Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The EU: Image in Crisis?

by Whitney Taylor

On Friday, February 15th the European Union Center at the University of Illinois held its 12th Annual EU Day. Similar to previous years, we had the pleasure of hosting dignitaries and engaging with them in dialogues on hot topics such as the financial crisis, immigration issues and EU enlargement. This year we were honored to receive the Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, His Excellency Michael Collins. During his State of the European Union Address, the general feeling in the room felt more at ease this year than it had one-year prior. As some may remember, the very livelihood of the Euro and the European Union was being questioned last year. Markets were panicked, investors were bearish and people were not sure that the great experiment had been completely thought-through in its inception. However, those that had tempered the conversation and reassured us that the EU was still a success story showcasing peace and prosperity turned out to be correct; the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 and President Barack Obama affirmed his support in the Union through the initiation of an EU-US trade agreement. Eurosceptics beware, the EU is here, it is open for investment and trading, but perhaps more importantly, it may be getting its groove back despite stumbling along in our recent past.

However such positive signs in the economy can be halting and are not guaranteed. Ambassador Collins admitted that the EU had experienced failings and significant browbeating from both the media, but also from Member State economies. As the Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Collins knows all too well the depth of the crisis and that emerging from it will not occur overnight but over the course of many months if not years. Slow, measured growth is ideal and in fact necessary alongside budget cuts if the EU is to reaffirm its strong position in the global economy. Although it has not been swept aside in the least, we cannot disregard the pain that has been felt by businesses, workers and political campaigns. People in the EU have voiced their dissent and the political ranks have both changed in composition and motivation. Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed opposition to initiating deeper integration into the Union in light have what has transpired amongst the banking sector, reigniting debate over the status of the United Kingdom as a full EU Member State. As the EU is moving towards accepting its 28th Member State into the Union, Croatia, the world is watching the movements of how the United Kingdom will proceed and how the EU will enforce membership.

The EU is determined to emerge from the storm a more safe and sound entity, but as it progresses forward, will it do so by maintaining the status quo, giving Member States an à la carte option in order to tailor rules to national economic challenges or as a deeper and more harmonized Union? Only time will tell.

Whitney Taylor is a Master's Candidate in European Union Studies at Illinois where she is also pursuing a graduate minor in Corporate Governance and International Business. Her research interests include monetary policy, corporate social responsibility and trade. 

Photo: Word cloud of the text of the transcript of President Barroso's State of the Union address, created using Wordle application


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