EU heading east?
BERGAMO, Italy — The European Union embodies the unique consolidation of 28 European states into one of the world’s most progressive and pervasive political and economic institutions. Its enlargement is the most ambitious project it has ever undertaken as it aspires to unify the European continent in a constitutional frame that encourages cross-country cooperation and where peace and stability prevail.
Whilst enumerating the benefits and opportunities for the economies, societies and individuals within the EU, one must avow the severe concerns that the forming of a broader union poses to the member states and their citizens.
In order to thoroughly understand the nature of these future challenges, it’s important to divide them into two streams. Some are related to the union’s broadening agenda, otherwise known as its enlargement, while others are associated with the deepening strategy, or the countries’ depth of integration and extent of cultural connection to the EU.
For what concerns the future shape of the EU, the challenge will be to establish in which direction further expansions ought to be pursued and whether they ought or not in the first place.
Particularly, Turkey’s progressing negotiations with the EU portend the setup of a sound bridge between the West and the East, thus stretching the pool of potential candidates to include abutting Asian countries.
Through my eyes, this is a great opportunity from all economic, political and social angles.
In regards of the economic and political spheres, there is no reason to fear major financial or institutional paralyses. The enlargement procedure is meticulously and gradually managed with the imperative of shunning regrettable frailty in the welfare and integration of existing members.
As one of the EU’s most powerful policy tools, the enlargement regulations ensure that incomers reach a healthy financial standing, and ascertain that they are willing to fully embody Europe’s democratic principles. In more practical terms, aspiring members must be prone to accept country-specific measures in order to protect the pre-established equilibrium of incumbents. In this aligned and cooperative climate, the EU comes to dispose of a much broader spectrum of environmental, financial and cultural resources, which render it a much more relevant global player.
From a social standpoint, the piecemeal admission course also allows for a progressive and deliberate integration between distinct cultures thus promoting growth and unity while preventing abrupt cultural voids.
In this sense, it is important to say that the EU has accomplished remarkable amplifications. It has helped depose dictatorships such as Spain and transformed many communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe into solid democracies and free market economies. For these reasons, extending the union eastwards will not only beget diverse economic resources and advancement but also instill a spirit of cooperation and tolerance among cultures and religions that have for long been adverse.
But once any enlargement capitulates, the most prominent difficulty would be the lack of popular belief in the EU, which can be related to the democratic deficit that is still partly affecting it. The term ‘democratic deficit’ is an attempt to describe the vertical distance existing between common citizens and the European institutions that seem to be unreachable due to the high complexity of their systems.
In this setting, numerous citizens hold a dubious view of the union. Some even consider it the creation of an elite group of politicians rather than an acclaimed plea of the voting public.
As seen with the rise of nationalistic parties in France and Italy, this lack of identification with the EU induces citizens to vote for European representatives who push for their national benefits rather than protect a collective European interest.
But if Europe is looking to play a decision-making role in global governance, it will have to instill in its citizens a sense of trust and belonging.
Once individuals start to believe in the greater good provided by the EU, they will be induced to vote for pro-European representatives, which renders the decision processes less dilated and more effective.
Whilst it may be difficult to blend ancient and distinct cultures into a unified entity, we must remember that the European project is a remarkable undertaking that upholds a superior ideal: it fulfills the legitimate aspiration of diverse communities to engage in the pursuit of a unanimous democratic dream. This growing integration fully corresponds to the principles, values and objectives of the EU, which was created with the intent of safeguarding peace, consolidating democracy, supporting human rights and diffusing stability through the integration of different countries and cultures.
cartoon credit: Cartoon Movement website/Halit Kurtulmus Aytoslu