State of the Union 2017 scenario: with full breath ahead

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by Sergio Maia, Managing Editor

On September, 13th President Jean-Claude Juncker addressed the annual speech of the State of the Union (here). Against the background of the White Paper on the Future of Europe and in solid dialogue with the European Parliament, President Juncker presented some new ideas as well as highlighted previous proposals. More importantly, the European Commission demonstrates that it is effectively holding the position of initiative with which the Treaties empower it – in close democratic discussion with the Parliament.

Here we intend to comment the first impressions about key aspects of some of the topics the Juncker Commission brought to life and debate.

1. After valuing the European institutions role on “helping the wind change” for growth, job creation and control of public deficits, he expressed the will to strengthen the European trade agenda by negotiating international agreements. It seems that after the cases of the Paris agreement (on environmental issues) and the uncertainty around TTIP, there are two messages underlying this point. The first is to make the EU the main business platform worldwide (Canada, Japan, Mexico, South America and the proposal to open negotiations with Australia and New Zealand). Reliable and stable, Europe wants to be the ideal partner and the first in line in global economy. With many interrogations amounting over the US, this also seems to be an external policy strategy (“we are not naïve free traders”, he said). Alongside investment, the idea is to make the industry stronger and more competitive as well as being the leader in fighting climate change. More and more signals of the projection of the leadership of the Union in the world.

2. As far as migration, external borders and the Schengen area are concerned, migration will remain a priority. So will the support to Italian authorities who are “saving Europe’s honour in the Mediterranean”. In parallel, the Commission wants to work on legal pathways to end illegal activities like trafficking at the same time it calls for solidarity in welcoming refugees. This is a novelty. After Germany’s policy of opening doors, now the EC looks like the new leading actor in this matter. Contrary to the position of his political family, which never clearly came out, President Juncker took on a stand closer to the approach of S&D. It will be interesting to follow the next parliamentary debates and what the EPP’s reaction will be, even though its following remarks were in a more agreeable way to these terms. Finally, suggesting that Romania, Bulgaria and soon Croatia should become members of the Schengen area is a political movement on a critical region where Russia has been growingly active. The idea seems to be to overpower its influence there – the direct reference of the 100th anniversary of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania proves just that.

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Editorial of March 2017

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by Pedro Madeira Froufe, Editor

The future (in White Paper) of Europe, according to Juncker

The European Commission has presented the White Paper on the Future of Europe precisely now in the year of the milestone celebration of 60 years of integration[i] and when it is taking place the technical and diplomatic operation of materialising Brexit.

It is always good and never inopportune to launch a debate on the future of integration, especially when the Union faces a political, economic and social turbulence and, at the external level, the geopolitical indetermination which makes this debate an existential issue. Incidentally, by promoting this debate, it is indispensible that it is rapidly consequent.

The White Paper was then presented at the European Parliament, on 1st March, by the President of the Commission who intended to propose options to strengthen the Union in the post-Brexit. Juncker wanted to highlight, by all means and with certainty before the context and the dark and hesitant note with which the integration and the EU have been marked, a sign/memory of hope: “Our darkest days are still far brighter than any spent by our forefathers imprisoned in Ventotene” [the Italian prison where Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi were kept during the II World War].

The intention of the Commission and its President is understandable (in fact, he has already announced he won’t be running for a second term). Indeed, this motivating intention of the newly presented White Paper was explicitly affirmed: as we face a Europe post-Brexit, the integration of 28-1 and with risks of not being able to stem possible propensities for new withdrawals, we must quickly define a new path. A definition that will mean necessarily a commitment of deepening the integration, among all. The question is precisely knowing/defining how to advance to this deepening. Furthermore: what does it mean, realistically and consequently today, such deepening? That is, which path to define to the future (nearly) immediate of the Union?

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Is Europe alone?

by João Alexandre Guimarães, Erasmus student at UMinho

After the US Election and confirmation of Donald Trump as president, the current President Barack Obama visited Europe and raised an issue … Is Europe alone?

In an interview, the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said,

“Trump has, among other things, praised Vladimir Putin, questioned the principle of NATO, and suggested creating a database of Muslims in America.[…] We will need to teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works,’ he continued, adding that Americans usually had no interest in Europe. […] I think we will waste two years before Mr Trump tours the world he does not know”, via Metro.

In Berlin and after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, current President Barack Obama recalled the priorities of his eight-year term, saying he hoped that his successor, Donald Trump, would not call into question projects such as the transatlantic free trade agreement or commitments to NATO and the Paris climate deal.

‘‘The committement of the United States to Europe is enduring and it is rooted in the values that we share. The values that Angela just mentioned. Our commitment to democracy, our commitment to the rule of law, our commitment to the dignity of all people. In our own countries and around the world our alliance with our NATO partners has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy for nearly 70 years, in good times and bad, and through presidents of both parties, because the United States has a fundamental interest in Europe’s stability and security,” he said, via Euronews.

Mark Leonard told the Social Europe that “this will be a tough agenda to adopt – not least because Europe is facing its own brand of populist nationalism. France’s far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, was among the first to congratulate Trump on his victory, and Trump has said that he would put the UK at the front of the queue after Brexit. But even Europe’s most Trump-like leaders will find it harder to defend their national interest if they try to go it alone. To survive in Trump’s world, they should try to make Europe great again.”

“Out is out” (including in relation to the Mediterranean diet…). On the Article 50 of the European Union Treaty in the light of the federative principle of European loyalty

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by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

Since Abraham Lincoln faced the hardest constitutional crisis of the USA (War of Secession, 1861-1865) the modern legal theory of federative systems had taken for granted that the hypothesis of secession was repelled. And then the Canadian Supreme Court reframed the data. In the country, in 1995, a referendum was called on the unilateral declaration of secession of Québec. The proposal of separation was reject by a short difference – 50,58% of the votes in a turnout of 94%. Following the referendum the federal government appealed to the Supreme Court to know if a unilateral secession, addressed in a popular consultation not approved by the remaining States, would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that a unilateral secession with those features would infringe the Constitution. However, if in a different referendum, when answering a “clear question”, the “clear majority” of the Québécoise casted an unequivocal will of not integrating Canada anymore, then the remaining States and the federal government would be bonded to negotiate with Québec the conditions for its withdrawal because unwritten constitutional principles determined it (Reference re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217). In the aftermath the federal government passed in the Canadian Parliament “clear” rules tending to regulate and calculate the “price” of withdrawal, especially to safeguard the legitimate interest of the remaining States and their population – as a result, Québec still integrates the federation. Punch line: in a federative system there are neither free lunches nor free exits.

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