THE STATE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION. Europe at the political crossroads Background Image
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9

The 4

th

Report on the State of the European Union –”Europe at the

political crossroads”– is published as a contribution to a campaign to re-

launch the EU, motivated by the belief that the serious problems with

which the Union is currently grappling can only be resolved if we address

the political challenges it faces. The publication of this report coincides

with perhaps the most difficult moment for the Union since its creation.

With the EU still struggling to overcome the drastic impact of the eco-

nomic crisis, it is threatened by the storm clouds of another recession or,

at the very least, weak growth.

Austerity policies are still with us, despite the impact of the ECB’s mon-

etary policies and low oil prices. And the Juncker Plan, while well-inten-

tioned, is insufficient to turn things around, and has not even been

launched yet, with the result that any impact on jobs will be delayed. One

of the most harmful consequences of the crisis and the response to it has

been rising inequality, reflected in the falling purchasing power of wages

and the increasing deregulation of the labour market. While it is true that

social policy is not one of the EU’s competencies, the austerity policies that

the Union has inspired have contributed to this social deterioration. The

resultant inequality has amplified differences within individual countries,

but also between states and, above all, between states in the north and

those in the south, and between those in the west and those in the east.

It should be noted that the noises emanating from European institu-

tions are generally encouraging (with the exception of the compromises

offered in an attempt to prevent Brexit –see below). In particular, the doc-

ument issued by the five presidents (Council, Commission, Parliament,

Eurogroup and ECB) is committed to advancing towards economic union,

addressing the crucial issue of fiscal union before moving towards political

union. However, for the moment these are just intentions, plans that have

yet to find expression in significant progress and for which, moreover, the

timescales are excessively long, particularly when compared to the press-

ing nature of the problems the Union faces. Four of these challenges are

considered in detail in this report: the refugee crisis; the terrorism threat

posed by the so-called “Islamic State”; climate change and the Paris Sum-

mit; and Brexit.

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