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Published on January 17th, 2017 | by Lidija Bojčić


The European Union is at a crossroads

The European Union has welcomed the year 2017 with great uncertainty for their future together. Europe eroding internal crisis and external pressures that have caused deep disagreements among its member countries. The rise of populism raises new questions about the distant future of Europe, and especially for key elections in three countries this year: France, Germany and the Netherlands. Russia is still working on the destabilization of the European Union and shows his muscles in his country and abroad. Crisis in Europe caused by security problems due to terrorist attacks and large waves of migration from Africa and the Middle East.

The political and security uncertainty and unpredictability are paving the way for new political actors that offer a simple solution: the strengthening of the nation-state, the weakening of the European Union and isolationism. These are populist movements that will lead to the destruction of the whole the Western liberal order, which is the foundation of European integration and is an unstoppable process. These far-right parties have disagreements drowned the voices of those who dare to defend liberal society, Western values ​​and common loom European, Western and global structure. Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections, Europe could lose its most important ally in the liberal democratic order.

Even if the new US President Trump during his mandate is not to keep all its promises of his campaign, Europe will have to get used to a new US foreign policy that will take care only about their own interests with little regard for European problems. The European Union can only passively wait and watch, but it can actively solve their political and security challenges. Only then would the United States consider Europe an equal partner. But before Europe starts to create its cohesive foreign policy, it must first solve its internal problems within its borders. This is primarily related to populism and extremism and those citizens who have little confidence in the current European political, economic and security system.

These days, very few countries in the European Union weighs a common community, but they can not deny that Europe threatens great uncertainty with a sense of control loss. The migration problem in recent years, national identity has become a divisions problem in some European countries. In other countries, there are profound socio-economic troubles. But these two problems are often intertwined: the local population feels threatened by migrants and they prefer hard borders.

For all these reasons, European residents view the European Union as the source of the problem. Brussels is considered the guardian of the Western liberal order, which destroys the countries national borders whose governments are unable to protect their citizens and their economies. The overall economic Europe success powered by the European internal market, but it created a systematic inequality.

Some countries, like Germany have created a stable and strong growth, but in the weaker countries, GDP is still at the level of the 2008 crisis. In many European countries surged unemployment, it is especially among the young. They do not have the possibility of finding a good and respectable job. Tax competition in the European Union has led to the capital transfer and labor from one Member State to another. All these reasons reinforce the impression that the EU is more a burden than an advantage for many social groups.

An increasing number of people suspected in European social and economic policy of the last few decades. This leads to preferences for protectionism and being isolated, and in the United States. The subject of discussion is free trade that is at the center of debates on the Europe future. Across Europe occurred at a protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

The European Commission is not worried about the growing opponents of liberal policies in the European market, and is now paying the price. It is no longer a consensus for free trade and investment agreements and in the interest of the European Union, and it is not equal negotiator with partners like the United States. Unless the trend is reversed, Europe will be significantly weakened its position on regulation and international standards on issues from the environment to its consumer protection and financial stability.

Some of these problems can be solved at the national level, but others need to be resolved at EU level. If the European Union wants to be competitive, balanced and resistant to political and economic crisis, it should be a long term strategy to address the financial debts and deeper reforms in the euro area. In terms of social policy, the European Union will have to engage with the Member States in the fight against the growing political and social instability. The European budget has no effective stabilization instruments, in particular due to the absence of the British contribution.

But not only problems in the field of economy and trade: the Schengen visa-free zone and European policy toward asylum seekers are the subject of much debate. For the European Union, with its open borders is a major challenge for internal security and an effective fight against terrorism. European countries will have to increase their security cooperation and intelligence sharing. The European Commission will have to show that it can control the migration and make agreements with countries of origin and transit and run effective its external borders control. EU Summit in Bratislava last year formulated its goal of external borders control and the long-term common immigration policy development.

Questions of economic development and migration will divide the European Union and in the future. For the European Commission will be difficult to stop this trend, if the US is not a cohesive force in the West as well as of the Second World War. In the last eight years, the Obama administration is working closely with Europe on the Russia issue and Brexit, even though Obama’s pivot to Asia, which gave the impression that the United States began to look wider at their new partners.

The new US administration is at best indifferent to Europe, and the European Union will have to solve their own problems. But the US could polarize Europe through its foreign policy objectives, and this possibility should not be underestimated. If Washington decides to repair its relations with Russia, for example, recognize Crimea as part of Russia, it will be significant consequences for European policy. If the US decides to lift sanctions against Russia, it will completely undermine the current overall EU policy in Eastern Europe. This would create a great divide in the European Union, some Member States to comply with US policy, and the other would be against it.

The big problem for the European Union could be the future relations between the United States and Great Britain. If Washington and London conclude a bilateral trade agreement, such as the Trump announced, or closer defense cooperation, the European Union will have little ability to successful negotiations during Brexit. Other countries may follow the example of Great Britain and their cooperation with the United States would be far more attractive alternative than the current European Union.

It is therefore important that the European Union to develop its own global politics, because the transatlantic partnership between the United States and Europe has so far been the cornerstone of EU foreign policy over the last few decades. Even when it came to the crisis between the two, as well as Iraq, in the end always came to cooperation. Europe has relied on US security guarantees, but it just has not invested in their own security development.

Donald Trump has promised to completely reconstruct the American security policy and it is unclear how it will be set to Europe. During his election campaign, he promised to make changes that will lead to a complete change in the current global political and security order.

What future awaits Europe? There are two possible developments. In a better variant, Trump will set the current American line towards the European Union and NATO. Some EU member states will have to assume more financial responsibility, it is a goal that has been given during the NATO summit in Wales in 2015. It was also decided that NATO members must spend at least two percent of their GDP on collective defense.

The second scenario is very problematic for Europe. The new US administration can bring down the existing pillars of the international order due to their better progress. This approach would hit all of the European Union countries, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. Trump could destabilize The Iran Nuclear Deal and The Paris Agreement on climate change. That Europe could gain insight into the Trump goals and strategy, it will have to establish close cooperation with his administration in the first few months of his presidency.

In the future, Europe will show a strong commitment to its security and defense policy. European NATO members will be forced to comply with its NATO obligations and improve their mutual security cooperation. First of all, the European Union must be clear whether US security guarantees still apply – because Russia will see the current situation as an opportunity. Also, it should be clear that military means only one foundation of security, and Europe’s internal situation is a central pillar of its security and foreign policy.

Since the United States is considering withdrawing from its role as global policeman, the other world powers have already filled that vacuum. Immediately after Trump promised to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), China has decided to take this place for trade in the Asia-Pacific region. This returns policy sphere of influence, which is promoted by Russia and China. The European Union will only be effective if it creates a common policy of cooperation with Russia and China. For these two countries seek bilateral agreements and cooperation with individual EU member states. But that Europe retained its credibility abroad, it must solve its internal problems if it does not want to rapidly crumble.

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