RSIEAblog

by Sandra Cabrera Alvarado

Growing rise in Euroscepticism among its citizens, threaten by rising tides of economic instability, troubling nationalism, security concerns and political uncertainty both within the region and internationally; the European Union (EU) finds itself at the crossroads. As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Rome treaty, EU institutions must resolve to find ways to tackle the current and future challenges faced by the collective while forging a new path for its 27 members (assuming the eventual departure of the United Kingdom).

With the State of the Union speech of the European Commission in September, the European Council meeting in December and the European Parliament elections in June 2019; the EU will have the opportunity to define amongst these milestones a new strategy for its next chapter., one that puts into context its motives and ambitions over the next decade. It will be time for members of this regional community to redefine their collective place on the world stage and as a consolidated and united region. Even though 66% of Europeans see the EU as a place of stability (Eurobarometer, 2016), the EU has lost the trust of 20% of its citizens in the past ten years (European Commission, White paper, 2017). It is imperative that EU institutions work together towards recovering support, lest they dwindle into irrelevance if not non-existence.

The big questions we must consider are the steps needed in order to sustain the European project started by Jean Monet and Schuman. How we envisage a future strategy and under what terms. More importantly, what kind of new model is likely to gain the consensus of all Member States, and of those individual citizens who have lost faith in the European project?

In order to understand these challenges, and aiming to resolve these questions, the European Commission presented a White paper at the Rome Summit in which it proposes 5 scenarios on the evolution of the EU by 2025. The aim of the Commission’s White paper is to frame the debate for the Council of Europe meeting in December, paving the way for a discussion on a unified strategy for the renewal of Europe.

The 5 choices presented in the White Paper refer to retain the status quo (Scenario 1: Carrying On), to focus, as per the Union’s origins on single market policies only (Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market), to broaden the scope of integration and policymaking to cover new areas (Scenario 3: Those Who Want More Do More), to target activities by reducing the number of areas covered (Scenario 4: Doing Less More Efficiently), and to enhance cooperation in all domains (Scenario 5: Doing Much More Together).

The question that arises is, which of these options would be preferred? What new path will be paved and under what rationale. The Commission’s task is not to choose definitively between these options, but to provide meaningful guidance to the Council during their debate by the end of 2017. To offer some preliminary thoughts on the choices at hand, it is useful to appeal to and consider the “spillover hypothesis” by Phillipe Schmitter based on the theory of Neo-functionalism by Ernst B. Haas.

The Spillover hypothesis occurs under the interdependence of functional tasks of a regional integration. Under this interdependence scheme, members agreed on some collective goals for a variety of motives driven by the sole goal of pursuing individual (national) social-economic welfare (Schmitter, 1969:162). The spillover effect origins on economic and political sectors developed in the national contexts but enforced by the supranational lines. A demonstration of the spill-over effect in a regional integration is the creation of the Euratom treaties. A supranational institution ideologically unified on a single atomic energy program agreed by a national elite aiming to raise the living standards of the working population (Haas, 2004:302). A similar behavior that can illustrate this theory is the modus vivendi arrangement, in which an elite or group of individuals with different opinions or beliefs can achieve an arrangement to work or live together. In our case, the driver to achieve this arrangement will be the spillover.

Furthermore, Schmitter’s spillover hypothesis refers a solution when members of this integration are experiencing unfulfilled expectations and goals. These may be restored by expanding the scope of members’ cooperation to a new sector and as consequence the increase of commitment and mutual loyalty. This overlapping consensus and interest will result in linked compromises and strengthened unification. (Schmitter, 1969:162).

All the elements of dissatisfaction, frustration and unexpected performance in a sector are present in the European crisis, but according to the Spillover Hypothesis, the alternative means to involve collective action will be to restore cooperation by expanding the scope on a sector not contemplated in the original agreement. This solution is partially outlined under the description of Scenario no. 3 (Those Who Want More Do More). This scenario mentions existing sectors where there could be a possible increase in cooperation: security, social matters and taxation. However, it does not include any new sectors where states could foster new collective commitments. As a further recommendation, I would propose this new sector is based on the policy work already established by the Commission and accepted by the member states as well as recognized by its citizens. After all, even if Europe needs to carve a new path, it does not need to start from scratch.

