Future of The European Union Integration:

A Failure or A Success? Future Expectations

by Altuğ Günar (Volume editor) Burak Darici (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 322 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Contents
  • List of Contributors
  • Section 1 Politics in the European Union
  • İrfan Kaya Ülger: Current Problems and Future Scenarios in the European Union
  • Ebru Oğurlu: Rising Right-Wing Populism in Europe
  • Omca Altın: The Probable Effects of the Migration Problem on the Future of Brexit and the European Union
  • Didem Saygın: A New Step in the European Union: Pesco and Its Future
  • Section 2 Policies in the European Union
  • Hanife Bıdırdı: European Union Common Trade Policy and Its Future
  • Investigation of EU Environmental Policies from the Past to the Future in the LCA Perspective (Levent Bilgili, Afşin Yusuf Çetinkaya, Sadullah Levent Kuzu)
  • Oğuz Güner: Institutional Dimension of the Digital Transformation and Its Future in the European Union
  • Kübra Ecer: Economic Effects of Migration Integration on the Future of the European Union
  • The Role of Germany’s Environmental Policies on Its Quest for Regional Leadership (Övgü Kalkan Küçüksolak and Emine Eren)
  • Ayşe Gülce Uygun: Transformation of the European Union’s Mediterranean Policies: Opportunities and Threats
  • Section 3 Economic Integration in the European Union
  • The (Un)Success and Future of the ECB’s Monetary Policy after the Global Financial Crisis (Uğur Akkoç, Dilek Durusu-Ciftci)
  • İhsan Erdem Kayral: The Comparison of Ireland, Spain and Greece Stock Market Volatilities in the 10th Year of 2008 Global Financial Crisis
  • Rüya Ataklı Yavuz: 2030 Global Goals and the European Union
  • Semih Emre Çekin: Influence of German Monetary Policymaking on the ECB: Obstacle or Opportunity?
  • S. Çağrı Esener: Is This the Worst Day since Yesterday? The Effects of Economic Crises and Fiscal Policy Changes in the Eurozone
  • Section 4 Turkey and the European Union Relations
  • Alper Yurttaş: Future Perspectives of the European Union-Turkey Relations
  • The European Parliament’s Impact on the Future of the EU-Turkey Relations (Muzaffer Akdoğan and İlhan Aras)
  • Ebru Tekin Bilbil: Grassroots, Municipality and Labor in the Circular Economy: The Need of a Street-Level Analysis in the European Union and Turkey
  • Section 5 The European Union and Third-Country Relations
  • Kaan Diyarbakırlıoğlu: Political Dimensions of Russia-European Union Relations
  • Süreyya Yiğit: Mare Nostrum: Morocco’s Impact on European Union – North Africa Relations
  • List of Figures
  • List of Graphs
  • List of Tables

List of Contributors

Assoc. Prof. Afşin Yusuf ÇETİNKAYA

Aksaray University


Istanbul Technical University

Asst. Prof. Ayşe Gülce UYGUN

Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University

Asst. Prof. Didem SAYGIN

Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University

Asst. Prof. Dilek DURUSU-CİFTCİ

Pamukkale University

Assoc. Prof. Ebru OĞURLU

Lefke Avrupa Üniversitesi

Asst. Prof. Ebru TEKİN BİLBİL

Özyeğin University

Emine EREN


Asst. Prof. Hanife BIDIRDI

Kocaeli University

Asst. Prof. İhsan Erdem KAYRAL

Konya Food & Agriculture University

Assoc. Prof. İlhan ARAS

Nevşehir Hacı Bektaş Veli University

Prof. Dr. İrfan Kaya Ülger

Kocaeli University


Yalova University

Dr. Kübra ECER

Communications Specialist,
Presidency of the Republic of Turkey Directorate of Communications

Asst. Prof. Levent BİLGİLİ

Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University

Asst. Prof. Muzaffer AKDOĞAN

University of Health Sciences

Asst. Prof. Oğuz GÜNER

Amasya University

Dr. Omca ALTIN

Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakıf University


Yalova University

Asst. Prof. Rüya ATAKLI YAVUZ

Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University

Asst. Prof. S. Çağrı ESENER

Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University

Assoc. Prof. Sadullah Levent KUZU

Yildiz Technical University

Asst. Prof. Semih Emre Çekin

Turkish-German University

Dr. Süreyya Yiğit

Regional Development Studies Institute

Asst. Prof. Uğur AKKOÇ

Pamukkale University

İrfan Kaya Ülger

Current Problems and Future Scenarios in the European Union


Since 2004, the European Union has been experiencing “interregnum,” a sort of intermediate period, in other words, an existential crisis. The rejection of the Constitution, which was created to take European integration to a higher level, was rejected by France on May 29, 2005, and by the Netherlands on June 1, 2005, and was the first event that led to a pause in the integration movement. Secondly, the difficulties caused by the inclusion of the ten new countries that joined the European Union on May 1, 2004, emerged significantly in just one year and negatively affected the integration movement. Indeed, as a result of the 2004 enlargement, also known as the “greatest enlargement,” the European Union has incorporated so many states at the same time.

