In a contribution about “An EU disintegration after Brexit is not a likely possibility” recently published in The International Economy, Spring 2016, 26-27, as part of a set of articles of prominent public individuals, Klaus F. Zimmermann (Center for European Studies at Harvard University, UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, and on leave from Bonn University) contributed to the debate on: “Brexit: The Unintended Consequences. A Symposium of Views” . The text is:
“Europe is facing a large number of challenges. Its labor force is aging and shrinking. It is economically and politically threatened by the rise of Asian states. It is disorganized and unable to cope with the euro, refugees, terrorism, and the Ukrainian war, and suffers large delays in joint decision-making—if decisions come at all. For years, we have witnessed a rise in EU-skepticism and an ever larger mistrust in European institutions, while anti-
European right-wing parties grow stronger. Hence, Brexit may be seen as a “luxury crisis,” adding to the present disaster and not solving any of the existing problems.
The Brexit would leave a different European Union in its wake. With a loss of about 13 percent of its population and 15 percent of its earnings, the European Union would be a significantly less powerful economic zone. The voting balance between the north and the south would also shift: currently, the northern and the Mediterranean countries have blocking minority votes. The remaining north would face a larger demand for transfers by the lesser-endowed countries in the south and east. Other country-members could leave, and without a common vision the European idea would collapse.
However, an EU disintegration after Brexit is not a likely possibility. While it would probably be a coup to clear the table, we can re-invent the European idea with a better integration and identity strategy that would allow for a more dynamic union. A new flourishing core of Europe could establish the European dream with new trade zones
with the north and the south of the Mediterranean. Turkey could join the new European Union, thereby strengthening the southern element of the community with a large diaspora already present in the current union. In the sequence, the Scots would probably leave the United Kingdom to join the new Europe.
The core of the current crisis is the hesitation of the member states to strengthen the political integration strategy. With the British “no,” the countries left behind after Brexit can develop much faster. The current challenges call for a Europe as a whole, and less for national sovereignty. Europe needs more burden-sharing, more migrants to deal with aging societies, and more labor mobility to increase welfare.
To deal with the dissatisfaction with European institutions, which are part of a larger mistrust in government in general, less bureaucratic interference is needed in matters that can be done at the national level. Essential parts of the European model like the common market as well as reliable solidarity and reciprocity foundations should be strengthened. The further development of the European identity is essential.”
- The risk of Brexit: an opportunity for the EU?, Policy Network, February 11, 2016. (Authors: Jo Ritzen and Klaus F. Zimmermann.)
- Brexit, Europe & the Economics of Migration, UNU-MERIT, June 23, 2016. (Klaus F. Zimmermann.)
Zimmermann at the Boston waterfront.