European Council on Foreign Relations

Reinventing Europe: Miguel Maduro

As part of ECFR's 'Reinvention of Europe' project, we are running a series of responses from leading thinkers and academics to Mark Leonard's recent paper 'Four scenarios for the reinvention of Europe'. The paper outlined four possible routes towards solving Europe's current crisis, and argued that Europe's main challenge was to solve the acute euro crisis without exacerbating the chronic crisis of declining European power. In the fourteenth in this series we hear from Miguel Maduro from the European University Institute in Florence.

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Underlying Mark Leonard analysis seems to be the belief that addressing Europe’s crisis requires more integration, but that there does not seem to be either the required political will or legitimacy for that. As a consequence, any route presented may fail. The final choice of route will be itself a product of the tension between what is needed and what can be done politically. Europe is like Alice in Wonderland, meeting the Cheshire cat and asking him which road to take. The cat’s simple answer is that it depends where Alice wants to go.

It is now often said that the euro crisis is primarily a political crisis. But what exactly does this mean? The focus is largely on what needs to be done, but isn’t it the case that we now know what needs to be done? The real problem is that no one knows how to get the European Union to do it.

Understanding the absence of political will that lies behind this is crucial. This leads to an understanding of what can we do to change the nature of political incentives in Europe so that Europe does what Europe needs. The Union’s incapacity to find an answer to the present crisis has, at its core, a political gap: the scope and level of politics has not followed the scope and level of political problems in Europe. This is our most important democratic deficit. We have not internalised the degree and democratic consequences of the interdependence generated by integration. This is what explains why, as Mark Leonard notes, most attempts to engage citizens with EU issues have failed.

The reason for this gap is to be found on how European integration was conceived: not as a new space for politics but either as a new discipline on national politics (to correct state externalities) or as functional government of limited powers at the service of the collective interests of the states. It is this that allowed it to be legitimated by the foundational equilibrium between voice and exit famously described by Weiler, even when its decisions were no longer reached through unanimity. However, the interdependence generated by increased economic, social and political integration has challenged this model, by requiring an expansion of the political authority of the Union. The governance of the euro will be one more (very important) step in this direction. The risk is that the Union is increasingly being perceived not as a form of discipline on the politics of national passions, but as politics without passion.

I see only one option to support the politics that Europe requires. In his exit and voice analysis Weiler made use of two famous concepts of Hirschman. There is a third: loyalty. Loyalty is the result of the extent to which a member estimates his or her possible influence. How can we guarantee to all EU citizens an equal estimation of influence? It requires us to move towards systemic voice. Four things are necessary. First, systemic identity. In other words, the fundamental values of the Union must coincide with the fundamental values of the member states. Second, a deliberative system favoring proxy politics (where national majorities can be, for the most part, replaced by cross-national ideological majorities). Third, preventing the emergence ofpermanent and insulated minorities (net losers). Fourth, a certain degree of civic solidarity that may be started by rendering more democratic the internal market and its benefits.

To achieve this does not require (yet more) institutional change to be a priority. Though there are serious problems with the institutional system resulting from the Lisbon Treaty, the starting point is in understanding that the creation of European politics must go hand in hand with a change in the character of politics. For that, changes in policies (for example, from promoting redistribution between states to redistribution between citizens) may be even more important than changes in institutions.

Also in this series:

Harold James - 'The more Europe suffers, the more its people will see that a reform agenda that is just an exercise in incrementalism is also nothing more than an exercise in futility'.

Richard Rosecrance - 'if Greece or Spain did not exist, they would have to be invented. Their participation in the euro keeps the value of the currency down from $1.80 to $1.20 or $1.30 or so, thereby ensuring the success of German exports to the rest of the world.'

Brigid Laffan - 'as the Union intrudes more and more into domestic budgetary and public finance choices, can party politics in Europe adapt to a very different governance regime?'

Charles S. Maier - 'The British can imagine that their banks will suffice, the Germans their autos, but such comparative advantage can dissipate quickly. I’d as soon wager on Greek beaches.'

Georg Sørensen - 'a substantial part of the present euro crisis has less to do with European cooperation and more to do with member states that are fragile, ineffective, have serious corruption problems...'

Chris J. Bickerton - 'Populism, after all, is politics without policies; technocracy is policy without politics.'

Carlos Gaspar - 'In an enlarged “Euroland”, Germany’s pre-eminence could be balanced by a Catholic coalition led by France, Italy and Poland.'

Dimitri Sotiropoulos - 'we still live in an era in which the nationalist project is more seductive than any project of integration among nations'.

Pawel Swieboda - 'no-one dares to ask the question if the euro is still a political project, as its founders tended to believe, or if it is today about nothing else than damage control'.

Claus Offe - 'Europe is not just needed as a defensive mechanism to prevent the weak being overpowered by the strong, who first administer an austerity cure without then providing the requisite support for recovery.'

Mario Teló - 'what is abusively decried by populist voices as a “German Europe” might in fact look a lot like the broadly endorsed “EU2020 strategy”. Input legitimacy may complement output legitimacy.'

Josep M. Colomer - 'For democracy to survive and retrieve in Europe, responsiveness and accountability of rulers should be moving from the state level to the EU level, where so many crucial decisions are already being made'

Marco de Andreis - 'a critical mass has been already assembled to make of Europe’s integration a possibility rather than an impossibility. And to at least consider the United States of Europe a fifth scenario for the reinvention of Europe.'

Narcís Serra - “If we wish to favour economic growth in European countries we must address income redistribution. This must not be done through fiscal measures alone but also by dealing with the heart of the productive structure itself.”

Brendan Simms: 'In 2020, President Radek Sikorski of the Democratic Union could long back at a turbulent, but successful first term in office...'

Christine Ockrent: 'In all the countries where people struggle with the economic crisis and fear for their children’s future, Europe has more than ever become the scapegoat'

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