European integration: is it still the dream it once was?


Is EU integration still a priority for states, or have we in fact hit 'peak accession'? Announcing a new joint project between Can Europe Make it? and oDR.

Daniel Kennedy Alex Sakalis
19 March 2015

Demotix/Roman Pilipey. All rights reserved.The European Union has been characterised by deep internal divisions, economic crises, and structural problems for the last decade. Against this background, it’s easy to forget that - officially - the EU seeks greater integration with its post-Soviet neighbours and even sees many states of the Western Balkans becoming full-fledged members in the near future.

Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine’s descent into crisis and conflict in the last year have served as reminders that Brussels can’t simply conduct its foreign policy on autopilot. Ukraine and Armenia’s last minute decisions to backtrack on an Association Agreement in November 2013 demonstrate that the EU’s attractiveness has been diminished in recent years.

Conversely Russia has become increasingly confident protecting what it perceives as its interests in its neighbourhood. Russia is actively pushing an alternative, Moscow-led trade and political bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union, to which Belarus and Armenia are already party.

EU members like the UK have also reacted ambivalently to the continued expansion of the EU to include Eastern European states like Bulgaria and Romania, putting the EU’s appetite for further integration and expansion into question.  Given these issues, European integration has paradoxically become much more important as it becomes more politically difficult.

In this series oDR and CEMI look at six states nominally committed to European integration. Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia – all post-Soviet states whose elites favour European integration – and Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia, three states in the Western Balkans granted candidate status in the last decade.

Have the EU’s internal problems decreased its attractiveness among the populations of these countries? Has the EU’s willingness to overlook the fault of governments that profess integration discredited it? And are the benefits of integration really as profound as its proponents claim, particularly for the poorest members of society?

We kick off our series looking at two states - Georgia and Montenegro - whose nominal committment to EU integration hides a capricious tension within the states themselves.

We will be updating our EU integration page every few days with another country profile as we continue to ask whether EU integration is still a priority for states, or whether we have in fact hit 'peak accession'.

Can there be a green populist project on the Left?

Many on the Left want to return to a politics based on class, not populism. They point to Left populist parties not reaching their goals. But Chantal Mouffe argues that as the COVID-19 pandemic has put the need for protection from harm at the top of the agenda, a Left populist strategy is now more relevant than ever.

Is this an opportunity for a realignment around a green democratic transformation?

Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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