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.

  • Matrixx

  • Matrixx


  • Julie Nadig

    The French invasion of Mali is definitley contributing to the crisis of the Eurpoean Union. Since one of the causes is illegal immigration, more people are going to be looking for jobs that don’t exist because unemployment is so high in most countries. Also, Cameron’s solution of transforming the EU into a simple common market without any types of commitments and responsibilities would help a lot, at least for the time being. Doing this would also prevent a war because it would take some pressure off of some of the countries in the EU. Once things become stable again, the EU can focus on the commitments and responsibilities of the members.

  • I Uhl

    As Larive says, the UK seems to be focused on the importance of their people above the interests of all the group. Obviously the UK wants to remain separated from the rest of the EU and keep their sovereignty, but the purpose of economic integration, while meaning that some nations may have to suffer because of nations that have debt problems such as Greece and Ireland, is to create ties and these ties could mean a better overall economic system for all states, put an emphasis on the better meant of the whole group, not just individual nations. These economic ties help countries to avoid confrontation in the form of warfare in the future, and the UK’s realist take seems to undermine this idea.
    This need for a cohesive group also becomes apparent in dealing with issues of terrorism in the Middle East. These issues should be dealt with considering all the nations of the EU because they are all affected by the ramifications of these events. This is yet another reason for the EU to consider tying the individual political systems of different countries because of their dependence upon one another.

  • Christine

    I agree with what the author is saying about Cameron letting his ideologies and party lines shape his European strategies. From the article it seems like Cameron believes that the United Kingdom has the ability and the anwers to help the EU. I think all the countries should contribute ideas and possibilities to fixing the problem. The EU is supposed to be one unified group, and from the article is seems like Cameron sees the EU as a unified group and Britain. In regards to the problems in Mali, I think that illegal immigration will cause a lot of damage to the European countries. With more immigrants this will increase the unemployment rate. Overall, the EU has many problems that they will have to face soon.

  • Daniel Biel

    I just don’t see the integration of Europe lasting for long. They have already picked a scapegoat, Greece to blame all their problems on and we already see such anger towards them. In Germany you see protesters raging about Greece and the other countries and as the anger grows they won’t be able to keep the EU integrated. I think that the U.K knows that, but the U.S does not want to lose trade benefits it has the the EU. Maybe the U.K can help the EU, but what if the exact opposite happens and it only gets worse. You now sucked another strong economy into the crisis and I don’t think the U.k is just going to go along with that

  • Chris Franczyk

    the future of the UKs involvement in the European Union is going to be interesting to watch. somewhere there are going to have to be changes in order for the relationship to continue. Hopefully the UK will stay in the EU or at least withdraw in controlled matter. if the EU does fall apart then the implications for the world economy would be pretty devastating. it is going to be an interesting year in the EU where a lot of important decisions are going to have to be made.

  • Emma

    I agree that the real question that Britain should be asking is what could they do for the EU. Britain is operating in a very realist manner and while they should want to benefit their people, benefitting the whole European Union would be a lot better. There is so much diversity within the European Union and a lot of them have the desire to become more unifies- more European. I think that there is a strong need, as they mentioned, for something like a European Parliament. Maybe something similar to the United Nations, but just within Europe. Or something like what the United States of America have. I think that if there was something like the United States of Europe would be very successful. There can still be parliaments for each country, but they all operate under the same Parliament. That would solve a lot of the problems caused by being half divided and half unified. If Britain does not want to be a part of that integration then they need to stick to their own business- they should not be one of the few countries stopping this much needed unification. The global economy is at stake- Britain would be affected just as much as everyone else if the Eurozone were to fail. Isn’t maintaining the global economy much more important than benefitting your own country in a selfish way?

  • Joe Hagerty

    The EU must have a global security force if they want to become a legitimate power in the west. Economically they are obviously very strong but unless the CSDP becomes a full global security force they are not quite as strong of a global influence. Ad far as Prime Minister Cameron’s view on the EU i believe he has a somewhat selfish view and solely looks for the better of the U.K when handling EU affairs. This is not to say that this is the wrong way of running his foreign affairs but the idea of the EU is a very liberalist idea and the way he is handling foreign affairs appears to be very realist and therefore conflicting. In order to maintain a strong EU the U.K essentially needs to decide whether they are in, which the U.S hopes, or out. Also, they need to create a legitimate fighting force to become a global power.

