The Quest For The Golden Fleece Of A Changing Union

Comment

It is only a matter of time until European becomes an obsolete denomination of the intergovernmental organisation, while its Union component will prevail. Or at least, European would be the least significant part of the name as compared to Union, which would gather a greater substance. ...

BEFORE WE GO

It is only a matter of time until European becomes an obsolete denomination of the intergovernmental organisation, while its Union component will prevail. Or at least, European would be the least significant part of the name as compared to Union, which would gather a greater substance. The Old Member States are already a fraction, significant nevertheless, of the decision-making bodies in the EU and some of their privileges are slipping away. It is their intelligence and superior administrative performance, combined with leadership experience that could keep them in the front line of the Union. The accession of the Western Balkan countries and of the Turkey opens new frontiers and is likely to reassess the balance between old and new MS, giving the entire world a different perspective to the Union’s democracy.

‘European identity and values’, matching an open and democratic society, governed by the rule of law, should soon be replaced by a more appropriate ‘Union identity and values’, since the geographic area would represent no longer the outer limits of its inhabitants, while it is their choice to set basis for and share common identity and values. Either way, identity and values always included Muslim’s ones. Since its creation, the EU was home for citizens of Muslim descent. Accordingly, one can accept that Europeanization is limited, in the sense that Europe itself is a limited geographical and cultural area, but unionism is not, since the world is a much greater and richer place.

To what extent is the European transformation generating security, preserving old or inducing new threats? The current crisis has transformed globalisation into an enduring social challenge. And there are sufficient reasons to consider social issues as powerful shaping forces, which Europe should not ignore.
I. “EU membership“ and legitimacy

The Golden Fleece represents the ideas of “EU membership“ (kingship, according to early interpretations of the myth) and legitimacy; hence the journey of associated and candidate countries (Jason, in mythology) to find it, in order to restore legitimate rule to their territories (Iolcos).
The EU enlargement demands, as a prerequisite, that candidate countries fulfil the Copenhagen criteria: political, legal, and economic ones. The accession process forces the institutions to improve, releasing significant capabilities. As the experience of the Baltic countries prove, development of administrative competences and promotion of good governance can be quite fast. Within a short period of time, between 2002 and 2004, the institutional development of the Baltic States changed spectacularly, placing them between EU-South and EU-Central countries . The question is how can the process be continued and, why not, the experience be transferred to other countries? Enhanced information and empowerment of the populations could open up the competition between governing bodies and generate positive emulations.

At the same time, how can we avoid previous mistakes? The double digit decline expected in the Baltic States is a brutal reality of their macroeconomic imbalances.
During its formative first decades, the European project was protected by the existence of the Iron Curtain, which relieved Europeans of the need to ask elementary questions about its goals and limits . The EC have started as a group of better off countries concerned with their future. Their substance grew with their number. And now they aim high, standing for the leading humanitarian aid donor in the world. EC were never too picky about candidate countries. Should they have stayed as a union of elites? Otherwise some of the Old Member States (Greece, Portugal or Spain, but not only) wouldn’t have joined them when they did.
Each enlargement brought up new issues and burdens. But has the EU’s economy suffered, due to enlargement? On the contrary, one would say. The businesses were very good in accession countries, especially for the Member States. The EU’s industries bought most of the national assets, excessively cheap one might add, flooded the markets and made billions in no time. Who could condemn the enlargement? The west got richer and the candidate countries gained recognition and access to development opportunities. And the euro hit record highs against the US dollar and the Japanese yen.

The successful previous enlargements encouraged the EU to credit most of the New Member States - notably the Baltic ones, Bulgaria and Romania. Yet, EU membership was never a bone of contention between the candidate countries. At the time of the decision of the fifth enlargement, political criteria would have made strong cases against Croatia and Serbia. The Western Balkans countries belong to the EU as well. It was the war that differentiated their accession. As far as Turkey is concerned, it has been stated, by the “unanimous decision“ of the 1999 Helsinki Council, that it should be treated like other accession countries, with negotiations ultimately resulting in accession or aiming at it. Eventually, the criteria would be fulfilled by all candidate countries.

