The European Idea

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Senior Fellow and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Council on Foreign Relations

Jaroslaw Cwiek-Karpowicz

Head of Research Office, Polish Institute of International Affairs

Barbara Lippert

Director of Research, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP)

Walter Mead

James Clarke Chace Professor in Foreign Affairs and Humanities, Bard College

Jaroslaw Cwiek-Karpowicz, Head of Research Office at the Polish Institute of International Affairs; Barbara Lippert, Director of Research at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik; and Stewart M. Patrick, Senior Fellow and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations join Walter Russell Mead of Bard College to discuss the nature of the European Union: it’s creation, institutional effectiveness, approach to past crises, and outlook over the next couple of decades. By focusing on the constant tug and pull between state governments of member countries and EU institutions, the speakers aim at discerning the fundamental structural flaws at the core of the union and how the push for integration is jeopardized by the ongoing economic and migratory crises. 

This event is made possible by the generous support of the Hauser Foundation.

MEAD: All right. Well, welcome, everybody, to the first session of today’s Council on Foreign Relations Symposium on the Future of Europe. This first session is going to be titled “The European Idea.” Our discussion will focus on the creation and the evolution of the European Union, and what lessons learned can be applied to Europe’s current challenges.

Please remember to completely turn off your cellphones, BlackBerrys, and other devices. Do not—that does not mean just turn it to vibrate. Please turn it off completely. Otherwise, they could interfere with the sound system.

I’d like to remind all the members that—and guests that this session is on the record.

We have three really terrific discussants here today to talk about this subject. We have Stewart Patrick, senior fellow and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations; Jaroslaw Cwiek-Karpowicz, head of Research Office at the Polish Institute of International Affairs; Barbara Lippert, director of research, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik. So we should be getting a variety of viewpoints here, and I can’t think of three people who would have anything more interesting to say on the topic.

So we begin, obviously, all of us are aware of the terrible news from Brussels this morning. I think the latest estimates are over 25 dead, almost 100 people injured. The city has—the transport system is closed. There are no airplanes until tomorrow. So all of us, I’m sure, are with the people of Brussels and Belgium in our thoughts.

With that somewhat grim background, Stewart might kick us off with just a few remarks about the history of the European idea and the European Union.

PATRICK: Thank you, Walter. It’s a pleasure to be here.

I also want to thank Rita Hauser in particular for all of—her sponsorship of this event over the years. It’s a great privilege to be here.

The history of the European idea, obviously, goes back centuries, if not perhaps even millennia, but has been particularly gripping and compelling to Europeans since the end of the Second World War. There was never one single European idea, but obviously, in the aftermath of the Second World War and the tremendous carnage created there, there was an effort to try to—and largely, it had discredited nationalism and the nation-state—with the important exception, I might add, of the United Kingdom. And that tension in the United Kingdom’s position still remains. But the idea was to try to overcome the legacy of terrible warfare by creating an ever-closer union, which could take different forms, but the idea was that pooling of resources and eventually even pooling of political institutions into a coherent whole.

It’s important to note that this vision which inspired many of the early moves towards European integration—institutions like the Council of Europe or the European Coal and Steel Community, which began the entire process of European integration—was from the beginning and remains largely an elite-driven phenomenon. And I think one of the problems that we’ve seen over the course of the last seven decades is the degree to which this elite-driven and often technocratic movement towards integration has led to an increasing democratic deficit and questions of—not only simply a democratic deficit with respect to institutions of the European Union, but also an emotional deficit.

I think in the past what we’ve seen are that the European Union has tended to confront a number of crises over the course of its history. And the European integration process has been one in fits and starts. And in every crisis, or in many crises—from the origins of the European Union with the European Coal and Steel Community, to the launching of the European Economic Communities in the Treaty of Rome, to the movement toward the Single European Act in the 1980s, and then the Maastricht Treaty—in every case, there was a sense that unless Europe moved forward it would face increased crisis, and that the centrifugal forces would be too great. And that has driven—in sort of what the French would call fuite en avant, has driven forward European integration.

I think, however, what’s become apparent is that this irresolution, in a way, or contradiction between a supranational Europe, with authority going to Brussels institutions, versus intergovernmental vision of Europe, the tensions and contradictions are increasingly apparent. And there’s a big question as to whether now, in this current circumstance—the eurozone crisis, which continues to percolate along, and also the humanitarian migration crisis—whether or not that dynamic will actually persist. My speculation is that the European idea will move away from Jean Monnet’s notion of a supranational Europe and an ever-closer union, and regardless of what the Brits decide in their referendum in June, that we’re head towards more a multi-speed Europe—more of a Europe des Patries, in the vision of Charles de Gaulle—which has always been the opposite pole in thinking about what the European idea is.

