Feb 7, 2011


In reflective moments, EU officials complain wistfully that they can't abolish free movement or the single currency, or indeed rewind history sixty years for an afternoon: they'd like to remind us just what life was like without the European Union. Well, that's one way of making the case for Europe. But surely European cooperation has intrinsic qualities beyond big-bang creations like the Euro. If not, then it's unclear what use it will be in overcoming the everyday challenges facing its 27 members.

"What the European Union Did Next" addresses this issue, and it finds reason to be cheerful. Each of the essays collected here identifies one undervalued quality of the EU's modus operandi and shows how that quality could revitalise the Union. By reference to a whole range of policy areas, from foreign policy to social exclusion to constitutional policy, the eleven contributions make the case for the EU's strengths - and its limitations.

The Involuntary Union: European Economic Governance and the Union State

European cooperation is no longer a jolly vocational exercise, argues Cornelius Adebahr, but a hard and necessary grind: today’s economic policy shows how previous political shortcuts to integration require a laborious tidying up exercise. This doesn’t mark an end to the European dream but is rather the path to true Union.

The Strategic Union: Rising to the Multipolar Challenge

It’s all very well saying the EU’s great strength lies in its capacity to speak with one voice on international affairs, argue Thomas Renard and Sven Biscop, but to what end? Its voice will only count if used strategically and in occasional harmony with other international actors. The two authors set out criteria to make European unity really count.

The Unromantic Union: Give and Take in EU Home Affairs

There is a romantic notion that the EU has state-like qualities and embodies complex values such as "solidarity" between its members, says Roderick Parkes. But current reality shows that the Union is actually a community of hard-headed governments. Instead of romanticising qualities which do not yet exist, the EU therefore needs to find hard-headed ways of mimicking these values. With the Union undergoing an acute crisis of confidence as regards immigration from North Africa and its passport-free travel area, Schengen, there is no time to spare.

The Learning Union: EU Social Inclusion Policy

Has eastern enlargement exposed the EU to new problems and simultaneously made it impossible to reach agreement on dealing with them? Some old member states certainly believe so, suggests Irena Cerovic. But in so doing they ignore a considerable new asset of the Union: the capacity of new and future member states to bring new policy solutions to old problems.

The Flexible Union: Rethinking Constitutionalism

In times of uncertainty, argues Almut Möller, people and governments want clarity. This desire stretches to the EU too, and there have been demands for a greater sense of finalité and purpose in its constitutional setup. But with this pressure, one of the major assets of the European integration project will be threatened: its capacity for adaptation. If those great fans of sui-generism and open-ended finalité, the Founding Fathers, were still around, how would they secure the European Union’s flexibility?

The Democratic Union: Strengthening Democracy in the Wider Europe

Alone of all European political actors, the EU has the potential to spread normative values throughout the whole continent, argue Deniz Devrim and Jordi Vaquer. The Union’s current approach, however, needs to be both humbler and more ambitious. The EU needs to be humbler in recognising that this is not a unipolar exercise, but more ambitious in offering an accession prospect even to its apparent rivals.

The Substantial Union: Recasting the EU’s Middle East Policies

If the EU exhorts high normative values in its foreign policy, suggests Timo Behr, this is often because it is easier for the 27 to agree on these than on their real interests and priorities. The EU has the capacity for a credible value-based foreign policy but to achieve this it will have to take a sober look at itself and the world around it.

From Inspiring to Declining Union? Europe at the Tipping Point and the Turkish Solution

The EU used to have it, but now it’s lost it. Nora Fisher Onar suggests how the Union can rediscover that special something. Lessons from Turkey policy.

The Delivery Union: How the 27 Strengths of the EU Can Lead to Better Regulation

So far, European integration seems to have progressed according to a simple principle: if progress is to be achieved, governments should represent their interests less, rather than better or more imaginatively. Current developments show the limits of this approach, says Mirte van den Berge, and the EU must make use of tools such as Impact Assessments to reengage governments—its great source of strength.

The Sustainable Union: Towards a European Energy Community for the 21st Century

Europe led the way in the first industrial revolution, says Sami Andoura, but unfinished business in its energy agenda means that it is lagging behind in the current one. The strength of the EU lies in its capacity to harness technological know-how in a politically sustainable way. Recommendations for a sustainable Union.

The Restrained Union: Has EU Counter-Terrorism Policy Become More About Having an EU Policy Than About Countering Terrorism?

The EU is subject to many of the same pressures to act as member governments, but without having recourse to the same resources, notes Toby Archer. The example of counter-terrorism policy shows that less action may be more. Precisely because it does not have the necessary resources to hand, the Union should be capable of self-restraint in such areas.