European integration has been in most cases positive for the European people. Nevertheless, Europe is no political pop star. In the past decades it was the prospect of peace that legitimised integration. However, this will not be applicable for the future as Norbert Röttgen, German federal minister, said yesterday. He is right as only 47 percent of EU-citizens still believe that their respective state’s membership in the EU is “a good thing.” Nevertheless, all participants of the panel “global Europe” pointed to the necessity of Europeans getting their act together and cooperate in foreign policy. May this be a new narrative for European integration? Do global challenges legitimise deeper European integration?
Sir Colin Budd agrees. The former UK ambassador believes in the high potential of EU foreign policy in terms of actual policy making but also as a motivation for the Europeans to work together.
State of affairs
Today the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy is as elaborated as never before: The EU has a diplomatic service, the External Action Service (EEAS) headed by Catherine Ashton. The EU has military forces, the “EU battle groups”. The EU runs several operations all over the world, for example in Kosovo or at the coast of Somalia. And the EU has institutions to wield control, such as the Political and Security Committee. However, most foreign policy is still conducted intergovernmentally, that is, by the nation states.
During the panel debate “global Europe” and those of the first day all participants stressed that the EU has indeed a potential to further its efforts in this field. There are many examples for this: the fight against the climate change, the defence of human rights, crisis response, cooperation in diplomacy or defence.
Depending on the speaker the argument for further foreign policy cooperation was based on international power play, like the upraise of China or balancing the US, or rather cosmopolitan reasons, to “save the world.” In either way, the reason d’être for closer European foreign policy seems undisputed.
Europe in a globalised World – the new narrative?
The facts are clear but is the prospect of Europe in a globalised world reason enough for Europeans to actually demand deeper integration? In my eyes solely rational arguments are not enough. Even though the advantages of integration are more clear when you look at Europe from a global perspective, people may be reluctant to vote for this undertaking. Why is this?
First of all, people have problems so adopt to the rapid changes of the 21st century. Instead of accepting the changes they prefer to keep the situation they have been used to. As Wolfgang Ischinger puts it: “The people fell in a love affair with the status quo.” Second, life is not only rational – feeling plays an important role as well: “We all know the advantages of the EU by heart, Cem Özdemir, a German politician, said, “but the people do not feel them. They are too unfairly allocated.” Finally, Europeans are afraid to lose control over what is happening.
How to solve these problems? First, Politicians need to communicate the necessities of EU integration better. Yes, they need to take over responsibility and actually lead. Second, People have to feel the advantages of European integration and they need to feel more European as well. Thus, give Europe a social dimension or advance exchange programmes like Erasmus to include already school students. Finally, make sure democratic control is given on all levels. If foreign policy becomes Europeanised, the European Parliament needs to control it – and not the executive of the Member States.
If Europe succeeds in this we would not only ensure Europe’s influence on world stage but also find a new narrative for Europe. Can we change the debate on Europe to achieve this?