A Special Year for the European Union?

, by Florent Banfi

A Special Year for the European Union?

Making predictions is not an easy task. The year 2011 revealed how ineffective our forecasts can be, especially if we take into consideration many unpredicted events that occurred (such as nuclear accident in Fukushima, Arab uprisings and etc.). Nevertheless, it seems as if 2012 is going to be a challenging year for the European Union (at least on paper).

Olympic Games

In 2012 London will host the EU Olympic Games. Four years ago world media was focused on China and now it is switching its interest on to the UK. However, the Olympic Games are not only an occasion to deal with sport events, but they also hold a political dimension. This was very clear four years ago and the situation will surely be the same this time.

We cannot ignore the fact that those games will be compared with the previous ones. Comparisons of all kind will rise up such as the number of medals, budget of the event, number of people attending, broadcast audience and etc. The UK, as the European country that won the most medals among EU states in the previous Olympic Games, might be willing to present itself in a purely national way, proud of its previous results. If that was going to be the case, then the UK would make a big mistake despite the high quality of British athletes. It is likely that the UK, France or Germany (the three first EU countries in the previous games) will win much less medals than China or the USA. In addition, the competition spirit inherent to the Olympic Games might be a very good occasion to strengthen the values of peace. Who better to support these values than the member states of the European Union? Therefore, the European Commission (which has since the Lisbon Treaty introduced a competency in sports) will have to carry this message. Keep in mind that the Olympic Games are a perfect opportunity to strengthen our values and help promote the European demos. The rules of the Olympic Games avoid to supersede the national flag by another one thus if the European spirit is reinforced, it will be in addition to and not in replacement of the national ones. The European fathers would not agree more with such a statement.

Challenge From Inside: Euro Crisis

The recent downgrade of nine European countries by S&P shows that the crisis is not finished yet. From a purely state finance problem point of view, the concerns have moved towards political matters such as decision-making process or political leadership. When we look at the European countries, we can say that the main effects of the crisis have been identified in the short term. However, this certitude does not mean that the problems have been sorted out, but rather it only suggests that the consequences are in abeyance (until the next degradation).

Under the pretences of making urgent and difficult decisions, the European countries have monopolised the power while at the same time ignored the European law when necessary under the excuse of the new international treaties and without involving the European Parliament (thus the people). As a result the newly reached decisions were rightly considered to be weak and subject to change by the financial markets. The lack of citizens’ involvement either directly or through parliamentary consultations weakens the decision. The crisis revealed the drawbacks of the lack of power of the European Commission, which is bound by the European Treaties and neither have action powers or democratic legitimacy to be credible. An increase of the euro zone governance but also government is at the centre of the required modification. Nonetheless, this cannot happen without a modification of the existing treaties. If the European Parliament has almost no responsibility in the decision-making, then it has the possibility to kick-off the Treaty modification process aimed at improving the effectiveness of the entire decision-making process.

Challenge From Outside: Iran and Middle East

The year 2011 has been the year of the so-called Arab “revolutions,” but 2012 will raise as much attention on the region. For the European Union, Iran represents a third challenge but this time for its foreign policy and own security.

The Arab spring resulted in a European military intervention in Libya led by France and the UK, but supported by many other countries among which the United States. From that perspective, the foreign policy of some European countries could be assessed positively notwithstanding the lack of visibility, or the lack of means of the European Union. The obtainment by Iran of the nuclear power will be perceived as a disaster in the region. Some countries would be already planning military strikes in summer. Considering the importance of such an event, the European Union should decide but also act unanimously which by itself is a challenge. It is not only the unity but also its efficiency which is at stake. The capability to sway the Iranian government from its route seems hard to achieve. The bargaining power of the European Union being too low at the moment even including the other countries in favour of the break up of the nuclear arsenal. It will be a challenge first for the European Union as a whole and in particular the European Council.

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