How can EU Overcome its Structural Problems? An Effective Model

How can EU Overcome its Structural Problems?
An Effective Model

Abstract

European Union can be defined as a running and operative machine/mechanism in the world politics. This sentence is highly assertive starting point as the EU has been facing relatively major structural problems. However, it has been taking serious steps in order to overcome the problems which have already became structural obstacles. The direction of these steps will determine the direction of the EU in the future. Thus, the proposals for the resolution of these structural obstacles should focus on the increase of the efficiency of current gears of the mechanism rather than externalization of these units by considering them non-functional. Politicization on three dimensions (policy, politics, polity dimensions) smooth the way of politicization of the individuals by spreading the potential of political dispute/contention to all levels of the society. Therefore, activation of the individuals that can produce ideas in policy dimension, can defend their thoughts in politics dimension and can legitimize the decisions taken in polity dimension will make the movement between these three dimensions constant (the details of this movement can be found in the article) and this movement constitutes a key for resolution of the structural problems of EU.

Introduction

European Union can be defined as a functioning and operative machine/mechanism when its half century long history is considered. The evaluation of its gears, cycles or instruments (regardless of how they are named) of this machine/mechanism in terms of productivity and operability is more rational than dissolution/termination of these units by considering them non-functional. The exclusion of one of its gears from the machine or changing it with another can subvert the functions of the whole structure. All mechanisms can halt their functionalities due to being exposed to several internal and external changes. Under these conditions, the solution should be structured by the logic of reparation on the analysis of the inconsistencies in the current mechanism in order to increase the existent operability of the system.

Within this framework, reasons of structural problems of the EU can be found in its institutional mechanism or lack of harmony between its member states. At this point, lack of harmony between states can be traced to the existent economic gap between states named as Triple A that give loans and states abbreviated as PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) that are debtors. On the other hand, it is asserted that the structural problems of the EU is derived from application fallacies in common policy areas ( eg. EMU). Even if these findings concerning structural problems of the EU are correct, suggestions to change the structural tools of the current system (creation of Senate..etc.) cannot provide sufficient and suitable solutions. During the EU integration process, member states adopt supranational policies by defining common policy areas and delegate their authority on these areas. Therefore, EU mechanism is formed by reciprocal operation of the EU institutions and member states on these common policy areas. As the necessity of broad reform plans have emerged throughout its 50 years of experience, overbalance or insufficiency of gears of the mechanism (institutions, members, common policy areas) can easily be questioned. However, when European Union is evaluated in terms of accomplishment of its aims, it presents itself as a successful, unique example when compared with other international organizations regardless of its being democratic or having a democratic deficit problem; being egalitarian or producing unequal representation challenges; or being legitimate in the eye of its citizens or not.

As indicated initially, the question is what kind of mechanism that the EU have instead of how it is perceived or evaluated. Therefore, the European Union can tackle with and then overcome its structural problems by preserving its current mechanism in its integration process through fostering political contention in three dimensions: policy dimension, politics dimension and polity dimension. This solution is the change that converts EU’s apolitic mechanism by internalizing political dispute in these three dimensions.

From Limited Democracy to Democracy Deficit

After the end of the Second World War, the limited “democratic” regimes whose authorized powers and governing structure were kept out of democratic control were established in order to control populist movements (such as turning the regime into dictatorship) in European countries. Basing on the experiences of interwar years, the political elites established political structure that is supported by strong institutional mechanisms such as constitutional courts.1 This strong institutional structure brought certain limitations to public sovereignty on politics. The project of EU has developed with this approach.2 Supranational institutions within the EU have been isolated from democratic control in order to eliminate the nationalist conflicts among its member states. It has been strongly believed that the “union” could be created by establishing a supranational legal community3 and therefore economic and political integration could be achieved by establishing common legal principles.4 According to another author, in order to strengthen the competitiveness among different economic, political and social regimes, democracy has been promoted not as one of the basic values but as an instrument to promote freedom, justice and good government.5 Consequently, two main principles which ensure democratic legitimacy: accountability and representation have been subordinated in the EU. This entrenched perception that marked the EU integration process and the nascent EU law have neither constructed institutions in line with the accountability principle nor they have encouraged civil participation to European Politics. It would be more convenient to examine the EU’s democracy deficit concept from this perspective.