Another development that has negatively affected European integration is the global economic crisis that erupted in 2008. The economic crisis that started in the United States has affected other geographies over time, as well as European Union member states. The Eurozone, in particular, has been deeply affected by the crisis. Eurozone countries, which have an integration level far higher than others, had difficulty maintaining the standards in the “Maastricht Criteria” after the crisis. In some countries, inflation, interest, budget deficit and the ratio of foreign debt to national income have deviated from the Maastricht Criteria. Greece ranked first among the countries whose critical economic indicators have deteriorated. A particular level of caution was shown in saving this country from bankruptcy. While Greece was supposed to be removed from the Eurozone under normal circumstances, this was not done, and generous assistance was made to prevent negative results for the Eurozone, saving the country’s economy. According to the assessment, Greece’s expulsion from the Eurozone for falling behind the Maastricht Criteria would cause the Euro to depreciate significantly against other currencies, as well as for the other countries with similar problems, the operation of the export mechanism would have become mandatory. In such a case, the Euro’s loss of value and the depreciated image of the European Union could cause considerable damage to Eurozone and European integration. To avoid all this, a significant bailout program has been implemented by the European Union for Greece, together with the International Monetary Fund ←19 | 20→(IMF). However, the 2008 crisis also deeply affected Spain, Portugal, Italy and even France as well. Likewise, new countries that have joined the European Union too have experienced significant difficulties due to the economic crisis.

Another development that profoundly affected the European Union was the influx of refugees from countries such as Syria, Egypt and Libya, North Africa and some Asian countries, which were politically destabilized during the “Arab Spring”. In the face of the influx of refugees, which seems to be a new “migration of tribes”, the European Union has tried to prevent irregular migration by making “Readmission Agreements” with neighboring countries such as Turkey, while it started passport controls at internal borders (which is actually incompatible with the Schengen acquis). Due to the refugee exodus, some of the gains achieved in the Schengen system, which had entered into force in most European Union countries by the Amsterdam Treaty, have been lost, and there has been a “reversal” in terms of development and deepening stages. In order to combat illegal immigration, some countries have carried out extreme practices such as building walls and setting barbed wires on their borders.

All these adverse developments have also affected politics, and public support for xenophobic, ultranationalist and populist political parties has increased in European Union member states. In some countries, marginal parties that can be included in this category have become government partners. In France, public support behind the National Front has risen to the level that leads the party’s presidential candidate to the second round of elections. In Austria, the ultranationalist Freedom Party has become a ruling partner. In Hungary and Poland, populist governments came to power. Meanwhile, leaders of the central political parties have increasingly begun to use populist and/or ultranationalist rhetoric to protect public support and avoid losing votes to their marginal rivals.

In the circumstances of all this, the United Kingdom (UK) politicians have brought the country’s European Union membership up to negotiation, and a step further suggested leaving the European Union as an alternative to the internal political struggle. It has been repeated frequently by British politicians that Britain is “subsidizing the EU financially” and that “its contribution to the overall budget is greater in every period.” Propaganda activities carried out under populist oppression have taken a new phase with the referendum decision. There was a referendum in the UK on June 23, 2016, and unexpectedly, the share of voters who wanted to leave reached 52 %. Thirty-three million votes were cast in the referendum, with those pro-secession were 635,000 more than those who wanted to stay in the European Union (O’Rourke, 2018: 136).

Today, the European Union is experiencing an intermediate period due to the problems described above. Where European Union integration is going, both ←20 | 21→inside and outside has been debated for ten years. Will the European Union be able to find a way out of this interim period through reform? Is it utopia to expect the “European Federation” or “United States of Europe” targets to be raised in the near future? Or is the European Union on its way to disintegration by gradually losing its current gains? Will a gradual disintegration follow the pause following the progress made so far? Is it overly optimistic to coordinate and direct differences of opinion of the member states on the future of integration to a new goal? In this study, the answers to the questions listed above will be sought, and an assessment of the future of European integration will be made. Within this general framework, the first chapter will examine how Britain’s departure from the European Union will affect European integration, and in the second chapter, member states’ approaches and differences of opinion on fundamental issues will be examined. In the last chapter, future scenarios of the integration movement will be analyzed, and the search for a recession will be discussed. To put it another way, this study is an attempt to examine the actual situation and predict the future. On the other hand, it is well known that changes in the international political system, the policies pursued by the United States, China and Russia are of vital importance, and will directly affect the integration movement.