MEAD: Great, Stewart. Thank you very much for that very helpful opening historical survey.

And Barbara Lippert would like to talk a little bit about some of the crises that Europe faces today. Again, this is a particularly timely moment for that, so.

LIPPERT: So thank you, Chair. Many thanks to the Council on Foreign Relations for having me today.

I think, when you talk about crisis and the European Union, you have just to admit that crisis is a state of being for the European Union because it started out of a crisis, on the ruins of the Second World War. And after the establishment/foundation of the Community for Coal and Steel, it immediately slid into the next crisis with the failed treaty on the Defense Community and the Political Community in ’54. And then we had the Rome Treaties as the new—as the new basis balancing the different aspects, the different modes of governance, the supranational one and the intergovernmental one. And this continued over decades, this kind of tension. And, of course, the whole idea is to always find new compromises. So one could argue this is the European normal, to cope with crises.

But I think there are some particular observations we can make. First of all, I would say that, starting with the sovereign debt crisis, which then escalated into the crisis around Greece, for the first time it was put on the table to kick out a member state, so the Grexit problem. And this sort of overlapped now with the refugee and migration crisis. It overlapped not only when you look at the timing, but also when you look, for example, as one of the countries most hit by the refugee crisis, which is Greece, again. And then, of course, we have, I would say, not a real crisis—that is Brexit, the threat to have this referendum on membership. This can happen, of course, in the future, but there is already a very orderly way and provision in the treaties how this can be met. So I would not place it in the same category.

Why are these crises so severe? I think both the eurozone crisis and the refugee crisis have in common that this is a crisis of a non-functioning governance system with regard to monetary union and with regard to migration/asylum policy. Both projects are halfway houses. They started as gradual processes. You know, not all are included in both of these integrated policies. And they do not deliver. They are unfinished business, and now they are struck by this kind of dysfunctionality.

Second is that, in contrast to the days of Monnet, where compromises could be found behind closed doors, we now have, I think, a very strong involvement of the public sphere. This is true for both cases, refugee crisis and eurozone crisis. I know that Jaroslaw will say more on public opinion.

So I think, for the first time—and that’s also something which, of course, is interesting for academia—is the question whether this is the end of this kind of functional spillover effect, so always looking forward in making some progress in some sectors. Is this now the moment for a spill back?

I do not subscribe to the interpretation that the European Union or European communities have always come out stronger of the crisis than before. It was always a different kind of European Union, and overall the system was still robust. But this time maybe it could be different.

MEAD: You seem to be using the past tense there often, perhaps ominously.

Jaroslaw, would you give us some quick background on public opinion and how that influences Europe’s situation in this current moment?

CWIEK-KARPOWICZ: Sure. Thank you, Walter.

Thank you, Council on Foreign Relations, for invitation. Thank you, Madam Hauser, for hosting here.

Definitely, to analyze public opinion perception about European Union, this is a very difficult task. From one side we may say that Europeans often vote against European Union. This is an example of 2005 and referendum in the Netherlands and in France, and Dutch and French people voted against European Constitution. So they didn’t want a more integrated Europe. But, on the other hand, there are many examples of quite positive image of European Union among European citizens. And quite recently European Union published the result of surveys, and more than 60 percent of Europeans believe in the future of European Union, and almost the same percentage believe in EU more than in the national parliaments and national governments.

And when we analyze some European member states and then societies there, we might say that definitely Central Europeans are much more positive about European Union, and they still perceived EU as the only way not only to create its own foreign policy, but also to have prospects for better economic development, and also for its own security. And this is something I wanted to underline; that we are talking about crisis, we are talking about different speed of integration, but definitely for Central Europe, the European Union and economic integration is an element of its own security. And it’s not by chance that the most-integrated countries in the EU are Baltic States, or Visegrad countries as well, because for them to be, you know, in the EU and very well integrated, being good Europeans means be protected also, although EU is not a security alliance.

And the same is with euro currency. I mean, after crisis 2008 and ’(0)9, when definitely many Europeans had some doubt about common currency, since 2013 we observe a positive trend, and more and more countries and citizens believe in the euro currency, especially those who adopted euro currency quite recently. And among, then, the less-optimistic are countries who are still outside the eurozone—so, U.K., Denmark, but also Poland and a few other countries.

So this is my thought from the beginning.

MEAD: Well, a bit of an upbeat assessment.

