In the last weeks, yet another series of ‘natural’ catastrophes struck in different parts of the world: there was Hurricane Florence, an earthquake and a tsunami in Indonesia, and now, flash floods on the island of Mallorca and in the South of France. Vast areas have been devastated, thousands of people were wounded, and many lost their lives. At the same time, efforts related to environmental protection – specifically those intended to slow down climate change – seem to be, if not stalled, then surely diminishing. In a couple of European countries, entreaties to preserve jobs in coal production are finding more support than calls to scale down the coal business rather soon. And this is occurring at a moment when both the evidence (see above) and also the scientific forecasts indicate that not much time is left before we may reach a tipping point after which living on the earth will be much more precarious, and hundreds of millions of people will be endangered.
So what can be done? How can we shift the balance of interests – and move away from short-term support for industry and union interests in coal, oil and gas production and toward a set of policies that will slow down climate change at a faster rate than is happening right now?
Tensions in the EU have been simmering for some time. There were ongoing quarrels and contradictions during the Euro crisis, and then, as a consequence of unregulated immigration flows. In addition, the Italian government is planning to seriously run up their debts, violating all relevant stability rules. The EU reactions to Russian assertiveness in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, Syria, the poisoning scandal in the UK (with fallout now in Switzerland) and, notorious violations of anti-doping rules also raised different levels of concern. The governments in Hungary, Italy and Cyprus have expressed understanding towards Russian leaders. More relevant, there are serious quarrels over perceived violations of the independence of the media, legal institutions and educational organizations in Poland and Hungary.
Until recently, the EU’s reactions have involved a mixture of talking and admonishing, but not much action. But now, both Poland and Hungary are exposed to different stages or Article 7 procedures which have been initiated by EU bodies. Even the conservative party grouping in the EU parliament is becoming agitated.
What is your expert view on these issues? Should the EU respond to rule violations by members in the same manner that they would when non-, or not-yet member states commit violations? What is the prospect of achieving success through further talks? What is the leverage of the EU? How do we factor-in the broader context of rising populism? Can the EU still defend its credibility against spoilers?