Časopis pro politiku a mezinárodní vztahy

Global Politics

Časopis pro politiku a mezinárodní vztahy

The Future of the European Union

Encouraged by the apparent success of the Middle East Symposium project, editors of the Global Politics journal have decided to launch a Symposium on the Future of the European Union. By providing our readers with the thoughts of influential scholars from the field, GP aims to stimulate the public debate on the future direction of European integration. It is our great pleasure to publish the answers of J. Bátora, P. Drulák, P. Kratochvíl, I.B. Neumann, M. Pitrová, and M. Vašečka.

As the controversies surrounding Constitution have clearly shown, the EU must discuss what should be the aim of the integration process. It was the lack of the agreement on the fundamental questions such as: “Where is the EU heading? What kind of EU we would like to see in the future?” that brought the Union to standstill.

Our authors – scholars from academic institutions in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Norway – have all developed inspiring thoughts based on their expertise, knowledge and personal beliefs. Their answers may differ, but in Global Politics we believe, along with Sir K. R. Popper, that unanimity is not fruitful and might actually be the death of science.

GP Questions:

1) What is your personal vision of the EU in the year 2020 and what are the biggest obstacles on the way towards this vision?

2) Do you consider it a possibility that the EU integration process will lead to the birth of an EU identity? If yes, within what time frame? If not, why?


Jozef Bátora

Research Fellow, Institute for European Integration Research (EIF), Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria; Lecturer, Institute of European Studies and International Relations, Comenius University, Slovakia

1) As James G. March once noted, predictions about the future of organizations are predictably bad and well-informed analysts often do not seem to have a better record than do consultants of tea leaves. Moreover, any thoughts about the future of the EU will necessarily be embedded in and informed by our current perceptions of the EU. With that in mind, three scenarios of a future EU seem plausible: a) a regional trade organization; b) a value community; c) a post-national community of civic rights. The first scenario is likely to materialize if successive waves of EU-enlargement will not be followed up by comprehensive reforms of the EU systems of governance. The second scenario is quite plausible if the existing tensions with the Islamic religious communities inside and outside the EU increase and the notion of the Christian values as the core foundation of the EU gains greater legitimacy. Finally, the third scenario is likely to come about as a result of increased politicization of the EU, improved governance and democratic quality of the decision-making and a central focus on constitutional patriotism as the basis of European citizen allegiance. Each of the scenarios provides different notions of inclusion in and exclusion from the European political order, and indeed also different sets of obstacles that actors promoting each of the alternatives would have to face. Either way, it is likely that the EU in 2020 will have 30 to 35 member states including most countries of the Western Balkans.

2) As any identity of a political entity, the identity of the EU is reflexive in that it depends both on what the EU does and on the perceptions of actors the EU interacts with. The varying notions of what the EU does and is, presented by actors both inside and outside the EU, provides the EU with multiple identities. For some time to come, the EU is hence likely to remain what John F. Padgett would refer to as a “multivocal” entity, whose actions lead all alters to construct their own distinctive attribution of the identity of ego. While this profound ambiguity of the EU leads to a permanent crisis of a future vision, it also facilitates the gradual embedding of the EU in various social contexts and thereby increases its robustness as an institution.


Petr Drulák

Director of the Institute of Internatinal Relations, Prague; Guest professor, The University of Public Administration and International Relations, Czech Republic

1) There are at least two scenarios to be considered – the best case scenario and the worst case scenario. Let me address the best case scenario first. In 2020 the EU keeps its unique nature being neither a European state nor a mere integovernmental body. The European parliament  has developed into a full-fledged political body in which pan-European political parties clash over the key issues of the day while all together they check the European Commission. The European Commision became leaner and meaner while preserving its technocratic identity. It has just ten portfolios however it enjoys considerable competencies within each of these. The Council of ministers has evolved into the second chamber of the European parliament fullfiling the function of the guardian of national interests. The EU has its own seat at the UN Security Council and with other international organizations. The EU foreign minister is an internationally recognized heavy-weight who is able to take into account a variety of national sensitivities when speaking on behalf of Europe. Indeed, the EU represents Europe. Albania has just joined being the last Balkan country to accede. Turkey and Ukraine are associate members implementing the bulk of the EU legislation while their citizens are likely to enjoy the freedom to work and settle in the EU in a few years time. Europe needs them.

The worst case scenario. Just a few Europeans still believe that it was a big mistake to burry the EU in 2018. Its institutions then seemed both distant and meddlesome. However, their gradulal emptying of any meaningful task provoked the rise of national barriers, first barriers to the movement of people and eventually to the movement of goods, often taking place in defiance to international law and the then EU law. It was driven by a new breed populist politicians from left and right who could capitalize on the lack of public trust to mainstream politicians who were seen as arrogant and corrupt. These new populists used the economic decline which was brought about by their attack on the EU institutions as further evidence for their claim that the EU does not work putting the blame on resident foreigners, Europhiles and, increasingly, on neigbours. Their slogan that each country has to relly just on itself became common wisdom and most people can hardly believe that in the past they had shared common currency and common institutions with someone as malicious as the people in the neighbourhood. So far most European citizens are quite happy they now know that the European experiment went wrong and they feel they can relly on their current leaders for protection against both internal enemies and hostile neighbours.

