The EU: Could It Really Collapse?

The EU is in a difficult situation. One could also say: in a deep crisis.

There is an ongoing and unresolved Eurocrisis. There is the permanent threat of terrorist attacks. There is an ongoing wave of immigration hardly controlled by anybody, and putting in danger the Schengen rules. There is a Russian regime that keeps behaving assertively. There is a wave of populism especially in the Visegrad group in Central Europe, but not limited to it. At the same time, in the U.S. two populist candidates are gaining traction with voters, and China is escalating a crisis in the South China Sea. Germany’s chancellor, recently lauded as ‘Person of the Year’, is experiencing her most serious crisis so far.

The question is: Do you think that the dissolution, or collapse of the EU is a realistic possibility?

– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers

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The EU: Could It Really Collapse?
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The EU: Could It Really Collapse?
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As the multitude of crises currently facing Europe continue without any clear solutions, people are now starting to question the very existence of the EU.
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  1. Andrey Makarychev 1 year ago

    Despite the multiple domestic and external challenges the EU currently faces, it is unlikely that the scenario of a collapse would materialise in the foreseeable future. The whole trajectory of the EU is replete with crises of different scale and scope, and each time it retained its relevance and institutional vitality. What is likely is that the EU would have to renegotiate some practical arrangements between its member states and Brussels, and perhaps evolve into a looser type of union. Yet the loss in centralisation momentum should not be deadly for the EU whose strength is in a networked type of engaging with others, and ultimately in blurring the lines between insiders and outsiders, as opposed to imposing ready-made solutions.

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  2. Alexei Voskressenski 1 year ago

    I do think that the dissolution or collapse of the EU is not a realistic possibility for its member states though populist prognostications of a next-day EU collapse inside as well as outside may persist. It is not a realistic possibility because alternatives in reality will be much more expensive for the EU countries in all senses, including financial, than of the union even in this current form. For some of the member states a dissolution or collapse of the EU may be even detrimental and lead to their collapse. Moreover, I do think that after surpassing the current crises the EU may move in a direction of further integration including in the fiscal dimension. However, this does not mean that the EU may stay intact and not need any evolution including that which will involve an appearance of more competitive political elite that can bear responsibility for further EU transformation in order to sustain challenges.

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  3. Justas Paleckis 1 year ago

    The question would have sounded quite strange just a couple of years ago. Now it does not. Even more signs of the crisis could be listed additionally, the most important of which is the lack of solidarity in the EU. Decisions which were taken collectively are not being executed. Already, we have a two-speed Europe – eurozone and the rest of the countries. There may emerge a three, four or even more speed Europe.
    Maybe Europe could have remained strong and attractive by uniting a maximum of 12-15 countries? Dreams of joining the EU held by a part of Turkey and Ukraine’s population are becoming clearly illusory.
    One can not forget the global crisis which started as financial and economic and affected the EU badly. Then the spread of conflicts and instability zones, wars, unprecedented flows of migrants in different continents, accelerating climate change which is being stopped more by words. The paradox is that when Soviet communism, the ideological division and the confrontation of two superpowers, was over, security and stability in the world did not become stronger.
    There is still hope that the European Union will overcome the lack of solidarity and will recover (perhaps even with fewer member states) and once again become an attractive example and a strong player in resolving conflicts worldwide. The alternative is a growth of threats, and even a global catastrophe.

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13 Comments

  1. Boyka Boneva 1 year ago

    If the EU would collapse or not depends on the EU and its member-states. It depends on the politicians in all the countries how much they value the existence of the EU, its fundamental freedoms and all the attached privileges (along with the obligations, of course). So, if we hope that our leaders are wise, we can count not only on preservation but also on improvement of our EU. If they prefer short-sighter electoral victories, then… I cannot say.

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  2. missbjelica 1 year ago

    The EU needs to re-brand itself, and perhaps even re-establish itself. The values upon which the EU is based on at present need to be taken apart in order to be rebuilt, to match contemporary common challenges and the inevitable development of global politics. This is something that the EU is aware of and are trying to adapt to (by for instance trying to unite most (not UK) Member States in a common investment plan that will present the EU as a united player on the digital single market). Much of the fate of the EU depends on the generations that have been born into a united Europe, and our ability to recognize the importance of the Union (since we have taken it for granted for most, if not all, of our lives). I do not foresee a collapse, but rather a re-construction period for the European Union.

    *I am currently working for the European Commission, on developing the social media image for the Investment Plan for Europe/Juncker Plan.

