Introduction

“States were sovereign and powerful, but, as the river commissions showed, they could sometimes sacrifice some of their sovereign prerogatives in order to facilitate the management of common problems.” (Klabbers, 2013 p.16)

The European Union could be one of the best examples of such partnership in which states have pooled their sovereignty, in particular policy domains in order to respond global issues cooperatively. Each European country has a limited power while the European Union,as a sum of all these powers, has a greater capacity to ensure the security, peace, and prosperity.

After years of troubled past, with the creation of the European Union, the peace of seven decades started. The EU provides a platform for Europeans to travel, work, and study across the borders without visa and currency problems, ensuring the single market and currency, which facilitates the development of tradebetween countries. Furthermore, the EU has become themain driver to replace “the rule of iron” with “the rule of law”; now diplomacy is the main tool in conflict management for its member states. 

In our fast-changing world, the emerging new threats bring questions about the future role and capability of the European Union; it has to adjust itself to the conditions of today.  There is no consensus on how the EU might evolve by 2025. Some believe that the Union’s future position seems promising because it is the main driver of peace, security, and harmony in Europe, while others suggest its role may diminish in the upcoming decades, and states might enjoy greater sovereignty. In the “White Paper on the Future of Europe”, five possible scenarios regarding the future and possible profound transformations of the EU have been introduced. Our paper aims to evaluate and discuss the likelihood of these scenarios.

 

Scenario 1: Carrying on

According to the first scenario, the EU will carry on its current role and will upgrade and reform its agenda to be more flexible in adjusting to the changing world. The 27 member-states will act collectively to strengthen the role of thesingle market and promote trade agreements, and improve the functioning of theeuro area. The EU might pursue cooperative decision-making policies in the foreign affairs and border management issues.  This scenario may seem plausible since it will ensure the continuity of the facilities the member states currently benefit from. 

Reflections and scenarios for the EU by 2025However, Scenario 1 is likely to happen only in case the EU countries solve the particular problems now existing between themselves in order to ensure the progress and continuity of common Europe. Some argue that European leaders do not have a common strategic vision of the EU; the lack of trust and solidarity may threaten its future status. There are certain issues such as economic crises, migration and refugee influx, common foreign and security policy problems that recently challenge the integrity of the EU.

For example, from the very beginning, the UK has been skeptical about the prospects of the eurozone and the Schengen free movement area, and it preferred to stay “outside”.  Today, the British exit from the EU is the crucial subject matter on the European political agenda. The UK government believes leaving the European Union would enable it to pursue its own policies and avoid migration, while still having access to the single market. This example leads us to thesecond scenario that the EU may evolve in a way that it would give more sovereignty to the states and put more focus only on single market issues.

 

Scenario 2: Nothing but the single market

According to the second scenario, the EU will not be able to sustain cooperative decision making in main policy domains and Eurozone, and priority will be to maintain and promote the functioning of the single market. The union might fail to have a common position on global issues such as migration, crisis management, humanitarian and development aid and climate change. Due to inadequate cooperation on security and border management issues, there will be limitations in the Schengen area and systematic checks at the borders. This scenario seems realistic in terms of the limitations in common policy-making and Eurozone but not in Schengen area.

I. Cooperative Policy Making

EU has a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which provides a platform for the European countries to discuss their security, political and economic issues at one table and to adopt common policies. To have such a mechanism of political integration is essential for the member states to pursue strategic policies and conduct their foreign affairs in a coordinated fashion. However, the CFSP decision-making process takes too long since reaching a consensus is hard to manage. The U.S. war in Iraq in 2003, for example, was a great sign of discord between the European countries, which left them unable to come to one common stance on this issue. Since each country has its own approaches, cultures, historical practices, relationships, and state interests, collective decision-making in foreign policy realm is a great challenge.

