EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – XIV. (May 2014)

Written by | Saturday, May 10th, 2014
European Values

The Digital Infrastructure as the Next “EU Grand Project”
Andrea Renda (Istituto Affari Internazionali)
The global economy is entering a new phase of interconnectedness, which is based on the ubiquitous availability of broadband communications. This brings new challenges to policy makers: Namely, as the infrastructure and connectivity are becoming key priorities of public policies and the essential conditions for global competitiveness, is the European Union well-positioned to capitalize on these developments?
The author argues that the EU approach to the region has long been ill-conceived and led to unnecessary and undesirable fragmentation of the market. The European policymakers have realized only recently that with the absence of significant change, the EU will not be able to succeed in global competition because it lacks integrated, intelligent and interconnected infrastructures. Among the key areas, in which they must implement major changes, are the cooperation between the public and private sectors, the introduction of broadband connections, the spectrum policy, the Internet neutrality and the overall competition policy for high-tech market. To recover Europe’s leading position in the sector of information and communication technologies, a gradual, piecemeal approach will not be sufficient. The EU will need a coherent strategy for a more uniform and efficient digital-era Europe.
According to the author, the solution lies in the revitalization of infrastructure and high level of integration between existing major players in the sector of wired and wireless connections in Europe. The aim would be to attract investments into the ubiquitous connectivity. On the other hand, the legal certainty for investment in broadband could justify a neutral approach to traffic management, as proposed by the European Commission. The authors’ approach to Internet regulation would lead to a more balanced model without compromising the user’s freedom.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://www.iai.it/content.asp?langid=2&contentid=1042)

Germany and the Future of the Eurozone
Sebastian P?óciennik (Polish Institute of International Affairs)
Despite the overall negative outlook of the euro area, even the weakest Member States have managed to stabilize their economy and some of them have even shown signs of recovery. Predicting the future of the common currency is not easy, but it can be said that neither its termination nor its sudden success can be expected. There are three options for how the future of the euro area might unfold. The first is the continuation of the neoliberal mode of integration, which is targeting a fiscal moderation, supply-side reforms and international competitiveness. Reaching the Keynesian economic union is the second option. The euro is there to serve as a springboard for economic policy intervention. A third alternative is a diversified system of integration. The euro area would become the core comprised of the stronger EU economies and the convergence of member economies would no longer be needed.
In Germany, most support the first option, the asymmetric convergence. It is supported by parties like the CDU, CSU, and the FDP. Even some of the Social Democrats agree the convergence of the Member States’ economies in terms of productivity and macroeconomic standards must precede the political union. Above all, the political integration should never overtake the economic convergence. Another, slightly less popular alternative, is the Keynesian Union with intervention components and symmetrical convergence. This method of transfer of wealth from the nucleus to the periphery of the euro area is promoted by social democratic SPD and especially the leftist party Die Linke. The least supported option in Germany is the end of the Eurozone as we know it today. The biggest supporter of this option is the Alternative für Deutschland. The way out of the crisis is said to be the reduction of the euro area to the economies similar to each other in the core (without the „Southerners”). The basis for integration of the other states would be the common market. Whatever will be the evolution of the euro area, it is almost certain that, in the foreseeable future, there is not any chance for the creation of a political union.
(The study can be uploaded here: http://www.pism.pl/Publications/PISM-Policy-Paper-no-85)

The EU Should Abandon ‘Soft Power’ in Ukraine and Adopt a New Approach Focused on Geostrategic Concerns
André Härtel (LSE European Politics and Policy Blog)
The European Union is confronted with fierce, escalating developments in Ukraine. The problems with Ukraine had already started when – to the EU’s utmost surprise – the Association Agreement was refused. Last summer, the EU was standing by and watching a temporary Russian ban on the Ukrainian imports and of a de facto of complete general reorganization of Moscow’s post-Soviet space. What are the causes and consequences of this situation?
There are three major factors why the European Neighborhood Policy in Ukraine is failing. First, the EU failed to realize the true nature and direction of President Yanukovych´s regime. Despite the hard semi-presidential regime, the state was always seen as democratic and Western- oriented. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian high-level policy was designed only to serve the personal interests of the people around the president. Second, the EU kept calm and quiet in the face of the entirely obvious Russian geopolitical agenda from 2011 onwards that aimed to expand its influence through the Eurasian Union. Furthermore, the practice of the so-called soft power, coupled with the lack of unity of EU’s members with respect to its Eastern neighbors, only served to encourage Russia’s assertive behavior. Third, although it is clear that Ukraine is a key Eastern Partnership partner, the EU Member States often seem not to have taken the whole project seriously (with the exception of Poland). However, it is ultimately Germany, the most prominent driver of the Eastern Partnership, which can be blamed for the project’s failure. Berlin’s response to the Russian pressure on Ukraine is not visibly definite and sufficiently critical. On the Russian end, Moscow clearly sees the Eastern Partnership as a threat to its vital national interests.
In short, the current EU actions in Ukraine can be seen as a failure. So, what should be the EU’s near-future strategy? The Union must clearly articulate the fact that in the short term, the Eastern Partnership project is strategically more important than the democratization of Ukraine. The Union should play the role of a „tough player” in its foreign policy. In particular, it should begin the unification of its Member States’ foreign policies and then, by means of its financial muscles, Brussels should try to lead Ukraine out of the Russian influence and bring it under the influence of the West. Finally, the EU should through it weight behind Ukraine’s civil society, which is actually the key to any long-term change – it is clear that the Ukrainian political system is unlikely to be reformed from above.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2014/02/18/the-eu-should-abandon-soft-power-in-ukraine-and-adopt-a-new-approach-focused-on-geostrategic-concerns/)

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