Stewart, did you—

PATRICK: Yeah. I just wanted to pick up on the notion of a halfway house that you had mentioned. I think that both the eurozone crisis and the migration crisis have exposed the tensions and contradictions between the retention of much power within the nation-state and only a partial—only partial union at the Brussels level.

When you take the eurozone crisis, there you have a situation where the members of the euro are—have a common central bank, and so they’ve given up monetary policy. And yet, they retain their independent fiscal policies, which obviously is—and often very wildly inconsistent fiscal policies. So you have huge, huge debates there. Same with the refugee crisis, where you have the incompatibility, on the one hand, of a Schengen Agreement that has removed the internal border controls amongst its members, and yet there’s no external EU-wide strong border force or customs force.

And so those fundamental contradictions have come up. And the question is, where, then—you either have the choice of re-nationalization, and including throwing up borders, which of course was the response of many European nations, or you have more Brussels or more centralization. And I think that the very enlargement of the European Union, which has always had this debate between how much deepening—in other words, how much more authority and how much more you get involved in giving vertical authority to European-wide structures—versus enlargement, how much do you expand the frontiers. The fact that it’s expanding now to 28 nations means that you’ve increased the cultural and political diversity as well.

And so, when Angela Merkel threw open the welcome mat for refugees, what she was essentially doing was saying, look, this is part of being European—this is part of the European idea, is that we welcome people in distress. Obviously, she had her own—the burdens of German history there, too. But she did that, and she expected solidarity. And what she got was not solidarity at all. So you have solidarity competing with sovereignty, with many of the countries saying no, we’re not going to do this. And now, in the wake of Paris and now Brussels and undoubtedly more terrorist events, you have a third S, security, coming into play. And that’s why I think that we’re going to see more re-nationalization and more of a multi-speed Europe where there’s more opting-in and opting-out regardless, as I said, of what happens with the British decision.

MEAD: Well, Stewart, that’s a good point.

Barbara, do you think we’re pointing at—we’re looking at a problem with the European idea in some way, that it needs to be rethought? Or are these really problems of application and practical issues that we’re looking at?

LIPPERT: I think it’s both. (Laughs.) We have—I think the European Union has a problem to deliver on these—on these issues. So some now see the European Union as more part of the problem than as a solver of these problem(s). And it was, of course, established to deal with all those challenges the nation-state cannot. And now we see, with the—with the refugee crisis, but also when you look at the economic situation in many of the member states—with low growth, with huge unemployment, in particular when you look at younger people—that they expect more from the European Union. So I think it is, to some extent, still the problem of output legitimacy. And I think there the EU now has to deliver and say we can make together a difference or, if we can’t do it with 28, then we must have different groupings of countries that do the job.

And the other thing, of course, is that I do think we have lost a sense of common purpose. And that might be due, to some extent, to enlargement. I worked a lot on—in particular, on the eastward enlargement, and what I see now also, when I go to Warsaw or Budapest or Prague, there is some kind of estrangement between the member states. And I know that, coming from Germany, that unilateral actions taken, for example, by Germany are not very well appreciated. They are seen as—well, as putting pressure on others, dominating them. So the question is, do all member states really have the chance to participate in policymaking and have their share?

And I think that, in the past, if we look at lessons from the past, we could see that the supranational institutions played a very important role. So you must have a Commission you can trust that looks for, let’s say, what is our common interest, and not only the interest of a few. That is why the Commission has the power to take the initiative. It’s not because it’s a pro just for supranational, against governmental modes of policymaking.

And here I think that, in particular, the Barroso Commission did not perform very well. And you see now, if there is better agreement between the Commission and, I would say, leading member states, there is a chance to table proposals which can find the agreement of all. And we have still areas where you need to have unanimity, or where it’s politically better to have unanimity and fight for a consensus. Which, of course, makes—and now we’re, again, at the output side—makes all the decision-making very slow and cumbersome, and you—I think you mostly don’t have something like swift and bold decisions when you look at Brussels.

MEAD: Jaroslaw, how much patience do you see in public opinion? Because I think what Barbara’s telling us is that progress is going to be difficult and slow, and this is—this is no break with European history. Is public opinion prepared to work with and support a process that inevitably is going to be less than lightning quick?

CWIEK-KARPOWICZ: Definitely people in Europe, they are much more preoccupied with their economic situation, and problems like terrorist attacks or migrants, than, let’s say, the European idea and the future of European integration. And among problems which are the most important for the EU, they indicate in surveys migration crisis, economic situation, unemployment. And this is also very important to have in our mind, that when we discuss about EU crisis and the European idea, people usually, they do not follow this discussion. They think about current situation. And I think that we may say that European Union, as a—as a great economy, now is recovering after crisis, and the people notice this. And that’s why they’re a little bit—much more positive than a few years ago.

