“The EU in 2030”
by Bacho Chubinidze
In the year of 1948, Jean Monnet asked the question, whether the community he wanted to create should end in itself, or would it be in a process of constant change and development. In the year of 2018 and the world around us, the question is whether the EU will keep moving in the direction of freedom, in the direction of tranquility, or will its people give up socio-political progress, their ascendants only dreamt about.
There was an age, where Europe was little more than a slogan from 1815 until 1945, there was a golden age in which Europe began to emerge as a project between 1950’s-1990’s, there was a third phase in which union intensified from the weakened states to the economic boomers during 2000’s, and there is now – the European Union is on the defensive and from budgetary to political debates is witnessing a European civil war, as stated by monsieur Macron. Indeed, it finds itself in an uncertain time, with austerity of the far-rights on the one hand and refugee crisis on another, complicated with a recent terrorist attacks elsewhere. It is easy to be pessimistic, because there are many perspectives on what we can define as a crisis and when times are in impasse, voice and loyalty become more difficult. Many populations across the EU feel they are facing foreign forces, which are making decisions that impact their lives, meanwhile, aggressive propaganda campaigns have arisen across the EU, especially in the eastern part and probably this is one of the most critical topics that members have to deal with, but an old saying is that every darkest sky has a shining ray. 200 years ago Europe was a set of principles without a body. Today it is more than a union, with a search of new principles to replace some of the old ones. Last 4 years was one for history books and if we want to lead the way in diagnosing the challenges facing EU today, prescribing ways to address them and to see where the post-Brexit EU will be in 2030, we should understand where it is now. To articulate, this requires us to raise ourselves above the sense of crisis and try to see things in the long term. I write this, because EU is at historical turning point and decisions taken now will ultimately shape the future. Despite of this, I believe that this is time of exciting opportunities, innovations and future growth for at least two reasons which puts the union to the test:
Firstly, I have some optimism about what is driving modern ultra-nationalist movements. The rise of the rights across the EU is in many places an interesting combination of ideas about what we owe to the people. As more different and diverse societies are gathering across the bloc, more difficult it becomes to build consensus and find projects that will work for everyone. This does not exclude the fact that it is impossible to understand modern society’s most pressing problems and even opportunities through only a local or even national frame. It seems that everybody is looking at the same thing, but everybody sees something different, but at least they certainly do not question that for the EU, not having solution is unacceptable, for the reason that its people grew up with a dread of the past, but never with a fear of the future. Communities individually could not have developed the entity, collectively they could have, and they do, from farmer to start-upper. Suffering with crisis and various problematic developments in a nasty mix of complexity, does not make EU descent. It is crystal clear that the union is facing battle of values, which requires commendable unity and allegiance for the future, with a high political costs that seems unbearable for domestic focused politicians, but not for pro-western majority.
Secondly, a slow but robust economic recovery is well underway in the EU, but as the economic picture brightens, new threats emerge. Kremlin’s unprecedented efforts to sow and exacerbate divisions among Europeans, using tools of propaganda, fake news, trolling and other forms of instigation that polarize politics by pitting citizens against each other, have threatened EU’s very foundation and bounced us to be sure that Moscow still views western democracies as a threat and this is where the bloc has an opportunity, which can play a key role in shaping the European dialogue. Russian intervention in Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea already alarmed the union and Brussels tries to respond with a greater expansion, for the reason that the greatest potential for protecting and relaunching the union lies in its foreign policy. The peril is already perceived as a higher degree of unity among the member states, because they became more attentive that deep divisions within the EU are increasingly threatening the values upon which the European project of “ever closer union” is based. Even though, we see a muddle among members that some of them are in a privileged situation and some of them in solidarity among each other, I think ongoing concerns will reassure members once again about the fact that a country’s position would sometimes be overruled in favor of the bloc’s, so the member states will still be willing to preserve the cohesion and its capacity to act as one.
A flexible and fresh multi-tiered EU will solve some short-term problems by bringing its members closer to address specific issues effectively. In 2030, Franco-German tandem will still be unique. They will remain as a center of gravity for the EU decision-making and their weight within the union will be preserved for decades, which on my mind will still lay out the plans for deeper Eurozone integration with some very ambitious objectives, like EU finance minister, but prediction of a future is a gloomy business, even in the best of times and I believe its hopes and fears will always be the two parts of the same coin. As Euro was
seen as the main cause of the current economic burden among some members, confronting the economic intra-societal challenges to the European project will not be easy. When right- leaning parties are also riding high on the wave of populism, there always will be a risk of losing sight for how Franco-German actions will be perceived by other members, especially in a period of economic success, where is a temptation to think that they do everything right and others should simply follow the tandem’s example, but I regard that decade later Cohesion Policy would likely to be still supported to speed up the economies and reduce the backwardness in the bloc’s least favored regions. Meanwhile, I profoundly believe that the mechanism will also defuse Euroscepticism among anti-EU politicians and those who complain that richer countries in western part are propping up those in the east.
