The free content article is about narratives of the European Union (EU). In recent years, the narrative of the EU as a guarantor of security has established itself alongside the image of a peace project and a community of values. In these crisis-ridden times, can the Union consolidate its promise to protect EU citizens?
Other articles explore what the geopolitical momentum meant for the French Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2022, how the European Central Bank is responding to strong inflation, and how the EU is asserting itself in the field of digital diplomacy.
The two contributions to the forum sections deal with the European response to the war on Ukraine and its impact on the EU, as well as with the European policy visions presented by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at Charles University in Prague in August 2022.
The rich discussions of IEP’s annual conference – which could be held in presence for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic – are summarized in a conference report. The conference report of Arbeitskreis für Europäische Integration provides an initial assessment of Brexit for Germany and the EU.
From peace project to security provider? The EU’s new security promise in times of existential anxiety
Aline Bartenstein, Hendrik Hegemann und Oliver Merschel
This article analyses how and to what extent a new guiding narrative of European integration manifests itself in recent self-portrayals of the European Union (EU) as a guarantor of security and protection. This image creates and reproduces specific conceptions of the EU’s self and its fundamental “raison d'être”. The article shows that security in this context does not primarily denote the defense against concrete threats to the physical security of European citizens or critical infrastructures in a specific policy field. Rather, security is understood as a societal value that includes a much broader and more fundamental promise of stability, comfort and certainty in times perceived as crisis-ridden. The image of the EU as a guardian of comprehensive security and protection thus represents an attempt to provide a response to a widespread perception of a fundamental, often diffuse anxiety regarding the EU’s own ability to cope with current and future challenges facing European societies.
A window of opportunity: the French Council presidency in the first semester of 2022
The Council presidency during the first semester of 2022 provided France and president Emmanuel Macron with a window of opportunity to promote its own European policy agenda and to convince a more Eurosceptic French population of the benefits of European integration. This article analyses the role of the French Council presidency and president Macron in dealing with the war in Ukraine, in pursuing its ambitious agenda to shape the European Union along the lines of French preferences as laid out in Macron’s Sorbonne speech dating back to September 2017, and in bringing about compromises on an important number of legislative proposals.
Fiscal dominance as threat to the European Central Bank – analyses and recommendations
The term “fiscal dominance” refers to a regime in which a central bank is no longer free to pursue its monetary policy objectives because high fiscal deficits and debt levels are inhibiting an effective inflation control. This analysis discusses circumstantial evidence indicating that the European Central Bank (ECB) is moving towards this regime. It highlights important decisions, from the euro debt crisis and Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes”, to the post-pandemic phase and the establishment of the permanent Transmission Protection Instrument (TPI). The ECB’s increasing determination to limit interest rate differentials of highly indebted euro states, and its initially sluggish response to a historically high inflation rate provide indications of a growing fiscal dominance of ECB decisions. The article concludes with recommendations on what the ECB could do to strengthen its reputation as a de facto independent central bank.
The high representative of the union for foreign affairs and security policy between coherence and digital diplomacy
With the Lisbon Treaty, the position of the High Representative underwent an “upgrade” with the aim of increasing the visibility and coherence of the European Union foreign policy. This article continues and expands a study by Nicolai von Ondarza and Ronja Scheler (2015) and examines to what extent Federica Mogherini, the second post-Lisbon incumbent, lived up to the expectations of “more visibility” and “more coherence”. Based on an analysis of her official statements and digital communication activities, the article elicits the thematic priorities during her tenure. It is argued that at least gradu-al improvements can be detected since 2014: Mogherini used the instrument of declarations less frequently than Catherine Ashton but made more use of her “double hat” and took a more strategic approach than her predecessor, at least in digital diplomacy. The current High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission Josep Borrell continues this course, emphasizing the central role of foreign policy communication in the “battle of narratives”.
The war against Ukraine – a new order for Europe?
The Russian attack on Ukraine and the ensuing war entails enormous external and internal challenges for the European Union (EU). First, the war is a conflict between an autocratic regime and the liberal democracies in Europe and the EU. Second, the war highlights and deepens the development towards a multipolar world order. Third, this means that the EU and its member states need to reorient their defence policies, their strategic autonomy, and their enlargement policies. Fourth, these processes of reorientation take place in a context of internal challenges in the EU that is marked by a lack of governing capacity in its Common Foreign and Security Policy and by the rule of law controversies.
Between aspiration and reality: contextualizing Olaf Scholz’ Prague speech on the future of Europe
On 29 August 2022, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a long-awaited speech at Charles University in Prague that provides an important point of reference for the future European policy course of the incumbent coalition government after 16 years of Angela Merkel – and the yardstick by which it will have to be measured. Against the background of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the speech was also an attempt to spell out the “Zeitenwende” – the historic turning point for German foreign policy – in more detail and to translate it to the European level. At the same time, Scholz aimed to address recent criticism by its European partners over Germany’s support to Ukraine and make the case for European unity – yet, reservations remain.