Brexit has taken most of the column inches recently throughout Europe, but amongst the ever changing tectonic plates of European geopolitics, day-to-day governance on a range of issues continues at pace. None are more important and potentially critical to the European energy sector than the future of nuclear development – both new build and plant life extension – as over 45% of current nuclear plants are predicted to come offline over the course of the next decade. Last week, in the same venue where COP21 was agreed, Paris held the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE) where leading companies such as Rosatom, Westinghouse, EDF, and CGN attended to collaborate on the future of the industry, and ensure Europe is leading, not trailing worldwide nuclear energy development.
Today the Netherlands hands over the reins of the EU Council presidency to Slovakia. The challenges at hand could not be more consequential: the EU structures are being undermined by the popular revolt that has moved beyond symbolism and fringes of the society. The next six months will therefore be crucial in setting the tone with which the EU will continue (if at all).
Last week, the British citizens exercised their democratic right and voted, against all expectations, to leave the EU. Similarly, earlier this year voters in the Netherlands delivered a humiliating blow to the country’s Prime Minister by refusing to throw their support for the EU’s association agreement with Ukraine.
The public’s weariness with the EU is palpable. The more the public mistrusts the EU, the more its leaders mistrust the public and the gap between the two widens. It has now reached the breaking point whereby citizens feel they are no longer considered essential for the EU’s legitimacy. Instead, and in a rather condescending way too, citizens are being blamed for the lack of support for the project value of which they do not understand. If only people tried hard enough, surely they would instantly fall head over heels in love with it.
There is no point in denying the obvious: the EU does and always will rest on the support of its people. Pretending otherwise is a sign of weakness and lack of belief in the EU as such, which can only lead to one outcome: the EU’s demise.
Geo-economics may be defined in two different ways: as the relationship between economic policy, changes in national power and geopolitics (in other words, the geopolitical consequences of economic phenomena); or as the economic consequences of trends in geopolitics and national power. Both the notion that ‘trade follows the flag’ (that the projection of national power has economic consequences) and that ‘the flag follows trade’ (that there are geopolitical consequences of essentially economic phenomena) points to the subject matter of geo-economics.
Brexit on 23 June, glyphosate on 24 June…
On issues big and small, the EU needs to re-build itself from top to bottom
20 years ago I published “L’Europe à contresens”. This small book made a big impact in the press. Its key message was simple. Starting from the premise that the accession of Sweden, Finland and Austria in 1995 planted the seeds of the European Union’s dilution, I argued that the enlargement process should be put on hold in order to achieve the unified Common Market built by Delors. In short, remain at 15 Member States for as long as possible, encourage the new democracies of eastern Europe to organise themselves, make the single currency conditional on a prior harmonisation of tax, welfare systems and budgets, and prioritise the Community preference over a globalised free-trade approach. Continue reading
Be an Informed Voter: For your children and your children’s children
As a European happily living and working in London, the EU Referendum debate has been rife with controversies, grotesque lies to the public and a stirring up of hate filled sentiments that have already claimed the life of one member of UK parliament fulfilling her democratic responsibility to constituents.
Jo Cox stressed in her Yorkshire Post article, days before her death, not to fall for the spin present in the campaigns.
Like many practitioners writing at European Public Affairs, I am thoroughly acquainted with the art of spin in politics, but the current campaigns for UK’s EU referendum have taken it too far, with the number of retracted media pieces skyrocketing – though the damage is done for members of the public who have seen the initial incorrect articles, with their decisions influenced, and choices unsubstantiated by fact.