While putting the finishing touches to this edition of the Green European Journal, news reaches us that a majority of voters in the UK have opted for their country to leave the European Union. If there was already a sense that the European project is in danger of stalling or even unravelling, this latest development only compounds those fears. We certainly need a profound reflection on this seismic outcome. But what underlies the apparent malaise the EU is experiencing?
The architecture of the European Union institutions is flawed. Its leaders seem to deny the ineffectiveness of the response given to the financial and economic crisis as we see inequality and extremism on the rise. The European Union will be unprepared for the next crisis unless it profoundly reforms its governance and enhances democracy.
Much of the coverage of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union has focused on the political and economic fallout of the vote, but what is the emotional impact of Brexit likely to be on those living in the UK? Drawing on the breakup of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia illustrates how the emotions of individuals on both sides of the debate might develop over the coming years.
The European Union is far from perfect - from a Green perspective - yet at times when it is threatened, we must rally to its defence as an idea and as a project. This is because it offers the most promising path to making fundamental Green values – sustainability, solidarity, solidity – a reality for European citizens.
Both pro-Kremlin and independent media in Russia tend to oversimplify and ‘tabloidise’ news about the European Union, painting it as weak, excessively tolerant and eager to forsake Christian values. Politicians and media outlets inside the European Union help spread fabricated stories among their constituencies. This circulation of misinformation can have far-reaching implications, and can influence not only the European Union’s relations with Russia and its neighbours, but also its own internal process of integration.
Can democracy be the project that leads to further European integration? Social scientist Donatella Della Porta provides a diagnosis of the current state of European democracy, and tells us whether today’s pro-democracy movements have the potential to become the driving forces of a more united Europe.
In a rational world, security threats might boost European integration, given their cross-border nature. Today’s Europe, however, is different. In a pattern mirroring the economic crisis, instead of supporting a collaborative European solution, many of the Member States’ governments opt for more expensive, complicated and nationalist responses to the threats they face. A discussion with Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, and Michal Berg, Deputy Chairman of the Czech Green Party.
The serious challenges confronting the European Union have placed the future course of its integration in doubt. Against this backdrop, young people have a central role to play. This is not only because they are largely bearing the brunt of the crises, but also because they are deeply involved in processes that, in different places, and to the surprise of those directing the European project, are defining our society. This role will only become more defining in the future, which ought to make European leaders consider the fate of young people much more carefully.
Victory seems to be in sight for the movement against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It appears to be a fairy-tale ending: a pan-European mobilisation succeeding in overcoming yet another attack by the neoliberal establishment, in the interest of the European, and indeed also the American, working people. But there is also another version of this story being told, which can’t be ignored, claiming a victory for nation states against Europe, and thus giving further momentum to the already thriving nationalist tide on the continent.
To what extent are the values we ascribe to Europe today rooted in religion? To refer to such roots bears the risk of alienating certain groups and minorities, but also of turning a blind eye to the multitude of different religious influences that have shaped these values over time. Yet at the same time, discourses of secularism have increasingly hardened and come to bear an exclusionary and colonial connotation in the minds of many Europeans. In light of this, a more inclusive vision needs to be put forward, one that enhances understanding by challenging the prevailing monolithic visions of religious communities to reflect their internal diversity.
Fifteen years ago, almost every European citizen would talk positively about the European project, seen as the sum of three promises: shared prosperity, fundamental rights and sustainable democracies. But we knew that if one unravels, the others would follow: after the Eurozone crisis, a social crisis and a fundamental rights crisis are forming. The imbalance and lack of solidarity between Member States is such that the project is running out of political energy, bringing adverse consequences for us all.
The project of developing a more integrated European Union faces an important obstacle in the form of the ‘mainstreaming’ of populist Euroscepticism. This can be seen in the rise of anti-system and populist parties, but also in the increase in anti-EU discourses among the centre-left and centre-right. In order to regain momentum, a vision of European integration infused with bold notions of European sovereignty should be put forward.
Today, the debate surrounding the Eurozone focuses essentially on two questions: whether it would be preferable or even unavoidable to break up the euro area, at least in its current form, and whether it would be possible to fulfill the necessary political and economic conditions for a more resilient, prosperous and integrated EMU. But where do the Greens stand on this issue, and does political ecology have the ‘narrative capacity’ to deliver an empowering vision of the EU’s economic future?
There is a kind of nationalism in Europe that is not only progressive, but has the potential to reinforce European integration. The so-called sub-state nationalists are not building on a vision of nation statehood, but on direct representation in the European Union, focusing on the decision-making at the lowest level and protection of the territory. These democratic and environmental concerns mean that there is much potential for political convergence between regionalists and Greens in terms of the solutions they advocate.
Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, who specialises in studying primate brains, once determined that the amount of human individuals in a functional social group cannot exceed 150. This limit, he argued, is a direct function of relative neocortex size. In other words, we don’t have the physical capacity to maintain a meaningful connection with a larger number of people because there is a shortage of drawers in our brain, where we can store all the necessary gossip. I wonder if this rule applies to political alliances. Is there an optimal amount of countries, after which an organisation becomes dysfunctional?
In order for the Left to re-articulate growing anti-establishment sentiment in Europe towards emancipatory politics, it must put the future of capitalism squarely on the able and explicitly address the contradiction between further economic integration and the future of democracy in Europe. A first step to achieving this involves reframing the terms of our analysis so that we can fully grasp the scope of the expressions of discontent that we are witnessing.