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The European Union is caught in a trap; but is this a trap of the European Union’s own making? Following Dani Rodrik’s analysis, the problem might be argued to be akin to the ‘trilemma’ associated with economic globalisation. For as long as the Union fails to overcome its founding functionalism and eschews its own (federal) ‘statalisation’, it will only ever be able to guarantee two out of three cherished notions of economic integration, national sovereignty and democracy. The parings might vary: sovereignty can always be combined with (national) democracy, just as trade liberalisation can be undertaken in a democratic manner (albeit of the Europeanised variety); yet, the simultaneous presence of all three concepts is an impossibility, a simple and inevitable consequence of the effort to move beyond the traditional structures of the nation state in pursuit of a single, integrated European market.
In the period spanning nearly a decade from the beginning of the financial crisis to the present, the constitutional state and state system in Europe has been affected by a series of challenges to its authority and legitimacy. With regard to the European Union, these challenges are fundamental in that they go to the very existence of the project and to the values it professes to be founded on. They seem increasingly interconnected to the EU and the trajectory of integration rather than merely external to it. For the moment, the EU remains relatively resilient; outside of the UK, appetite for ending the experiment mostly inhabits the political fringes, although even in core countries, anti-European pressures are mounting and Eurosceptic parties are on the ascendency. What is clear is that the challenges to the current system go as much to the legitimacy of domestic regimes and their political authority as to the EU itself, not least from the fragmentary pressures on the state from below in the context of subnational claims to autonomy. In short, the crisis of authority is not merely of the EU but of the regional state system and the governing order in Europe.
Almost ten years since the eruption of the global and financial crisis of 2008 and its European manifestation as the ‘Eurocrisis’, there is growing consensus that the latter quickly escalated or mutated into (among other things) a more profound democratic crisis. A number of prominent public intellectuals put pen to paper to warn not only of a crisis of European democracy, but of a crisis of the very ‘political institution’ of democracy, and particularly its representative and liberal variants. Contemporary manifestations of the ‘hollowing out’ of democracy following the Eurocrisis have taken many forms and several contributions in this volume have dealt with various aspects of the phenomenon.
The focus of the present chapter is on one aspect of this crisis, namely the Eurocrisis as a crisis of the EU’s own democratic credentials. Even as they insisted on its purely economic character, commentators were quick to criticise the undemocratic form that the emergency EMU-related responses to the Eurocrisis came to assume, particularly at the European level, where not only parliamentary processes, but also the Treaties’ legal prescriptions, were systematically circumvented.
This chapter focuses on the trajectory of the European Union in order to elucidate and discuss its current problems. My main argument unfolds on the historically proven premise that the uneven and combined development of different national economies produces a major contradiction between the trend for greater integration and the continued assertion of national interests, a contradiction which is not likely to be transcended in the near future. My analysis brings forward two points, through a historical exploration of the European integration process.
First, I suggest that what invites further research and guides the formation and the development of the European integration process is geopolitical antagonism. This antagonism has two dimensions. The first revolves around the EU Member States, as countries in competition with each other, and the second encapsulates the ‘external’ antagonism of these nations as parts of a single entity (Europe) vis-à-vis the big geopolitical powers outside Europe (the Soviet Union in a former period, the United States, Russia and China nowadays).
Legal texts are the outcome of political processes. As such they provide an insight into the deep ideological changes that may be taking place within any legal system. In this chapter, we propose to contrast two important instruments of the EC/EU, the first being the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers of 1989, and the other being the EU Social Pillar of 2017. The aim is not to engage in a literal compare and contrast of the two instruments, as one might compare and contrast apples and oranges; rather, it is to engage in a contextual compare and contrast of the two instruments, with a view to understanding what they tell us about the changing economic and political direction of the EU. In doing so we aim better to understand the evolution of social policy, the changing role of trade unions within the EU, and the inactivity in relation to employment rights despite the great changes in the global economy and working practices since the last employment law directive was produced in 2008.
This volume brought together scholars from different disciplines to think through the systemic causes of the Eurocrisis across a number of its core dimensions and with a view to illuminating the ‘nature of the beast’, hidden in the large dark room, awaiting further apprehension. The analyses offered drew on a number of different disciplines, from law to political economy, as well as different theoretical perspectives, from Marxism to governmentality studies, to key figures of ordoliberal and neoliberal thought. It is inevitably difficult to synthesise such a wide pool of contributions, particularly since, informed by different theoretical starting points, assumptions and analytical tools, different analyses have inevitably at times produced different diagnoses, conclusions or prognoses. Nonetheless, section I attempts to distil the main ideas that emerge from the volume and that hold our basic thesis together. The common theme of a deeply rooted crisis and the need for a more principled critique indeed appears in all of the chapters, which proves both the necessity and value of dialogue and the sharing of perspectives.
In a version of an old eastern fable, an elephant stands in a great dark room. Five ‘wise men’, who have never come across such an animal, are granted entrance by the king and asked to describe it. The first goes in, touches the elephant’s leg and, as he comes out, firmly declares: ‘the elephant is like a pillar’. The second goes in after him, but feels the elephant’s tail, thus stating that he disagrees with his colleague; the elephant is like a rope. ‘You are both wrong’, the third one says, having touched the elephant’s ear; ‘the elephant is clearly like a fan’. The fourth touches the elephant’s belly and describes the beast as a wall, while the fifth is awestruck by touching the tusk, which leads him to conclude without a doubt that the elephant is like a tree’s branch. On hearing their conclusion and heated argument, the king scolds them for not having discussed their findings with each other, or not doing as simple a thing as taking the initiative to light a candle before entering the dark room. If they had, they would know the elephant’s actual form and nature.
This chapter analyses the Treaty on Stability Coordination and Governance (TSCG), as an emblematic example of the New Economic Governance. The New Economic Governance is the ensemble of economic and fiscal reforms that were introduced in the wake of the financial crisis. In this work, when we talk about New Economic Governance we refer specifically to: the European Semester; the Six-Pack; the Two-Pack; and the TSCG, better known by the name of its Third Title, ‘Fiscal Compact’. All these measures have been adopted by European institutions to deal with the financial speculation on the euro and the financial crisis after 2008. Together with the Financial Aid Programmes and the extraordinary measures of the European Central Bank (ECB), these financial and economic regulations form the institutional answer to the financial crisis in Europe.
The Crisis behind the Euro-Crisis encourages dialogue among scholars across the social sciences in an attempt to challenge the narrative that regarded the Euro-crisis as an exceptional event. It is suggested instead that the Euro-crisis, along with the subsequent crises the EU has come to face, was merely symptomatic of deeper systemic cracks. This book's aim is to uncover that hidden systemic crisis - the 'crisis behind the Euro-crisis'. Under this reading it emerges that what needs to be questioned is not only the allegedly purely economic character of the Euro-crisis, but, more fundamentally, its very classification as an 'emergency'. Instead, the Euro-crisis needs to be regarded as expressive of a chronic, dysfunctional, but 'normal' condition of the EU. By following this line of analysis, this book illuminates not only the causes of contemporary turbulences in the European project, but perhaps the 'true' nature of the EU itself.
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