1 – A tale of two Europes?
BSSB.BE europeaninstitute.org 25.01.2016
On many fronts, Europe is at a watershed entering 2016.
Its agility in negotiating economic, political, and social challenges ahead goes to the heart of the European Union’s future—its purpose, effectiveness, resiliency, and evolution.
From the unease over security after the Paris terrorist attacks to the continuing weakness of Greece to the ongoing influx of refugees (already at one-million entrants by sea in 2015, a scale not seen since World War II), the “shifting intensity of countervailing headwinds and tailwinds” seems more tumultuous ahead than in years past. “An existential crisis for the EU” may be “the big geopolitical event in 2016,” surmises James Stavridis, former top commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
And yet, a paradox: investments in stocks of European companies were among the world’s best performers last year, with investors remaining equally optimistic for similar gains this year despite the anemic growth forecasts for the world and European economies.
What perils and opportunities lie ahead, and what are the consequences for EU institutions, policies, and leadership as the Netherlands assumes the EU’s six-month-long rotating presidency? Will “Europe” and “Union” be “missing” in responses to the crises in 2016, as EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has complained?
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Security: The terrorist attacks in Paris last year redefined the discourse over the scale and focus of security enhancements throughout the European Union, as emerging details about the attackers’ strategies and intra-Europe movements revealed breaches in controls both at the borders of the Schengen passport-free travel zone and within member-countries.
• The attacks also raised questions about the political interests and strategic capabilities of the EU collectively and member-countries individually to exert force abroad jointly to combat terrorism, as France has done already through its air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria since mid-November. For as the French Institute of International Relations points out, terrorist threats for Europe and elsewhere stem from the political instability in Africa’s Sahel zone and the Middle East.
• “Support from elsewhere in the bloc has largely been lacking, however, even though France has invoked the mutual defense clause in the EU treaty, obligating member states to provide aid and assistance ‘by all the means in their power,’ “ notes Vivien Pertusot, head of the Brussels office of the French Institute of International Relations.
• Brussels is calling for efforts on many fronts in its proposed directive on counter-terrorism.“Our proposal targets not only those who commit terrorist atrocities, but also those who help with travelling, financing or supporting terrorism,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs. “This is how we reinforce our criminal response to tackle the serious threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters.”
Measures include collecting and sharing more data among member-states, increasing resources for border control operations, and enhancing trust among EU member-states’ law enforcement authorities. “Isolation, working together with countries of origin and transit states, but also prevention of flight causes are the mottoes, in that order.”
“[W]hat is new now is that Isis has proved they are capable, after Paris, of carrying out terrible attacks beyond its traditional arena of the Middle East,” said Margaret Gilmore, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “It is clear from what we saw in Paris that they are capable of controlling the process – able to train, plan, and execute these attacks – and that is something that the security services across Europe will be taking very seriously indeed.”
Monitoring and blocking that “process” is central in the EU agenda, testing the bloc’s jittery and inchoate political cohesion. Some analysts worry that policymakers will drive the EU refugee policy with antiterrorism tools. Others are raising red flags that civil liberties could be traded off in the war against terrorism, the imbroglio of cross-competing imperatives stymying solutions.
What is sought in Brussels remains a function of each member-state’s domestic politics, which between this year and next could see shifts. Brexit?
In 2016, presidential elections in Portugal (January) and Austria (April), and a general election in Ireland (parliament must dissolve by April) may yield conflicting signals for a tilt to the left or right within the EU. In 2017, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is running for her fourth term with elections possibly in August, although the Financial Times predicted this month she won’t secure a fifth term. The French Presidency is up in 2017, too. François Hollande has said he won’t run if unemployment does not fall, and he’ll be 71. The Netherlands also has general elections in 2017, and Italy may move up its elections to 2017.
Refugees: Member-states are abnegating the Schengen rules by beefing up border security to cope with the refugee influx and implement their own anti-terrorist measures. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have just chosen to erect administrative barriers, moves that prompted Germany to reiterate the need for a joint EU-wide approach.
• The EU has been encouraging countries on the bloc’s edge to reduce the flow of migrants through more forceful policing of borders.
