By the year 2030, the European Union will have incorporated the Ukraine and Turkey and imposed a massive monopoly fine on Gazprom. Or it will include Ireland, Switzerland, Norway and Belarus and have formed a common army capable of deploying 250,000 soldiers. Or Amsterdam, Malmo and Marseille will be majority Muslim cities, and minarets may be just as common as Gothic steeples.
Maybe. These are a few of the chancier predictions in Europe 2030, a slim volume of essays published by the Brookings Institution and devoted to the question: “What will the European Union look like in two decades?” With contributions by European heavyweights like former German foreign minister Joshcka Fischer and his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine, and with a preface from current European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, it offers a good primer to the European élite worldview.
Despite some of the wilder speculations – Jose Cutileiro’s half-sardonic guess that eastern Ukraine will join Russia in 2018, for example – the tone of the work is cautious. Given that the essays were likely commissioned during or after the Irish rejection of the Lisbon reform treaty, but before its ultimate acceptance, this is understandable. And observers were just beginning to understand the depth of the sovereign debt crisis when the book hit shelves in December 2009.
But with regard to foreign policy, the focus is on long-term trends. There are a few points on which the essayists converge:
The transatlantic relationship will remain Europe’s most important. Fischer goes so far as to call the US a “de facto part of the EU.” Yet with US economic and military power diminished, Europe will exercise a greater degree of authority in the relationship and also push for a multi-polar international system.
Russia will still be an outsider. While the Eastern Partnership will improve relations with countries like Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, and the Union of the Mediterranean will foster closer ties with North Africa and the Middle East, Russia will remain isolated and unpredictable. “No other major threat concerns Europe directly,” writes Vedrine.
Europe will expand its military capability. In 2009 there were about two dozen peacekeeping missions under the rubric of the European Security and Defense Policy. As funding increases, this may grow to include combat missions and a standing army.
Despite the interesting discussion of possible military developments, American readers may be disappointed to find little new here on the future of NATO or missile defense. One wonders: If Russia remains apart, will European military expansion be regarded by the Kremlin as any less threatening than NATO expansion? The question is not addressed. Nor will one find any serious discussion of how Kosovo’s independence or the frozen conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or Nagorno-Karabakh – never mind Turkish Kurdistan – might one day affect European expansion. As Danish physicist Niels Bohr once reportedly quipped, “Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.”
Yet, the impression one gets from these cautious conjectures is not merely that prediction is inherently risky, but that the European Union simply won’t change that much over the next two decades – and, according to the contributors, that’s a good thing. The collection’s most trenchant essay, “The Accidental Constitution” by Joseph Weiler, a professor of law at New York University, concludes thus: “Europe 2030 will be—and should be—constitutionally the same as Europe 2010 and Europe 2050.” And Andrew Hilton, writing on the “European Economic Model in 2030,” offers this rousing prophecy: “muddling through is the most likely development over the next twenty years.”
These gentle encouragements may surprise readers accustomed to seeing recent headlines proclaim “the end of the EU,” or conditioned by American dialogue to believe that only radical “change” can make the difference in politics. It was, after all, just six months ago that German chancellor Angela Merkel appended her country’s €22 billion bailout of Greece with the warning: “This is about no more and no less than the future of Europe.” But given the recent modishness of Euro-skepticism, a defense of the status quo itself may be the most radical position.
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