Written by Trang Mai Nguyen
The backdrop of rising geostrategic risks, increasing instability in the EU’s neighbourhood, great power rivalry, a fierce global race in technological innovation, and (recently) the effects of the coronavirus pandemic put the EU largely a chaotic world in many aspects. precarious world order. Facing these challenges, the EU is reeling from an inflationary spiral that threatens to end the post-lockdown consumption boom, facing an energy crisis, unusual heat and political instability. A precarious world order requires a comprehensive policy that enhances the security, sustainability and democracy of the EU. In times of crisis and growing scepticism towards the European institutions, there is a need for an open debate on the Union’s perspectives.
Through its various policy documents, while not always comprehensive in providing definitions for democracy, good governance, and human rights, the European Union has nevertheless made repeated commitments to democracy promotion and democracy support, which are grounded in a general understanding that democracy is a fundamentally domestic process, a continuous challenge, and is inextricably linked to the protection of human rights.
The ongoing persistence of geopolitical ties, military alliances, cutting-edge technologies, and the reconstruction of economies makes it pertinent to propose some possible solutions for the EU’s resilience to adapt to these changes and solidify its position as a major power in the recently established democratic order:
1. To address the challenges of continued stable development, EU member states must, more than ever, strengthen solidarity. Building the EU into a just, solidarity, inclusive and equal union. In the current context, only unity can help the EU regain the strength it needs to consolidate, develop and promote its global influence. More than ever, solidarity and strength have become key concepts for the future of the EU. They are intimately connected. Without solidarity and cohesion, there can be no capacity to act either inside or outside the Union. The debt crisis has therefore necessitated a measure of mutual commitment which, while previously excluded, is today a mark of the assertiveness of the European monetary union.
The EU should enhance the unity in the process of foreign policy arrangements, which were developed in a more benign international environment, and suffer from a number of structural problems. Decisionmaking on the basis of unanimity among twenty-seven diverse countries represents an obvious constraint that often involves delays and sometimes blockages. The division of roles between the various institutional players- such as the European Council, European Commission, and European External Action Service (EEAS)- is not well defined, and their leaders often compete rather than operating as a coherent team (Stephan Lehne, 2022). And the member states, which run their own national foreign policies in parallel to the common one, often show insufficient commitment to joint action on the European level.
Solidarity and strength, the guiding principles for a new European narrative, are now seen in a different light than in early 2009, when the article in Spotlight Europe, ‘Europas neue Story’, was published. There are two reasons for this: firstly, the Treaty of Lisbon has entered into force, and secondly, the crisis of the monetary union has provided a wealth of observations and food for thought on these two principles. The key stipulation can be found in Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU): the Union ‘shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.’ Any high-handed, populist attempt to expel Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain or Italy from the Union would therefore be a breach of contract. Of course, the Treaty does not only apply the concept of solidarity to relations within the Union (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 2011). Article 3(5) of the TEU also refers explicitly to the rest of the world: ‘In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples…’ .
2. Europe needs a more integrated, sustainable, innovative and competitive defence technological and industrial base to develop and sustain defence capabilities. This can also enhance its strategic autonomy and its ability to act with partners. Building the EU’s defence to be able to defend itself, in which the first effort is to promote the implementation of the European Defense Fund for the period 2021-2027 to support the development of defence products from from research (100% support) to prototype development (up to 20%) and testing (up to 80%), ensuring that the EU army can produce its own modern weapons, minimising the burden of importing weapons and ensuring the proactive ability for defence and security strength of the whole bloc ( Alexandra Brzozowski, 2019)
In the years since the 2013 European Council proclaimed that “defence matters” to Europe, the EU has experienced a new momentum in defence cooperation (Raluca Csernatoni, 2021). This European defence industrial ecosystem encompasses a wider variety of transnational actors beyond the political, military, and industrial groups typically present in national military-industrial complexes. It presents a dense, multilevel network of EU institutions and agencies; security and industrial stakeholders; national public authorities; and interest and expert groups, all of which both compete and cooperate to shape and set policy agendas. Creating a more coherent and integrated EU security and defence vision is part of a broader effort to mitigate new security and hybrid threats emanating from an ever-more competitive geopolitical context and evolving technological trends. The goal is to find feasible solutions for improving the EU’s role as a security provider, both in its member states and in the world.