The challenge of democracy deficit in the EU became more obvious with the current EU crisis that can be basically defined as transfer of the authority on monetary policy to supranational bodies by the member states while preserving their certain competences on fiscal policies. Member states are urgently expected to take significant precautions and measures by their civil society in order to overcome the crisis but they are restricted according to EU law. Today, the supporters of the “strong union” in member states are squeezed between taking necessary measures and obeying the EU law.6 On the other hand, during the latest crisis in the EU, a huge gap has emerged between the implementations of the European decision making mechanisms and will of the European people.7 This situation reminds us the quote of Dahrendorf after the fall of Berlin wall: The constitution can be created in 6 months; economic recovery can be achieved in 6 years; but the spread of the idea of democratic freedom can take 60 years. Therefore, it is not and -shouldn’t-8 be surprising that today, after almost 60 years, European elites have turned their back to the people.9 A civil society that has become more conscious on preserving their rights and liberties cannot be ignored anymore with elitist approaches. Therefore, building a strong bridge between public sovereignty and political implementations of the elites10 becomes primary precaution in order not to face with the same problems. The relations between economic and political tendency that the EU adopts in the world politics, main strategic steps of EU on resolving current problems and European public opinion concerning this direction display the gap between politics and policy dimensions. 

Politicization on Three Dimensions

Today, serious political dispute is strongly required in Europe on several policy areas – such as liberalization of service sector, sustainable energy acquisition, climate change, immigration from or migration to Europe, external relations with USA, neighbors, developing countries and growing powers of Asia. 11 The decisions taken after serious political dispute should create political winners and losers. If this platform of the discussion is achieved in the public level; the economic, political and social success of the EU will thrive in the future. This platform of discussion between supporters of the political ideologies should be promoted at all levels among all interest groups (peoples, NGOs, economic communities and sectors). Therefore, any discussion platform which is mobilized on policy dimension will activate the negotiations on politics dimension. This will shrink the gap between policy and politics dimension and policy implementations will be accountable and legitimate.. In parallel with this activation, institutional formations will become outputs of these discussions, current institutions will be politicized during the transit phase to the polity dimension and the mechanism with three dimensions will start its perpetual/continuous? movement (As shown in Image I.). The aforementioned politicization aims at people themselves? therefore it doesn’t have any importance if the public has national or supranational values. The lack of European society or deficiency of lack of developed public space in Europe cannot be obstacles for politicization of the people.

Image I: Politicization on three dimensions

Image I: Politicization on three dimensions

It is possible to counter the perception that the decisions taken behind closed doors are external enforcements, ‘as witnessed in Germany’s solutions offered during the Euro crisis 12’. This perception can be prevented by politicization on three dimensions. Auer who characterizes the protests following the Euro crisis as the Europe Spring which warns that European social movements that have marched in protest for the new social state notion will overwhelm the neoliberal Europe that has already lost its legitimacy.13 Therefore, the structural problems of Europe can be solved by promotion of the economic and political discussion platforms at all levels.

In order to exemplify and make the model of politicization on three dimensions concrete, the following example would be beneficial. In the policy area of restricting public expenditures as a result of liberalization or in the policy area of providing additional rights to ethnic minorities, people can be organized under Cooperation Units- that will be established in the near future- and can submit their political agendas to the European institutions. By doing so, they will activate the gears in policy dimension first and then the gears of politics dimension. As a result of this activation, the prevailing group will implement their proposals via European institutions as follows: EU institutions have the potential of establishing political coalitions since 1980s and 1990s.14 With the help of this potential the agenda created by people can be converted into legislative actions in the European Commission and Parliament and the gears in polity dimension will be activated. Therefore, European peoples are divided or integrated in policy development process and national borders are surpassed 15 through proceeding in policy dimension. This supranational political structure not only makes the EU more powerful but also contributes to the emergence of European society.

