1. Mysterious Danube identity
BSSB.BE danube-region.eu 16.03.2018
Balkans Danube Ex-USSR
*In this position paper, the EUSDR is considered as a new territorial manifestation of the so called differentiated integration
The project of the common Europe has recently arrived to a turning point. The European Union has been experiencing effect of a multiple-crisis, effects of an economic/monetary, institutional and a legitimacy/identity crisis (Arató-Koller, 2015).
An increasing majority of the EU citizens feel that the EU is mostly dealing with nonsalient issues that are far away from their everyday problems. The trust/distrust ratio in the EU in general is lowest ever in history of the EU integration.6 In this position paper, the EUSDR is considered as a new territorial manifestation of the so called differentiated integration (Koller, 2011c), which means that in line with the increasing number of member states in the EU and the more complex outer relationship with non-members, overlapping layers of integration processes and multiperspectival polities (Ruggie 1993, Gary 1999) emerge.
Nevertheless a new narrative has been emerging in Europe recently that could lead to the reinvention of the elements of the common European identity. Functional macro-regions as new territorial units can contribute to develop this new narrative.
- Spread of Differentiation and getting closer to EU citizens?
- The European integration today resembles an onion, which is ‘a visualization of governance in Europe segmented not only by policy areas and levels of government – as has been the conventional wisdom – but also by subgroups of European states.’ (De Neve 2007: 504)
- The European integration is becoming differentiated not only by decision-making levels and the various EU policies but also by various groups of member states;
- as a consequence it becomes differentiated territorially as well. The spread of differentiated integration, which was introduced in the EU in the 1980s and was codified first in the Amsterdam Treaty with the declaration of the flexibility clause,
- went hand in hand with the introduction of another logic, namely the endeavour to bring the EU closer to its citizens and to emphasise the need of the bottom up processes.
Due to the growing legitimacy crisis of the Community from the 1980s, the EC made efforts to establish the structural and symbolic elements of the common European identity. A double dynamic could be discovered in the development of European integration from the 1980s.
While the European Union was experiencing an increasingly ‘non unified’ integration, groups of member states decided to take part only in some of the common ‘policies’.
Parallel to this the European Union tried to get closer to its citizens with the establishment of European citizenship in the Maastricht Treaty or the proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights later in Nice in 2008.
- The inclusion of the newcomers proved to be a hard and long process in both the old members and the newly joined states. Nevertheless, the 2004 (plus 2007) enlargement marked a new era in integration.
- The European Union with differing interest of 289 member states, became an exceptionally heterogeneous polity that became hardly manageable according to the old recipes and the ideas that stood behind the project of the common Europe. As a consequence, the multi-speed, or a la Carte Europe became widely accepted while territorial sub-groups emerged as answers to the ‘too big EU challenge’.
- Furthermore, the need to foster bottom up processes and cooperation at the levels of individuals came to the fore.
To sum up, differentiated integration will determine the shape of the European Union in the future, since it fundamentally changes the meaning and the value of membership in the community.
Differentiated integration is also a boundary issue. Forming a new club and delineating its boundaries also means including the joining members and excluding those who do not participate in a cooperation, therefore differentiated integration is also about defining “ins” and “outs” in relation to the club Learning outcomes of the EU crisis management Moreover, in the last three years, differentiation of the EU accelerated along the financial and economic crisis management process and the steps taken to save the euro.
Starting with the European Semester10 in 2010, continuing with the Euro Plus Pact11 and then the Sick Pack12 in 2011 and later with the Two Pack13 in 2012 it became obvious that only a deepened economic and monetary integration can lead the European Union out from a long-term and severe economic and financial crisis.
This, however, also requires a stronger commitment on the member states’ side, i.e. a significant transfer of national sovereignty to the EU level. But, the member states of the Union are divided with respect to the extent they are willing to transfer more power to the EU institutions.
The in 2012 signed and in January 2013 entered into force the Fiscal Compact, that introduced a balanced budget rule and an automatically triggered correction mechanism at the national level, thus aims to bring into life a more integrated budgetary framework.
However, it was not welcomed happily by all members, for example the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic abstained from joining to it. Consequently, while it seems that the European Union is heading towards achieving the ‘genuine economic and monetary union’, there is a great level of discrepancy among the members what level of national sovereignty they are willing to pull to achieve this goal.
Additionally, the crisis management in the eurozone has proved that solidarity, and foremost financial solidarity is a subject of political bargaining.
Therefore, an EU member state can never be assured that the other member states would help them out in case of financial problems. Moreover many of these decisions are taken in the European Council, where the heads of the states and governments are present, thus are dependent upon short-term political aspirations.
Or, as the example of the bail-out of Cyprus revealed, formerly untouched principles such as the principle of private property were left out of consideration as well. As an analyst rightly pointed out: ‘The euro zone may cloak this bail-out in the language of fairness but it is a highly selective treatment.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: danube-region.eu/