But what Barbara said about Central European perspective I think is very important to underline because now, among 28 members, almost half of them, they are Central European countries. And on the one hand, we may indeed notice some anti-European rhetoric. When we heard the Hungarian prime minister, and unfortunately quite recently the Polish government, sometimes we heard some—(inaudible)—some kind of re-nationalization or some kind of this rhetoric.

And I think that it also have two side effects. I mean, the first one is just a need to articulate our Central European own interest. And it’s obvious that between the European countries, many countries have their own national interests. And despite the fact that France, Germany, or Italy, they want to be in the EU, they still want to protect their national interest. And this is something what I observe now among Central European countries.

On the other hand, we may observe that these countries are very much interested in further integration or just rather to keep the European Union as it is now. For example, where European Union is thinking about sanctions against Russia, we heard from Central European leaders some voices that maybe we should deal with Russia, we should not impose sanctions. But when there is a time for decision, everyone is voting together because no one wants to—you know, to disintegrate the union and no one wants to weaken the European Union.

And there are many other examples when, in terms of rhetoric, Central European countries seem to be anti-European. But in reality, they want further integration. And just as an example, Baltic States, countries which I mentioned before, which are very much favorable towards for the economic integration.

MEAD: Well, in just a couple of minutes we are going to open the conversation to the members. But as I look at Europe, I see wars and crisis and refugees to the south; war, crisis, refugees to the east. Inside the European Union, we still have the terrible problems resulting from the economic crisis that have really not been resolved almost a decade later. And we’re looking increasingly at, inside Brussels itself, this—the problem of European institutions that seem to have a harder time processing problems. And, obviously, also we have terrorism and migration issues.

Let me just ask the three of you, before we open this to the panel, to tell us briefly what you think the top priority of the European Union, or of Europe, needs to be at this moment among this multitudinous array of problems. And, Stewart, let’s start with you and then just come down to Jaroslaw and Barbara.

PATRICK: I think the most immediate problem has to be to get a handle on the migrant crisis, and to come up with a common means of processing refugee and asylum applications—not merely processing them, but let’s say this deal with Turkey sticks despite some ethical and international legal questions about it. There needs to be a way to make sure that there’s some sort of bargain amongst the different members of the EU to actually apportion the burden of those that are eligible for refugee status throughout the European Union, which is something that—it really—it’s quite ridiculous. I think there are—there’s an agreement already to resettle 160,000 refugees from—which was only a small fraction of the ones that actually got into Europe. And something—at least I think—I believe at the end of February they had only resettled about 500 of them, after several months. So there needs to—there needs to be a lot more alacrity with that. There needs to be, also, a common external border and coast guard and asylum agency to deal with that. I think that’s the most pressing matter.

There’s obviously the question of Brexit. I think it would be certainly very, very risky, and potentially disastrous, both for the European Union and Great Britain to go their separate ways. As some of us know all too well, divorces can be messy, they can be smooth. And there’s a good chance that this one could be quite messy indeed.


CWIEK-KARPOWICZ: Well, I think, indeed, that the Brexit, deciphering what hurts is extremely difficult and hard for European Union because, according to EU Treaty, there is no partial disintegration. It’s a total disintegration. It means that if Brits votes against European Union membership, we have European—we have United Kingdom outside the European Union—no associated, nor in some links with European Union. It would be the status quite similar to Russia, OK? So, also, the U.K. would be excluded from the single market, OK? So I think it’s a—it’s a—it could be very difficult for U.K., for European Union to adapt to this new situation.

But, of course, Brits may vote for European Union. They may remain in the union. And then we have a problem of other countries who also would like to follow U.K. in this regard, that they also would like to negotiate some special status. And this is extremely risky for EU as a whole. So both scenarios—U.K. in or out of the European Union—are quite risky for European Union.

MEAD: OK. So Brexit, for you, is the number one of all of the crises.


MEAD: Barbara.

LIPPERT: I agree with Stewart as far as the priorities are concerned when you look at policy fields. But I think the way—how we do it is very important, and I think there the preference should be that we should do it together with 28 as long as it—as it takes and when we can make some progress.

But I think when we look at how we can manage all these—this multiplicity of problems, I think we should not only look at the EU level, or maybe not even in the first case look at the EU level and they start with all this kind of institutional engineering and treaty reform, et cetera, et cetera. But I think what we now see is that you can only have a strong European Union when you have strong member states, politically and economically. And I would say that the revitalization of the European Union starts in and with the member states. When you look at the economy, when you look at what’s happening in some of the member states, which I would call a fractioning process, fractioning with regard to basic democratic values, but also when you look at democratic governance. And that is something which, of course, is very much up to the member states to address it.

