Given its potential and role in global geopolitical processes, the European Union is considered a “superpower”. Some members of the organizations are the world’s most developed countries. Four of the G7 states are members of the European Union. Experts are very sensitive to political, ideological and geoeconomic issues relating to the EU. Expert analyses on the problems facing the organization and its future have recently grown. Will the EU be able to tackle the problems? How is the organization reacting to internal and external difficulties? To answer these questions,we need to clarify some controversial features of this organization.
Migration, far-right nationalists and superpowers: EU’s ”Bermuda triangle”
Political leaders have recently been noting the necessity of reforming the European Union. The organization’s senior officials have repeatedly emphasized this in an open manner. Experts also seem to share a common view on the issue: they stress the need to reform the organization given a variety of contradictions it faces.
The EU is regarded one of the world’s most powerful organizations. Its members include countries with huge potential such as Germany, France and Italy. It brings together 28 member states. Germany and France are powerful economies. However, experts point out a number of contradictions within the organization and its foreign policy. Numerous factors necessitate reconsideration of the EU’s internal and foreign policy. The member states’ attitude towards migration problem is cited as the main source of contradiction by political analysts (see, for example: Воробьёва Л.М., Савушкина С.В. Евросоюз на перекрёстке внутренних и внешних вызовов / “Проблемы национальной стратегии” № 5 (50), 2018).
A report prepared by experts of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies says the European Union ”does not have any clear plan, except for European officials’ pledges”. (see: previous source). This manifests itself mainly in the organization’s inability to define the causes and tackle the consequences of the migration problem, stop right-wing populism, defend its interests in the context of the US-China relationship (see: previous source).
Other experts also consider these points as the main challenges facing the EU at this stage. One of them is directly linked with the internal political environment. Migration problem and US-China relationship covers such important issues such as foreign policy and observance of law in international relations. The aforementioned three areas very well characterize the EU’s current political and functional features. Each of them should be highlighted separately.
First of all, it should be noted that the EU member states have not taken migration problem seriously. In 2015, some even said that the problem will be addressed easily. Gravity of the problem manifested itself when hundreds of thousands of refugees migrated to Europe. Most importantly, the West, which considers itself to be the cradle of democracy and human rights, realized its inability to find a political and legal solution to the problem.
It is mostly evidenced by radical differences in the EU member states’ attitude to the issue. Hungary, Italy, Austria and Czech Republic have taken a tough approach, while Germany and France are soft. Although the EU leaders have come together several times – both in official and unofficial formats – to address migration problem, no concrete agreement has been reached. On the contrary, several heads of state risk losing office in the wake of the problem.
This means that migration problem remains fierce controversy on the EU’s political agenda, and leaders seem not to be ready to address it. The EU risks being plunged into political and legal crises. Experts are pessimistic about settlement of the problem in the near future. It is confirmed by the existence of right-wing populism.
Way out: hesitations continue…
Right-wing populists have been continuously ”attacking” the European politics in a true sense of the word in the past few years. Experts believe that the election of Donald Trump (who is also considered as a right-wing populist) as president of the United States gave strong impetus to this process. Right-wing populists are also known as ”New Right” and ”conservative nationalists” (see: for example, previous example).
Far-right nationalists who are gaining new ground across Europe include Geert Wilders (the Party for Freedom, the Netherlands), Marine Le Pen (Front National, France), Alexander Gauland (AfD, Germany), Heinz-Christian Strache (FPO, Austria), Matteo Salvini (Lega, Italy), Luigi Di Maio (Five Star Movement, Italy) and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban (Fidesz). Some believe that right-wing populists split society as they divide people into ”we” and ”others”. ”Others” are fake nationalists and representatives of the international establishment who globally exploit human and natural resources. Right-wing populists consider themselves as those engaged in labor and victims of injustice of globalization.
Right-wing populists’ position is quite dangerous as, in fact, it may split modern society into two radical groups. Public controversy in the EU member states therefore may grow into fierce political and ideological confrontation. In addition, right-wing populists` views on the future of the EU differ from those of Brussels. They believe that the EU should prioritize national values, while Brussels gives preference to human rights and universal values.
However, the situation is deteriorating. There is widespread concern that right-wing populists can win majority in the European Parliament. Their influence on power is already feltin some of the member states. Hungary, Italy and Czech Republic are much spoken about in this context.
It should also be noted that there are some external factors that increase chances of right-wing populism. Donald Trump is believed to be number one factor. However, the EU’s biggest problem lies in its policy towards the US and China. Experts believe that Brussels is now facing a dilemma: Washington or Beijing. Trump`s efforts to change the essence of America`s European policy areone of the reasons behind this, while China’s new global strategy is the other reason.
Germany, France and even the United Kingdom, in fact, maintain cooperation with Beijing. For example, they are involved in the establishment of a new international bank proposed by China. In addition, they are not going to refuse to be engaged in the New Silk Road Project designed to deliver vast quantities of goods from Asia to Europe, from energy to all natural resources. This project creates a new opportunity for Europe to cooperate with China. Washington is pressing European countries into withdrawing from the project, by imposing sanctions, additional taxes and even making threats.
Donald Trump told Emmanuel Macron that Europe would be better paying its debts to NATO, rather than thinking of building its own army. It`s no secret that the American President is trying to impede Euro-Atlantic integration and that his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement caused a number of uncertainties.
This demonstrates that the EU has got seriously stuck between the US and China. Neither it can break off with America, nor turn down China’s attractive proposals. And it is impossible to guess how long this controversial and risky situation will continue. But experts predict nothing good for Brussels.
The aforementioned factors are not enough to draw a conclusion that the European Union will collapse in the near future. But internal problems within the organization increase risks in the international relations system. Given the EU’s role in global politics, whether the organization is developing or facing a crisis has a serious impact on global processes. The EU’s becoming a source of risks and uncertainty is highly undesirable.