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  3. AW 1 year ago

    I would agree with the previous speaker concerning the EU “rebranding”. Certainly one of the problems the EU has as of today is that the generation of people, for whom peaceful co-existence of the European countries was achievemnt enough, is shrinking. The younger generation takes Shengen, SEPA and good relations of their countries with the neighbours for granted and this is definitely part of problem, simple as it might sound.

    A much bigger problem is that no shared EU political identity has emerged over these years. EU is still too little of a unitary actor when it comes to global challenges and big partners like the USA, China, climate change or terrorism. Look at the latest visit of Xi Jinping to the UK.

    Btw the UK. I also think, that if the EU wants to move on, it needs a clear-cut exit rules. What exactly will happen, if the Brits vote for leaving Europe on June 23? Will the continental companies get reimbursement for their losses from the Brexit? I think, that rules for coming AND going (making costs of going and therefore the benefits of staying within the EU clear) are a necessary part of a more mature EU.

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  5. Joerg Lohse 1 year ago

    I agree with Justas Paleckis comment, that we have (at least) a two-speed Europe already. The Euro does make the goods and services provided by the “weaker” economies so expensive, that those countries can not succeed on international markets. Member states can not use currency devaluation as possible tool anymore, which makes it difficult to “tailor” economy politics to the needs of the particular member state. If the FED continues to raise interest rates, Draghi’s “cheap money” strategy will become increasingly difficult to maintain, as the interest incentive may trigger severe money flows from Europe to the US. The only way of survival for the EU, in my opinion, is to accept the fact that a common currency will inevitably lead to a “transfer union”. Using the US as analogy, there will be stronger states which will have to”finance” the weaker once by agreed and “permanent” significant money transfer. Most of the posts in this thread are focusing on the political dimension, my point is that the hard economic facts will force dramatic changes to the structure of the EU in the near future. The ‘greek crisis”, is just the beginning in my opinion. Draghi is currently buying time, by “flooding’ the markets with cheap money. At least in Germany there is virtual no support for a “transfer union” in my opinion. I do expect, that some of the member countries will break off over time. There is no telling what the impact on the structure of the EU will be, but its fair to say that the EU as it exist today is not sustainable.

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  6. Marah 10 months ago

    I think it would take a much more profound financial emergency to set in movement the fall of the EU. At this moment, development is at last getting somewhat after the mainland endured two retreats in the space of seven years. The accomplishment of the patriot Right in these generally kind conditions is one of the enormous shocks of the present European situation. In any case, the basics presumably would need to rot promote before the patriots would have an opportunity to loosen up the union.

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  7. Solily SENG 9 months ago

    From my point of view, I believe that the EU would not possibility collapse even now EU is having a very hard time getting through many challenges. It is critically hard for the EU to survive itself from all the threats that mentioned in the article above. However, if we look back to the beginning of EU establishment (European Union) objecting to join together in order to accelerate the economy and political cooperation. It also became the role model for the successful in terms of regional integrations and strong cooperation in developing its region in providing peace and stability. It is just recently years that the arising of global challenges have also caused the EU into the difficult situations; especially the important events of Brexit. British has shocked the world and the EU itself in leaving the EU and could provide as a sample to other EU’s members to follow. Personally, I assume that EU members might not easily consider leaving the EU. We could say that it is relatively easier to deal with the issues as a union rather than to deal them unilaterally. On the other hand, these challenges may become the encouragement to push the EU to integrate its relationship stronger in moving together to produce a better solution response to the issues. Last but not least, the event of Brexit may become in the other way to remind the EU to re-consider its strategies in building internal relations within its members instead of becoming as the propose sample for the other state to think of leaving the EU as well.
    Furthermore, there would be a possibility to another countries willing to leave the EU as the British did. However, the whole organization of EU may not be realistic in dissolve. EU remains as the important actor in the global politics; and I believed the EU is in the challenging situation but they will manage to recover up through finding a better resolutions.

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  8. Vorleak HONG 9 months ago

    The fact that the EU is widely seen as a success story and as a cornerstone of European stability and prosperity. However, the EU is currently facing a series of political and economic pressures, including slow growth and persistently high unemployment, the rise of populist political parties, anti-immigrant policies and question of solidarity among the members. The EU’s ability to deal with a multitude of internal and external challenges. Among the most prominent are the Greek debt crisis, the migration and refugee crisis, Euro crisis, United Kingdom referendum on EU membership, political and economic divisions within Europe, a resurgent Russia, and a heightened terrorism threat.
    The future shape and character of the Union are being increasingly questioned. I would say that the collapse of EU or not is depending on the commitments and determinations of the EU’s members and it is unpredictable especially on their solidarity. However, there is surely a chance for EU to considering produce some beneficial EU reforms, encourage further political and economic integration, and ultimately transform the bloc into a more effective and cohesive entity.

