EU policy directions between integration and differentiation
Given the high interaction of important policy issue areas, what we see today is the spill-over effect of core EU policies on policy spheres that belong to the national domain. This results in challenges on the path to creating a unified, EU-wide policy. Soft governance is looked upon as one way to push for policy convergence. Common welfare policies can be instrumental in closing existing social and economic inequalities in the region. Is this idea of a “Social Europe” possible and what are the potential pathways and possible challenges in achieving it?
The EU faces major challenges today in terms of organising, implementing and utilising existing institutions and decision-making mechanisms. In the absence of a single executive power, and the tussle between the Union and the states on retaining or transferring sovereignty, the EU has to rely on members’ voluntary cooperation. This usually leads to increased differentiation, which could lead to fragmentation. In order to ensure that Europe continues to grow together rather than apart, what future policies should be adopted? For example, should countries be afforded flexibility in meeting targets. Under what circumstances and how?
A strong European identity is viewed as the means to unify fiscal policies across Europe and to create a robust EU fiscal policy. Individual national budgets and tax policies lead to the fragmentation of fiscal policies within the EU. Economists believe that Europe must unify itself not only monetarily, but also fiscally, in order to overcome the current financial crisis. Is the European Identity strong enough to inspire states to forego fiscal sovereignty? What should a model for an EU fiscal union look like, and what would be the challenges associated with this?