How Unified is the European Union?

Documentation from the seminar February 19, 2009

The seminar in Brussels on February 19th was arranged by the Swedish Foundation for Small Business Research (FSF), the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (NUTEK) and the Swedish Institute for Growth Policy Studies (ITPS).

At the FSF, ITPS & Nutek seminar in Brussels February 19th, Professor Lars Oxelheim, chairman of the Swedish Network for European Studies in Economics and Business, gave an introduction and background as co-editor of the newly released book “How Unified is the European Union?” Ulrika Stuart Hamilton, Deputy M.D.,FSF, Swedish Foundation for Small Business Research, acted as moderator and introduced the first session, “Why is EU integration lower for labour and services than for capital and goods?”.

Thomas Persson, Professor, Uppsala University, stressed the desperate need for political solutions and better coordination between the member states. He wanted to see one coordinated solution of the economic crisis rather than 27 different solutions. Persson thought that the EU has a very well integrated single market, but has failed regarding social integration: “There are many democratic problems and also a lack of accountability”. According to Persson there is a need for political leadership, joint actions and communication.

Susanne S:t Clair Renard, Professor, University College Gotland, argued that the European Court of Justice has been innovative and plays an important role for free movements of goods and services. This isthe case in the health care sector which is now regarded more as an economic activity. But there is still a difference between establishment and cross border services.

Lennart Hjalmarsson, Professor, Gothenburg University, pointed at the huge difference between U.S. and Europe regarding services provided on the market for household services. He emphasized that competition is the most important factor for the development of a more dynamic service sector in Europe. Public procurement and the Services Directive were also mentioned. Hjalmarsson concluded by asking for more coordination and integration and better regulations.
 
Maria Strömvik, Assistant Professor, Lund University, was the first speaker during the second session: “Why is EU integration higher for economic and legal matters than for political opinion formation and for democratic decision making?”. She pointed out that there are no strict regulations for foreign policy in the Treaty. Instead 27 governments agree on policies on a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, there is a great and increasing demand for common policies in this area. Strömvik pointed at a strong demand for integrated regulations from outside the EU, for example from the UN. The demand also stemmed from the fact that EU is a counterpart to the U.S. and that single, small countries usually have more difficulties in getting heard.

Yves Zenou, Professor, Stockholm University, highlighted that there is no common integration policy, but asked a rhetorical question whether we should have an integration policy or not? The attitudes of the EU member states are very different in this respect. 

For example, the share of non EU-immigrants in Spain has grown from zero to ten percent, in France assimilation is preferred to integration, while the UK has adopted the opposite approach. Zenou continued by arguing that a successful immigration policy must stem from the environment where people live and not from the labour market. Enterprise zones are a promising solution for segregated problem areas. This implies that people in these areas should not move out of their neighbourhoods when they get jobs because they are important role models.

Finally, Professor Daniel Tarschys, Stockholm University, and EU Ambassador Christian Danielsson made some conclusive remarks. Tarschys stressed that the ongoing development and integration process is moving on through many small decisions even if some bigger ones are delayed. He thought that the challenge is the need for democratic control and accountability:“Since adoption of new treaties is a very complicated process, we have to reinterpret existing ones rather than creating new ones”. Danielsson pointed out crisis management as a new challenge, and one that coul hamper other essential issues in the coming months. He also mentioned that there is concern about the strengthened presidency and the balance against the Commission. For the upcoming Swedish presidency, the EU Ambassador assured the audience that there is a capacity to handle several important issues at the same time – e.g. both high ambitions in the climate policy field and the financial crisis.

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