Writing on the Chatham House website, Hans Kundnani has argued that there are three very different and powerful leaders of European countries, with a vast array of views on the future direction the bloc.
Kundnani pointed to the two biggest issues that are dominating the debate amongst European leaders, being immigration and the euro. He accurately pointed to the geographical and ideological coalitions that are forming as a result of the political turmoil that has taken place over the past ten years:
“Whereas Greece and Italy opposed Germany in the euro crisis, they now find themselves on the same side of the argument about migration – even as ‘populist’ parties have come to power in Greece and Italy.”
This crisis and division has meant that there are now three competing visions for the EU’s future and they are being dictated by three very different leaders.
Angela Merkel for example, favours the idea of a ‘competitive’ Europe, where the EU becomes a vehicle for imposing market discipline on member states. Such a vision imposes places austerity on debtor countries in the EU and follows a neoliberal path but also requires further integration and reinforces the dominance of the current major powers.
This is in addition to French President Emmanuel Macron’s view of ‘Europe qui protège’, a Europe that protects. This would mean in practice that there would be greater redistribution and risk-sharing in the eurozone. This is the ‘transfer union’ that Germany and other creditor countries fear.
But both these views differ to the third view of Viktor Orbán, who wants to see a ‘Christian’ view of Europe. This view has formed in response to Germany’s attempt to force all member states to accept mandatory quotas of refugees in 2015. His view is now shared across the government in Poland and other far-right parties across Europe.
Such differing perspectives on the future of the continent have led to a struggle between liberalism and illiberalism. Kundnani says that:
“The danger is that the contradictions between the three visions will make the EU increasingly dysfunctional – exacerbating the backlash against it.”
The conclusion by Kundnani and Chatham House, which backed ‘Remain’ in the EU referendum, is that these visions of the future are completely incompatible. The real risk for the future is that if all three parties continue vehemently towards their vision, a clash will only end in the increased Euroscepticism. The EU, now faces a serious dilemma where “what it would take to reduce Euroscepticism in the south of Europe would increase it in the north – and vice versa. Similarly, what it would take to reduce Euroscepticism in the east of Europe would increase it in the west – and vice versa.”