Worries

On the one hand, Turkey can help EU to solve some of its problems. Turkey has played an important role in NATO and in the Middle East peace process. It can strengthen the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy by encouraging the “harmony of civilisations“, and the EU’s outreach to the East. The world must work towards cohabitation of Muslim and democratic countries, and Turkish membership will create an opportunity to show how a large Muslim country supports and practises democracy

Turkey is beginning to play a role on the world stage - it has been chosen by 151 countries (out of 191) to have one of the two non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. It has the potential to act in bilateral negotiations between Russia and Georgia, Israel and Syria and Pakistan and Afghanistan, and is one of the few countries that has volunteered to mediate between the US and Iran.

On the other hand, Turkey’s accession is troublesome. The Commission’s latest report Turkey in Europe: breaking the vicious circle states that when EU accession negotiations began, the reforms slowed down. This, according to the report, resulted from negative attitudes among some EU leaders and European public opinion towards Turkish accession. Most of the positive developments, including the internal reforms, which had transformed Turkish society, took place between 2000 and 2005, and were connected to the Turkish accession process. Turkey has recently adopted a national programme on the EU accession to boost the pro-EU reform drive in the country over the next four years.

As a conclusion, Turkey’s accession should be seen as a EU priority. The question is how high should we keep the barrier and for how long? It could become detrimental to both sides. Either way, national macro-economic imbalances, that could generate a chain of events at a much higher scale, should be avoided. As a general rule, the performance of the administrative and political systems – decisive in promoting progress, should be treated as a major priority, especially in the

NMS, accession and candidate countries.

II. The people - the Union’s gold

Another widespread interpretation of the Golden Fleece relates its origin to a method of washing gold. Judging by the very early gold objects from a range of cultures, washing for gold is a very old human activity. Nowadays, the people are the Union’s gold. And Turkey is a very rich country.
The primary purpose of the economy is to improve people’s quality of life. Europe’s fundamental social objective - citizens’ well-being – is at the core of the renewed social agenda. The “European ambition“ is to build better societies so citizens can lead fulfilling lives. While some EU Member States have the highest conditions of well-being in the world, most Europeans are pessimistic about their future quality of life, as they feel “besieged“ by phenomena like globalisation, ageing or unsustainable development, and few believe we are making any social progress.

The Commission challenges this view, as Europe has tremendous capacities to use new technologies to create new sustainable jobs and a healthy population. The aim of the Well-being 2030 Project is to relate policy-making to EU citizens, by understanding what matters to them. It is essential to reduce inequality between regions and social groups across the EU, taking into account all different types of disparities such as income poverty, unemployment, ill-health and the lack of social cohesion. It will be a large agenda, but its promotion is essential if we want to restore citizens’ confidence in their future .

One of Europe's greatest achievements is the increased life expectancy of its people. But the ageing (and shrinking) of Europe's population will require major policy adaptations to ensure continued growth, prosperity and financial sustainability. On current trends, the perspective for the Union is that fewer people in work will need to support more people in retirement . Less than twenty years from now about half of Europe’s population will be over 50 years old compared to only one in three today.

Previous EU treaties have constrained the European institutions from developing policies that gave more social support to Europe’s citizens, so hopefully, the Lisbon Treaty would open up the area of social policy. Still, in certain areas, such as consumer and environment protection, health, bio-technology, and workplace conditions, standards have been raised: there has been a regulatory ‘race to the top’ towards higher quality standards. This result rules out the risk of social dumping, brought in the discussions about the future of the European social model.

The crisis is not felt by all, especially by those with secure jobs. But there will be severe aftershocks and steeply rising unemployment. In terms of gender equality, despite considerable progress, significant gender gaps remained - it stands at over 30% in Greece and Italy, but only 5% in the Nordic countries. However if one looked at the number of hours worked, as so many women work part time in Germany and the Netherlands, the gender gap in terms of the volume of work is actually much higher in these countries. And the Muslim community, as soon as Turkey becomes a MS, would considerably increase the gap.