So we again, I think, face a lot of sovereignty clashes and challenges. And there is, of course, the question whether there is a mandate for the European Union to also interfere in domestic politics, and that’s quite new.

MEAD: OK, thank you.

Well, now let’s open this up for questions from members and just—I know many of you have been through this drill many times before, but when called on, please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. Stand. State your name and your affiliation. Please limit yourselves to one question. A question is concise. A question ends in a question mark. (Laughter.) A question asks for information rather than imparting it. Ditto analysis. So please do that.

And let’s begin here. Yes, Rita. We have a microphone coming.

Q: Rita Hauser.

The subject is the idea of Europe. And I remember a dinner with Helmut Kohl where they were just giving up the deutschemark for the euro. And he said our beloved Deutsche Mark we will give up so that Germany will never make war again, that it will be locked into Europe by its money and by everything else.

And today we have the paradox that every issue you have described goes back—Germany should solve it. Germany’s the answer to the migration problem, to the Greek problem, to the euro problem. What do you have to say about that situation of Germany within Europe?

MEAD: Well, Barbara, why don’t you begin as our sort of—the person with the closest connections to Germany?

LIPPERT: Yeah. That’s true.

I think that what you describe is quite correct, that Germany is now propelled in some sort of leadership role. It has always been reluctant to take on this role. And I would always say, given the weaknesses within this triangular leadership we normally have together with France and the U.K., Germany at some points feels quite alone in taking on the dossier.

Personally, I don’t think that this should be the mode of governing the European Union to have a single country always in the lead. I think we made far more success when playing with different roles. And I very much refer to this triangular sort of leadership formation, for which Germany needs also the U.K., given the tensions between Paris and Berlin on many—in many policy areas.

What Germany has to learn is playing the geopolitical game. Germany did not do that over the last decades. And Germany was quite successful also in—and you referred to that—in using economic instruments for political purposes. And that was, of course, the introduction of the euro.

And when you go back now to the Maastricht Treaty in which there was this provision on the euro, you see that a lot of our problems also started there. You couldn’t have all the compromises in the Maastricht Treaty with all of the member states—and it were only 12 at that time, not 28. It was even before the EFTA enlargement. And differentiation, opt-outs, started there. And they were seen also by Germany over a very long period of time as an instrument for more integration, also of better integrating Germany into the European Union. And we now see that this might also have reached its limits to use differentiation as a means for more deepening.

And so I think there is—inevitably, Germany has to play a stronger role, also, as far as the political formation of the EU is concerned. But I’m sure it will again be joined by France, maybe Poland, and hopefully also U.K.

MEAD: Well, just quickly, if each of the two of you—Rita asked the question of everybody. Let’s be quick so we can get some more questions.

CWIEK-KARPOWICZ: Sure, sure. No doubt Germany plays a leading role in the European Union. That’s why the domestic situation in Germany are very important. We are just a few weeks after regional elections where Alternative für Deutschland—that’s the anti-European party—gain quite great results. So that’s why we may say that, under this leadership, Germany are very responsible and very European. And there are many examples when this country plays for EU interests rather than for German interests—sanctions against Russia, and involvement in the negotiations with Russia over eastern Ukraine. This is one of the biggest examples when, despite the big pressure from German business, Angela Merkel was able to play against its interests for Europe’s security. But unfortunately, what I had mentioned before, there are many other political options, voices. And now Angela Merkel—(inaudible)—also in its own party. And that’s why we cannot exclude the political challenge in this country, and then a completely different role of Germany in the EU.

PATRICK: Yeah, very quickly, I think, in addition to Helmut Kohl, of course, Francois Mitterrand played a very strong role at that time too. And I think that what you’ve seen is less vigorous leadership on the part of France in more recent years. And so you don’t have the Franco-German axis and you don’t have the triangular relationship either, particularly with a prime minister in Britain who has emboldened, perhaps more than he realized he was going to, some Euro-skeptic forces within his own country.

I do think that it’s harder to exercise—I think there’s been an absence of political leadership. When you look back at all of the crises, there are always charismatic or likeminded leaders in the major European countries that drove things forward. And I feel like we don’t see that now. Angela Merkel was that indispensable woman, and then unfortunately, with the migration crisis, has really seen her own popularity and her own political leverage in her own country drop significantly.

And I think that you see—all across the continent, you see people playing to populist forces to try to coopt some of those forces in an electoral sense. But by going after those constituencies, what you do is you weaken any support that might be taking you in a direction of more of a federal Europe or more of a common European policy.

