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The EU in 2020 - more of the same?

Integration will intensify as the European Union proceeds from one crisis to another

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Press Release 21 September 2004 Integration will intensify as the European Union proceeds from one crisis to another, just as hitherto. Progress will be made in economic, foreign and security policy especially but also in solidarity. Not all member states will be involved in all aspects of integration but those that are will move towards a federal state. These are some of the issues addressed by Peter Ekholm in his book The EU in 2020 published on Tuesday in Helsinki. By 2020 the European Union will be a federal state even though people will not dare call it so by name. It will come in through the back door since the EU will have developed into a federal state by sectors to avoid the EU as a whole being a federation. It is probable that not all thirty member countries will be part of everything. In his book Ekholm calls for debate on what the EU does in parallel with how it does it. The forms of decision-making have been much discussed but the content of EU policy is what interests ordinary citizens. The book addresses the role of the EU when it comes to solidarity, foreign policy and ensuring the Union’s competitiveness. Ekholm thinks that one thing will inevitably lead to another. When the EU has a common monetary policy, then it will only be a matter of time before economic policy is also decided jointly instead of on the basis of negotiations as at present. Correspondingly, since trade policy is an EU affair, it is to be expected that foreign policy will follow in its footsteps. In trade with Russia, the United States and China it is more or less impossible to separate trade and politics. Members of the European Monetary Union today constitute an economic club. In the future they will intensify their cooperation to become an economic union. It is likely that this will bring with it not only harmonisation of taxes but even an EU tax. The EU budget can be expected to grow but it will not be able to compete with the public expenditure of the individual member states. Consequently, the EU should concentrate on promoting the creation of new and leaving traditional income distribution and income transfers to the member countries. The EU’s old goals of peace, democracy and well-being have already been so well achieved that they no longer awake the interest of the people of the EU. On the other hand, the Union has not succeeded in finding a goal that can reach out to and inspire its citizens. Ekholm believes that guarding Europe’s interests in the world would be a natural goal where member states could achieve more by working together rather than individually. Ekholm notes that the EU’s road to unification has been based on two precepts. First, the EU has reacted to external threats rather than setting its own goals and consciously working towards them. According to Ekholm the EU is already so large and affects people’s lives in so many ways that it can no longer afford to be satisfied with simply reacting. The same applies to the other precept, slowness. The evolution of the EU has been a very long drawn-out process with the time taken to resolve important matters taking tens of years. The expectations of both the EU’s external environment and EU citizens presuppose more rapid action. The book also takes up the question of a Finnish identity. Although it is changing, Ekholm is not worried about the prospect of its disappearing altogether. The two identities, European and Finnish, can be reconciled without friction. In Brussels we are Finns, in Tokyo we are also Europeans. Peter Ekholm’s report The EU in 2020 is the result of the Finnish National Fund for Research and Development (Sitra)’s Europe 2020 project. The purpose of this project is to chart issues of key importance for the future of Finland and the European Union and that are central to Finnish success. Peter Ekholm is head of the project. Further details Peter Ekholm, Sitra’s Europe 2020 project, tel. +358-9-618 991 Publication details EU vuonna 2020 (The EU in 2020), Peter Ekholm. Sitra Report 42. ISBN 951-37-4281-4, ISSN 1457-571X (Sitra), 77 pages, Edita Prima Oy. Helsinki 2004. The report (in Finnish) is available free of charge from Sitra, tel. +358-9-618 991, e-mail: julkaisut@sitra.fi. The report is available in electronic form (PDF format) from Sitra’s Internet pages under the address publications > Publications in Finnish > Sitra raportteja -sarja.

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