1 Effects of Brexit on European Integration

Britain’s accession to the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, after more than a decade of struggle, was problematic; similarly, its secession has opened the door to great controversy, both in the UK and in member states and the European Union institutions. The UK, which was initially not part of European integration, changed its mind when it saw that the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) it had organized to stimulate economic relations did not meet expectations, and applied to join the European Union. However, due to the blockade of French President Charles De Gaulle, Britain’s accession to the European Union was not possible in the 1960s and only took place in 1973. After becoming a member, the UK pursued policies that generally slowed down or hindered European integration. Perhaps the only notable exception to this general policy of the UK has been its efforts to establish a single market. However, the UK later opted to be excluded from European social policy, monetary union and Schengen activities.

Generally speaking, Britain has opposed the strengthening of the supranational dimension of the integration movement, and attached importance to cooperation with the United States outside the Union. The country’s relations with Europe have always been ambiguous and hesitant. Britain, which pursued ←21 | 22→a distant policy of European integration due to its imperial past, became a member of the European Union and maintained close relations with former colonial countries under the umbrella of the “Commonwealth of British Nations”. The most crucial issue that brought Britain closer to the European Union was the economic opportunities created by integration (O’Rourke, 2018: 137). Britain has generally opposed the transfer of power and the increasing transfer of sovereignty of states to European Union institutions. In the British people, the idea that “European Integration is damaging the country” is widespread. British politicians have also come out in front of the public in every election period with the promise of “renegotiation with the EU”. In 1983, Tony Blair, a member of the Labor Party, argued that “the EU has drained Britain’s resources and exploited its workforce”. In the UK, European Union skepticism continued during the period of Margaret Thatcher, John Major and later executives.

The UK particularly opposed the deepening dimension of European integration, while supporting enlargement. According to the UK’s understanding, the accession of more states to the European Union will make deepening difficult. The amount of British contribution to the European Union budget has been the most talked-about issue of all time in this country. The “leave the EU” campaign, conducted by the British Independence Party (UKIP) in 2015, used the phrase on billboards of public transport buses: “Vote for leave. Every week, we send £350 million to Brussels instead of the National Health Service (NHS)!” (O’Rourke, 2018: 134).

“European skepticism” has always been a prominent vein in British domestic politics. This division, which was also influential within the Conservative Party, triggered a political risk for David Cameron, who was prime minister at the time; and Cameron called for a referendum to resolve this issue permanently and, on the other hand, to eliminate divisions within its own party over European Union issue. Naturally, Cameron thought the referendum would be easily won. However, things did not go as expected, and the British people voted to leave the European Union, albeit by a slight margin.

Following the referendum, Britain filed an application with the Council of Ministers on March 29, 2017 following Article 50 of the European Union Treaty, opening secession negotiations. After lengthy and arduous negotiations, the secession agreement, which became final, had to be implemented two years later. However, the treaty was rejected in three separate votes in the House of Commons. Theresa May resigned, and this time there was a deadlock in the House of Commons, when Boris Johnson, who replaced her as prime minister, insisted on the option of an “undisputed separation”. Due to the failure to ratify ←22 | 23→the Brexit treaty, the start date of the “undisputed separation” was postponed by the European Union for six months and left to October 31, 2019. If an election decision is taken, another possible postponement may occur. Brexit will be the most important agenda of the new government to take office after the snap election. After the elections, it would come as no surprise that a second Brexit referendum in the UK in early 2020 was held.

Consequently, it remains unclear as of September 2019 whether Britain will leave. However, Britain’s departure is the most critical threat the European Union has ever faced. Moreover, the Brexit referendum and the decision to leave came at a time when the crisis was continuing in the European Union’s Eurozone and the Schengen area. In foreign policy, the European Union’s relations with both the United States and Russia are also in great difficulties. It is not known whether the other countries will move in the direction of secession after the UK. If one or more countries would follow the same path, it could accelerate the disintegration or weakening of European Union integration. However, some argue that those who express that these views are pessimistic argue (European Parliament, 2018: 6). According to those in this category, the departure of the UK, on the contrary, will lead to a further strengthening of the integration movement, since Britain has long been the party that has hindered the progress of integration and has avoided liability for exclusion and privilege.