3. Strengthening transparency and integrity in the EU institutions. Defence of the integrity of EU democracy requires leaving behind the preference for secrecy, soft law and self-regulation. We should propose a new, inter-institutional ethics body with investigative and enforcement powers. Its mission would be to audit the sincerity and comprehensiveness of officials’ or lobbyists’ declarations and to adjudicate on the admissibility of passage through revolving doors. This would put all actors involved in EU decision-making under the same public scrutiny.
To foster integrity and minimise misconduct and questionable practices, there is a need to nurture a supportive environment. Hypercompetition, harmful publication pressure, detrimental power imbalances, and conflicts should be explicitly addressed and adequately handled. Fair, transparent, and responsible policies for assessing, appointing, and promoting researchers must be in place. Diversity and inclusion must be actively promoted. Collegiality, openness, reflection, and shared responsibility are vital elements of a working environment where the risk of major and minor breaches of integrity is minimised.
4. The EU needs to take on more international responsibility, which requires greater coordination of its external policies and an active role for the European External Action Service (EEAS). The maintenance and development of the values, institutions and goals of the European project can only be achieved if the EU becomes aware of its global responsibilities. This is not simply about defending against the effects of global change. The operating maxim of the EU must be to prove the effectiveness of the liberal constitutional state, the social and environmental market economy and supranational integration in overcoming the greatest challenges of our time. This will be the most successful way to promote this political model.
Only then will Europe be able to successfully address international challenges. These include the worldwide promotion of democracy, the curbing of climate change, preventive action to avert armed conflict and measures to deal with refugee surges as well as to ensure the democratic stabilisation of its own neighbourhood. Europe must be both willing and able to deal with crises and conflicts, particularly in its own region, and develop the appropriate political and military structures to allow it to do so.
5. In terms of human rights, further recommends public stakeholder to introduce market study principles in composing human rights and media literacy education in their respective population. The integration of human rights and democratic principles into its external policies was articulated in 1993 with the Treaty on European Union, where the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) noted within the treaty has a primary objective ‘to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms’ (Marco Larizza, 2010). The 1993 summit in Copenhagen of EU leaders declared that ‘the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and promotion of minorities’ is the first criterion to be met for countries seeking membership in the EU (Todd Landman, 2010).
The outcome of this collaboration is the creation of flexible education modules in which are malleable with public characteristics including but not limited to: population’s demographic, education and occupation, interests, and habit analysis.
- Request stakeholder to protect human right defenders freedom as a check-and-balance measures in media and policy transparency, including actors but not limited to: human right activist, student and youth based organisations, human right journalist, and policy analysts.
- Encourage policymakers to introduce a system in which enabling untrustworthy media content and sources should be downgraded and appear lower in search engine results, as a means to reduce the spread of misinformation. Thus the system might also include labelling sponsored advertisement and media by untrustworthy sources in a concise yet explicit manner.
- Recommend governmental organisations, non- governmental organisations, Education Establishment and Public Companies stakeholder to add media literacy courses to the already mandatory training courses for their employees, which have to be taken on a regular basis to encourage awareness for reality-checking, in line with one’s organisation values.
In this context, the EU should equip itself with services capable of autonomously carrying out these investigations and dealing with these cases of corruption, if it is even to apply effectively the rules already in force. It’s time to consider EU democracy and decision-making as Europe’s most precious public good- and arm themselves accordingly.
Brzozowski,A. (2019) European Defence Fund agreed amid ethics concerns. Euractiv. https://www.euractiv.com/section/defence-and-security/news/european-defence-fund-agreed-amid-ethics-concerns/
Csernatoni, R. (2021, December 6). The EU’s Defense Ambitions: Understanding the Emergence of a European Defense Technological and Industrial Complex. Carnegie Europe. https://carnegieeurope.eu/2021/12/06/eu-s-defense-ambitions-understanding-emergence-of-european-defense-technological-and-industrial-complex-pub-85884
Lehne, S. (2022, April 14). Making EU Foreign Policy Fit for a Geopolitical World. Carnegie Europe. https://carnegieeurope.eu/2022/04/14/making-eu-foreign-policy-fit-for-geopolitical-world-pub-86886
Landman, T. (2010) Developing Democracy: Shared Experiences and EU Intentions, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
Landmand, T and Larizza, M. (2010) EU Policy Discourse: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
Solidarity and strength: The Future of the European Union | Heinrich Böll Stiftung. (2011). Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. https://www.boell.de/en/democracy/publications-solidarity-and-strength-the-future-of-the-european-union-13276.html
This article was submitted as part of the European Policy Prize (EPP) 2023