Nicolas Tenzer on how the united Europe can overcome economic and geopolitical challenges
Philosopher and intellectual Nicolas Tenzer is considered to be one of the top international experts in France. His reports on ways to improve international collaboration and cooperation in public governance are taken into account by the French government. Mr. Tenzer talks to The Ukrainian Week about the future of the joint Europe.
UW: In some of your articles from 2005, you warned about possible challenges that Europe could face and called for the restoration of the “European mechanism”. Have your warnings rung true? How would you assess Europe’s state of health?
Europe’s health is not so good, but not only because of the Eurozone crisis. The main point is that its institutions are malfunctioning. Look at the relations between different institutions: the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. The Commission lacks vision about the future of Europe. There are no European leaders inside European institutions or inside some member states that are able to really offer a vision of what Europe should be in the next fifteen years. I think that Europe is completely disappointed about its own future. All the people involved in Europe are working on very ‘daily basis’ issues and not on the main points.
For instance, nobody actually is talking seriously about what the next enlargement of Europe should be, or if it is worth it or not to continue the enlargement of Europe, and if so, by including which countries. If we decide to enlarge the EU, what institutions should be put in place? Obviously, even with the 27 member-states and Croatia as the 28th member-state, the existing institutions actually do not function. We must envision a new status of “Europe with different circles”, but not geographical circles. We must have a ‘pioneer’ group of European countries moving forward quicker than the others in order to achieve common goals. In terms of budget issues, there is no mechanism to give new architecture for the budget and to choose the priorities in the Euro crisis.
The main point, in my opinion, is that sometimes there is no accord between different European bodies, such as the Council of Europe and the European Commission, on the political side. The European Commission assists many newly-joined countries with their programmes. The Council of Europe has decided that these countries shall be EU member-states, but the Commission has no process to really assess the progress that was made, or the quality of the programmes. This is quite worrying to me because on one hand you have some bureaucratic procedures in the Commission and, on the other hand, there is a lack of political will and vision at the Council of Europe. Another big problem inside Europe is about values. In my opinion, this is not a purely philosophical issue. It also has a geopolitical aspect to it, and that of visibility and trust in Europe.
UW: Can liberal values on which the EU is based stand up to the era of state capitalism and economic nationalism?
Indeed, they are basically liberal values. However, they are liberal both economically, and politically. There are two problems with values, in my opinion. First of all, Europe seems to be unable to protect its own values inside its borders. Just look at what happened in Hungary or Romania, where some events show that these are not fully democratic states and some groups are able to put pressure on the president. Or see what happened in the Netherlands and, unfortunately, in France with the rise of far-right groups and political parties on the one hand, and that of leftist groups that completely reject the principle of globalization and openness on the other hand. Of course, this is about economic openness, but that implies philosophical openness and openness to ideas.
The second problem is that there is a huge geopolitical divide between the two sides of the Atlantic. This gap is growing and virtually nobody in Washington or in European capitals is able or really willing to build a bridge across it. I really think that the future of Europe will depend on Europe and the United States' ability to find a common approach to European geopolitics, especially on Russian issues. I think that Europe and the US will speak together, and they can only do so if they share certain values – and average people in European streets realize that this sort of a geopolitical alliance is based on these values. Right now, no-one is talking about them. That is what makes Europe so weak.
UW: You have offered three scenarios for Europe. Could you give us a short summary of those? Which one do you personally promote?
I wrote these scenarios in the paper for my magazine Le Banquet in June 2012. Fortunately, the worst-case “black” scenario is unlikely. It is based on a series of economic disasters for Europe, whereby the Eurozone fails to withstand the shocks of the crisis and some states break off of the Eurozone – not just Greece, but Spain, Italy and some others. This will be accompanied by a rise in unemployment and of far-right groups, heavily contested globalization in Europe, and the re-appearance of borders inside the Schengen area. Also, we could witness parallel widening of the divide between the two sides of the Atlantic and even the jeopardizing attitude of Russia towards some of Europe’s neighbours, including Ukraine and some Balkan and Caucasian states. European institutions will collapse. But I don’t see this as a likely scenario.
