Ten years of serial crises and rising voter scepticism about mainstream political parties have definitively buried the managerialist consensus that dominated EU policymaking in the early 2000s. The financial crisis, strained public finances and large-scale immigration flows have exposed the delicate balance between technical problem solving, solidarity of national governments, and the subsidiarity that requires decisions to be taken ‘at the level closest to the citizen’, with no straightforward answers.
These post-2008 crises were an agenda of necessity rather than choice. However, in highlighting five possible scenarios for the future of the EU, the Commission’s March 2017 White Paper marked an internalisation of these tensions into the EU’s traditional, proactive policy agendas of deepening the single market and pursuing trade agreements with third countries. What were important questions for the drafters of the Lisbon Treaty are now existential challenges for the EU: where and how do its actions complement those of the member states? Where do interventions risk alienating voters? Where could they shore up public opinion?
In this new analysis piece, Global Counsel contributes to this debate, drawing on the experience of our consultants in national governments and the EU institutions. We examine how the political trade-offs exposed by the Eurozone and refugee crises could play out when applied to the core EU policy agendas of the Digital Single Market, the Capital Markets Union, the Energy Union, international trade policy and immigration.
The five scenarios proposed by the European Commission are important in exposing the consequences of decisions in each of these five areas. The debate they have triggered means that political and policy choices in individual areas must be taken on their own merits and with a view to the cumulative impact on the future model, scope and priorities for cooperation between European countries and institutions.