Although it is frequently emphasized that the European Union is a “supranational” organization in the debates on the theoretical dimension of European integration and in the naming of integration, this statement is insufficient to explain the entire issue, because both the supranational dimension and the international dimension of the integration movement are intertwined today. In Rosamond’s “Theories of European Integration”, all these distinctions are analyzed in theoretical dimensions (Rosamond, 2000). Progress in the European Union within the existing mixed structure is only possible as a result of the consensus of governments. From another perspective, this shows that states within the European Union have different ideas of integration. Indeed, Britain has chosen to remain out of many of the stages of integration so far based on this perspective. The UK has vigorously supported the establishment of the prevailing market envisioned by the Single European Act signed in 1986 to reach the stock market stage, which envisages the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital. The UK has also adopted the statutes for the removal of economic, technical and legal barriers introduced in the second half of the 1980s. In the current market phase, which means European Union integration to go further than the “Customs Union”, Britain has imposed only partial restrictions on the movement of persons and opposed Union-level taxation. Indeed, it is estimated ←23 | 24→that the sectors in which the UK will suffer the most losses after Brexit goes into effect will be the trade in goods and services (European Parliament, 2018: 7).

Secondly, the UK has taken a distant stance toward the “EU Social Policy”. Britain, which did not accept the idea that “economic integration inevitably requires social integration”, did not initially participate in the “European Social Policy”, which came up with the Maastricht Treaty; however, with the Treaty of Amsterdam, it has been a party to social policy. The UK also opposed part-time work by a qualified majority vote on social security. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Britain is one of the culprits of the disarray in European social policy.

The UK was also generally prohibitive when it came to transferring the “Justice and Internal Affairs Cooperation” column in the three-column European Union organization structure to a supranational level with the Treaty of Amsterdam, and opposed the inclusion of the Schengen acquis in the European Union system. When it was clear that it is not possible to prevent this, the UK chose to stay out of this practice entirely. Today, the Schengen system includes the entire EFTA countries and the European Union’s 22 member states. The UK’s position on economic and monetary union, which means further integration from the current market stage, has also been negative. Although its economy met the criteria stipulated by the Maastricht Treaty, the UK did not want to leave its national currency and join the Eurozone. The UK’s attitude on this issue has not changed in later times.

In contrast, Britain was one of the leading advocates of the “Common Foreign and Security Policy” (CFSP) in the second column of the Maastricht Treaty. The main reason for the UK’s support of the area of cooperation redefined and reinforced by the defense dimension under the Treaty of Amsterdam and later in Nice and Lisbon is that activities in this area do not require the transfer of authority, and in essence, remained at the intergovernmental level. However, the UK has been sensitive to the issue that the obligations it has undertaken under the European Security and Defense Policy and its co-operation in this area not to prevent the obligations arising from the country’s NATO membership. According to Tim Oliver, Britain’s departure will mean opening the “Pandora’s Box” in the European Union, and all conventional policies and European Union foreign policy will be extensively questioned by the remaining members (Oliver, 2013: 27).

Consequently, it is not possible under the current circumstances to suggest that Britain’s departure from the European Union would trigger other member states’ tendencies to leave the European Union. The stronger possibility is that the remaining countries will come together and seek out reforms. From this ←24 | 25→perspective, it is expected that there will be a revival in the European Union’s mobility after Brexit. However, it should be emphasized that, even if it is not as apparent as the UK, other countries have different views on the current problems and future of integration. Perhaps the most significant loss of the European Union will be the UK’s economic capacity, since the size of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is equal to the European Union’s 19 poorest countries combined. According to 2017 data, the UK’s GDP is equal to $2.628 billion (World Factbook, 2019).

2 The Main Challenges the European Union Faces Today and the Attitudes of the Member States

Today, the European Union’s immediate problems are more than a dozen to count. The most striking problem is that the future perspective of the integration movement falling off the agenda, and member states and European Union citizens, implicitly or openly, having a pessimist expectation. The efforts of the leading countries that emphasized the strategic vision and led other states in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum fell short of expectations. Today, the decline of solidarity among member states, problems in the Eurozone, the influx of refugees, the strengthening of ultranationalist political parties, xenophobia and Islamophobia appear to be the European Union’s most critical problems. The future of the integration movement will be primarily shaped by the attitude of member states on solving these problems. To put it another way, the way to overcome the stagnation the European Union faces today will be shaped by a joint effort to present (or fail to present) the perspective of the future.