• The capacity of EU member-states to respond is increasingly strained, especially given the number of asylum seekers, without an end in sight. Some refugees from the Middle East have been in Europe for nearly two years now without jobs.
• Temporary housing, registration, relocation, and other transition services provided by member-states are overwhelmed given the limited resources. Brussels promises aid to help but member-states complain it is inadequate and short-sighted. Surveys, such as that conducted by Germany’s labor department in October, found that most refugees lack professional qualifications or skills that employers need.
Initially, EU leaders were pressed to act as the news media reported one horrific example after another of refugees killed or injureden route to Greece’ shores, or living in squalid conditions after their arrival in Europe. A sense of humanity was violated and public outcry throughout Europe was enormous. Moods changed, though, as the realities of supporting immigrants set in, with polls showing increasing concern and opposition to a continuing influx of refugees.
CHARTS: IMMIGRATION FLOWS INTO EUROPE IN 2015
Brussels and member-states’ governments are wrestling with the question of whether refugees help economies to grow or extract costs that are structural and long-term. Studies vary widely on this question, with some suggesting that immigrants do have a positive impact on economies (they pay more in taxes eventually than they have taken from society) while others find that the costs are long-term since the transition into sustainable employment is lengthy, difficult, and the failure rate high (with obstacles ranging from language to prejudice). Data is limited, though, to obtain answers.
Ahead, many variables will play a role. Central is the macro-economic outlook, determining the capacity to absorb excess labor. Education and demographics of immigrants matter, too. Younger, well-educated immigrants tend to easily transition into their new societies and find jobs; older and unskilled workers don’t.
Further, older immigrants compound the problems of Europe’s aging society. In the EU, four working-age people now pay for every pensioner; that will shrink to about two within 50 years, according to the EU Commission, what the headline writers called the “demographic time bomb.
Author: By James D. Spellman, Strategic Communications LLC
Euroskepticism Nations Conflicts
* europeanleadershipnetwork.org/ – Emergency exit for Moldova. Moldova should be, as highlighted by World Bank representative to Moldova Alex Kramer, the ‘tiger’ economy of Europe. But this is not the case. Moldova is predicted to have entered recession in the second half of 2015, with foreign direct investment and government expenditure tumbling.At the heart of Moldova’s travails is endemic corruption, a virus that has thoroughly infected politics and business (although the distinction between the two is often vague). The most spectacular example of this is the theft of $1 billion from three Moldovan banks, the details of which have yet to be fully understood. The uncovering of this scandal brought thousands of protestors onto the streets of Chisinau and the arrest of former Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat in the chamber of the Moldovan parliament. This forms only a part of the political turmoil engulfing the country, with the ruling coalition beset by resignations and infighting.
* ecfr.eu/article/ – Where is Poland headed? Unlike Hungary, Poland has a strong middle class that will not be patronised and doesn’t have a neo-fascist right comparable to Jobbik. The processes of social renewal that Law and Justice is naively trying to undo have brought irreversible change to large parts of the population. After two months of the present government, 50 percent of Poles are concerned about the state of democracy, while only 30 percent are satisfied with the government’s work. Their protests are not going to subside and will not be stifled easily, should Law and Justice continue on its present course. It will require a great effort from citizens and the opposition for this mobilisation to persist and culminate in political power, but the fact that Kaczyński is misconceiving his mandate and in parts misusing it may cost him dearly in the next four years, and maybe sooner than we think.
* strategic-culture.org – Poland+Ukraine=Restitution. Kresy Wschodnie or Kresy (“Eastern Borderlands”, or “Borderlands”) is a term that refers to the eastern lands that formerly belonged to Poland. These territories today lie in western Ukraine, western Belarus, as well as eastern Lithuania. In the interbellum, the term Kresy roughly equated with the lands beyond the Curson line, suggested in December 1919 by the British Foreign Office as the eastern border for Poland. After the 1919-1921 war between Poland and the Soviet Russia Kresy became Polish. In September 1939, these territories were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Even though Kresy, or the Eastern Borderlands, are no longer Polish territories, the area is still inhabited by a significant Polish minority, and the memory of a Polish Kresy is still cultivated.