MEAD: Another question back here.

Q: Ennen (ph), King’s College London and Chatham House.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this, Chair, but I’ve got a comment and a disagreement.

MEAD: Could you—could you stand? No, you’re not. You’re allowed to ask a question.

Q: All right. Do you think that you might be underestimating the structural nature of this crisis? Because you mentioned a lot of contingent factors. And it seems to me that the structural nature of the crisis derives from politics. Europe is a regional economy with national politics, and it means it’s very, very good at creating a market but it’s very, very bad at tackling collectively anything that is directly salient to national electorates. And that is the problem we face now. The market goes from strength to strength. We shouldn’t forget the single market has persevered throughout this crisis. But whenever things that impact directly on national electorates is concerned, then consensus becomes harder.

MEAD: Anybody want to take that question? Is it a structural problem rather than kind of a—

PATRICK: Yeah, I think Ennen (ph), who I went to graduate school with and basically learned everything I know about the European Union from his coattails. Good to see you.

I think, yes, I think he’s absolutely right in this. I think that this is part of this internal tension. It’s one thing to create, you know, a customs union and an internal market, and it’s quite another one to endow Brussels-based organizations with major super-national powers, particularly on the political side of things.

And so you have—that’s what I was trying to get at in a way with the—there are reasons why the European Union has not been given the powers of a state, including to manage crisis management, because it does not have democratic legitimacy as much as the national governments which constitute it. And I think that, therefore, it’s always going to be bad in dealing with a lot of crises that touch directly on the lives of the citizens in those countries, whether it’s in response to terrorism or whether it’s, you know, large waves of immigrants who you weren’t expecting coming into your country.

MEAD: Yes.

Q: My name is Galen Guengerich. I’m in the religion business.

I’d like to ask about the relationship between two ideas that you’ve brought up. One is about the lack of common purpose in the EU and the other is the failure of the EU at the level of popular imagination. It seems to me that the easiest way for a disparate group of people to coalesce around a common purpose is to unite in defense against a common enemy.

Early on it’s obvious what that was—their own internal fractiousness; and on that level, huge success. The question is whether, over time, that threat needs to be externalized rather than remain internal. Does the EU need a common external enemy in order to coalesce around a common purpose? If so, what is it? ISIS? Russia? Donald Trump? (Laughter.)

MEAD: Does the EU need an enemy? And if so, who’s the leading candidate? (Laughter.) Take a number. (Laughter.) Anybody? Jaroslaw?

CWIEK-KARPOWICZ: OK. Well, indeed, common defense—foreign and defense policies, it’s a big failure of European Union. And so far, we may say that EU is not a coherent and significant global player. And there’s no doubt that this security integration, what Barbara said, it was very problematic from the very beginning, OK, in the ’50s, and nowadays as well.

You might say that, of course, external enemies should help Europeans to integrate our external policies and to be much more united. But I think that there is also some clash between the vision of how Europeans would like to develop its own defense policy without America’s (leave ?), OK? And in Central Europe, of course, we underline that there is strong need not to overlap with NATO, and that we really would—and, as you know, majority of EU countries are also NATO members.

So that’s why I think that there is some kind of excuse that, OK, EU is not so much effective in terms of its external foreign and defense policy, but EU as member states, almost all these countries are in NATO. And it’s not by chance that, very often, when we observe the process of enlargement of these two institutions, the first enlargement is NATO enlargement, in Central and Southeastern Europe, OK? So these countries try to adopt its own national foreign and defense policies to NATO standards, and then it’s relatively easy also to follow this path and integrate with the EU. It’s not the case of post-Soviet countries, where we have completely different situation, but this is the case of Central Europe and Balkan states. So I think that we may—we may say that so far Europeans try to be good NATO members, and it’s enough for Europeans so far.

MEAD: OK. More questions? Yes, sir.

Q: Herbert Levin.

MEAD: Can you stand, please, sir?

Q: If you say so. Herbert Levin.

Am I correct that—from your remarks, all of you, that the United States is largely irrelevant to the kinds of problems that you have discussed and that you are quite pleased that the U.S. is not pushing any American proposals or solutions?

MEAD: Well, we’re about to have some huge and colossal and classy suggestions, I’m sure. But in the meantime, the United States has not come up very often in this discussion of Europe’s future. What’s going on here? Is that a success or a failure? And of whom?

PATRICK: It’s a bizarre success for a Council on Foreign Relations event. I’ll say that much. We actually have restrained ourselves to actually talking about the topic at hand.

