Back to the future
Having entered its 50th year since the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the European Union is now going through the stageof mature adolescence. It is the most critical — but also the most interesting — phase of its life.The EU Jubilee has provided a great opportunity for challenging peregrinations of the mind into the next 50 years —peregrinations in which the thinker’s imagination persistently flirts with the games of strategy and high politics.Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, has made such a trip. In the excerpt that follows, Grant pres-ents a log of his travels into the future, much of which has to do with our wider neighborhood — Southeast Europe, theSoutheast Mediterranean and the Black Sea region.
By 2020 the British had opted in to most of the avant-garde groups they had excluded themselves from. The pundits who had predicted that enlargement would stop after the accession of Croatia in 2012 were proved wrong. The mood of optimism in Europe helped the cause of enlargement. Not only Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Macedonia joined the EU, but also Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. However, enlargement moves very slowly. France has voted twice in referendums to keep out Turkey, while a Serb referendum defeated the membership hopes of Albania and Kosovo.Spain has blocked membership talks with Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine because its partners said no to Moroccan membership.The slow pace of enlargement has spurred the Union to offer several neighbors participation in most EU policies. For ex- ample Israel, inside the European Economic Area, takes part in everything the EU does bar foreign and defense policy.Meanwhile the French are preparing to vote for a third time on Turkish accession. They are starting to look more favor- ably on the Turks. Per capita incomes in Turkey have overtaken those of the poorer French regions; the Kurdish assem- bly in southeast Turkey has won autonomy over most areas of domestic policy; Turkey provides more troops for EU mil- itary missions than any country; and French companies have to tackle labor shortages at home by recruiting directly in Turkey. Opinion polls suggest that this time France will vote ‘Oui.’ Meanwhile in Britain, David Miliband’s government is proposing to join the euro and is promising a referendum.
No one can foretell whether Grant’s pronouncements, following his excursion into the future of the European Union asfar as the year 2027*, will be vindicated. No matter what, however, our wider neighborhood is bound to play a signifi-cant role in future developments, since the Union’s center of gravity is gradually and steadily moving further east andfurther south.Following the last great enlargement, the European Union is now facing a new challenge: to build relations of trust withits new neighbors, whether on its eastern borders (such as Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union on theBlack Sea) or on the shores of the Mediterranean. Relations of trust are being built — as proven by the BSEC example —through the operation of regional cooperation institutions and act as catalysts for the forming of multiple communitiesof common interests between countries, business ventures and the collective manifestations of the citizens’ society.So the desideratum for the next 50 years in our wider neighborhood is not just having good-neighborly relations but tohave the widest possible collaboration on the part of all parties involved in order to shape a future in which peace andsecurity, economic and social development, as well as the citizens’ welfare will be ensured. And this collaboration has tobe under the aegis of European integration.
*’The View From 2027,’ by Charles Grant: www.cer.org.uk/pdf/opinion_2027_cg_22march07.pdf