Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Rethinking the European Union: From Unity in Diversity to Diversity in Unity

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Rethinking the European Union: From Unity in Diversity to Diversity in Unity

Article excerpt

Florin Bonciu1

1. European Union: The objective need of a fresh restart

As a rule and with very few exceptions, if any, on any conceivable subject there are different opinions, some of them even contradictory or conflicting. Being such a large concept and at the same time reality European Union raised in time a variety of for and against positions with an infinity of shades of meaning in between.

Anyway, we appreciate that the current situation is fundamentally different because the internal tensions of the organisation exceeded a point of no return. In this context whether something is done or nothing is done the European Union is going to change in a profound way. The question is not if but when and how. These intrinsic structural tensions within the European Union which are manifested in the economic, political and social areas as well as the perception that a change is about to happen determine in our view the objective need for a fresh restart.

An important clarification is necessary before going any further. A restart means a continuation in a different way, adapted to the new local, regional and global circumstances. Therefore the position of this paper is not for or against the European Union, it is just for a European Union which is adapted to the new realities, efficient and competitive in an ever more integrated global economy.

The long term perspective: looking into the past

In 2007 when the European Union celebrated 50 years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome there were a lot of analyses regarding the achievements of the first 50 years and the challenges for the next 50 years. At that time I appreciated that the European Commission did not speak about the objectives for the next 50 years but about the challenges. It was a balanced and prudent approach. The first challenge mentioned (that is Facing Globalisation) was the challenge resulting from the unfolding of the globalisation process2. Meaning that in the mentioned globalisation process the European Union was not exactly in a favourable position.

But the declining position of the European Union in the world economy was not something specific to the 2007 anniversary of 50 years since its inception as it is not something related to the economic crisis that started in 2008 or the acute Greek crisis that manifested in 2015. The declining position of the European Union in the world economy has been a phenomenon that started long ago, before the organisation had been rebranded in 1992 with this name.

According to Business Monitor Research that processed data from the International Monetary Fund for the past 35 years (period 1980 - 2014) the share of European Union in world GDP in PPP expression has declined constantly from about 29.775 % in 1980 to about 16.939 % in 20143. During that period of 35 years 19 countries became members of the European Union which brought about a considerable enlargement but at the same time the share of the organisation in the world GDP has declined constantly. A conclusion from this long term trend could be that the European Union is affected by a more structural and even intrinsic fact that makes it less dynamic than other regions of the world.

Assuming that the trends that manifested in the past 35 years will hold true for the next 5 years, by 2019 the share of European Union in world GDP will be of just 15 %4. As can be noted, an interesting fact is that if the forecast for the next 5 years is true then in 40 years (from 1980 till 2019) the European Union would have halved its share in the world GDP from 29.775 % (which is about 30 %) to 15 %. This long term trend is presented in Figure 1.

Consistent with this long term trend in 2008 when the financial and then economic crisis affected a lot of countries, particularly the developed ones, the European Union was among the areas that suffered the most. This statement can be easily proven with International Monetary Fund and World Bank data. …

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