No, I think that the United States is—clearly, when you think about the history of European integration, the United States was hugely relevant in a number of ways at different moments during that historical process. And we’re, in fact, the ones that pushed during the Marshall Plan era for a united states of Europe and were more religious than the pope on that score for quite some time during those years—passing congressional resolutions; stating it was the sense of the U.S. Congress that the united states of Europe be formed, et cetera. And obviously during the Cold War it was seen as—which is obviously related to the U.S. posture towards the Soviet Union, as well as the European—was a major driving force there.

I think that with respect to the current situation, this is obviously largely an issue for Europeans to work out themselves in terms of the future of the European project. But certainly both President Obama and Secretary Kerry have come out strongly in favor of Britain, for instance, remaining within the European Union.

With respect to some of the problems that have been caused, I think that one could make—lead a chain of events in terms of U.S. policies towards the war in Syria and inaction at times in an attempt to sort of quarantine the problem and contain the problem on the borders of Syria, leading eventually to the eruption of the migration crisis headed into Europe. So it’s not as if the United States escapes any blame for helping create the situation that is washing up on your shores.

But, that being said, there’s only a limited amount, besides giving—helping try to end the conflict and giving money to countries in the region to hopefully begin to deal with the migration refugee problem close at hand that the United States can actually do, I think, to help solve these problems.

MEAD: OK. Yes.

Q: Thank you. My name is Christopher Smart. I’m a resident fellow at the Kennedy School.

And I just wonder if we aren’t underestimating the resilience of the European Union, given three very large shocks that it has withstood in the last few years. One is obviously the financial crisis. And Greece last summer—if there were ever a time for a country to either leave or be expelled, I think you would have predicted that that would have happened, and it didn’t.

The Russian threat in Ukraine has so far led to a united response. And I think even in Britain, the exits deal that Britain struck suggests that the European Union remained in a fairly strong bargaining position, and a country as large as Britain brought up a fairly slim deal that others may not be likely to follow. Question mark.

MEAD: OK, thank you. (Laughter.) I was wondering where that would come.

Responses to the question?

LIPPERT: Well, when you look at the history of European Union, you’re right. The system has been robust and flexible. It could accommodate many different solutions. But maybe one of the questions is whether the environment in which all this is taking place is too rapidly changing for the European Union to really respond in a productive and effective way. So that, in a way, it’s always a bit too late.

And I think what you can say for the past, when you look at the eurozone, developing eurozone crisis, and also the refugee crisis, you could blame the EU and don’t talk about the U.S. for its inactivity. So this is one of the major problems.

And then, of course, there is this tendency then by some institutions or member states to go ahead, to go forward. And then you have all the problems, again, in looking for the consensus of the 28. And that is one of the severe problems. And at some point, not only external actors but also some of the member states, they just lose temper and they say we do not want to wait anymore.

And then, of course, you think about alternatives. And I think we have the third panel on the different—on a different Europe, where all these options, which are on the table again and which are maybe not only academic debates about scaling down, for example, the European—

PATRICK: Christopher, I think you make an excellent point. I think that there’s no doubt there has been a lot of cushion in the system to allow this union to be buffeted by this constellation of crisis and, you know, still stand like a Weeble, so it’ll bounce back up again.

I think the question going forward really is whether or not, in the wake of these crises—there are two ways you could go; at least two ways you could go. One of them would be towards more Brussels and more centralization in a way, and the other would be to move more in an intergovernmental direction. And so you’d still have a European Union. It’s not going to fly apart. The question more is whether or not it moves in a little bit more of an articles-of-confederation direction, which that—you know, to use an analogy to U.S. history—versus more of a federal constitution direction.

And my strong speculation will be that it will move more into some looser arrangements and also some—you know, people have been talking about even, you know, core Schengen or core Europe. And you might—and it’s interesting. Even if Britain were to stay in, it’s interesting that 20 years ago John Major, the prime minister then, spoke of Britain. He wanted Britain at the heart of Europe. You don’t hear David Cameron saying he wants Britain at the heart of Europe. And he even wants Britain in Europe still, but he wants it on sort of a little bit more of the margins. And I don’t think that Britain is going to be the last country that decides that it wants a little bit of a—a little bit more of an a la carte Europe than it currently enjoys.

MEAD: Yes, in the back there.

Q: Hi. Amy Davidson from The New Yorker.

We’ve talked about the migrant crisis in terms of external refugees. But I wonder if you could talk about political pressures that might have been created, or alleviated, for that matter, by internal migration in Europe, the shuffling of European populations. That was an element of the European idea; and picking up on what Stewart said earlier, also differentiating that on an elite and a mass level, the university versus the construction trades.

