Beyond the crisis: The societal effects of the European transformation

Published date01 September 2017
Date01 September 2017
Beyond the crisis: The societal effects of the
European transformation
Monika Eigmüller*
The European Union has been in crisis mode for a decade now. Both the global economic and financial crisis of
2009 and, more recently, the socalled refugee crisishave clearly revealed the serious institutional
misalignments of the EU, its absence of intergovernmental solidarity, and the fragility of a European construction
that has achieved little more than the creation of a common market. The EU's failure to successfully meet these
challenges has led to a serious crisis of confidence, triggering widespread popular distrust of the EU and its
institutions and suspiciousness towards politics and political decisions in general. At the same time, and somewhat
paradoxically, Europeans still express support for the EU; furthermore, there are tangible shows of solidarity
between European citizens. Thus, contrary to the common assumption, the lack of social integration matters
considerably less than institutional misalignment and a failing process of system integration in accounting for
the EU's current crises and challenges. Thus it seems important to look more closely at the type of social
integration involved, given the uncertain institutional supports. The question facing Europe today is what kind
of trust and affective European attitude and sense of belonging that will sustain over time.
For almost ten years, the European Union (EU) has been trying to cope with a series of overlapping and intercon-
nected crises: an economic crisis triggered by the near meltdown of the world financial system in 2008, followed
by the fiscal asphyxiation of several Eurozone Member States. Despite the fact that the structural causes of the said
crises have not been adequately tackled, and consequently, the underlying socioeconomic models of European states
can hardly be seen as stable, public attention has shifted to a new set of crises, foremostly the humanitarian crises
resulting from a marked rise in the number of forced migrants reaching the territory of the European Union, and
the lack of a coherent or coordinated response.
In the new as in the old crises, mainstream media and political actors have largely been taken unawares. If the
wars launched by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq destabilised the Near and Middle East, the mixture of international
intervention and nonintervention in Syria and Libya turned the area into a source of ceaseless waves of asylum
seekers. Many (but far from all) headed to the European Union. The numbers of asylum seekers were clearly (and
constantly) on the rise from 2011. However, European leaders chose to ignore the trend. But facts, quite obviously,
are ignored at one's peril. The initial denial, followed by the adoption of measures manifestly inadequate to tackle
the underlying problems, transformed a major challenge into a major crisis. While the legally, morally and politically
problematic 2016 agreement with Turkey and several agreements signed in 2017 with North African governments
Chair for Sociology, EuropaUniversität Flensburg. Many thanks to Agustín Menéndez for his very helpful comm ents!
DOI: 10.1111/eulj.12258
350 © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Eur Law J. 2017;

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