Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Which Kind of Federalism for the European Union in Times of Crisis?

Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Which Kind of Federalism for the European Union in Times of Crisis?

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The question of the future of the eurozone has become more and more acute. The member states have opted for an intergovernmental decision making process which favors their national interests and weakens those institutions which represent the common interest, such as the Commission and the European Parliament. At the same time, and under the pressure of the financial markets, member states have taken measures which aim at a stronger fiscal solidarity and a strengthening of the rules of supervision. This middle way is without a doubt the result of Europe's paradoxical situation: the combination of a strong divergence of opinion amongst member states (which has led them to the decision to keep the right of veto over European decisions] with, concurrently, a strong economic interdependence.

The question of the future of the eurozone has become more and more acute. The choice seems to be simple: on the one hand, evolution towards a more integrated political-economic system at the eurozone level; on the other, the option of national retreat, which could potentially lead to the breakup of the eurozone. Since the beginning of the crisis, however, a middle way has emerged. The member states have opted for an intergovernmental decision making process which favors their national interests and weakens those institutions which represent the common interest, such as the Commission and the European Parliament. At the same time, and under the pressure of the financial markets, member states have taken measures which aim at a stronger fiscal solidarity and a strengthening of the rules of supervision. This middle way is without a doubt the result of Europe's paradoxical situation: the combination of a divergence of opinion amongst member states (which has led them to the decision to keep the right of veto over European decisions] with, concurrently, a strong economic interdependence.1

But this third way seems to be growing more and more fragile. It suffices to browse the blogs and opinion polls to observe that many citizens condemn this seizure of the debate, as well as a decision making process that gives special importance to the decisions taken by national diplomats, who are put under pressure by the markets. As for investors, they are worried by the amount of uncertainty resulting from this intergovernmental decision making process. The consequence is a general irritation in response to a never ending economic and political crisis.

Under these circumstances, some fundamental debates have arisen about the future of European integration: debates on political union, fiscal federalism, and the status of countries outside the eurozone - that of the United Kingdom in particular In Germany this debate has entered the highest political sphere, but it must also reverberate throughout the whole

European Union and especially in France. In this regard, it is remarkable that French President François Hollande has recently announced that he is willing to take the initiative on European matters, notably on questions relating to a "European economic government" and "political union,"2 but without specifying any content.3 The reorganization of the European Union, however, requires a departure from imprecision, vague terms, and ambiguous intentions, in order that the debate may proceed on a sound footing.

Federation, political Europe, political union: what are we talking about?

In the course of several months, and because of the effects of the euro crisis, the concept of a "political European Union" has departed from purely academic discourse4 and has entered the political arena.5 In a shift brought on by the crisis, the concept of a "political Europe" has been replaced in the public debate with a call for a move towards a "fiscal federalism" or towards projects on "political Union." Such a program, even if desirable, requires certain precautionary measures and conditions in order to avoid the rise of new disillusions similar to those that grew out of the invocation of abstract slogans referring to a political Europe or a Federal Europe. …

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