Panel discussion "The future architecture of Europe: between Macron and Juncker"

Report on the Panel Discussion on:

"The future architecture of Europe: between Macron and Juncker"

The event was held at the Representation of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia to the European Union, Rue Montoyer 47, 1000 Brussels on Wednesday, 10th of January, from 18:30 to 20:30 and organized by the non-party association Europa-Union Deutschland e.V in Brussel.

Invited speakers:

Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, Member of the French National Assembly

Professor Dr Christian Calliess, Team Leader Institutional Team, Legal Adviser to the European Political Strategy Center (EPSC)

Jo Leinen, Member of the European Parliament

Dr Guntram Wolff, Director of Bruegel

After some introductory words from Director of the Representation, Mr. Steffens, and a presentation of the speakers from the EUD board member, Mr. Hartmann,

the panel discussion was led by Prof. Frank Hoffmeister, Vice-Chairman of the Board,.

As the discussion on the Union's future has begun to gain momentum recently, the objective was to look at the upcoming challenges that the EU gets confronted with, such as globalization, impacts of new technologies, security issues as well as increasing populism in European states. In March 2017, the White Paper on the Future of Europe introduced by the President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker had outlined five possible scenarios for the future of the European project. The Paper intends to provide an initial impetus for the setting of a new strategic direction. Furthermore, the election of President Macron and his visions for the further development of the European project was also discussed.

In his introductory statement Mr. Anglade assessed the role of the presidential elections in France and the victory of Emmanuel Macron, as crucial for Europe and the European Union. In his opinion Macron and his movement took a risk to campaign on European issues. He won against Le Pen and put out the idea to attach sovereignty with Europe.  There are high hopes associated with his presidency and he is now waiting for a response in particular in Germany for his far-reaching ideas. According to Leinen, the narrative for Europe should be change from providing peace to securing in a broad sense. Therefore, every effort should be made to design and implement effective security instruments that would be applied to ensure both external security on our common European border with 3rd countries and provide internal security, especially in the fight against terrorism. Furthermore, the rapid development of new technologies and digitalization process raises the questions of cyber security, identification of vulnerable areas and effective elimination of such vulnerabilities. Moreover, Europe could contribute to more job and social security. Prof. Calliess explained that Juncker’s five scenarios were now complemented by scenario 6 as outlined in the State of the Union Speech of September 2017. Here, the President combined elements from scenario 1 (status quo for all) with scenario 4 (do less more efficiently) and scenario 5 (do more together).  From Callies’ point of view, the Border Guard was a good example of an important achievement in 2017. Member States have agreed that the Guard can help to secure the external border even against the will of a particular Member State, when it had proven unable to deal with border challenges. A similar mechanism could be also thought when dealing with threats of internal security. Finally, Dr. Wolff poured some water into the wine of a very optimistic scenario for 2018. He felt that the migration challenge would stay for European politics for at least 20 years. For instance, the idea of resolving migration crisis by encouraging and supporting the development of African continent might not be the best option as, firstly, there is no common understanding of how Africa should be developed and, secondly, increased welfare of the African population could possibly contribute to even greater levels of migration. Nevertheless, migration is the most decisive issue in European politics at the moment and the EU must come up with a concrete solution as soon as possible. Moreover, the Eurozone architecture needed reform and the unpopular banking Union should be completed, i.e.. - the transfer of responsibility for banking policy from the national to the EU level in several countries of the European Union, initiated in 2012 as a response to the Eurozone Crisis and the creation of a common insurance system for banking deposits.

In the discussion, the participants further elaborated on the “WHAT”, “WHO” and “HOW” of new reforms in 2018.

 Speakers agreed on the topics already identified (external and internal security, Eurozone. The idea of creating the EU Fund for Innovation was perceived sceptically since the backlog from the leaders in the field of innovation is too large and substantial financial investments into break-through technologies may not be justified. In regards to new technologies and innovation, another prospective proposal of the French President was outlined, namely the creation of an agency for break-through technologies. Examples of China and the USA show that the EU lags behind and needs to catch up with such developments.

With respect to the inclusiveness of future steps, Prof. Calliess mentioned the idea of ‘pioneer groups’ which could go ahead with a specific field and get EU budget for that. A Member which would later not share the more ambitious goals, could also drop out. Leinen felt that this concept would not work and is not needed. He pointed to the fact that PESCO was originally thought to only attract 15 members, but ended up with 25, as nobody wanted to be left behind. For Aglade, flexible integration is already a reality with different members of the Eurozone and Schengen. It would hence be normal to identify relevant groups that can share the same priorities.

As regards the method, Leinen felt that a new Convention would come after the election 2019. Calliess opined parties should outline their priorities to citizens, and then such priorities should be realized after elections without treaty change. Speakers agreed on the need to switch onto the new ways of thinking, the use of new approaches by learning from previous experience. Citizens of the European Union should become a central priority and communication, both direct and indirect, should increase so that people become more aware of important developments, achievements and successes of the EU and get a feeling of involvement and participation. Furthermore, solidarity between Member States should increase as well as the objectives of the EU should correspond more to its competences so that the existing gap between promises and delivery became smaller.

In the subsequent Q/A session speakers deepened many points, but one important issue was left open: asked whether en March would associate itself with a particular political group in the EP, Mr. Aglade thought that time was not yet ripe to answer to this challenge.

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