International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics
Sunday, 30.04.2017, 04:29
60 years of European integration: perspectives for business
The summit taken place on 25 March to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome is aimed to show further integration’s paths for the now EU 27 member states. The EU leaders would like to sketch the ways forward in the years to come. The draft document prepared in view of the Rome Declaration states that the EU-27 must show that the European Union is “capable of addressing the challenges of a rapidly changing world” and that they are “determined to make the EU stronger and more resilient”.
The Treaty’s anniversary is the perfect opportunity to reflect on EU’s future. Due to modern challenges facing Europe (Brexit, rising populism and nationalism, migration, etc.), the whole EU’s integration process need a reforming approach. The process has to include both the EU institutions and existing policies (as well as decision-making), which shall be adapted to current disruptions in order to foster new strategies.
Multiple crises are threatening the EU's integration process and a number of structural challenges require urgent action if further troubles are to be avoided. They are destined to have a significant impact on the EU's internal cohesion and its image in the world.
The 60th anniversary is both a symbolic event and time for reflection on the EU’s future while re-assessing its historical evolution and fundamental guidelines.
Questions to deal with…
However, the EU-27 is divided on many issues with distrust and growing nationalism as widely spread issues. So, how likely is it that the outcome will be able to re-inspire the European project and which concrete steps might follow after the Rome Declaration? Besides, it’s still quite unclear of which of the scenarios mentioned in the European Commission’s recent White Paper are likely to materialize?
Important perspective issue is about a “political window of opportunity” after the French and German elections concerning new initiatives to deepen European cooperation, future of EMU, social Europe and/or the security dimension?
Finally, the EU states have to make a common decision related to a “multispeed Europe”.
However, the new narrative for EU will inevitably include the following issues discussed at the EU business summit, EBS (22-23.03):
- EU’s trade strategy. EU is a key player in international economic/trade relations, which need rethinking on its long-term economic strategy while keeping in mind its leading role in the European future. New foreign policy agendas in the US (e.g. America First, Global Britain, etc.) provide for a new EU’s geopolitical strategy. Thus, revised EU’s political economy will play an important role in European future with the European business community seeking support to bolster the economy. With the US moving closer towards protectionism and Asia taking centre-stage in the international trade market, Europe needs to position itself in this new world order. The EBS questions the ways the EU decision-makers strategically coordinate the EU’s economic diplomacy to generate new market opportunities for businesses.
- EU’s healthcare policy. With the rise of digitalisation, an aging population and associated chronic diseases, the European health industry has been disrupted by several changes. The challenges are well recognised, but the EU and the member states shall do more in “collectively addressing” one of the major European socio-economic issues.
- European start-ups. The main issue is to unleash the start-ups potentials. Some important issues to deal with are: venture capital investments, building a real European start-up culture and exchanging experiences from young starters.
- Living space: successful “smart cities”. Most important in this narrative direction is how the European cities are transforming the future of living, Besides, the decision-makers shall find out how to make European cities smarter and in line with the digital revolution and other 4th industrial revolution challenges.
- Sustainable development issues. The narrative needs a more concise view as to how progressive business practices could support inclusive growth, more jobs and equality. Global Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs already enforced by the UN 2030 agenda since January 2016, set out 17 global targets in addressing the most pressing current economic, social, health, environmental, etc. issues. SDGs provide a unique opportunity for Europe to generate real sustainable impact towards an innovative, prosperous and inclusive society. See more: http://www.ebsummit.eu/speakers.php
Recent views on EU’s growth The EU’s growth rate is expected to be at the level of 1,9-1,6% for the EU-27 and 1,7-1,5% for the eurozone area. Anyway, the Brexit issue would not significantly damage the EU’s business confidence.
However, on the Businesseurope’s account, there could be some long-term “political risks” to both the EU and UK economies. Besides, as global trade is slowing, the EU could face some difficulties in trade with outside world, following rise in the euro exchange rate since the end of 2016.
Quite notable that the European Commission has put already the EU-US TTIP agreement on hold: the previous team-work is suspended presently and substituted with another working group called “trade and harnessing globalisation” showing a different perspective.
Drafting a Declaration
Already a week before the Rome summit, there were signs of “editing” the initial 5-option text, i.e. the declaration is evolving. The draft discussed contained a watered-down version of a “multi-speed Europe”; besides, the new version makes clearer that the EU treaties won’t change. For example, Scenario 4 of the Commission’s white paper on the Future of Europe (doing less, more efficiently) is also under consideration for a summit declaration.
Some changes are expected: e.g. the “old text” says that “the EU countries work together on the understanding that some of us can move closer, further and faster in some areas.” The new draft text suggests: “we will act together whenever possible, at different paces and intensity where necessary, as we have done in the past within the treaty framework and leaving the door open to those who want to join later. Our Union is undivided and indivisible.”
The EU trade unions and “civil society” made (on 21.03) their own suggestions for the Rome’s declaration. “In these uncertain times, the document said, European citizens seek a stronger focus on those core ‘European values’, not a reduced one. They seek economic, social and environmental well-being; as well as economic well-being in the form of prosperity for all and the redistribution of wealth. Social well-being has to provide for the provision of quality, affordable services for all and a reinforcing of the social fabric which binds us together. On the other hand, “environmental well-being is residing in a healthy natural environment that sustains all life on Earth and protects our clean water and air”.
Among the trade unions’ suggestions there are some issues important for the Baltic States, e.g. “strengthening of education as a public responsibility that offers lifelong learning for all in order to develop active citizenship, critical thinking, social inclusion and an awareness of sustainable development and human rights”; a just transition for workers and industrial regions from the current economic model to a modern, vibrant, green and socially just economy in which human and natural capital is cherished; a “European Social Model” that provides full protection to all workers, all consumers and all people living in the EU; one that reverses the wealth gap and reduces poverty and social exclusion”.
Among those who signed the EU trade-unions’ petition are some unions from Latvia: Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (LBAS), Latvian Fund for Nature and Latvian Anglers Association. See: http://www.politico.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/The-Europe-We-Want
60 years of European integration has to be assessed with balancing gains and losses by both the old and new EU member states. Thus, the EU complicated issues and problems are still in the political agenda in the EU with serious consequences for the Baltic States.