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integration 4/21

Inga Kjer / IEP
Inga Kjer / IEP

Digitalisation, climate crisis, European integration – the new issue of “integration” deals with the big challenges of the 21st century.

The open access article offers an overview of the EU’s digital strategy and the framing the EU is using therefore. Other articles are about the EU’s climate package “Fit for 55”, the relations with India and the lessons drawn from the EU’s crisis policy after 2008 for the current management of the pandemic. New ideas on theory and practice of European integration give the discussion of the cosmopolitan-democratic narrative that justifies the supranational character of the EU and the plea for one (not two) presidents in the leadership of the EU.

Individual and collective self-determination beyond the nation state: the cosmopolitan-democratic narrative of European integration

Manuel Müller

Purpose narratives play an important role in the legitimization of the European Union (EU). Three goals attributed to the EU have been especially prominent: inner peace, prosperity and self-assertion on the world stage. However, all three can only inadequately justify the supranational character of European integration. A stronger justification is offered by the cosmopolitan-democratic narrative, according to which the purpose of the EU is the individual and collective self-determination of citizens beyond national borders. The cosmopolitan-democratic narrative is historically more recent and has mostly been less salient in the public debate than the other three, but nevertheless has had an important political impact on the development of the EU. Like the other narratives, however, it is not undisputed and has been the focus of various controversial debates since the 1990s.

The digitalisation strategy of the European Union — milestones and fields of activity between digital sovereignty and green transformation

Wulf Reiners

Digital transformation has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, it affects almost all areas of social and economic life. As a cross-cutting issue and solution to specific challenges, it is also increasingly the subject of initiatives at EU level. Since 2015, the EU has developed a comprehensive digital agenda that involves various areas, ranging from the single market to foreign and security policy. The paper traces the dynamic development on the basis of strategy documents and policy guidelines in three phases with a focus on 2020 and 2021. It takes stock of the EU’s overarching strategy towards digitalisation by examining what the EU understands by it, what its goals are, and what role it draws for itself in shaping the digital transformation. The study shows that the EU tries to grasp digitalisation in a substantial number of policy-specific strategies and guidelines, using mainly four patterns of interpretation – partly in parallel – which differ in terms of geopolitical, environmental, socio-political and economic policy framing.

(Un)fit for 55! Without tightening the governance regulation, the 2030 climate goal will not be achieved

Michèle Knodt, Rainer Müller, Sabine Schlacke und Marc Ringel

The European Commission's “Fit for 55” package of July 2021 provides for a significant increase in renewable energy and energy efficiency targets in the European Union (EU). However, the EU’s competences in the energy sector are severely limited and subject to sovereignty. Already in 2018, the EU adopted a Governance Regulation that provides for a hardening of the otherwise only soft governance in the areas of renewable energies and energy efficiency due to the lack of European competences. It is intended to ensure that the Commission's recommendations for improving national energy and climate plans are implemented by the member states. An analysis of the quality of implementation of these recommendations now shows that this has a positive effect in areas with harder soft governance but still needs improvement. Increasing the targets of regulatory action cannot be successful without revising the Governance Regulation and hardening soft governance along with it. Otherwise, the EU is not fit for its 55 percent target in 2030.

An economic happy end for geostrategic reasons? Prospects for success of free trade between the European Union and India

Mariano Barbato

The talks that have been resumed for reaching a free trade agreement between the European Union and India have a good chance for success. Both partners, especially India, have to achieve new economic dynamics in order to be able to face the challenge posed by China. This decisive reason is supported by Brexit, the pandemic and the climate crisis, which also spark an exogenous, geostrategic dynamic that gives new impetus to the paralyzed liberal paradigm of free trade. Taken together, it is likely that exogenous geostrategic factors realign the endogenous economic factors and thus promote a positive outcome despite the ongoing weakness of liberal free trade ideas.

“One too much“: Europe needs one (not two) presidents — a plea for more efficiency, geopolitical credibility and democratic legitimacy in the leadership of the European Union

Martin Selmayr

The executive of the European Union (EU) is currently led by two Presidents: the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council. This double Presidency is the result of a compromise between the supranational and the intergovernmental schools of thoughts at the European Convention 2002/2003. However, in practice, the interplay of the two Presidents and their competencies, which are not always clearly separated by the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon, occasionally leads to inefficiencies or even conflict in the external representation of the EU. This is why former Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed, on 13 September 2017, to merge the functions of the two Presidents by always electing the President of the Commission as President of the European Council. The article explains the rationale of the Juncker proposal, which has the potential to make the EU easier to understand for its citizens and more efficient geopolitically, while overcoming the artificial distinction between national and European interests in the leadership of the Union. The current debate about the future of the EU and its more effective positioning in global affairs appears to be a good moment to look again at the Juncker proposal, which could be implemented without the need to change the Treaties.

Ways to overcome the pandemic crisis — lessons drawn from the EU crisis policy after 2008

Hartmut Marhold

The European Union (EU) invests huge resources in overcoming the pandemic crisis and does so as a learning system: The Union learned lessons from the previous, the financial, economic and state debt crisis after 2008, in many ways. The EU assumes now definitely the role of an active player in the economy, leaving behind the neoliberal doctrine; she suspends the restrictive budgetary policy, which prevented already in 2008 and the following years adequate solutions; she reshaped the control over its financial aid programmes so that harsh conflict between member states („troika“) are mitigated; the Union further refined the public private partnership mechanisms established unter the aegis of the European Investment Bank (EIB); the European Central Bank (ECB) assumes now a role still disputed after 2008; the flexibility clauses of the Lisbon Treaty, just put into force after 2008, are now extensively applied; and, more than anything else, the Union aims at a change of paradigm by putting the NextGenerationEU programme at the service of sustainable development (enshrined in the Green Deal).

Team & authors

About the integration project: The quarterly journal "integration" is a theory-driven and policy-related interdisciplinary forum for fundamental questions of European integration. Contemporary issues in European politics are discussed from a political and academic perspective.

ISSN/ISBN: 0720-5120
Image copyright: Inga Kjer / IEP