_ Nikolay Kaveshnikov, Political Science PhD, associate professor, head of department of European integration at MGIMO-University, leading research fellow at the RAS Institute of Europe. April 11th 2016.
The EU has suffered a series of crises over the past few years, leading many experts to continually predict the downfall of Europe. The Eurozone crisis uncovered a number of economic issues that need to be dealt with in order to improve the overall competitiveness of the EU economy.
In recent years, the number of academic studies and political opinions on the desired future of the EU has grown significantly. Despite the diversity of these opinions, they can conditionally be divided into one of four options: more Europe, less Europe, consolidation of Europe, flexible Europe. Each of these scenarios is aimed at achieving a certain image of future that is desirable for some political powers in the EU and barely acceptable for others. The systemic crisis is forcing the EU elites to choose finalité for European integration – a choice that they had managed to avoid for several decades.
1. “Less Europe” does not mean simply abandoning the idea of a “closer union”.
2. “More Europe” means a leap forward to a fully fledged federation, even if the words “European Economic and Monetary Union”, “tax union”, political union, etc. are used instead of “federation”.
3. The strategy of “consolidating Europe” involves understanding and refining what has already been done.
4. Flexible Europe. “Flexible integration”
- The current systemic crisis in relations between Russia and the West makes difficult forming longterm priorities with regard to Europe. The events of recent months suggest that Moscow is ready to put a great deal of effort into normalizing relations with Europe.
- Russia will need to exert substantial political and economic resources if it is to continue its effort to “Pivot to the East” and create an independent pole of growth in Eurasia through the development of the Eurasian Economic Union. In this context, it is important for Russia’s relations with the European Union to be predictable, as the European Union is one of Russia’s key trade and economic partners and an important foreign policy actor.
- Selective cooperation under the condition of mutual respect for the sovereignty and unconditional equality of the sides is the best possible option in terms of developing Russia–EU relations in the medium term. In case of the progress on both the Eastern and the Eurasian fronts, the long-term goal of building a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, uniting Eurasia, the Asia-Pacific and Europe by harmonizing integration processes in the Eurasian Economic Union, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the European Union could become a reality.
- In this scenario, Russia is interested in preserving the stability and the effective functioning of the European Union, as well as in the moderately positive economic development of its member countries. Any kind of destabilization of the EU will mean increased economic, political and even military-political risks, particularly in Central Europe, and could also lead to the United States bolstering its influence in Europe.
- The most advantageous situation for Russia would be for the influence of the major players in the European Union to grow, along with their ability to contribute to maintaining the stability and governability of countries at the periphery. The transformation of the European Union into a “core and periphery” system most closely matches these parameters. Assuming that things develop favourably, the possibility of building pragmatic relations with the “core” of the European Union while preserving tactical freedom of movement in terms of bilateral relations may very well present itself.