any longer without an external dimension. You do not have peace at home if you also do not work for peace abroad. This is what globalisation essentially is about. And we are not very good at it at the moment.
TSS: How do you perceive some critical voices which claim that further integration will mean a loss of countries’ sovereignty?
The real fear is the question of the democratic legitimacy of the entire decision-making process. People feel, especially politicians, that the decisions coming from Europe take a lot of their own manoeuvring space away. They have the mandate from their people but they cannot act on behalf of their people because a lot of stuff is coming out of Brussels. There is a democratic legitimacy issue in the EU. If we have more integration, what we need to do alongside that is to increase the democratic legitimacy of the entire project. And that means changing the institutions, reforming the European Parliament, having more democratic, direct elections in Europe, creating real political competition at the pan-European level.
TSS: How do you assess the current foreign policy of the EU? How has it changed during the years?
European foreign policy is a very complex kind of thing. We have a post-Lisbon Treaty institutional setup that has not produced the results and the outcomes that we all expected. The External Action Service is not a kind of streamlining, leading organisation in European foreign policy. Europe is still strong where it can offer membership, and that is a currency that gets less valuable because there are going to be fewer enlargements in the future. It is still a strong economic power. It is not very strong in traditional crisis management, as we were able to see in Mali, Libya, and also in Syria, for example. It is not very strong in classic military hard-power terms.
TSS: How do you think EU foreign policy is handling challenges associated with the Arab Spring?
Now we have reached the point where the tide is turning a little bit, because some of these countries, specifically Egypt, are running into fundamental trouble. Not only in terms of their political reform agenda, but economically. So all of a sudden they have more interest in the West meddling, especially when it comes to aid and investment. So the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund came in and started negotiating conditions with the Egyptians. That is a way in which one can exert influence.
Overall the Europeans played a relatively minor role. The big tools that Europe could have had to react, like opening the borders, huge amounts of money poured in, opening markets to imports from those countries … they did not do. By and large they have underperformed, but they have also not completely bungled it. It is interesting that individual countries, like Denmark, play an interesting role as advisors, as investors, for this project. But these are small things on the side. I do not think they will have a strategic, game-changing effect in the region.
TSS: Is EU foreign policy effective in communicating with oppressive regimes or in applying sanctions on countries that violate fundamental human rights?
TSS: How can the EU remove these limitations?
TSS: Why is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership project important? What advantages and disadvantages might it bring?
I cannot see any international downside. There will be individual industries, individual sectors and markets that might not find this entirely to their advantage because they are losing their protected kind of situation. But that it is a very minor minus when you weight it against the advantages.
TSS: What obstacles might this agreement face?
TSS: What will the project mean for central Europe?
TSS: In which other areas do you see potential for the EU and the US to cooperate more closely?
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