2. How to Save Europe
BSSB.BE ecfr.eu 04.06.2018
Balkans Ex-USSR Germany The Baltic
* Keynote speech at ECFR’s Annual Council Meeting in Paris 29 May. 2018. Check against delivery
It is good to be here. Thank you. I think this is the right place to discuss how to save Europe.
What can be done to save Europe?
Europe faces three pressing problems: the refugee crisis; territorial disintegrations as exemplified by Brexit; and the austerity policy that has hindered Europe’s economic development. Bringing the refugee crisis under control may be the best place to start.
ECFR Keynote: How to save the European Union. Speaker: George Soros.
Posted by ECFR on 29. mai 2018. a.
I have always advocated that the allocation of refugees within Europe should be entirely voluntary. Member states should not be forced to accept refugees they don’t want and refugees should not be forced to settle in countries where they don’t want to go.
The voluntary principle ought to guide Europe’s migration policy. Europe must also urgently reform or repeal the so-called Dublin Regulations which have put an unfair burden on Italy and other Mediterranean countries with disastrous political consequences.
The EU must protect its external borders but keep them open for lawful migrants. Member states in turn must not close their internal borders. The idea of a “fortress Europe” closed to political refugees and economic migrants alike violates both European and international law and in any case it is totally unrealistic.
Europe wants to extend a helping hand towards Africa (and other parts of the developing world) by offering substantial assistance to democratically inclined regimes. This would enable them to provide education and employment to their citizens. They would be less likely to leave and those who did would not qualify as refugees.
At the same time, European countries could welcome migrants from these and other countries to meet their economic needsthrough an orderly process. In this way migration would be voluntary both on the part of the migrants and the receiving states. Such a “Marshall Plan” would also help to reduce the number of political refugees by strengthening democratic regimes in the developing world.
Present day reality falls substantially short of this ideal.
- First and most importantly, the European Union still doesn’t have a unified migration policy. Each member state has its own policy, which is often at odds with the interests of other states.
- Second, the main objective of most European countries is not to foster democratic development but to stem the flow of migrants. This diverts a large part of the available funds to dirty deals with dictators, bribing them to prevent migrants from passing through their territory or to use repressivemeasures to prevent their citizens from leaving. In the long-run this will generate more political refugees.
- Third, there is a woeful shortage of financial resources. We estimate that a meaningful Marshall Plan for Africawould require at least 30 billion euros a year for a number of years. Member states could contribute only a small fraction of this amount even if they were ready to do so.
How might such a plan be financed then? It’s important to recognize that the refugee crisis is a European problem and it needs a European solution.
- The European Union has a high credit rating and its borrowing capacity is largely unused. When should that capacity be put to use if not in an existential crisis?
- Throughout history, the national debt always grew at times of war. Admittedly, adding to the national debt runs counter to the prevailing addiction to austerity; but the austerity policy is itself a contributing factor to the crisis in which Europe finds itself.
Until recently it could have been argued that the austerity is working and we must persevere with it because the European economy is slowly improving. But looking ahead we are now facing the termination of the nuclear arms deal with Iran and the destruction of the transatlantic alliance. This is bound to have a negative effect on the European economy and cause other dislocations. The strength of the dollar is already precipitating a flight from emerging marketcurrencies. We may be heading for another major financial crisis. The economic stimulus of a Marshall Plan should kick in just at the right time.
Moreover, although it is anout-of-the-box proposal, it has already been successfully used in other contexts, mainly ingeneral revenue municipal bonds in the US and also in surge funding for infectious diseases.
But my main point is that an existential crisis is no longer a figure of speech but the harsh reality. Europe needs to do something drastic to escape it. It needs to reinvent itself.
That is what President Macron sought to initiate by proposing what he calls Citizens’ Consultations. This initiative needs to be a genuinely grassroots effort. The transformation of the Coal and Steel Community into the European Union was a top-down effort and it worked wonders. But times have changed. Ordinary people feel excluded and ignored. Now we need a collaborative effort that combines the top-down approach of the European institutions with the bottom-up initiatives that are necessary to engage the electorate.
I mentioned three pressing problems. I have addressed two of them: migration and austerity. That leaves territorial disintegration exemplified by Brexit. I don’t have time to deal with other examples, especially in the Balkans. I will do so in a separate article to be published next week.
Divorce will be a long process, probably taking more than five years. Five years is aneternity in politics, especially in revolutionary times like the present. Ultimately, it’s up to the British people to decide what they want to do. It would be better however if they came to adecision sooner rather than later. That’s the goal of an initiative called the “Best for Britain,”which I support.
Best for Britain fought for, and helped to win, a meaningful parliamentary Such a Europe would differ from the current arrangements in two key respects. First, it would clearly distinguish between the European Union and the Eurozone. Second, it would recognize that the euro has many unresolved problems and they must not be allowed to destroy the European Union.
The EU is governed by outdated treaties that assert that all member states are expected to join the euro if and when they qualify. This has created an absurd situation where countries like Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic have made it clear that they have no intention to join, yet they are still described and treated as “pre-ins”.
The effect is not purely cosmetic. It has converted the EU into an organization in which the Eurozone constitutes the inner-core and the other members are relegated to an inferior position. There is a hidden assumption at work here, namely that various member states may be moving at different speeds but they are allheading to the same destination. This has given rise to the claim of “an ever-closer union” that has been explicitly rejected by a number of countries.
Harsh reality may force member states to set aside their national interests in the interest of preserving the European Union. That’s what President Macron was urging in his Aachen speech and he was cautiously endorsed by Chancellor Merkel who is painfully aware of the opposition she faces at home.
If Macron and Merkel succeeded in spite of all the obstacles, they would follow in the footsteps of Jean Monnet and his small band of visionaries. As I said before, that small band needs to be replaced by a large upsurge of grass-roots pro-European initiatives. I and my network of Open Society Foundations will do everything in our power to help support those initiatives.
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: ecfr.eu