THE EUROPEAN UNION: NEW TENDENCIES
Executive Director of “Noravank” Foundation
The European Union, which includes 27 countries and has population of over 500 million, is the biggest economy in the world (at current prices the GDP of the EU is $16.4 trillion, which constitutes 28% of the world GDP). At the same time this union has appeared in rather difficult political and economic situation. In particular, the national debts have grown and in consequence it is not excluded that some countries (Greece, Spain and Italy) will default. E.g. the debt of Italy constitutes 120% of its GDP and over the first quarter of this year a rate of 0.8% economic recession was registered and as a result the ratings of 26 Italian banks were downgraded. The situation is almost similar in Spain and its is only a rate of 0.5% growth of German economy that provided “zero” level stability of the EU GDP and saved the European Union from recession. The current situation creates fertile ground for different forecasts and statements which do not rule out the scenarios of European currency or even EU collapse with all the drastic consequences and aftermaths it may have. Sometimes such statements remind preliminarily prepared information actions; the assessments of some political figures and rating agencies pursue mercantile aims and tend to direct processes proceeding on the stock markets and at the political negotiations. But even this circumstance proves that it is testing time for the “European project”.
Reasons of the crisis
The European crisis is not only a consequence of the depletion of global liberal models’ resources, but it has also been caused by the peculiarities of structural and administration system. They, despite exerted efforts, do not allow forming common political and economic rules which will be obligatory for all the members of the union. Such a situation is a consequence of objective and sometimes even subjective (conditioned by personal or political and economic interests) circumstances.
The absence of the “European identity” is first of all considered as a main drawback of the European system. The European nations, of course, have many civilizational commonalities, but there are also considerable cultural and political differences. In this aspect especially the factor of Great Britain should be taken into consideration; it takes special and not always very constructive stance in the EU processes and positions itself as a part of North-Atlantic (Anglo-American) and not continental European project. Moreover, (especially if take as a ground W. Churchill’s memories1), the architecture of the post-war Europe was planned so that there was no possibility to form a center of power (and this referred not only to Germany), thus proving Anglo-Saxon military, political and economic prevalence.
An additional factor in the issue of the European identity is “multiculturalism” phenomenon and deriving from it seemingly inevitable tendency of changing ethnic composition of Europe (correspondingly change of the cultural orientations)2. The steps taken in this direction (immigration law enforcement, revision of Schengen agreement, etc.), taking into consideration growing immigration flows to Europe in consequence of geopolitical and neo-colonization collisions in the Greater Middle East and Africa, do not yield tangible result.
At the same time, there is an impression, judging by the publications of the European media, that the opposition to the immigrants (which is expressed not only in the works of intellectuals3, but also takes a form of radical actions, such as Breivik precedent) somehow promotes formation of the European solidarity. But in this sphere there are some contradictions either.
Anti-immigration approaches are more characteristic of conservative parties in the EU. Meanwhile these parties, as a rule, come forward from a perspective of consolidation of the sovereignty of their countries. The most fervent supporters of the idea of Euro-integration are the European socialists which are in their turn comparatively tolerant to the “multiculturalism”4.
In the aforementioned context, it would be appropriate to remember the idea of German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Europe did not have “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity”. Generally social scientists condition these realities and disputable tendencies, which came forward in modern European civilization processes, by extremely primitive modern European system of values. As it is known acquiring universal welfare is announced a top priority for Europe (this notion also provides a room for different commentaries), meanwhile such social model contains many risks and considered to be vulnerable. According to some analysts such a conceptual approach is based on the example of the Soviet Union which also tended to prove social rights of its citizens5. But the “European welfare” (which exceeds on its material level and in some principle issues such as right to labor, free education, medicine, yields to the Soviet perceptions) is based upon the rules of “consumer society” (against which the countries of the “socialist camp” were struggling), with all the deriving tendencies of devaluation of the spiritual sphere.
In case with the EU, the “welfare doctrine” has also a financial aspect presented by budgetary expenditures (sometimes unreasonably high), which in their turn bring to the growth of the national debts. It is remarkable that before the “big crisis” in 2008-2009 majority in 14 of 27 governments in the EU belonged to the socialist who attached great importance to the notion of “welfare”. But the recession came to prove that the budget generosity may have drastic consequences and today there are only 5 socialist governments in Europe. But all the social protest actions which took hold of Europe come to prove that non-socialist and pure market approaches also are pregnant with risks and there are even more such risks than in case with the a high level of state care as they can bring to the chaotic events as it happened in Greece. In this aspect the victory of socialist Hollande at the presidential elections in France can be considered regular and adequate to the current European realities.
Francois Hollande: New Tendencies
All the EU members of course have equal rights, but it is not a secret that some of these members are a little “more equal than the others”. Here we speak about European superpowers – Germany, which is already sometimes called 4th Reich and France. Before the presidential elections in France the leaders of the countries, despite some discrepancies, jointly tried to elaborate and tended to implement programme on overcoming crisis in Europe (mainly to German receipts), which was based on the strategy of budget restrictions and cutting down expenses in a social sphere.
The situation changed after Francois Hollande’s coming to power, who places stake rather on stirring up and raising economy than on policy of cutting down budget expenses (though this is also included in Hollande’s plans – newly appointed prime-minister has already stated about 30% reduction of wages of the members of the cabinet). It should be stated that the programme of the president which consists of 60 points, contains rather drastic changes. In particular, it is supposed to reduce the taxes for small business owners, and in case with banks considerable rise of taxes; the taxes of those who have more than 150 thousand Euros income will constitute 45% and of those whose income exceeds 1 million Euros – 75%. Hollande conditions the rise of the economy by the development of science-absorbing industries and his program provisions underline the development of the science and even contain points concerning revival of the “science aristocracy”. An intention of Hollande to establish new European rating agency, which would be an alternative to Standart&Poors, Moody and Fitch rejtings companies, is very interesting.
But Hollande’s innovations are not only restricted to the sphere of economy. He intends to reconsider the approaches of his forerunner in the foreign policy. As it is known by the decision of N. Sarkozy in 2009 France reintegrated to the military structures of NATO6, and in 2010 France and Great Britain signed a military cooperation pact, particularly in the sphere of nuclear weapons development. Media called this pact an unprecedented one, which in fact marked the establishment of joint French-British troops (according to that document the parties agreed to create joint 6.5 expedition task force). Hollande conform other logic – he has already kept his promise to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan (they will leave the country by the end of this year). Special attention should be paid to the proposal of Hollande to create joint French-German military staff which can be regarded as a certain pattern in the context of further possible transformation of NATO and it should coincide with the foreign policy coarse of Germany; as it is known A. Merkel keeps a low profile concerning the claims of NATO in the well known processes in Libya and Syria.
Thus, one should not exclude that the French foreign policy in regard to the North-Atlantic model may change (or it would rather get back to de Gaulle approaches), which may promote establishment of full-featured continental European system.
1У.Черчилль, Вторая мировая война (книга третья), Военное издательство, М., 1991.
2See, for example, Вишневский А., Конец североцентризма. Россия в глобальной политике, т.7, #5, с. 180. 2009.
3Тило Сарацин, Германия: самоликвидиция, Изд-во РИД, М., 2012.
4It should be mentioned that not all the socialists share this approach and, in particular, the aforementioned Thilo Sarrazin was a member of social-democratic party of Germany.
6France, being one of 12 NATO establishers, withdrew from NATO's integrated military and leadership structures under de Gaulle (in 1966).
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