by Baris Celik
I’ve always felt uneasy with saying that I like the EU, but I do like talking about it. I guess that’s why I have been writing my last two articles on the matter. I like the way the EU manages to influence the so-called ‘domestic politics’ of its member states. It surprises me everytime to see its ambition to explore new areas of activity. There are always the thorny questions of success though, i.e. whether it is making a real difference in its policy areas. And when I say people that I did a Master’s in EU politics, they react in a way that makes me think all I did was just water haul. I am kind of used to facing the question of why I didn’t choose a ‘more concrete’ subject to study – especially when it comes to issues like foreign policy. There are many people, still, who think of the EU as a result of what has only been a fail.
But I will not make a list like ‘5 reasons why there is actually an acitve EU in every policy area’. Rather, I will kindly invite those who simply ignore the EU to see the reality that the Union persists as a political entity despite its façade as a scrubby cluster of unwilling states. This is not to say that the overarching aim of ‘ever closer union’ never gets impeded. Indeed, it won’t be a long shot to argue that the Union has had an existential crisis in every decade since its inception, the most recent of which could be seen in today’s migration and terrorism debate. But why the tendency to shout like a scaremonger in those crisis times, rather than trying to see how the Union manages to find a way out (in most of the cases), or how it fails to do so? That’s what I find unnecessary.
Because I think not only the benefits, but also the pathologies of the EU can be better exposed by taking it more seriously, by accepting it as a political reality. European federalists, those who are always for a closer EU that will culminate in some sort of a pan-European entity, may only argue that it is the strenght of the EU, or it is the accumulation of years of experience, that makes it resilient against disintegration. But this line of an argument is equally misleading. I don’t think the EU always exits the dark tunnels with more power at its disposal. Instead, regressions and advances have been and will be coexistent in its long journey.
Especially today is a very fruitful time for the students of the EU to see those regressions, and to see that the EU is not always a ‘normative’ power that imports its idealised values and principles such as democracy, rule of law and human rights. Yes, the EU can act against big corporations to protect the citizens of its member states. There is the famous verdict of the ECJ against Google, concluding that member state citizens have the ‘right to be forgotten’ by those data-storing bodies, so that their ‘new life’ is not hindered by their gloomy past appearing in years-old search engine archives. But lay an eye on the long-held discussions on TTIP, and an opposite situation may come to the surface. The end result of the negotiations is yet to be seen, but the EU finds it more difficult in this case to challenge the very same corporations when it comes to their power to take the member state governments to the court. This is a big concern for the citizens, and a massive test for the EU in its pursuit of a social, protective Union.
Just as everything that is perceived pathological, the EU also carries the risk of being left out over there. Ignoring it, or assuming that the time has come for it to vanish, can only exacerbate such a risk. It has more than enough qualities both to be supported and criticised. Let us not ignore and argue!