A change of mind:

ECFR Poland's Piotr Buras on three new par­a­digms of EU in­te­gra­tion

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Piotr Buras

In his au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal and ex­cel­lent over­view of cul­ture and so­ci­ety in Europe at the turn of the 19th and 20th cen­turies, “The World of Yes­ter­day”, the Aus­trian writer Ste­fan Zweig showed how quickly the cat­e­gories and con­cepts de­scrib­ing the world around us can be­come ob­so­lete. The lead up to World War I and the 1920s were sep­a­rated by a mere decade, but when viewed in ret­ro­spect those two pe­ri­ods seemed to have lit­tle in com­mon. For Zweig writ­ing in 1940, that en­tire by­gone world was noth­ing more than an im­plau­si­ble leg­end.

No sur­prise, then, that Zweig’s book is cur­rently one of the most read and most quoted. There is a keen sen­sa­tion that the post-Cold War era is in in­ex­orable de­cline (or has al­ready reached its nadir). Along­side this we see that the con­cepts and con­vic­tions which have thus far or­gan­ised our world have be­come dated (read, out­dated). Glob­al­i­sa­tion and in­ter­de­pen­dence un­til re­cently have been seen as the guar­an­tors of peace and co­op­er­a­tion. These have turned out to be the source of con­flicts and the in­stru­ments of pres­sure. “It’s the econ­omy, stupid!” has ceased

to be treated dog­mat­i­cally—the prob­lems of iden­tity and cul­ture move peo­ple just as much as their fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion. Be­lief in the in­evitable tri­umph of lib­eral democ­racy has been re­placed by ques­tions about the al­ter­na­tives.

This mis­cal­cu­la­tion is just as rel­e­vant to the Euro­pean Union. This is not merely the case in re­gard to the wave of pop­ulism and Euroscep­ti­cism which is wash­ing over the en­tire con­ti­nent. What is more im­por­tant is that this, along­side other fac­tors (in par­tic­u­lar Don­ald Trump be­com­ing the pres­i­dent of the United States), is pro­foundly, though not yet en­tirely vis­i­bly, chang­ing the fun­da­men­tal as­sump­tions, or par­a­digms, upon which the project of Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion rests.

Firstly, free­dom has been re­placed by se­cu­rity as the value which or­gan­ises thought on the fu­ture of Europe. Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion was above all a peace project, not a free­dom project. The fa­thers of Europe were guided by the con­vic­tion that democ­racy based on free­dom was the only guar­an­tee that the era of con­flicts and war on the Old Con­ti­nent could be ended. In­te­gra­tion above all served lib­er­al­i­sa­tion (of mar­kets) and the fur­ther­ing of open­ness (of bor­ders). Its foun­da­tion rests on the four free­doms (the free move­ment of peo­ple, goods, cap­i­tal and ser­vices).

It is be­com­ing ever more fre­quent to dis­cuss free­dom in terms of its “ex­cesses” and pop­ulists are feed­ing on the ris­ing so­cial need for sta­bil­ity, cer­tainty and the pro­tec­tion of prop­erty. Em­ploy­ees con­cerned about cut-price com­pe­ti­tion of the labour mar­ket (so­cial dump­ing) see eco­nomic pa­tri­o­tism as a way of se­cur­ing their in­ter­ests. For many peo­ple the price of se­cu­rity (or an il­lu­sion of it), e.g. the re­turn of bor­der con­trols, does not seem ex­ces­sively high when com­pared to the per­cep­tion of the threat of ter­ror­ism or the changes in the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment due to mi­gra­tion. This means that the force which most strongly shapes the po­lit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion of so­ci­eties and elites to­day is no longer the wish for greater open­ness and in­te­gra­tion which has driven change in Europe over the last decades, but rather an over­whelm­ing de­sire to in­crease se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity.

The par­a­digm of se­cu­rity means that pres­sure on the four free­doms will in­crease, in par­tic­u­lar on the free move­ment of labour. It is an area where the Euro­pean elite can most eas­ily send so­ci­ety a sig­nal that they un­der­stand their con­cerns and need for se­cu­rity. Aus­tria’s Chan­cel­lor Chris­tian Kern has al­ready an­nounced that he wants to in­tro­duce the prin­ci­ple of prece­dence for Aus­trian cit­i­zens on their labour mar­ket. But the par­a­digm of se­cu­rity is al­ready hav­ing an im­pact on changes in anti-ter­ror­ist leg­is­la­tion and asy­lum pol­icy. The ero­sion of Euro­pean stan­dards in those ar­eas could have long-term ef­fects, push­ing back the le­gal and psy­cho­log­i­cal bound­aries of what is pos­si­ble to ac­cept and imag­ine.

Se­condly, the idea of EU co­he­sion rules out thoughts of dif­fer­ent speeds of in­te­gra­tion. The dis­cus­sion on how to rec­on­cile the mem­ber states’ var­i­ous ca­pa­bil­i­ties and am­bi­tions of in­te­gra­tion is not new. The di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of in­te­gra­tion has in fact long been the case (not all coun­tries are in the Schen­gen zone or the eu­ro­zone).

Nev­er­the­less, it had been as­sumed that an im­pre­cisely de­fined hori­zon of the in­te­gra­tion process ex­isted which all coun­tries were head­ing to­wards, some­times at a dif­fer­ent pace and in a dif­fer­ent chore­og­ra­phy. Dif­fer­ent speeds of in­te­gra­tion were, though, rather viewed as a nec­es­sary evil.

This par­a­digm of co­he­sion is cur­rently out of favour—var­ied in­te­gra­tion is less of­ten seen as a chal­lenge and more of­ten as a so­lu­tion to the EU’s prob­lems. Ad­vo­cates of this view state that the only way to pre­vent the EU from break­ing up is to loosen the bonds of in­te­gra­tion and to al­low mem­ber states more free­dom in de­cid­ing which projects they wish to par­tic­i­pate in.

Thirdly, Europe has ceased to be transat­lantic and has be­come post-At­lantic. The EU was al­ways es­sen­tially also a transat­lantic project. The sig­nif­i­cance of the United States was not de­ter­mined solely by the fact that Washington of­fered Europe se­cu­rity guar­an­tees It was equally im­por­tant that it was over­whelm­ingly in Amer­ica’s in­ter­ests for the coun­tries of Europe to be united and in close co­op­er­a­tion.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s state­ments and mea­sures prais­ing Brexit, en­cour­ag­ing other coun­tries to leave the EU, and crit­i­cis­ing the EU as a project which only serves the in­ter­ests of Ger­many may demon­strate that this ap­proach will change.

Josef Joffe, the renowned Ger­man publisher de­fined the US some years ago as “Europe’s paci­fier”, i.e. a power which can as­suage Europe’s quar­rels. Amer­ica’s re­jec­tion of the idea that Euro­pean unity is a good in it­self may in­flict worse dam­age on Europe than any po­ten­tial ‘big deal’ be­tween Washington and Moscow.

The signs that Trump could sup­port the cen­trifu­gal forces in the EU are wor­ry­ing. How­ever, there ex­ists a fur­ther threat at least as se­ri­ous. This con­cerns the re­ac­tion to Trump’s se­cu­rity, trade and visa poli­cies which could sow di­vi­sions in Europe and lead to some coun­tries at­tempt­ing to reach bi­lat­eral deals with the new Amer­ica to the detri­ment of the EU’s com­mon stance.

There is much show that the re­vi­sion of the three par­a­digms of in­te­gra­tion which is cur­rently un­der way is lead­ing to an in­evitable part­ing of ways with “The World of Yes­ter­day”.


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