‘EUrope’ is changing. In the most visible way this change has recently manifested itself in a drawn-out Brexit which will satisfy no-one, the rise of Euroscepticism and illiberal democracies in response to immigration and integration failures, a potentially resurgent eurozone crisis and continuing economic disparities across the EU, and mounting perceptions of a democratic deficit and the (il)legitimacy of EU institutions. These raise many difficult questions, the hardest of which is – can the EU survive?
Our special edition The Limits of EUrope examines the challenges to the EU, and explores possible causes, and theories, of European disintegration. EUrope is changing rapidly – still struggling to respond to the aftershocks of the last few years while facing imminent challenges for the new European Parliament. The next European Commission will inherit an EU racked with political, economic, social, and institutional difficulties, with European populations strongly divided between those who see the Union as their best defence and those whose understandable anger and sense of abandonment are projected onto the EU.
This journal brings together some of the leading scholars of EU studies, as well as experts from policymaking, civil advocacy, and industry, to investigate the serious challenges facing EUrope. For the first time, the post-war promise of democratic, peaceful, prosperous and open political union is not merely threatened, but is perhaps the cause of its own reversal. Free movement, free trade, and a pooling of sovereignty – the dreams of the ECSC’s and EEC’s creators – are not merely a reality; they are a reality which threatens to bring the entire European project crashing down.
Popular consensus holds that mass Euroscepticism was defeated in 2017. But as current events across the EU demonstrate, the root causes of mass dissatisfaction have not gone away. The challenges which have faced EUrope since 2008 have neither been resolved nor disappeared of their own accord, and are likely to return in the future along with new challenges resulting from Brexit, a weaker German government, Macron’s tumbling approval ratings, and a right-wing surge from Andalusia to Saxony. These challenges necessitate new academic models of Europeanisation, de-Europeanisation, and EUrope itself.
This interdisciplinary, international special edition, which draws together a diverse mixture of opinions, beliefs, backgrounds and specialisms, is a first step towards understanding how EUrope’s successes may be the cause of EUrope’s failures. It is now abundantly clear that EUrope will not be the universal political, economic and social model anticipated in the heyday of integration and expansion, and that while EUrope is unlikely to fragment or shatter as was widely predicted during the heights of the Eurozone and Migration crises, future EUrope will be very unpredictable. A new Parliament, a new Commission, the approaching end of the Merkel and Macron administrations, and the unforeseeable aftermath of Brexit – all of these will have major impacts on EUrope. What will be the future of EUrope? This journal offers some of the earliest thoughts.