On Monday June 13 we were given the opportunity to visit the University of Copenhagen and were given a lecture by Ian Manners, a Professor of Political Science. In our discussion we covered three categories: member state perspectives, the future of Europe and possible scenarios for the EU moving forward.
In talking about the member state perspectives, Manners gave us some interesting facts about how nations act and think. We talked about the changing border controls and were presented with the idea that was founded in the 70’s that border controls within the EU couldn’t stop terrorism. This seems to be true given that the terror attacks on Paris in November were by French and Belgian nationals and the recent shooting in the US was perpetrated by a US citizen. Ian Manners confirmed this saying “terrorism is home grown,” which is both an interesting and somewhat scary thing to think about.
Ian also talked about the economic situation in the EU and specifically about the Eurozone. While previous speakers have said that Sweden simply isn’t adopting the Euro because it cannot be forced on them and they don’t want to adopt it, it turns out that they are using a much more sophisticated method in order to not have the Euro forced on them. In order for countries to take on the Euro as their national currency they have to have stable currency for two years. Sweden controls its interest rates close to the Euro while letting their currency flow enough to not be eligible.
Another interesting fact we learned was about political parties specifically in Denmark. The second and third most popular parties in Denmark, Venstre and the Danish Peoples’ Party respectively, have made a coalition in order to gain power. Though the Socialists & Democrats are technically the most popular party in Denmark, Venstre is in power. The same thing can be seen in the European Parliament with the three largest socialist parties forming a coalition in order to have a majority over the European Peoples’ Party. This is one of the more interesting aspects of European politics that we don’t see in American politics since we have a two party system. It is also interesting to see the number of parties in the member countries and how this same coalition forming happens at a national and supranational level. Ian Manners ended his discussion saying “Danish politics is extremely volatile right now.”
As for the future of Europe, our speaker talked about three main challenges. The first is demographic challenges. The age distribution of most European countries is very heavily older. The work force in the next 15 years will be much smaller than it is now, which will put a strain on many countries’ economies. The only two countries that have a sufficiently high reproduction rate so as to not face these demographic challenges are the US and India, according to Manners.
The second issue is climate change. Though there have been movements towards a greener global community, the implementation of policy has to be relatively uniform in order for effective change.
The third issue is the move to the right, though this issue may be short-term. Austria recently nearly elected a very far-right party, the Freedom Party of Austria. Manners even called the Greek and Hungarian parties that are in power fascist. This is a problem as it creates friction within the EU, which can be seen as the EU has issued a warning to Poland over its abuse of power and limiting of constitutional rights. However, I think that this is a short-term issue as historically there can be seen a rightward shift following economic crises such as that that happened in 2009.
Finally, Manners explained five scenarios that could happen regarding the future of the EU. These are Absentio – no EU, Confederatio – intergovernmental cooperation, Federatio – supranational integration, Stato – a regional state or Communio – regional sharing. Which of these will be put in place is up for debate, they are simply the five possible scenarios. As of right now I believe that Absentio and Federatio are the least likely while Communio or Confederatio are the most likely.
I also got a haircut today. I went to a barber shop that was owned by a British man. During my haircut I told him that I was going to London, to which he responded that it will be interesting to be there after the 23rd. I asked him what he thought was going to happen and he had a very strong belief that the UK would leave. He also believed that when the UK left it would hurt Europe but not UK. He said that this was because 90% of British Businesses don’t export to Europe. This simply is not true, as evidenced by the link below, and it made me wonder about what kind of information or misinformation is spread about the UK’s role in the EU economy and the EU’s role in the UK economy. It was interesting to hear this perspective as mostly we have heard that the UK should stay. I hope to hear more public opinion on this issue.