CWIEK-KARPOWICZ: Before I talk about internal migrants—I mean, the Europeans who change their places in EU—I think that we should have in our mind once again Central Europe. I mean, many people from this region, they try to find jobs in Western Europe. And I think that this is something which we achieve in our history, that indeed people can freely find jobs and change countries. It was the element of a U.K. decision to stay in the European Union. As you know, before referendum, the U.K. signed a special agreement proposed by the president of European Council, Donald Tusk. And one of the element(s) was that some social benefits from migrants from European Union who works in the U.K. should be limited.

I think that the external pressure and migration crisis so far doesn’t change these rules. And this is something which European Union is trying to differentiate, migration problems and mobility. And still I think that EU is very much concerned how to encourage mobility of Europeans. The problem is that, in European Union, you have so many, you know, languages, cultures, heritages, and we really would like to create a common space where people may freely change their location. And that’s why we observed the process of unification of standards in education and the labor markets, and it’s going deeper and deeper.

And this is something maybe national governments would like to stop and block for a moment, not just to go too far and to keep their sovereignty. But I think that profits are so huge for public opinion, and citizens really want to continue this trend, that probably, despite the immigration crisis, EU would follow this path and would encourage Europeans to be much more flexible, mobile, and create many advantages for them for looking for jobs in different EU states.

MEAD: OK. Let’s see. Yes, sir.

Q: Hi. Jim Traub with

Jaroslaw mentioned, and I think Barbara also to some extent, that the Eastern Europeans have actually been more committed to the EU as an institution than the West. And yet the Eastern Europeans seem to be increasingly less committed to some of the core Enlightenment ideals behind Europe. And so we see the rise of an explicit anti-liberalism there, both on the refugee issues and other things.

I wonder if that means that the cost of maintaining institutional coherence for the EU is losing a kind of intellectual or even moral coherence for Europe.

MEAD: The comment—the question is really about the anti-liberal movement in at least some EU countries or parties, particularly in the East. That’s very interesting.

CWIEK-KARPOWICZ: Yeah, if I might just say a few words on this.

I think that, at the very beginning, after eastern enlargement in 2004, indeed, we observe strong interest in Central Europe towards European integration, adaption our legislation and political systems to EU standards. And now, indeed, the situation is very danger, that we observe, for example, in Poland, a country which is still outside the eurozone, some hesitation, that, OK, maybe our efforts is not worth; maybe it’s better to wait, to be reluctant, and observe what—how EU will change its nature.

And, for example, the Polish government decided to join the eurozone, but without a specific date, OK? And we’ve still—we’ve still tried to repeat this obligation that Poland, sooner or later, would be a member of eurozone, but now we would like to wait a little bit. And, of course, it’s a little bit irritating for Germany or in other countries that we want, you know, to take some profits and not just, you know, contribute to the European Union.

And, indeed, it’s quite problematic for EU as such that it’s not enough, you know, to wait—waiting for developments and to take on some profits. It’s a time also to contribute and take responsibility. And this is a very difficult question for national governments, because no one would like to be—claim or just described by public opinion as a government who rather plays for European interests, not national interests.

So it’s very important to distinguish the rhetoric. Very often, many national governments try to underline that we serve our national interests—we are against superficial, artificial European, you know, demands or values. But in reality, they play exactly in line with European interests.

One of the examples is energy policy, where Poland and many Central European countries are very much interested in creating a common energy market. And they are, let’s say, the best EU members in this regard and the best partners for European Commission—sometimes against France or Germany or U.K., which would like to create its own energy policy and have some special relations with Russia, OK? So here we made a very good example in the energy sphere. Indeed, there is a big, let’s say, contribution of Central European countries towards integration and create common energy policy.

MEAD: All right. Well, with this I’m afraid we’re coming to the end. And the Council likes to end these meetings on time so that we can get through the day effectively.

Thanks again to Rita Hauser for her support for this and many other important ventures at the Council. And we have a reception afterwards that goes for the next 15 minutes. The next session will begin promptly at 9:45.

Can we thank our panel, please? (Applause.)


Top Stories on CFR

Labor and Employment

The United States has long accepted hundreds of thousands of foreign workers each year, but the Trump administration has blocked many of these visas as unemployment among the domestic labor force has skyrocketed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Middle East and North Africa

New U.S. sanctions under the Caesar Act could compound the economic turmoil threatening to undo the Assad regime.


The United States has reached an agreement with the Taliban, but significant challenges, such as political power-sharing, the role of Islam, and women’s rights, remain for achieving intra-Afghan peace.