The 7th Euroacademia International Conference The European Union and the Politicization of Europe
The European Union was described by Jacques Delors as an ‘unidentified political object’ and by Jose Manuel Barroso as the first ‘non-Imperial empire’. The descriptors assigned to the European Union are creative and diverse. Yet, the agreement on what is the actual shape that the EU is taking is by no means an easy one to be achieved. Historical choices shaped and reshaped the size and functioning of the EU. The goal of an emerging ‘ever closer union’ is still in search for the paths of realization while pragmatics compete with ideal goals setting. The agreement seems to come when it’s about the growing impact of the decisions taken in Brussels on the daily lives of the European citizens and the increasingly redistributive outcomes of the policy choices inside the EU. These dynamics created the framework for the politicization of Europe and opened a vivid debate about the direction and proportions of such a process.
The politicization of Europe is a process that takes various shapes and addresses significant puzzles. While it is clear that the EU doesn’t resemble a state, it is less clear if the decisions that shape its policies are configured by Pareto efficient outcomes or by dynamics that are intrinsic to a political system and defined by emerging party politics within the European Parliament. The democratic problem or the democratic deficit issue was and continues to be one of the main challenges facing the European Union in any terms or from any position is understood or described. As some argue, the lack of fully democratic procedures led to Brexit while many European citizens largely are disenchanted with the way decisions are made in the EU. The problem of accountability for the decision making inside the EU was there from the beginning and it emerged gradually as more emphatic on the agenda of vivid debates as the powers of the EU have grown after the Maastricht Treaty. This was concomitant with a growing disenchantment of citizens from member states with politics in general, with debates over the democratic deficits inside member states, with enlargement and with a visible and worrying decrease in voters’ turnouts at both national and especially European elections. To all that, recent times added the economic crisis and a re-emergence of nationalism in many European countries and an increase in anti-EU sentiments. The optimist supporters of EU believe in its power to constantly reinvent and reshape in deepening integration while the pessimists see either a persistence of existing problems or a darker scenario that could lead in front of current problems even to the end of the EU as we know it.