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  9. Port Kossmann 9 months ago

    As recent events like the Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have shown, nothing seems to be certain anymore in the Western world. That is why we cannot and should not rule out the collapse of the European Union as political scientists and political advisors.

    The consequences of mismanaged scneario planning have just surfaced today again when members of the foreign affairs committee of the German Bundestag admitted that they have not made contact with any members of the upcoming Trump administration yet. Here the educated spectator might ask if it is possible that these MPs (and certainly other parts of the government as well) let wishful thinking impact their judgement. Although the election of Mr. Trump has almost through the entire race been rather unlikely, his election was always a possibility and the elites of German governance should have prepared better for this scenario.

    Apart from the importance of scenario-planning, we can establish that there is a chance of the European Union collapsing, though it seems highly unlikely. The common denominator of populists with easy answers to complex problems has always been that once they enter office, they had to either massively flip-flop on most of their campaign promises or risk disaster by actually going through with these policies. Nothing seems to have changed in this regard.

    In the case of Brexit, the loudmouths and political gamblers responsible for the decision already had to backtrack severely substantially, at least in a personal capacity. Others are now tasked with picking up the pieces but it will not be easy.

    EU leaders have already made clear to the new British government that acceptance of the four basic freedoms are non-negotiatable if the UK wants to remain in the common market. If further exits (Frexit, Nexit, etc.) are to be prevented the EU needs to continue on the current track of harsh conditions for Brexit and shall not give in on any major point of negotiation, even though it might hurt in the short to medium run. The UK has already for too long been spared of paying its fair share, now is the time for Britain to learn that its economic miracle of the last 25 years was not in spite but because of European integration.

    If the EU gives in too much, it risks becoming even more fractured. Some advisers have e.g. advocated that the UK should be spared of accepting the basic freedom of free movement of persons in exchange for participance in enhanced European military integration outside of NATO. This policy would be a folly. It is not the EU that needs the UK most but vice-versa.

    Having this in mind, EU and national leaders have to remain strong and utilize recent cataclysmic events in their favour. The election of Mr. Trump in the U.S. will most probably have to herald in an era of European self-sufficiency in defense matters. This means that in the medium to long term, defense communitization is unavoidable if the EU wants to remain a respected player on the global level and avoid Balkanization. The EU will now have to send a clear and strong message. But it is of major importance that this message is not only to be heard in Washington, Beijing and Moscow. European leaders outline to their war-weary constituents the necessity and inevitability of a combined European army. While logistics and political coordination might seem to be a problems at first, the will and can be handled in the future. From the strategic, financial, industrial and technological perspective there simply is no alternative. Every other young European I have spoken regarding this matter seems to agree almost a hundred percent on this matter.

    But if the EU keeps stumbling on this matter and political leaders such as Chancellor Merkel or President Hollande are unwilling to spend the necessary political capital, future developments might prove to be fatal for the European project. Mr. Putin has already demonstrated his tactical skills and willingness to pounce on lethargy in Brussels, Paris, Berlin or Washington. After Georgia and Crimea, the Baltics might be next. War and foreign troops on the territory of the EU will most certainly mean irreparable damage to a political project that was founded in the believe of eternal peace through ever more cooperation between different European nations.

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  10. Huong Nguyen 8 months ago

    I do think that the collapse of the EU is definitely a realistic possibility if no effective measures are taken to tackle the current unstable situations. The biggest challenge that the EU has to deal with is not coming from outsiders but the crack of inner value so-called the solidarity among the EU members. The abovementioned question was raised in Feb; however, everything has changed now, severely than ever. The wake of Brexit appears to trigger the “domino effect” among other member states. The scandal of Deutsche Bank recently has shown that the EU’s financial situation is still vulnerable and has not completely escaped from the shadow of the economic crisis since 2008. In addition, the new elected president in the US also makes the world more ambiguous than ever. Besides, the most severe issue that the EU has to face is the uncontrolled intake of migrants, which drives up the concern of terrorism and the influence of Putin’s administration. However, it can be denied that the European Union is the most successful story of the world history in terms of the solidarity and the unity of a region, becoming an example for other bloc and one of the locomotives leading the global economy and politics today; therefore, its glorious history can be ruined easily. It is time for the EU leaders to get together to find a comprehensive solution for all ongoing matters. Lastly, I am a Europe lover and I am still holding a desire of living in Europe one day no matter how unstable it is. Be strong and be great again as you used to be, Europe!