  • Dmitriy Kalin

    I agree that Britain will be able to make the EU more powerful leading it. However, it will prove difficult dealing with discrepancies between the British and other Europeans, since the Brits were unaffected by the Euro disaster while most European countries were affected. The toughest challenge will probably be to somehow reduce unemployment. We’ve seen Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal with close to 25% unemployment. Creating all those jobs is going to require a lot of spending, money that most European countries don’t have anymore. I don’t believe Britain will pay for those jobs either, since there is no way PM Cameron will be able to convince the Britons to give up some of their taxes to other countries.

  • Craig Heilwagen

    It is not bad to look out for the good of your own country, but the way that Cameron seems to be making his decision of whether he is going to stay involved within the EU is kind of selfish. Hopefully the US can persuade the UK to stay within the EU because the economic consequences of the EU collapsing would be devastating.

  • Melissa

    In regards to Cameron’s desire to, ‘…just wants to transform the EU into a simple common market without any types of commitments and responsibilities for its members’ I believe this to be not only an unrealistic approach, but also ignorant. Obviously the stability of the EU’s is a much more complex issue at hand requiring more than just a “simple” solution. With the potential of an EU split resulting in global repercussions, it is time for Cameron to focus on the grander picture, rather than just his people. After all, his decisions will ultimately spill into the US, as Chris mentioned, economically.

  • Janna

    “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.” Interesting. The combination of idealism and ignorance can cause a significant amount of damage. Hopefully, his PM Cameron’s potential for destruction will not become a reality.

  • politipond

    Thanks you for your comments. I am very surprise to see that we are -more or less – all sharing a common perception on Britain’s foreign policy. I was certainly expecting some heat.

    As I argued I strongly believe that Cameron has an erroneous, even nostalgic, understanding of British power – economic and military-. However, his decision to go on with a referendum is far away and a lot can happen between now and 2017. The US will have to play an increasing role in convincing the Tories. However, how can the US have any credibility in advising other powers when it is facing the same political and domestic gridlock at home? This will be a serious limit to US influence in the near future. On the other hand, France, Germany and the other EU MS will have to maintain their commitments to the EU and the euro. A reform of the EU – either banking or fiscal union for now – may very well end once and for all British unease with the current crisis.

    Cameron raised a good point, a EU at 2 speeds will not work in the long-run. A reunited EU will be central in order to convince Britain and to remain relevant in the 21st century.

  • Maddy Claire

    The biggest problem here is how Britain views itself in relation to the European Union, it just isn’t feasible to try and create a plan solely based on their individual gain. The EU is their to connect the economy into one larger, seemingly infallible economy, and it isn’t right that one country can go in and try to work it so they get the benefits without a commitment. The EU needs to centralize a European Parliament and start working from there. It’s not just the economy of Europe or the UK, it’s about the world economy, and the threat of failing. Its time to start seeing the bigger picture, and with the UK acting so selfishly, it leaves only room for more selfishness and failure to grow. Although joining together would be a challenge to overcome, it is an ideal to start working towards rather than that of a realist manner, so in effect to start strengthening the global economy and preventing future crises.

  • kpc

    It sounds to me that Cameron is basically saying he wants a lot more out of the EU for Britain and barely plans on contributing anything. I feel like this can be seen when he talks about the single market and says Britain needs to remain at the heart of the single market

  • Konstantine

    I agree with Cameron in that Britain and other countries should be asking: What can the EU do for each country. While the EU was created with great ideas in mind that could potentially move the global economy forward, the fiscal and monetary policies set for by the ECB have only benefited the most powerful economies in the EU because only those countries who have many exports have been able to meet those requirements and prosper while the rest of the countries have been left behind. As inside and outside factors continue to affect the stability of the EU, I believe that each and every country should ask themselves: Which option is in our own best interest- is staying in the EU or withdrawing from the EU and returning to your own currency the best option? I believe that if each country were to do so, they would make the appropriate decisions, which would revive their economies much faster than proponents for the EU state. Additionally, I believe that once these decisions had been made and some countries stayed in the Euro while other withdrew, the overall growth would be in the best interest of everyone because no one block of countries would be tied down due to the failures of other countries. Furthermore, these countries would still maintain their current free trade agreements and continue producing goods which would benefit not only their own country but also the other countries which they traded with. The EU was created years ago in hopes of preventing another World War 2 by linking every European nation economically. Today, many other measures have been taken to prevent escalations towards war and countries have become so integrated that their fiscal and monetary policies have begin to affect one another negatively. At this point, the membership of the EU needs to decline and countries need to rethink what’s in their best interest so that each and every country can prosper and no country can be overwhelmed and have so many internal problems due to the mounting debt accumulated through low interest loans.


Maxime H.A. Larivé
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.