What the refugee crisis demonstrated is that investing in the stability and prosperity of western Balkans, means to invest in the security and future of the union. Migration is still the number one concern for many European countries and while for some EU members its nature is more important than the size, it will continue driving political wrangling in 2020’s, to seek balance against this conundrum. If the predictions of increased flows along the Balkan route turn out to be true, reaching an agreement among all member states will become the first priority of the union. Even if there is general support for the ambitions expressed by the EU institutions, enlargement remains politically sensitive in many countries and the processes can be easily hijacked by populist forces. Taking into account that every single amplification has met internal resistance, I am ambivalent about the idea of Balkan enlargement by 2025, for the reason of a number of ongoing disputes among the candidates that could block their own membership, which is strongly backed by Jean Claude Junker’s statement about not importing instability until the border disputes are not closed at every level and the given date is just a discussion of process not the end of the story. Moreover, Russia is unlikely to refrain from expressing its support for the historical ally Serbia and its position about Kosovo. Among all the issues on the table, Kremlin’s wariness about the EU is likely to be the most difficult.
Views from security lens of the EU 2030 can be presented with my personal belief that the progress on military mobility within the EU and the defense integration will be at its best, even though transatlantic relations will still be the cornerstone of European security. The union will remain a force for peace and decade later it will already have the capability to protect European interests with European troops. I suppose, the step taken in this direction with PESCO, will initiate bigger changes and will stimulate European defense efforts, which will represent a substantial step towards stronger European society, fit for the 21st century.
While member states are encouraged to include cyber defense within the framework of the Cooperation, EU’s preparedness to react and build strong Cyber Security Agency, will equip the union with the right tools to deal with large-scale cyber-attacks in a way that allows digital economy to flourish, not garnish with cyber crime. The process will foster great trust in digital technologies and highly contribute to the honorable work of the future European Cyber Security Agency. Generally, EU approach to common security and defense policy have focused on institutional integration, but this move will not be just about tackling the European Union’s internal challenges, but a renewal of its consolidation of views on the global stage. As the EU moves towards an integrated defense policy, one of the key questions to emerge from this process, concerns whether to let non-member states join the pact and the role of countries in the former Soviet bloc. As an entity that makes decisions through consensus, the union requires great cohesion among its citizens and members to pursue effective policies. It was de Tocqueville who recognized, that making democracy work though, would depend on what he called knowledge of how to combine and I believe that any outside involvement in the pact will be of an exceptional nature and the union will emerge stronger from this vision, because the risks of cooperation can be real, but the dangers stemming from a failure to cooperate can be greater. In a deeper sense, it is about building “stronger Europe,” which does not seems to include Martin Schulz’s “United States of Europe” yet, because of some member states position, who is in favor of smaller and decisive steps over grand designs, perhaps due to a fear of one more sudden failure.
European Union is destined to solve the problems through violent spasms. I suppose the consequences of British departure will still be on mind and EU-Turkish cooperation will still be a part of 2030 agenda, as a result of strained relations which could not be built on a solid basis and suffered heavily from differing politico-economic interests and expectations on both sides, not only by not fulfilling the preconditions set by the Association Agreement with Turkey, but also through the human rights violations and high anti-European rhetoric which stands against its possible membership that it did not seek to mitigate in foreseeable future.
In spite of what we see happening in the European Union with its setbacks and milestones, it is easy to imagine any number of scenarios playing out there. However, in my mind, our biggest mistake would be to not view this moment as an opportunity. Relationships between governments are important yes, but relations between people are the real foundation of democracy and I believe, that it is our mission, as pro-Europeans, to help each other to preserve free, democratic and prosperous fellowship. There is a large amount of ideological overlap among EU societies for now and I truly hear their struggles, their concerns, but most of all, I hear their hopes that it is a time for peace, a time to respect the past and embrace the future, a time to hear all voices, for there is nothing worse today than to be unheard, so we should listen to each other and strengthen European identity, because after all, EU 2030 will be a precise reflection of its community 2030.
This article is written and brought to you by Bacho Chubinidze.