2) Nowadays, the EU identity is a social fact. However, this identity is not static and immutable. Actually, no identity is as all identities are constantly produced and reproduced by our thinking and acting. Therefore, it is not easy to define their contents. What I see as an important evidence for the working of the EU identity is the level of mutual trust which is implied by it. The subjects which belong to it trust one another to a higher degree than they trust outsiders. Those who belong to the EU are trustworthy enough to make our monetary policy,  to speak on our behalf in international trade negociations or to try our citizens in their courts even if they do not share the same national identity with us. That would not be possible without some kind of the EU identity. The EU membership is probably a condition which is necessary but not sufficient in this respect. By joining the EU a country takes an important step towards the inclusion into the EU identity, however, this inclusion takes a bit more time.


Petr Kratochvíl

Deputy Director of the Institute of International Relations, Prague; Co-Editor of Perspectives journal; Lecturer, University of Economics, Czech Republic

1) My, admittedly somewhat unrealistic hope is that the EU of 2020 will be:

  • Politically more unified and more self-conscious, with a Constitution providing it with effective governance tools and with a clear division of competencies among its various levels.
  • Totally separated from some the remnants of its past, which are completely inappropriate for the current situation (ranging from the Common Agricultural Policy to the hopping between the various EU “capitals”).
  • Radiating its “soft power” outwards and transforming its neighbourhood (including Turkey and Russia).

The biggest obstacles to this occurring can be roughly identified with two interrelated trends:

  • Frustration from the impossibility to return to the comfortable days of the old Union will likely lead to a further growth in the Union’s inward-lookedness coupled with xenophobia and the fallacy of asserting one’s identity over external enemies.
  • The other trend also comes from a fear of the future: This is the persistent belief in the old Westphalian nation-state and the narrowing of the concept of democracy to its almost exhausted technocratic version we experience nowadays (as if democracy were an unchangeable Platonic idea and not something daily voted on!).

2) EU identity already exists. Signs of its presence can be found everywhere – in the media referring to meetings of EU’s ministers, in queues at border check points, in the status ascribed to EU membership by outsiders, etc. When looking at EU identity we must remember two things: Firstly, we should not mistake EU identity as being an analogy of national identity but on a higher level (as is sometimes the case in the rather scholastic discussions about a European demos and ethnos). Secondly, and crucially, seeing EU identity as a replacement for a number of other social identities (regional, national, etc.) makes any discussion about it a hopeless exercise. Instead, EU identity is, and for a very long time will continue to be, just one thread in the complex skein that is our social world.

This said, I must add that I am concerned with the current stress laid on EU identity. Instead of the EU identity being defined as different from the past, it is increasingly being used antagonistically, to separate Europe from the outside world, be it Muslims, the US, or simply “the barbarians outside”. This may lead the Union into an abyss from which there is no escape.


Kirsty Hughes

Associate fellow, European Institute, London School of Economics

1) I would like to see an EU that is fully open, transparent and democratic, that only has powers at EU level that are fully necessary, so that democracy is as local as possible, and that is fully democratic at EU level – no closed legislative meetings, and full accountability of the executive. The problems with getting to this is that the member states will continue even in 2020 to guard their private decision-making and different interests will push for powers at EU level even if they don’t need them. I would also like to see an EU acting to make the world a fairer, more just, peaceful place, not preoccuppied with its own internal problems but politicians have a bad tendency to think local

2) I think there already is a European identity though not restricted to people in the EU – it comes from geography, history, culture and ideas of liberalism and universal rights. I don’t think the EU will become a closed state or culture and the existing attempts to make it like a state with an anthem or flag are misconceived and have very little impact.


Iver B. Neumann

Research Fellow, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI); Professor, University of Oslo, Norway

1) Ideally, I should like to see a United States of Europe about to take in Turkey. The key thing is to have a political entity going which is based on the principle of subsidiarity and which makes every ethnic group into a minority. 2020 is only 14 years ahead, which means that this the time frame is not wide enough for this to be realistic . In order to get a baseline of sorts, it may be helpful to go back to 1992 and see what has happened in the mean time. We are talking consolidation of the internal market, enlargement, further great steps towards a constitution, a burgeoning military capacity. I would settle for a constitution, a military capacity strong enough to allow for power projection in ajacent areas and to deter the US, and a successfully concluded Bologna process.

2) I think it is already here, and being activated every time we interact with non-Eu and particularly non-European political entities. To me, the question then becomes whether this identity wil lgo on to be activated in ever new contexts. I think that it will. Two main reasons. First, contacts between Euroepans of different nationalities become ever denser, and where this happens, European identity is part of the “third culture” that kicks in to lubricate those encounters. Secondly, because the US grasp for world power will probably continue. It will be important enough to be key to world politics in the period, but there are too many counterforces afoot for it to succeed. This means that it wil lbe key to global politics. As such, it is certain to foster an ever closer feeling of European identity. It is an ill wind; American aggression fills an historically important function as an other for the forming European self. When will European identity be paramount in more social setting s than national identities? Definitely not within 14 years, but perhaps within twice that timeframe?


