Europe's Reactive and Protective Muddling Through

Janis A. Emmanouilidis

Post-summit Analysis

Brussels 10/2015

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The EU’s October 2015 summit was dominated by one issue, the migration and refugee crisis, with EU leaders intent on putting on a public display of unity after weeks of bitter arguments and concentrating on fire-fighting and immediate measures to tackle the most pressing reasons for, and impacts of, the crisis. Longer-term measures to address some of the root causes of increased migratory flows, support for the integration of newly arrived refugees or the introduction of new channels of legal migration, were not discussed. The Summit also spent little time on two issues that had originally been expected to be a key part of the agenda: the forthcoming British referendum on EU membership, where irritation with the slow pace of talks and British vagueness about its demands were in evidence; and the governance of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), where EU leaders missed another opportunity for a thorough debate about future perspectives on the basis of the ‘Five Presidents’ Report’.

One year into current political cycle, the EU and its members are again in fire-fighting mode. The migration/refugee crisis is fully preoccupying EU institutions and governments, while the ‘euro crisis’ and the ‘Ukraine crisis’ are not yet over. In general, the EU’s ability to tackle all these interrelated crises effectively is restricted by a number of limiting factors which can be summarised in four words: mistrust, complexity, divergence, and disappointment. One could argue that this is not new, but things have got worse in recent years and the migration/refugee crisis seems to be fuelling this. As a consequence, it seems that the best we can hope for in the immediate future is some kind of ‘reactive and protective muddling through’, with EU institutions and member states mainly preoccupied with fighting the many forces of disintegration.

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