Foreign Policy Blogs

The EU under siege

European Union, 2013

European Union, 2013

The threats to the EU come from inside and outside: outside, as proven by the instabilities in Northern Africa and the Sahel; and inside, with the latest speech by British Prime Minister Cameron fitting within the euroskeptic narratives. The French intervention in Mali should concern all EU Member States and make them realize that the threats of terrorism causing political and economic instabilities in neighboring regions endanger the stability of the Union for several reasons: increase of mass illegal immigration, which Southern EU Member States like Greece and Italy, have been unable to contain and protect the European borders; and increase of regional instabilities causing a regional power vacuum and safe heavens to international criminal and terrorist groups. The lack of willingness demonstrated by the EU Member States to launch a credible Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) mission in Mali is worrisome, but not surprising. The design of the CSDP mission in Mali, EUTM Mali, will solely focus on the training the Malian army, under a civilian authority, and will not include any fighting and/or direct assistance to the French army. The gap between the ideas/expectations behind the creation of the CSDP during the Saint Malo declaration in 1998 and what it has become 15 years later has certainly widened and undermined the credibility of the EU as a global security actor. The lack of capabilities – which should have been dealt with with the creation of the EDA and the development of the approach of pooling and sharing – added to limited political willingness of European heads of states and governments have contributed to the decline of the CSDP. The CSDP was designed for missions like the ones in Libya in 2011 and in Mali in 2013.

Inside, the threat to the EU is real and comes from the powerful euroskeptic narratives. The speech given by British PM on January 23, 2013 should be perceived as a real

Matt Dunham/AP

Matt Dunham/AP

threat to the unity of the Union and the narrative created by the European founding fathers. What has been lacking in the analyses and comments in the press following the speech is the assumption made by Cameron that Europe will be stable and peaceful forever. Without being defeatist, any historians can argue that 60 years of peace on a continent devastated by wars, famines, and violence for several millenniums do not validate Cameron’s assumption. PM Cameron figures as a new type of European leader, spoiled by stability, peace, growth and relative cohesion, whom do not fully grasp the realities of European history and human nature.

The use of institutions was axiomatic in the fostering of cooperation and ultimately leading to complex interdependence. European institutions, especially the supranational ones, do matter in fostering cohesion and cooperation. PM Cameron is correct in his speech when calling for further transparency and increasing the efficiencies of the institutions; but they should be reformed in favor of more Europe rather than less. One way to deepen the integration process will be to increase democratic representation at the European level, such as the empowering of the European Parliament. However, PM Cameron’s plan of ‘cherry picking’ is ill-advised. How can Cameron believe that pro-EU countries will allow the inclusion of an exceptional clause, ‘Britain-only,’ without disrupting the unity of the Union? When reading his speech, one cannot stop wondering: Has Britain lost that much of its sovereignty since joining the Union in 1973? His call for an in/out referendum scheduled for 2017 is showing the limits of British compromise. Below is a selected segment of his speech:

With courage and conviction I believe we can achieve a new settlement in which Britain can be comfortable and all our countries can thrive.

And when the referendum comes let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul.

Because I believe something very deeply. That Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it.

As explained in his speech, Cameron sees the future of the EU built around five principles:

  • competitiveness, “At the core of the European Union must be, as it is now, the single market. Britain is at the heart of that Single Market, and must remain so.
  • flexibility, “we need a structure that can accommodate the diversity of its members – North, South, East, West, large, small, old and new. Some of whom are contemplating much closer economic and political integration. And many others, including Britain, who would never embrace that goal”
  • power back to the Member States
  • democratic accountability, “we need to have a bigger and more significant role for national parliaments”
  • fairness, whatever new arrangements are enacted for the Eurozone, they must work fairly for those inside it and out.”

In fact Cameron just wants to transform the EU into a simple common market without any types of commitments and responsibilities for its members. The reactions throughout Europe, especially in Paris and Berlin, have not been positives as one could imagine.

Ultimately Cameron’s message was: What can the EU do for Britain? When it should in fact be: What could Britain do for the EU? I would certainly argue that PM Cameron is one of the most dangerous European leaders not because of its conservative policies, but by letting his ideologies and party lines shaping his European strategy and by misunderstanding European history.

Time Cover -  Aug. 17, 1992

Time Cover – Aug. 17, 1992

The wars of the 1990s in the Balkans and the continuous violence in this region of Europe should be a simple and powerful reminder that war is never far away. Unfortunately a majority of European citizens tend to take for granted the luxury of peace; here lays the threat to the Union. This speech should be seen as an important wake-up call in order to address the shortfalls of the EU and strive towards a deeper union.



Maxime H.A. Larivé

Maxime Larivé holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and European Politics from the University of Miami (USA). He is currently working at the EU Center of Excellence at the University of Miami as a Research Associate. His research focus on the questions of the European Union, foreign policy analysis, security studies, and European security and defense policy. Maxime has published several articles in the Journal of European Security, Perceptions, and European Union Miami Analysis as well as World Politics Review.