Worries

In the EU-15 more than two out of three Europeans believe that ethnic discrimination is widespread in their country. Thus, discrimination was a European problem long before the Roma minority of Slovakia or Romania entered the EU.

There are numerous EU citizens objecting to Turkish membership, even though their share has dropped from 65% to 50%. Could this disapproval be linked to discrimination, or it’s just a conjectural and temporary intolerance towards a different culture? What better way to deal with it, than embracing it, the European way? The world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, who feel isolated from the West, would highly appreciate such an action.

Turkey’s accession would be a breakthrough. Muslim and Asian cultures would gain weight and enrich European values, substantiating the inter-cultural dialogue.
Religion has still an important role to play in the modern society. Its position has to be reconsidered and Turkey’s accession offers one more reason. European political evolutions acknowledge the need and recognize religion as important foundation. Religion should embrace an increased responsibility in creating a favourable climate for tolerance, mutual assistance and social peace. It is served by strong institutions, with widespread organizations, which can be of service in organizing support and assisting people in need. Religious institutions, such as churches, mosques or synagogues, enjoy a high degree of confidence within the respective majority of the population. Therefore their message and action have an important weight and considerably influence the social behaviour. Could the Muslims and Christians, for instance, identify common values of their religions and build on them?

Increasing social problems in an enlarged EU find support in the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality, insufficiently employed, even though it has been firmly stated by the Art.12-6 of the EC Treaty. More clearly, the principle should have been applied to the contributory or the insurance elements of the policies. Components of explicit redistributive nature, such as a proposed minimum guaranteed package of services and material aid , could be coordinated by the EU. The

action should be directed towards:

• Strengthening effective social networks and

• Fostering the development of participatory social organizations and promoting human rights.
The social networks represent a basis for the development of sound community civic spirit and organizations. The existing obstacles have to be surpassed, following the positive EU practices. There is a strong need to revive social networks, including volunteerism and contributions of religious organisations, as primary foundation to overcome poverty and social exclusion.

The most commonly used motivation of volunteer work is expressed by solidarity, peace, tolerance, the right to be different etc... In relation with excluded people, the motivation “is no longer a case of saving them, but of jointly identifying the causes of their exclusion, securing their independence and seeking their inclusion.“

III. The way forward

The Lisbon strategy beyond 2010 must be part of the EU's exit strategy from the current crisis. Looking at possible scenarios for the years to come, researchers would see the crisis as either:

- a bump in the road, and back to business as usual or,

- a lost decade, resulting in defensive policies, or

- a reinvention of the EU, with a ‘smart growth’ agenda.

Political commitment, good governance and a general openness to change are required to combat European orthodoxies and meet the challenges of globalisation, climate change and technological progress, social and demographic change.

The EU’s current reformation does not suit its ambitions. The central and local political systems prove inefficient and need to be remodelled to generate performance leadership. The EU has been created to generate business opportunities and to foster development, improving its future prospects. And this is what EU does, leaning towards „an ever greater market“. Yet, peace and stability are compulsory. A compact and peaceful realm could direct undivided attention towards existential issues. That’s why geographical and political criteria are so important.

a) The political commitment is seen here as a strong will, sufficiently coagulated to effectively promote the best interests of the people. It is the result of the political system’s capacity and effectiveness to promote strong and dedicated leadership.

The European strategies and reforms need all to include a political component, both at EU and MS levels. Political construction aiming to improve the efficiency and reach the consensus of the main political, social and civic forces is imperative. The long term objectives are secured and political alternation to power maintains the society’s trends and predictability, increasing its stability and manageability.

The MS are confronted with a doubtful support of the people, due to limited awareness and understanding of the challenges. This impedes the progress of the social reform. A reasonable conclusion would be that contact and communication between politicians and population need to be improved. Consultation and information of the people have to be reconsidered and transformed from discrete into ongoing processes.

