This was originally written for my application to MEU2011 which I was not able to attend due to an exam. However, it seems to fit a first post quite well.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far.” The proverb often emerges in foreign policy contexts and has been understood as a way of advocating usage of both soft and hard power. Although in proportion to its importance in the world, the EU lacks much of the latter yet has an abundance of the former. It is therefore remarkable what it has achieved in the countries wishing to join the EU. The use of soft power, through the entry negotiation process, has shaped the policy direction of potential entrants.
The prospect of joining the EU has opened up negotiations in a diverse set of areas, ranging from border conflicts between Cyprus and Turkey, bringing war criminals to justice for atrocities committed during the break-up of Yugoslavia as well as a focus on minority rights. In this regard the European Union certainly needs to continue with its enlargement process, furthering the important progress it has made, and signal to the countries in question that enlargement is a possibility.
At the same time, the recent financial crisis has brought to the agenda a number of fundamental issues regarding the identity of the union, and recent expansions have undoubtedly been part in precipitating this identity crisis. An aspiration for the architects of the union has always been to provide a framework for the European countries to prosper so they would not cling to the potentially destructive nationalistic aspirations of past times. A more united Europe, with the characters and cultures of each single nation yet with the same broad goals surely has a prominent place in today’s world, with the capacity and resources to contribute on issues that affect us all.
Recent developments in a number of European countries have shown a tendency to look more ambiguously if not with hostility at the European project; nationalist parties have become a mainstream reality in a number of countries in Europe today, with agendas to reduce the depth of the EU.
Equally relevant is the problem of having a single currency for an economic zone whose economies are structured very differently. Many northern countries have recovered well from the recession while a number of countries in the south have yet to solve their fiscal problems. Being tied to the common currency leaves few attractive options to regain competitiveness. This dynamic has shown to be volatile, where the stronger economies have little interest in reducing the imbalances in a coherent and unified way. It is hard to imagine that the countries currently lagging will accept long periods of depressed wages and other potential ills following from an ‘internal devaluation’.
As such, there are wide unresolved issues needing solutions, and what has been argued is for a central fiscal authority. Recent developments have shown that there is neither political will nor mandate to reach that level of unity.
In this climate where important questions regarding the relationship between nation states and the community as a whole are left unanswered, further enlargement would merely increase the factors in an unformulated question.
- joonatan posted this