The “green” scenario is based on the idea that the European Union and international institutions including the IMF and others manage to cure the economic crisis and the Eurozone will survive. Two years ago, I said that the Eurozone will offer some strong resistance and we will probably see new leaders appear in Europe. The lack of a leader within the states and European institutions in Europe is one of the main points now. The new European Commission that will be appointed by the open Parliament in 2014 needs a brilliant and charismatic leader. If we have a charismatic leader, the capacity of the newly-elected US President and European leaders to discuss problems and common groups of policy makers, think tanks and intellectuals coming from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss differences, then Europe may have a chance for a new future.
One of the main points that needs to be discussed is the relationship between NATO and European security and defence policy. In 2025 or 2030, we could probably have better cooperation or even see a merger between these two different structures. Then, we may suppose that Russia might adopt a more cooperative attitude by 2024.
Finally, there are scenarios in between, because I don’t think that the green scenario is very likely to happen, with all of its components. There is a “grey” scenario which could be “dark grey” or “light grey”, based on how long the trends we are currently seeing last. It implies that we cure the Eurozone with some progress on budget discussions, that we have investment programs and an additional growth pact so that the citizens can have more confidence in European institutions, and then talk about the next EU enlargement without fearing critical public opinion. In my opinion, further enlargement is very important for Europe geopolitically – and it means that new countries could join the area of democracy and liberal values. Progress is an integral element of Europe and I think European leaders will find ways to explain to the public that we must continue this progress.
UW: Is there anything new that Ukraine can offer the EU?
That is a very important question. Of course, as we say, I will not interfere in domestic affairs. But I like this country and its people and I think there is a huge capacity for transformation in Ukraine as the Orange Revolution showed. But I think the problem is that this revolution was captured by undemocratic forces. If the Ukrainian people really want to join Europe they must transform their society into a more liberal society. Not only from an economic point of view, because there could be of course some regulations and I think a country like Ukraine does not need the insult of wide liberalism. Wide liberalism is a danger for Ukraine.
Still, Ukraine must have democratic institutions, first of all some democratic parties and control not only of the election, but of the choice of an MP. The way that money is pouring into politics is not a good thing. There should be more distance between money and politics. You need to have the status of the civil service in Ukraine that protects the independence and the liberty of speech and the liberty of thinking of civil servants and enhances their capacity of initiative. There must be something of a plan for the development of Ukraine focused on the interest of the people.
What shocked me when I was traveling in Ukraine outside of Kyiv was the rise in inequality and the huge poverty there. You also have some real problems to be addressed, such as AIDS, which could be a sign of illness in society. But I think that you really have to maintain a “ruling class” of civil servants, a political class that is strong enough to function, but checked by the independence of a judiciary that preserves all civil liberties and the right of speech and a free media. All these things are part of European democracy. And I think that Ukraine has the capacity to do that. The question is whether Ukraine will move towards the European model of democracy or an Asian type model of the political structure and this is one of the main issues. But of course the answer will not be given by international advisors, by the European Commission or some international organization. The answer must be given by Ukrainians themselves. And I think that one of the main issues is how to convince especially the youngest segment of society to be more involved in politics so we can see if the youth can transform politics.
Nicolas Tenzer is Head of IDEFIE, the Initiative for the Development of French Expertise in Europe and Worldwide; Chairman of CERAP, the Centre for Research and Action for Peace; and editor of Le Banquet publication. He worked at the French Ministry of Economy, Finance and Privatization in 1987-1988; the Planning Commission in 1994-2002, and was in charge of communication between the French prime minister, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs; Minister of Economy, Industry and Labour; and Minister of the Development of French Experience in Europe and Worldwide. Mr. Tenzer was involved in the EU missions for government reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Algeria, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Serbia. He lectured at many universities in the world and wrote a number of books, including Machiavelli’s Grave (1997), Political Philosophy (1998), France: Impossible Reforms (2004), When the World Disappears (2010), The World in 2013: Decline or Revival? (2011), and The End to France’s Woes (2011).
At a campaign rally in Iowa, President Donald Trump cited an unsubstantiated news report to revive a widely debunked false narrative about Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine on behalf of the Obama administration