The countries’ reform projects are too often leaving behind the needed political construction. Unlike the EU-15, the young democracies do not have the experience to primarily promote the general interests and build a long-term future. The time horizon is usually limited to a mandate and only the international and supra-national organisations succeeded to broaden the perspective. So far, the European Union acted as a powerful magnet and national consensus reaching was easy to achieve. That’s how the countries’ main strategies have been adopted. After the accession, the NMS are eager to affirm their full membership capacity, no longer look up to the EU and seek independence. As consequence, the reforms are laid-back and the adoption of strategies is postponed.

Democratization and empowerment are fundamental to new democracies. A democratic political process, involving the empowered masses, opens political competition and creates conditions for large-scale performances and stability. The system refines itself with each step of the way and positive effects are incorporated. Political efficiency increases and saves time and resources.

b) Good governance refers, within this document, to performance leadership, systems and institutions. The EU’s construction and enlargement require constant assessment and adjustment of its governing bodies. The reform of European governance has been set by the Commission as one of its strategic objectives, since early 2000. Generally, the deepening and widening of the EU are based on institutional convergence, which narrows its diversity and provides common standards and interfaces. While performances vary across MS, some of the institutional flaws have been transferred to the EU level and spread out.

The EU’s construction is imperfect and its governing bodies are not ready to advance the structural reforms. They are not consistent and lack efficiency. Therefore, a top to bottom approach in reforming the ESM is not to be expected soon, even though there are some coordination efforts, either imposed by the Single Market, or required by the Open Method’s soft law mechanisms.

Governance ranks high within the countries of the European Union. The practices of governance and accountability in the EU-15 are conventional values, transferred as such towards developing economies. The performances of the high standards of governance vary with the respective civic societies’ mentalities and attitudes, from North to South and from West to Est.

Good governance and institutional development are essential to catching-up and deepening of the European integration processes.
c) The European motivation for change is essential. The competition between different communities and regions lacks visibility and needs to be strengthened in order to drive progress. According to specific needs and readiness to change, the pace of reform differs throughout MS. The structural reforms in labour markets, pension and welfare, outlaid since the Lisbon summit, are just as valid for the New Member States (NMS) as for the former EU-15 countries.

The Old Member States (OMS) possess sufficient resources and skills to deal with economic challenges, on the short run. Some MS even prove to enjoy a superior organization of their societies, which manages to maintain development trends and to overcome economic difficulties. Under the circumstances, no wonder that the motivations to reform are weak. The rising unemployment is not advocating the change either. Furthermore, public manifestations of resistance or rejection have already taking place in some countries, due to adjustments of taxes, contributions and social transfers required by social reforms.

It is only a society with a high level of development, advanced civic spirit and understanding that could make a change and answer the need to prepare for the future. Northern Member States have proven such a capacity and took some steps in the right direction. Will the process continue? Other MS are just postponing or slightly tackling the reforms. The European social culture for change and experimentation is limited and more OMS seem reluctant to proceed. That’s way the EU’s hopes are apparently pinned on the NMS.

The NMS, accession and candidate countries have developed a culture of change. They went through fundamental processes of transformation of their societies, the transition towards democracy and market economy and the accession to the EU. Societies with norms, core institutions and structures, flexible and in continuous motion are open to change. Many years of transformations, un-kept promises, frustrations and distress, generate a certain fatigue among different populations. However, catching-up consideration, as main challenge and drive, could still prevail under dependable political leadership and good governance conditions.
CLOSING REMARKS

1. A brief analysis points out advantages and limitations of the different structures:
a. EU has positive initiatives to coordinate, but reduced institutional performance and competencies. It lacks the people’s support,
b. OMS have insufficient motivation to reform and limited culture of change,
c. NMS display some comparative advantages as further motivations to reform: social concerns, catching-up considerations and culture of change. They are confronted with limitations of their young democracies and reduced governance performances, which might be over-passed,
d. Northern countries show strong potential to reform.