In our case, a sector not contemplated initially within EU treaties – and one recommended here for enhanced cooperation is – Space. Space was not contemplated in the early phases of the EU’s development, but it was recently added in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) under Article 4 (3), which mentions space as a shared competence between the EU and its member states and Article 189 that gives faculties to the EU to draw up a European space policy. To unify efforts and take advantage of the European experience in space activities, the EU signed a collaborative framework agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) entered into force in May 2004 under the provision of Article 189 TFEU stating the EU shall establish any appropriate relations with ESA.

Under this agreement, European Commission and ESA aim to coordinate their actions to unify a European space policy and to increase coordination of their activities and space programmes in order to achieve an efficient organization of resources for the development of the space sector for the benefit of citizens. This relationship has leaded to the involvement of an intergovernmental organization with a supranational institution pursuing the same goal.

Having this legal basis, the Commission has set its sights on the ambitious task of developing an EU space policy through its three flagship programmes – Galileo, Copernicus and the Space Surveillance and Tracking system (SST) at a European level under the support and approval of the member states. The operation of 3 European space programmes for almost 20 years as well as the commitment of member states to the space sector complies with the characteristics of the management of a supranational authority provided by the member states.

Regarding the spillover effect, technology development and research in space applications have proven useful tools for the development of public policies contributing to societal needs, and the symbolism of astronauts who cooperate as a team under the guidance of the European Space Agency (ESA) enhancing European identity. France and Germany are the proof of a spillover effect as they are the main contributors to the ESA budget due to its assurance of obtaining an economic benefit of this endeavor. In 2017, each contributed 22.7% of the total of ESA’s budget (ESA budget, 2017). Even the United Kingdom rose its contribution despite the decision of the UK to leave the EU, this makes the UK the fourth main contributor with 7.9%. Moreover, the Director General of ESA Jan Woerner has recognized the rising interest in the space sector reflected by a 9.5% rise in contributions from members over the 2016 ESA budget established in December 2016 at the ESA’s Ministerial Council, declaring his surprise “I would never have dared predict 10.3 billion (…) my best guess before the conference was around 8 billion euros.”

Besides ESA’s recognition of its space activities, the Commission is also in a position of emphasizing the economic and social benefits to member states who poses no national space programme, the possibility of obtaining satellite images from Copernicus under its free and open data policy. Copernicus provides free imagery for maritime surveillance, agriculture, environmental monitoring and humanitarian aid.

The element of involvement of collective action in this sector to achieve the commitment of the parties and loyalty can also be found on member states positions. This commitment was shown at the conference on Space Policy for EU Integration, during the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Rome Treaty (June 2017). Several members of the space policy sector reaffirmed their awareness of space as a vector for the integration and consolidation of Europe by expressing their interests on the development of new applications for security and defense to address citizens’ needs through a joint effort.

Hence, the spillover effect application on member states through the space sector could play an important role to resolve in a way the dissatisfaction of member states thereby enhancing the commitment and loyalty of member states impacting positively the regional integration. Regardless of the chosen sector for cooperation, Europe needs to explore and provide more emphasis to new areas in order to obtain better integration. In December, it will fall to the European Council (and later on to the European Parliament) to determine the direction of Europe.

In conclusion, we can perceive that self-interest of the parties will be the main element for integration. Parties seeking for their own economic and social welfare will drive them to pursue cooperation. As a consequence, parties will be giving up of some sort of sovereignty, as long as they achieve their interests. This shallow morality will lead to the common acceptance of values and goals of the integration. In practice, the EU should seek to expand a new sector of cooperation to achieve its aim of integration and legitimacy. To explore new sectors, to seek out new commitments, to boldly go where no EU law has gone before.

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