Debate “The future of Europe: (de)cohesion protocol” during EFNI

The Center for International Relations have been awarded a grand from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for developing a publication and organizing the debate “The future of Europe: (de)cohesion protocol”, which took place on October 2nd 2014, during the European Forum for New Ideas in Sopot. The aim of the project was to define the interests that lead to divisions on European continent and to reach conclusions and recommendations on how to deal with disintegration trends and strengthen the consolidation process in Europe. Lewiatan Confederation and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation were CIR’s partners in the project.

After more than 60 years of efforts devoted to integrate Europe, the continent remains divided. The main disputes revolt around energy and climate issues, the euro and banking union, sources of economic growth, foreign and security policy, as well as migration,

e-commerce and free provision of services. During the second day of the European Forum for New Ideas in Sopot, organized by the CIR, the participants of the debate discussed the possibility of Multi-speed Europe in upcoming years. The panellists among others included, prof. Danuta Hübner, prof. Jeffrey Gedmin, prof. Günter Verheugen, Ambassadors Janusz Reiter and Paweł Wojciechowski, representatives of Polish and foreign thinktanks and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The debate was moderated by dr Małgorzata Bonikowska, the CIR President.

The discussion was divided into five thematic groups that came to joint conclusions, which were then presented in a public forum. The first group of panellists discussed whether the Energy Union is a way to achieve Europe’s energy security. Janusz Reiter, the Polish Ambassador in Germany and the United States, pointed out that the Energy Union is not a ready-made idea that can be accepted or rejected, but is an invitation to discussion, that will indicate how seriously all EU states can consider it.

There has never been a better time to make progress in this matter, but this will require the ability to compromise from everyone, including Poland – said the Ambassador. The discussion participants pointed out the need to raise above national egoisms and to use diversity and potential of individual countries to strengthen, rather than weaken Europe. For countries similar to Poland, whose economy is based on coal, the requirements of energy policy could be treated as an opportunity for modernization and transition to new technologies. The future of Europe and its energy security, which is also a part of a national security, will largely depend on how many smart solutions, that reconcile the interests of different countries, will be found and implemented. The debate participants were emphasizing that in order to improve the EU’s energy security, it is necessary to increase funds for key EU infrastructure projects. Increasing energy efficiency would allow Europe to strike a balance between economic, climate and energy goals. It was also recognized that it is cheaper and more efficient to do certain things together, for example creating power markets -Europe needs more interconnectivity – creating connections between national markets, and finally that only by acting together can we strengthen Europe’s position in relation to external partners and find solutions to national problems.

Another problem, which was raised during debate, was the dilemma of how to combine a low-carbon economy with competitiveness. Paweł Wojciechowski,

Ambassador of Poland to the OECD, noted that EU climate policy has a colossal impact on the European economy competitiveness, through shaping energy prices.

– In Europe, energy prices are three times higher than in the United States. At the same time, we set ambitious climate goals for 2030. Today, we must answer the question whether the Union wants to be a global leader in achieving climate goals.

Discussion participants agreed, that efforts towards a low-carbon economy in the world should be made, but noted that carbon dioxide emitted by the EU represents only 11% of the global emissions, so it’s worth considering whether we should be even more ambitious and encourage other countries – especially India, China and the US – to be more responsible. It was also noted that individual Member States have different approaches towards the solutions and pace of reaching the Green Europe. We should beware of different “prescriptions” for energy and climate issues depending on the specificity of the country. There is also a need to discuss what climate policy instruments should be introduced to balance climate goals with competitiveness (certificates, carbon taxes). In the long run, we should be less ambitious and more diagnostic, pay attention to contradictions, for example in the policy of subsidizing fossil fuels while subsidizing renewable energy sources, and think strategically about energy efficiency and the use of new technologies to achieve climate policy goals.

 

Another discussed topic, was the possibility of reconciling the need for saving with the European economy growth. Discussion participants agreed unanimously, that growth is the most important factor for Europe and the world. According to prof. Danuta Hϋbner, chairwoman of the EP’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, former EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, there is no growth without investment. Investments need the investor confidence, but also money, hence the policy of the European Central Bank, which stimulates banks to intensify lending, is important.

Without a credit boost to the economy, in particular the credit opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises, growth will not be restored. So let’s invest.

Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Transatlantic Renewal Project, Senior Fellow at Georgetown University and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London, also agreed with this appeal. Dr. Gedmin also emphasized, that from the US perspective, growth is now the most important determinant of economic prosperity, business opportunities and creating new places work. The participants of the discussion did not question the fact, that savings have to be made, however they recognized that the budget policy of the EU Member States should include space for increasing budget expenditure on public investments, because that would help stimulate the private investment. In times of economic crisis, when national budgets are cut and consolidated, the reverse logic should be applied to the European budget, which should support growth, job creation and competitiveness.

The discussion on cohesion, in particular the dilemma of how to maintain a balance between the euro area and the rest of the EU, has shown that panelists have different attitudes towards the Multi-speed Europe phenomenon. According to Samuel Rutz, Deputy Director of the economic thinktank Avenir Suisse – different pace of integration, resulting from different social, economic and cultural conditions of member countries, is at this moment desirable. – The single currency as a tool of integration has failed completely. Today, the euro area needs more flexibility. The countries are not identical, the solution is integration at different rates.

However, according to Marcin Nowicki from the Institute for Market Economics, a new vision for further integration, institutional changes and reforms is needed. The crisis has deepened the democracy deficit in Europe, intensification in the nationalist movemnets can be observed, and national interests are put before the community goals.

– We have to answer the question whether we want to build new walls between countries or whether we prefer to improve our democratic institutions.

According to director Nowicki, the only long-term solution is to keep all member countries in the stream of integration. During the discussion, it was also noted that if the EU wants to be faithful to the European values, it must be a consistent advocate of them on the international stage.

The final discussed topic was the question of whether the European Union is ready for Common Foreign and Security Policy. The interlocutors came to the joint conclusion that in the face of international threats and instability in the neighbouring countries in the East, the European Union must revise its security strategy. Günter Verheugen, honorary professor of the Viadrina University, former EU commissioner for enlargement of the Union, pointed out that the Union must first deal with the lack of decision-making skills of politicians. This prevents the implementation of joint projects for security and defense, which as a consequence leads to lose of the EU international significance. The existing gaps cannot be filled out by individual nation states.

– We do not intend to become a global superpower, but we want to be in this narrow group in which makes global level decisions. I do not believe that this could happen among the hundred and ninety-several UN members. It is in our political and economic interest to have a Common Foreign and Security Policy in the full meaning of it.

During the debate, a publication specially prepared for the occasion was distributed, in which dividing lines in Europe, their sources and axes of compromise were defined. The CIR was a technical partner of this year’s EFNI. The project was co-financed by the Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of the competition “Cooperation in the field of public diplomacy 2014”

Information on the CSM debate and other EFNI events can be found at www.efni.pl.

The project is co-financed by the Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of the competition “Cooperation in the field of public diplomacy 2014”.

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