(this is a draft post, open to comments , eg to Fondateur@EurActiv.com on Monday 16 November, before I update it and promote it more. I am especially interested in your views about the impact fof Paris attacks or COP2 1, and for Schengen. Thanks, @LeclercqEU)
Terrorism will not go away, what are the implications for the EU of this sad truth? We face a long ‘simmering war’, not analogous to ‘hot wars’ WWI and WWII, more akin to the cold war, requiring strong nerves and smart actions over time. Confrontation for decades with an ideology turned evil by extremes: we have been there before. Shall it again encourage Europe’s defense and integration? I hope so.
The European Union entails several overdue changes, they could now be enacted faster, preserving essential values. As demanded by events and public opinions, in certain areas, less Europe would ensue – away from the old ‘EU ratchet’. There would be more Europe elsewhere. All while ‘not throwing the baby with the bath water’, unlike some media and politicians questioning the EU’s existence. Changes range from logical shifts in foreign policy, to geopolitical openings, and then more difficult soul searching on core EU policies.
The ‘quicker’ decisions: climate deal, security cooperation, Syria focus
1. Climate: The Paris attacks trigger much appreciated solidarity. Security threats preclude the same mass landing of foreign VIPs on Paris as under ‘Je suis Charlie’. The opening ceremonies of COP21 in two weeks will stand in its place, providing timely momentum for a UN Climate deal. Of course, there will be the usual psychodramas: the ups and downs of any negotiations. But which head of government would snub the final French-led compromise, and be ashamed in Paris?
2. Internal security: France’s état d’urgence is exceptional, and should be supplemented by radicalisation prevention, more difficult. It be relayed by national and European security measures, not quite as strong. On the EU internal front, police and judicial cooperation will be strengthened, with focused encroachments to essential freedoms, keeping our state of law. This requires few new laws, and chiefly more resources and training, ushering a new mindset among judges, police and intelligence officers across borders.
3. Military cooperation. Whether NATO’s article 5 is triggered by France or not, in any case, calls for joint actions will increase. NATO’s limitations – notably veto rights worse than the EU’s own – will come to the fore, giving new impetus to embryonic European armies, not involving all EU countries.
4. Syria: Regarding the current islamist hot spot, emphasis will shift from removing Assad to removing Daech. Russia advocates it: should Putin really be a put off? More coordinated bombing is likely, and started. But let’s not make the same mistake as Americans, who invaded Iraq after they missed Ben Laden in Afghanistan. Or the same error as France and the UK in Libya. Terrorism will continue, requiring more than Western bombings: intense international cooperation.
Geopolitical opportunities with Russia and Turkey, more tentative
5. Russia rapprochement. Europe cannot fight two cold wars at the same time, especially as it is not united against Russia. That country too needs peace, growth, and friends. Building on a progressively parallel approach to islamist terrorism, Putin may seize the chance to get out of the Dombass cul-de-sac. He could settle with Ukraine, trading a Soviet dream for foreign acceptance of Crimea’s annexion, plus cooperation on anti-terrorism and business investments.
6. Turkey rapprochement. Tackling terrorism moved up on the agenda of the recent G20 Summit. Whether the Erdogan regime is perfect or not, it is backed by elections, a must for any ‘alliance of civilisations’, and for NATO decisions. The lifting of EU visa requirements for Turks is well overdue, does not amount to work permits, and comes with better refugee management: a good deal too.
More challenging topics: Schengen, Migrations, Britain, TTIP
7. Schengen scale back. Schengen, put in place in 1995 after the ‘internal market’ of 1992, was never an all-EU policy, nor a really major progress for citizens. It is a strong symbol: lifting border controls rendered obsolete. But that aspect is questioned anyway since the refugee crisis. Going back to the early 90’s situation would not be a tragedy: we had free travel of citizens, and free movement of workers, albeit showing ID’s briefly at customs. Other facets of Schengen, like police privileges and data exchange, should be boosted. For the moment, Schengen is (wrongly but consistently) seen by national public opinions as an excessive opening to the world’s problems. It associates the EU with fear, instead of conveying a protective Community. ‘Paris vaut bien une messe’, said Henri IV as he changed religion to bring concord: Europe’s integration and peace is well worth border controls. Even light internal ones, as citizens keep their rights to move.
8. Migration policy. Common evaluation is required since migrants have rights in all EU countries, but this did not progress enough since the Tampere Summit in 1999. Increasingly, principle-based welcoming of refugees will be combined with strict assessments based on economic needs and cultural ‘integrability’, like in Canada or Australia. The Schengen point above will help re-assure, but not entirely prevent xenophobic debates: this speaks for decisive actions, not waiting for the extreme rights to capitalise on terrorism
9. Winning the UK referendum. Most of the Prime Minister’s demands can be papered over and presented as a win-win. The tough ones are social rights for EU migrants, and migration policy. The Schengen reform above could help (and let’s dream for a second: scaling back Schengen could even make it palatable for the Brits, making it an all EU ‘communautaire’ matter?). Europeans feel closer when attacked, Britain chiefly, and it could even lead. Otherwise, some continental countries like France and Germany will push ahead with a ‘core Europe’, smaller than the Euro-zone, and again leave the UK with little say.
10. Transatlantic trade. It remains to be seen whether Western solidarity will sustain long enough to agree after long negotiations like data exchange and TTIP. On the former: we will not have a ‘Transatlantic Patriot’s act’; but given horrific attacks, the need for Western spying may balance privacy concerns. On the latter: trade is win-win too, regulatory cooperation is a must; but the US needs to win hearts and understand EU concerns, eg with non-public jurisdictions. Let’s progress, without putting all our eggs in that slow moving basket.
Some ‘EU-correct’ readers may be dismayed by a few renouncements I dare offer above, for example on Schengen. If we need to sacrifice an ill toe or two, to save the whole body, let’s do it, as a healthy surgery.
Other readers would be encouraged by such reforms. What I – and other commentators – suggest is actually hopeful, all around the idea of a ‘protective and efficient Union of States’. Combined with other elements like Eurozone reform, innovation and youth education, could this even be developped as a new narrative for Europe? It is up to us to seize the moment.