II. Troubles in Eurozone

There are arguments that the unity of the EU-27 might face severe challenges in next decades because of the on-going crises and economic troubles. Although the common currency was created to lead to further prosperity in Europe, storm clouds have been long lingering over the economic situation in the eurozone. The challenge emerges from the difference in the economic growth between different countries. For example, Germany has a strong and prosperous economy, able to sustain a very strong currency, while in the weak and fragile economies such as those of Greece, Portugal and Cyprus, with their debt load and profound economic problems, it is quite costly to continue the use of the euro. The EU countries continuously support and provide “bail-out” loans to these countries in order to avoid default, but it yields domestic problems in the supporting states. In Germany, for example, there is a big debate that “German taxpayers are paying for the Greek pensions” because Germany has provided too much “bailed-out” aids to Greece. Hence, the Eurozone crises force the EU countries to reconsider the integrity of the Eurozone and reinforce fiscal discipline. Whether the member states will remain strongly committed to the euro or not, is debatable. 

III. Limitations in the Schengen Area

Nevertheless, the drawback of this scenario has to do with its prediction about the limitation in the Schengen area. In my opinion, the EU member-states have already passed this route to trust each other for the free movement in the Schengen area; deterioration in this sense does not appear too much realistic.

 

Scenario 3: Those who want more do more

In this scenario, the group of member states acts like “coalitions of the willing” to cooperate closer on certain specific dimensions such as defense, security or social issues. Other member states may join these coalitions over time if they are interested. This scenario predicts the continuation of EU27 while including the close cooperation of acertain group of states who are willing. Indeed, the predictions of this scenario are similar to the first scenario - Carrying on - in terms of strengthening the single market, improving the functioning of Eurozone, further prosperity in migration, security, and foreign policy realm. The only unique suggestion of this scenario is that it presupposes a close cooperation between some but not necessarily all the member states, which seems reasonable. 

 

Scenario 4: Doing less more efficiently

By shrinking its focus area, the EU might become more efficient in a certain selected number of areas. If the member states agree on priority areas, they might act more quickly and decisively. 

In this scenario, Brussels will focus more on a single market, trade, innovation, migration, and security, and will limit itself to regional development issues. Although this suggestion might assist EU to be more successful in chosen areas and close the gap between promises and delivery, there is a pitfall in this agreement; it is very hard for different states to come to a consensus about their priorities. Different states may have different priorities and a different strategic vision of the current issues; they might disagree on the areas in which Brussels should be more active and how the budgets should be redesigned to fit new priorities.

 

Scenario 5: Doing much more together

By the time the European Union countries may enhance their relationship in all policy domains in order to be more productive and efficient; decisions will be made and implied faster. The trade agreement will be advanced, the Eurozone will be strengthened, and the security and defense issues will be managed cooperatively. There is a systematic and harmonized collaboration on the matters like border management, asylum policies, and counter-terrorism. Economic expansion is forthcoming due to increased partnerships and investment. This scenario would be amost desirable picture of the future since it would bring progress and security to all the member-states; they can benefit if they manage to enhance their main areas of cooperation. The current emerging security threats such as illegal migration, transnational terrorism, cyber-attacks can be best neutralized through close cooperation of the EU states. As Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy emphasizes: “We can only stand up to today’s challenges if we stand together.”

Although close cooperation is necessary to tackle global issues and ensure progress, it is very hard to estimate the level of future cooperation in the EU in the conditions of emerging threats and decreasing trust. As mentioned in the beginning, the EU needs to solve its internal problems in order to prosper further.

 

Conclusion

In my view, the vision of the European future will not be exhausted any of these scenarios but will carry the certain aspects of each scenario.  As suggested in the scenario 1, EU will continue to deliver its positive reform agenda in many policy domains. As in scenario 3 and scenario 4, “certain” EU countries might have closer cooperation in “certain” dimensions; however, they need to reach a consensus on what their priority areas constitute. Scenario 2 reasonably emphasizes the future challenges of cooperative decision-making and the problems of Eurozone. However, this scenario limits the primary focus area of the EU to the single marketonly. By now, the member states have comprehended the great benefits of cooperative working in certain particular areas, such as, for example, the Schengen area. The future limitation in Schengen is not in the interest of the members since they all benefit from it. Scenario 5 draws a positive and ideal image of the future European Union; however, the possibility of this scenario is rather low given the conditions of the quickly changing economic, political, and security environment in Europe.

 

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