Markéta Pitrová

Vice-Dean for Development and External Relations, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, Czech Republic; Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations and European Studies, Masaryk University, Czech Republic

1) In my view, the EU should ideally present itself as a strong economic organisation with a homogeneous liberal economic space in 2020. The main economic instrument would not be only the eurozone, but also a revised and legally enforceable model of the Pact of Stability and Growth. The EU should have become an area ultimately committed to the free movement of 4 freedoms. The point is not to create minimum conditions for the movement of freedoms, but to also realise supportive measures for the movement of services, capital, persons and goods, whilst putting greater emphasis on the protection of environment. A part of this conception would be the completion of the Schengen area, alongside harmonisation of the law, including selected segments of crime and legal penalties. This level of integration should be obligatory for all member states. The variability of obligations should not appear until this level of integration has been achieved, that is the model of variable geometry should be applied. A major barrier is, on the one hand, the political ambition of the ruling elite to transform the EU into a federal formation, thus fulfilling a historical vision. On the other hand, it is the anxiety of intergovernmentally oriented countries concerning such federal development. This leads in the national political arena to exploiting the EU as a negative argument, and thus to obstructing all, even constructive, efforts.

2) It is my opinion that historic experience, cultural differences and ethnic diversities prevent the emergence of a European identity in the classic sense, particularly as everything union related is used by intrastate actors as an argument in cases of negative events. Until citizens in the member states deal with the same problems and have the same expectations of their political representations, we cannot speak about developing a common identity. It is, nevertheless, possible to aspire at a certain form of European unity that would represent a stock of certain common values and principles. But the essential prerequisite for establishing such unity is knowledge of and identification with the new “face” of the EU. The EU must be a positive and constructive agent in the eyes of the public, and not a cause of unpopular measures. This is, however, hampered by the very member states, for whom it is advantageous to renounce direct responsibility. The intrastate political level and the supranational level thus find themselves in a position of competition. The only solution would be to transfer the main political platform into Brussels. This move is not, however, acceptable for the majority of the member states.


Michal Vašečka

Director of the Center for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture (CVEK), Slovakia; Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, Czech Republic

1) Let me divide my answer into two parts – and they are actually quite different ones. The first is what kind of EU I would like to see, the second is following pragmatic, down to earth visions, that are rather sceptical. Idealistic vision of the EU 2020 is based on presuposition that the European union, understanding its leading economic, cultural, and intelectual position in the world, will try to transform itself into the superpower that will be a leading force in all possible aspects of the world’s develop­ment – in the same way as the Great Britain, France, Germany, or even Spain in the past. I am not talking about military power, but rather about intelectual leadership. But reality is more gloomy, I am afraid. The European union is still the economic superpower, but dwarf from military point of view. Influence of the European Union in other parts of the world is shrinking year by year, in fact, we are losing also in spheres, where just few decades ago countries of todays European union were playing absolutelly crucial role.

My realistic vision of the EU 2020 is unfortunately rather sceptical, although many Europeans will not even until 2020 realise that something is wrong and the king is naked. Standard of living will be improving in many parts of the European union, ecological situation might improve, infrastructure could be developed to the point when whole European union will become relativelly “small and friendly place”. Nevertheless, it could be already a journey down the hill, dramatic backsliding from previous positions, but – with a champaigne and in the first class train. The crucial question for me, therefore, is – where to bring a vitality from?

2) With certain bitterness I must admit that I don’t expect creation of the European identity in a real time. Europeans seem to be locked in the cage of national states much more than many experts were admitting some decades ago. Europeans are simply not ready to build new political nation taht would be based on universal principles and not primarly on ethnicity. This is in sharp contrast to US – Americans have created their political nation more than 200 years ago and since the beginning it was based on egalitarianism, anti-statism and on universal ideals. European identity, however, is coming rather from a head than from heart, it is very pragmatic and usualy follows utilitarian thoughts. In my view Europeans in fact only pretend their fascination by universalism, their identity is very narrowly based. To be clear – there might be European identity created in case Europeans will find such a project “sexy” enough to give up their endogamic national identities. And that is hardly coming soon… However, there is certain European identity already alive – among winners of the unifications process, people who live in gloalized world, who travel all around Europe and who are losing their “tribal” ties. But these people, in fact, do not create their European imaginative community, but rather are cut off their roots since they do not live with problems of their respective societies. Some call them symbolic analysts and it is difficult to imagine how ideas of this small segment of particular European societies is becoming influential.

In conclusion, the best chances for creation of the European identity is a threat from outside. Once European union will be endangered by the islamists, or by Asian economic domination, or eventualy by serious ecological threat, European identity might start to flourish. European identity is obviously not a concept for good times…

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Lukáš Hoder, Tomáš Blažek a Ondrej Gažovič
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27. 11. 2006