Will the "United States of Europe" Survive?
The ghost of the tough Brexit in Britain, the riots of the "yellow vests" in France, the opposition of the Italian "friends of Putin" and the European bureaucrats, the protracted crisis in Greece - all this does not mean the decline of Europe, it is about the coming "mutation" of the European Union. Will the EU be able to lose ballast in the form of Romania, Bulgaria, and Italy with Greece, or will the “United States of Europe” suffer the final collapse?
Christopher Clark, an expert from the British Cambridge, in an interview with German Welt said: after Brexit, we can expect a further reduction of the EU in size, up to the "Western European core". If it is impossible to achieve European unity, people must be ready to get rid of the excess burden, Clark believes. The ballast countries include - Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
This alarming forecast is unlikely to be announced only by the opinion of a single “British expert”. As European experts themselves note, discussions about the possible collapse of the pan-European project are in full swing. The catalyst was news from London. The precarious position of Theresa May’s cabinet actualized discussions about “hard” Brexit and, in general, about the future of the EU without Britain.
The second point - during the staggering France speeches of the "yellow vests", a manifesto was published, one of the points of which was Frexit - France’s withdrawal from the European Union and the return of political, financial and economic sovereignty to the Fifth Republic. It is unclear whether the manifesto expresses the opinion of the entire mass of thousands of protesters, but very many agree with the fact that it is necessary to transfer less authority from the national to the European level.
Finally, a very significant contribution was made by the success of the populist and euro-skeptic parties - first of all, the victory of the Five Stars Movement and the League in the Italian elections. The new Italian government has already entered into a confrontation with Brussels, to which Rome has accumulated a lot of complaints. In addition, the economic crisis in Greece cannot be considered overcome, which in itself made us talk about the problems of a united Europe.
Europe is not the same as it was. Now there are completely new challenges within Europe, including in the field of security. EU countries are not on the same path either economically, financially or ideologically.
In economic terms, Northern Europe would gladly give up troubled countries in the south of the eurozone. This is not only Greece. Now it is Italy, tomorrow, probably - Spain. But if Italy, following Britain, leaves the European Union, the EU will simply cease to exist.
EU countries seek to free themselves from the ideological burden imposed from Brussels. First of all, these are Poland and Hungary, but now more and more, both Slovakia and the Czech Republic do not support the liberal canon of the values of the “old West”. In Eastern Europe, conviction is growing: they don’t like the postmodern society that can be seen in Western Europe. After these countries have parted with their communist past, they wanted to get into traditional Europe, as it seemed to them, and not into some kind of ultra-liberal model that they could not understand.
The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are trying to speak with one voice on the issue of refugees and migrants, family policy, which causes tensions in relations with the “old Europe”.
In fact, the “old West” is strengthening the idea of abandoning Eastern Europe in order to preserve ideological unity.
Eurosceptic sentiments of varying degrees of radicalism are growing, and in countries that form the core of the EU. This is France, Italy, even Germany. The EU’s opposition agenda combines anti-bureaucratic motives, social and economic demands, and motives related to the themes of national sovereignty, border protection, etc.
So, there are contradictions. But what could be the "route" for the transformation of Europe? The fact is that “it will not be possible to“ dump excess cargo ”by excluding, for example, Romania or Bulgaria from the EU. The exclusion procedure simply does not exist.
EU leadership may impose sanctions on member countries. However, it is possible to leave the European Union only voluntarily, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Every EU country has a veto right; it is his that Spain threatens to use against Britain in the case of Brexit.
There is an opinion that in parallel with Brexit and possible future “exits” of other countries (France, the Netherlands, etc.), an internal “mutation” of the European Union will occur.
As a result, the case will go to the option of “Europe of two speeds” - each EU country gets freedom - depending on its own priorities and internal political realities, to join or not to join one or another integration project that Brussels promotes. But in fact, Germany, as the most powerful EU country, will fight to maintain the status quo and strengthen the unity of the European Union. France does not want a return to the “Europe of national states” either.
But the plan of “Europe of two speeds” as “plan B” is already ready somewhere. If some countries go to the “United States of Europe”, others will choose the relations that Switzerland or Norway (non-EU countries) now have - politically to stand aside, but to economically try to profit from communication with a united Europe.
If a couple of years ago it was said that “indigenous Europe” would unite most of the countries of the continent, and only some countries would step aside, now it is more likely that “indigenous Europe” will consist of very few countries.
As for the new members, there is also no optimism here. For example, the European Union, contrary to promises, does not plan to integrate Ukraine into its domestic market. Ukraine has become a huge disappointment for Europe. Previously, in Europe, they were confident that Ukraine would take quick steps towards the EU. But now Ukraine is becoming a very expensive “pleasure” for the European Union. Germany and France, who have undertaken certain obligations to Ukraine, may be ready to pay this country, but the patience of other countries is already running out.