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  11. Ben Behrend 8 months ago

    Even though I do not think that a general collapse of the EU, as a whole, is very likely, the option of a partial dissolution cannot be ruled out – now even less than ever before. The current challenges, which are very complex and not easy to cope with, together with the general incapacity (lethargy) of European elites to inspire European citizens just somehow or even deliver realizable, future-orientated approaches to overcome low-demand and austerity, offers a fertile breeding ground for populism. The Euro crisis management is also still more a “muddling through” than anything else and does not give reason for much optimism.
    Consequently, the question is: how did we get here? Populism and right-wing parties have been already on the rise before the issues of the influx and (non-)reception of refugees (which of course provided nourishment to the pessimistic populists), the invasion of Russia in Crimea and the Brexit came up. It all started with the Euro crisis. Apart from the constructional flaws of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the fact that it was established way too early with too many divergent economies – including the lacking fiscal and social union to counter external (asymmetric) shocks and to make up for the surrendered options of external adjustment by national monetary policy, which made the implications of the 2008 global financial crisis even so severe – the European crisis management was poor. The initial dramatization and equation of a collapse of the euro with the collapse of the EU or Europe (“if the euro fails, Europe fails”) during the public debt crisis debates was simply wrong. Well-designed crisis governance including a well-functioning emergency plan would have made the Euro crisis less severe and would have prevented this fatal equation. After years of rather poor crisis management, this is another issue.
    Thus, the weak framework of EMU was not able to guarantee
    monetary, fiscal and, ultimately, social stability in difficult times while facing a
    global financial crisis. It contributed to imbalanced capital flows and amplified the
    economic disparities of Eurozone member states. As a corollary, EMU
    transformed economic imbalances into political imbalances.
    Due to current circumstances, great “leaps forward” are not possible and the “muddling through” as well as the crisis and growing populism will continue. Only when it becomes clear that they do not offer any viable long-term solution and the European political establishment is willing to collaborate to tackle the biggest challenges together, this trend could be stopped.

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  12. Shwe Yee 8 months ago

    In this situation, the Great Britain or the proponents of Brexit are not the greatest winners but of course Russia president, Vladimir Putin. There is no strange that all currencies are down than the dollars. Russia is very like a player in global. So Russia’s strength can be the EU’s weakness. Then the EU will be facing a dilemma now. I would say the EU becomes a uni- cultural society more and more. There are a lot of migration or refugees crisis among the European nations. Then, mostly the people come from the Islamic countries. It can create the threat of terrorist attacks. Moreover, According to The Independent News, The EU commission president said that “We will need to teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works,” Then he added that the US had no interests regardless of EU. There are a lot of things are happening and changing at the same time. But personally, The EU cannot be collapse then is a realistic possibility. Additionally, Europe is the place which I really want to study and live so I don’t want it to see the collapse.

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  13. Saeed Mohammadi 2 weeks ago

    If EU cannot answer to some questions, that would be possible. History teaches us that even great empires like Roman empire can collapse, so the collapse of EU or US or other “Empires” can be possible. After the huge flows of migration the most important question could be about “identity Politics”. Two important EU members would be dealing with the question “identity Politics”; Germany with a considerable number of Turks, France with high population of Africans and Arabs. Now with Syrians and Middle Eastern refugees, this issue can be more considerable.
    All multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies would face such problem, but EU members as a part of another united entity should take it more seriously. It seems that acculturation and integration was not the permanent answer to this issue, because we see ethnic groups are politically active based on their ethnic identity. For example, Turks in Germany choose Turk parliament members which gives them power.
    I believe that what Huntington discussed in his book “who are we” is somehow relevant to the situation of Europe. In that book, Huntington discusses the role of identity of ethnic groups in the United States. He argues that Mexicans do not assimilate and do not acculturate, so they create something as cultural block which can be dangerous for the unity of the society. I believe we can say the same thing is happening in Europe with different and divers “cultural blocks” that can threat it’s unity at local level and EU level.
    When Edward Gibbon discusses about the “Decline and Fall of Roman Empire”, he argues that there an internal factor and also an external one, and the internal one was far more important than the external one. The convulsion within Rome and also corruption were the main cause of the Fall. But in Case of EU, Identity Politics could be the Achilles’ heel. So, to prevent the collapse of EU, the question of Identity Politics should be answered.

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