Turbulent and mighty continent : What future for Europe ? (Anthony Giddens)
Reviewed by Philippe Herzog, published in Europe’s World, Spring 2014
This latest work by Anthony Giddens is a brilliant and subtle contribution to the future of Europe. Giddens seeks to build a dialogue with the British people to give those who may be voting in the UK’s 2017 referendum on EU membership the tools to do so with their eyes wide open. Its book offers readers the space to develop their own opinions, even going so far as to suggest that Britain could thrive outside the Union, even though that is highly doubtful. But then he offers another option, a pro-European one – a flexible and adaptable federalist system that would serve both British and other countries interests.
To persuade the British, we must appeal to their pride and not be afraid to stand on the shoulders of Winston Churchill, who famously called for a United States of Europe. We should also speak to Britons’ sense of realism : European integration is a reality, and the future of each European country depends in its own way on it. Just as the end of the euro would be a disaster for the UK, leaving the European institutions hardly seems an option, given the need for Europe to regain its status in a globalised world of rising powers.
Giddens proposes a federalist strategy that would maintain a two-tier system for the long-term. Consolidation of the eurozone means a federal solution is needed, and fast. Giddens wants in parallel, to see the UK play an active role in rethinking the institutions of today’s EU-28, and in an enlarged EU of the future.
Understandably his book doesn’t set out the conditions needed to make such negotiations a success. The new Europe isn’t a done deal : negotiations on the devolution of competences to member states and their regional and local authorities, and the establishment of a directly-elected political leadership, are necessary yet still very problematic. A compromise would first have to be formed on the content of these negotiations which respects the interests of all. Consolidation of the eurozone will mean tax harmonisation, a single labour market, and a proper budget, and it’s far from clear whether such measures are compatible with British visions of the future EU. But although Giddens leaves this question unanswered, his ideas for putting industry, networks, climate and energy policy centre stage are extremely valuable.