Conclusion

The concept of “confrontation- cum- legitimization” is used by Pélebay et al. in order to explain that legitimacy can be obtained through promotion of the confrontation not through suppression of the disagreements.16 In other worlds, the concept reveals that the authority can be considered legitimate if it liberalizes the expression of political opinions in the society. The belief that political disagreements and disputes may bring instability makes the society apolitical. When people integrate politics in their daily life, they also can have a say in EU affairs because as Micheal Freeden remarks, the aim is not to agree on what the concept of European means for the whole but the objective should be to understand what the project of Europe express for each individual/ political actor.17 In order for European individuals to know what the project of Europe means for them, they should examine the EU integration process, the phases that EU has experienced and functions of the EU with ideological and political point of view. The EU has brought its mechanism into the present after overcoming different crisis by adapting several changes in several periods. The recent problems of the EU can be resolved by the integration of the concept of confrontation cum legitimization in aforementioned three dimensions. Thus, individuals, political actors and institutions can incorporate their disagreements and differences as an input for the system and can speed up the gears of the mechanism.

As a final remark, in order to prevent a possible criticism that can be easily directed to this study, it is better to underline that the implementation of this proposal requires an explanation step by step in detail in each European institution. This detailed clarification is neither the subject nor the aim of this article.

Bilge Filiz, Research Assistant, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey)

Please cite this publication as follows:

Filiz, Bilge (April, 2014), “How can EU Overcome its Structural Problems? An Effective Model”, Vol. III, Issue 4, pp.44-50, Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=5951)

References

Auer,S.(2013). The End of European Dream? What Future for Europe’s constrained democracy? Eurozine. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-02-22-auer-en.html

Dahrendorf (2001). Lacroix,J & Nicolaidis, K. (2010) European Stories: An Introduction European Stories Intellectual Debates on Europe in National Contexts. Oxford University Press. ISBN:978-0-19-959462-7

Garton Ash. (2004) in Liebert, U. (2010) Contentious European Democracy. Lacroix,J & Nicolaidis, K. (edt) European Stories Intellectual Debates on Europe in National Contexts. Oxford University Press. ISBN:978-0-19-959462-7

Hix, S. (2008). What’s Wrong with European Union and How to Fix it? Polity Press ISBN: 978-07456-4204-8

Lacroix,J & Nicolaidis, K. (edt) European Stories Intellectual Debates on Europe in National Contexts. Oxford University Press. ISBN:978-0-19-959462-7

Liebert, U. (2010) Contentious European Democracy. Lacroix,J & Nicolaidis, K. (edt) European Stories Intellectual Debates on Europe in National Contexts. Oxford University Press. ISBN:978-0-19-959462-7

Offe, C. (2013). Europe in Trap. Eurozine. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-02-06-offe-en.html

Pélebay,J & Niclodaidis,K & Lacroix, J. (2010). Conclusion Echoes and Polyphony. In Praise of Europe’s Narrative Diversity. European Stories Intellectual Debates on Europe in National Contexts. Oxford University Press. ISBN:978-0-19-959462-7

Zielonka, J. (2013). European Foreign Policy and the Euro-crisis. European University Institute. Robert Schuman Centre for Advances Studies 2013/13

http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/26339/RSCAS_2013_23.pdf?sequence=1

Footnotes

1 Auer,S.(2013). The End of European Dream? What Future for Europe’s constrained democracy? Eurozine. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-02-22-auer-en.html

2 Age s.7

3 Hix, S. (2008). What’s Wrong with European Union and How to Fix it? Polity Press ISBN: 978-07456-4204-8

4 Liebert, U. (2010) Contentious European Democracy. Lacroix,J & Nicolaidis, K. (edt) European Stories Intellectual Debates on Europe in National Contexts. Oxford University Press. ISBN:978-0-19-959462-7

5 Garton Ash. (2004). Ibid s. 63.

6 Offe, C. (2013). Europe in Trap. Eurozine. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2013-02-06-offe-en.html

7 Ibid

8 Added by the author

9 Ibid

10 Offe, C. (2013). Ibid

11 Hix, S. (2008). Ibid

12 Offe, C. (2013). Ibid.

13 Auer,S.(2013). Ibid.

14 Hix, S. (2008). Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16Pélebay,J & Niclodaidis,K & Lacroix, J. (2010). Conclusion Echoes and Polyphony. In Praise of Europe’s Narrative Diversity. European Stories Intellectual Debates on Europe in National Contexts. Oxford University Press. ISBN:978-0-19-959462-7

17Ibid.

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