Case Study

Is the EU in crisis?

It seems safe to assume that an important draw of the European Union (EU) for non-members is the expectation that membership of the Union would likely lead to increased economic growth and consequential prosperity, compared to countries that are not members.

Yet, the EU attaches strict political and economic criteria for membership: members must be both democracies and market economies. The draw of the EU means that the Union is able to exert considerable pressure on would-be members, strongly encouraging them both to democratise politically and to liberalise economically. Overall, the EU exerts considerable influence on aspirant applicant countries. They collectively amount to a combined ‘carrot-and-stick approach’, featuring both political and economic conditionality (‘conditionality’ means that for something to happen, certain conditions have to be fulfilled).

Today, however, the seemingly unstoppable progress of the EU appears to be in jeopardy. Not only did the UK vote to leave the EU in a June 2016 referendum but also the post-2015 ‘migration and refugee’ crisis has diminished previously expressed solidarity among most member states about the way forward for the Union. The talk is now of a reduction and diminishing of the EU’s collective ethos and some are even thinking aloud that its days may be numbered. This would imply a return to the pre-EU days when European countries pursued their own national interest concerns with scant concern with their neighbours’ concerns and preferences. If they did, would this amount to a European crisis?