The European Union is in a state of multiple crises, according to George Ross, the ad personam Chaire Jean Monnet at University of Montreal-McGill Center for Excellence on the European Union. Having taught in the Sociology and Politics departments and International and Global Studies program for 40 years, Ross returned to Brandeis on Tuesday, April 12 to deliver a talk titled “The State of the Great European Dream.”
Ross was introduced by Sabine von Mering, Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Center for German and European Studies at Brandeis.
Speaking in Levine-Ross to a packed audience, Ross discussed the issues that the European Union currently faces: the Eurozone crisis, the refugee crisis and the possibility of a British exit from the union proper. He explained how these problems have dragged down and muddled the initial “dream” of the European Union: to bring about a unified Europe with open markets and less nationalist sentiment.
The Eurozone crisis, according to Ross, has spurred disenchantment with Germany and the Union itself among those countries wallowing in debt, such as Greece. Essentially, as the effects of the economic crisis and the European Union’s response took root, the popularity of the regional entity plummeted.
The issues posed by the Eurozone crisis, Ross explained, are exacerbated by the current migrant crisis and the looming British referendum on the United Kingdom’s future involvement in the European Union.
The migrant crisis is further separating the Union into factions with different stances on the issue, which has resulted in what he differentiated as the “generous,” “overburdened,” “the nyets” and the “leave us alone” groups, Ross argued. Factored into the already growing disenchantment with the current state of the Union, this factionalization fractures the “dream.” The xenophobia correlating with the migration crisis, Ross explained, only serves to fuel euroscepticism, further decreasing the legitimacy of the Union.
Euroscepticism is the root cause of the last crisis that Ross discussed, the possibility of a British exit from the European Union. He explained how the United Kingdom never shared the “dream” and has very much been “reluctant” with the Union in the past. Ross explained that the possibility of a “Brexit” would be “risky and economically dangerous for everyone, including the British.”
At the end of his talk, Ross discussed how these problems fit into the wider context of a faltering European Union. The consequences of a factionalized and disillusioned European Union do not bode well for its future, which is now unclear, he explained. With populism and euroscepticism on the rise, he continued, the future becomes all the more foggy. Ross asserted that people are growing disillusioned with the dream–it no longer “catches people’s’ imagination.” He ended his talk not with a prediction of what will happen to the European Union, but rather with a discussion of its problems.
The discussion that followed further reaffirmed the uncertainty surrounding the future of the European Union. Although the future is very much unknown at this point, Ross stressed that the current “inability [for the Union] to move forward is serious.” All that is for certain is that the “dream” Europe once had is fading, and that the European Union is in serious trouble, he said.