The European Union (EU) is an international organization comprising of 27 European countries and governing the common economic, social and security policies. Originally limited to Western Europe, the EU began a strong expansion in Central and Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 21st century. The Union Construction received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, in recognition of the organization’s efforts to promote peace and democracy in Europe.

Although it was created as a peace project in the immediate aftermath of World War II and has had many successes over the years, today’s EU is far from meeting the goals its founders set out to achieve  decades ago. Throughout its existence, the European Union has gone from crisis to crisis. The first major crisis faced by the European Communities began in the context of the political changes that took place in France in 1958. The discussions were based on the financing of the common agricultural policy. Thus, the decision of the “empty seat”, taken by the French general de Gaulle in 1965, paved the way for the final adoption of a Regulation on the common agricultural policy.

About the first crisis

In the current period, the crises of the union construction have not stopped appearing. First, Russian actions on the outskirts of Europe confirms that geopolitical confrontations are still haunting Europe. Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Russian army’s hybrid warfare tactics in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s continued involvement in European politics and Russia’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war suggest that the founding principles of the Cold War security order in Europe are now at stake. Despite all European attempts, Russia has not become an international player that would live in peace with the postmodern EU. Although both sides are dependent on each other, the relationship is far from friendly.

The Crimean crisis, 2014

Following the Crimean crisis of 2014, there were growing concerns in the European Union about Russia’s reliability as an energy partner. It brought to mind memories of the Russian-Ukrainian gas disputes that took place in the 2000s and early 2010. Like most post-Soviet states, Ukraine depends on Russia for most of its energy needs. This gives Russia an important political effect at the negotiating table.

Secondly, the sovereign debt crisis that has shaken the euro area since 2009 has been the biggest challenge faced by EU members and, in particular, its administrative structures. The economic decline began in Greece and spread to Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain, threatening the survival of the single currency and, some believed, the EU itself. The debt crisis has highlighted dangerous shortcomings in the regulatory measures governing the common economy of the euro area, in particular the lack of a mechanism for enforcing the tax rules set out in the Maastricht Treaty.

Another thing the EU has been facing in recent years is the emergence of anti-integration, anti-immigrant and anti-globalist populist parties across the European continent. There is a problem of a deficit of democracy in the EU.

Secondly, the EU is in a leadership issue. It is not yet known whether Germany will accept the challenge of providing leadership to the union. We also do not know whether France, one of the two engines of the integration process and other members would agree with a German leader.

Brexit, the withdrawl from membership

Last but not least, the most recent and far-reaching crisis facing the organization is generated by the fact that the identity of the EU’s postmodern security community has been irreversibly cut off by the specter of Britain’s withdrawal from membership: Brexit. As the third most populous state in the EU, with over 12% of the Union’s population, the United Kingdom has been an influential player in the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Its absence still affects the ideological balance within the EU institutions.

In conclusion, it is neither the first, nor the last time that the European Union is going through periods of crisis. I believe that optimal solutions will be found and the consequences will be favorable as it has been so far. As the EU’s motto says, Europeans are “United in Diversity“, united to promote peace and prosperity, while agreeing to open their minds to the diverse cultures, traditions and languages of our continent.

Stancu Maria Ariana

Legal Intern R&R Partners Bucharest

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