2. The political system, initiator and promoter of change, proves inefficient and needs to be reshaped. Too big to fail – lost in credibility, so it should become - too integrated to fail. Its faults are revealed by the profound reforms processes in the NMS and have been highlighted by the EU constitutional deadlock. In the more stable and experienced democracies of the EU-15 the political limitations are less visible and only occasionally emerge.
Strategic thinking and actions are required to channel the diversity of options and promote reforms. Institutional and systemic flaws divert the European attention from the things that matter, dilute the major interests and obscure consensus reaching. There is too much a variety of views and the forces are drifting. As well, populations’ support is missing.

Fragmented parliaments and divided political forces have difficulties in promoting progress and results do not always match the expectations. The more the parties are, the more difficult the decision making process gets. Therefore political concentration and simplification should be the right lead towards increased efficiency.
National interests’ considerations, priorities and ways of expression, have to be taken explicitly into account in the reformation of the political scene, balancing the wish to stimulate the most efficient forms of political representation and decision-making, against the concern to preserve liberties and to develop responsibilities, appropriate to the people’s rights and their reasonable expectations.

3. In the absence of a compelling agent of change, the social needs and the insufficient resources remain the most powerful reasons to reform. It is the case of most of the New Member States, still confronted with problems generated by social transformations that lag behind the economic ones. They are acute and add up to the challenges addressed to the European Social Model.

The New Member States, as poorer countries in EU, can ill-afford waste. That is way (social) efficiency must be a vital criterion for any of their policy choice. Sustainability and good governance are treasured benchmarks of the reformed social model. Additionally, the social reforms within the NMS have to include specific objectives with regard to speeding up the integration stages, in order to catch-up with the other MS and avoid/limit a European citizenship of inferior rank.
As well, a comprehensive perspective over the social-economic development within a globalising environment, requires the NMS to prepare for their next stage, by enlarging their reference frameworks toward the developed states of the world and by adhering to their strategies, policies and norms, in pace with national possibilities and ambitions.

4. Structural reforms need to speed up in the Europe of 27. The entire society is concerned, not just its fragmented models or governing bodies. Successful change requires a process of experimentation, adaptation and learning. Hence, immediate action is needed to legitimate and exercise these.
The transition, accession and integration processes are rich in good practices and not so good ones. However it is rare that some policies experiments and evaluations are being carried out, or that a systematic regional learning process is embodied. Yet, the OMC does not bear fruits. This should change as well.
The most challenging task of the social reform process, congruent with the human rights agenda, is linked to mainstreaming societal responses to overwhelming, increasing social problems. The foundation of an effective social policy should be firmly established on:

? The interaction between formal and informal safety nets,

? The provision of a minimum guaranteed package, of customized services and material support,

? The co-operation of individuals and civil society, public and private organizations and institutions.

This content is protected by Copyright under the Trademark Certificate. It may be partially quoted, provided that the source is cited, its link is given and the name and title of the editor/author (if any) is mentioned exactly the same. When these conditions are fulfilled, there is no need for additional permission. However, if the content is to be used entirely, it is absolutely necessary to obtain written permission from TASAM.

Areas

Continents ( 5 Fields )
Action
 Contents ( 407 ) Actiivities ( 172 )
Areas
Africa 65 135
Asia 75 208
Europe 13 29
Latin America & Carribean 12 30
North America 7 5
Regions ( 4 Fields )
Action
 Contents ( 167 ) Actiivities ( 44 )
Areas
Balkans 22 92
Middle East 18 56
Black Sea and Caucasus 2 15
Mediterranean 2 4
Identity Fields ( 2 Fields )
Action
 Contents ( 172 ) Actiivities ( 66 )
Areas
Islamic World 51 143
Turkish World 15 29
Turkey ( 1 Fields )
Action
 Contents ( 197 ) Actiivities ( 49 )
Areas
Turkey 49 197

Last Added