EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – XII. (April 2014)

Written by | Thursday, April 24th, 2014
European Values

What Kind of Social Europe after the Crisis?
Sofia Fernandes a Emanuel Gyger (Notre Europe – Jacques Delors Institute)
The financial crisis has brought not only the discussions about the future of the euro area and economic integration of the European Union, but also the questions about the future shape of the social security system. In the near future, the EU countries will have to deal with several challenges that need to be tackled if they still want to able to fulfill the role of a welfare state.
The first problem is the increasing social inequality between Member States. This disparity is particularly noticeable among Eurozone countries and the rest of the European Union or between north and south. Yet, the solidarity between the States and the pursuit of growth of all EU countries is at the heart of the European project. Advancing monetary and economic integration must therefore be accompanied by the social dimension of economic growth, which would guarantee the social rights of all EU citizens.
This, however, requires a revision of the current model of the welfare state, because this model has long been grappling with two major issues: the financing of state social policy and the lack of efficiency. Naturally, a concern that arises here focuses on the sustainability of the current settings of the social system and the need for its modernization especially through social investment. Social investments are primarily set to develop and enhance the expertise and people’s skills to be able to compete in the labor market. High quality education, health care or further education and vocational training should help achieve this goal.
The authors of this study also point out that the idea of the welfare state occupies a central position in the European identity. This is important to realize, especially in a time of growing euroscepticism. If the people feel that the progressive integration has a negative impact on their national welfare states, the European leaders will not be able to unite European citizens around the project of European integration.
(The study can be uploaded here: http://www.eng.notre-europe.eu/011-17679-What-kind-of-Social-Europe-after-the-crisis.html)

The EU, Russia and a Less Common Neighbourhood: Lessons Reinforced by the Vilnius Summit
Susan Stewart (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik)
The project of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) is in crisis as the European Union and the countries of EaP could not confirm their intentions and requirements with each other. The same applies to the relationship between the European Union and Russia, which is getting less and less functional by day. The Summit in Vilnius in November last yaer especially showed that Russia and the EU have no common plans for the EaP states and that both the Eastern Partnership project and the EU Strategy for Russia need to be revised and modified.
Russia treats its neighbors in a traditional way. Within a few months before the summit in Vilnius, Russia exposed several countries of EaP to a combination of strong pressure and promises. As a consequence, Vladimir Putin managed to get Armenia on the Russian side. On the other hand, the fact that Russia is willing to resort to unilateral decisions, spanned a wave of criticism in the member countries of the Customs Union. This case has also shown that a membership in the Customs Union is not based on a voluntary decision of a sovereign country, but rather it is enforced through the Russian influence and the smaller countries on Russia’s fringes simply cannot refuse its bigger neighbor’s ‘attractive’ offer. From the perspective of a regional hegemon, the EaP project goes against Russia’s interest. The process of convergence of EaP countries and the EU is – in Russian eyes – a preliminary step to their membership in NATO, which Russia wants to avoid at all costs.
The interests of the EU and Russia in neighboring states are clearly contradictory. Russia’s interest is the political and economic instability in these states, if accompanied by an increase in Russian influence there. Russia then becomes the cause of instability in the EaP states. The EU has conceived the EaP project as being beneficial for the target countries, the EU and Russia. Moscow does not share this view. Before the summit, some of the EU Member States began to promote understanding of the relationship with Russia from the geopolitical perspective as a zero-sum game. However, this view is counterproductive for the EU since it goes against the philosophy of the EU foreign policy and it does not allow a constructive relationship with Russia, which is crumbling in every field starting with the department of energy (EU’s criticism of Gazprom) to trade (EU action in the WTO) and EU’s visa policy.
EU mainly needs to learn to anticipate the Russian reactions and actions and be prepared to respond to them accordingly. The Eastern Partnership needs differentiation and new tools for those states that have rejected the existing ones. EU-Russia relationship needs to be more transparent and honest. It is imperative that the EU has created a situation where it is possible to reach an agreement on certain issues, and where the interests of the EU and Russia will diverge, the two should be at least able to agree on their disagreement.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://www.swp-berlin.org/en/publications/swp-comments-en/swp-aktuelle-details/article/the_eu_russia_and_their_neighbourhood.html)

Confidential Partnerships? The EU, its Strategic Partners and International Terrorism
Thomas Renard (Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior)
Terrorism is one of the most serious internal as well as external threats that the European Union currently faces. The author of this study focuses mainly on the external dimension of the fight against terrorism, which includes a co-operation with third countries. He also assesses the ability of the Union to act as a global player in the field of counter-terrorism activities. The author views the external dimension as the weakest part of the European anti-terrorism strategy and concludes that the European Union’s impact on the global level has been rather marginal. The situation, he argues, is due to the fact that matters of national security remain the exclusive competence of the EU Member States. The Member States still seem to lack the confidence necessary for deeper cooperation in this area.
Despite these facts, the EU has a promising potential to be more effective in the fight against terrorism. With ever more intensive sharing of experiences and information between the secret services of individual Member States, the mutual trust grows. The European Commission seems to have played an important role in the growth of the mutual trust. However, since the phenomenon of terrorism does not recognize and respect national borders, the Commission must also work closely with the European External Action Service, which is responsible for the external aspects of the fight against terrorism. Both the coordination of the activities with respect to counterterrorism strategy between the EU institutions and the cooperation with third countries remain quite problematic. The potential for cooperation with many third countries outside the EU still remains underdeveloped. On the other hand, in recent years, the EU has strengthened its relationship with various strategic partners and it is working to deepen the cooperation with them in the global fight against terrorism.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://www.fride.org/publication/1172/confidential-partnerships?-the-eu,-its-strategic-partners-and-international-terrorism)

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