Indeed, the fact that the will of the participants in the Brexit vote was in favor of “leaving” was a surprise not only for the UK, but also for the European Union, and it came as a shock. As well as member states, the organs of the integration movement were adversely affected by this result. First of all, it was the first time in the history of the European Union for a member state to leave the European Union while utilizing the provision stipulated by the Lisbon Treaty. The departure of the UK also means the shrinking of the European Union geography (except for the examples of Greenland and Algeria). Michelle Cini and Amy Verdun point to two main trends in their study examining the effects of Britain’s departure on the European Union: The first is that the European Union looking like to be on the path to disintegration; the other is that the new situation opening the door to stronger centripetal cooperation, in other words, kick-starting various reforms (Cini and Verdun, 2018: 64).

←25 | 26→

However, the actual situation within the European Union and in the member states does not look hopeful, either. Today, the European Union is dispersed, fragmented and adversely affected by crises, and has been influenced by pessimism. Due to European skepticism, it is not possible to eliminate differences of opinion between member states and to pursue new goals with a shared vision. Economic difficulties in the Eurozone, despite the efforts of the member states, have not been fully overcome even today. Similarly, the Schengen system has been partially suspended due to the refugee crisis. Moreover, the UK’s departure has nothing to do directly with the problems in the issues mentioned above, since the UK has not become a member of the Eurozone, nor has it joined the Schengen system. The problems that existed before Brexit have not disappeared after the vote; instead, they have become more evident.

The refugee problem, which is one of the problems that profoundly affected the member states, and which could not be agreed upon, has created tension between both the North and South, as well as between the Eastern and Western countries of the European Union. This is because there is no roadmap for the sharing of the refugee burden on Europe. The Schengen system has been partially suspended in order to prevent the total collapse of the system (Benkova, 2017). As of 2015, the influx of refugees to the European Union has reached 1.5 million, and 1.2 million asylum applications have been submitted in 2016 alone. The main reason for the difficulties was that member states have failed to establish a coherent mechanism for a common refugee and defense policy. Some states have been wary of the transfer of power in this area due to national security concerns.

On the other hand, when the influx of refugees broke out, contrary to expectations, the image of solidarity between member states did not emerge; some countries have opposed the European Union Council of Ministers’ decisions against refugee migration (The Guardian, 2017). These countries include Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. The European Union has taken many measures to combat the refugee crisis. In some European Union countries, the Schengen system has been suspended. Meanwhile, the “Readmission Agreement” was signed between Turkey and the European Union on December 16, 2013, and entered into force on June 1, 2016, after the completion of the ratification process. However, the agreement was frozen until progress is made in this area, as it was conditioned with “visa exemption for Turkish citizens”. Meanwhile, the joint management program of external borders (FRONTEX) has been strengthened, and the Dublin system, which regulates rules on which countries to apply for refugees, has been reformed.

The influx of refugees into European geography was not limited to countries under the influence of the Arab Spring; Migration movements from African ←26 | 27→countries, Central Asia and the Far East were also accelerated. As of 2017, the total number of refugees waiting to settle in Europe is 6.6 million, where a significant number of them were rejected entrance after the agreement with Turkey. The “European Joint Refugee Agency” currently manages refugee migration to European countries. Efforts for establishing a common refugee and migration policy at the European Union level, fingerprinting of refugees and introducing asylum application rules to all states have created heated discussions between both Schengen and non-Schengen members of the European Union. Non-Schengen members from 28 European Union countries are the UK, Ireland, the Greek Cypriot Administration, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia (Benkova, 2017).

Today, it is clear that the European Union is becoming more fragmented and dispersed than ever before. Due to long-term problems and crises, the expected solidarity between member states was not achieved, and cooperation fell behind expectations. Some countries, such as Poland and Hungary, are now in an “outer orbit”; meaning, in these countries, suspicion of the transfer of power is strengthening, and the anti-European Union sentiment is increasing. However, the option to further develop solidarity and cooperation among the 27 remaining countries after Brexit remains. In the wake of the crisis in the euro area, it will come as no surprise that cooperation in this area will be further strengthened.

Another strong possibility is that Britain’s departure will create an opportunity for cooperation in the CFSP. Although Tony Blair’s government laid the foundation for cooperation in the areas of defense and security, Britain has so far prioritized NATO in defense matters. France and Germany’s consensus on deepening defense and security co-operation at the Bratislava summit in 2016 suggests that new steps will be taken in these areas after Brexit. How the cooperation between two of the most prominent members of the Union will follow in the coming years will be primarily shaped by the position of Germany and France. Indeed, the Defense Agreement for Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) was signed in 2017; and the agreement envisions the establishment of a flexible defense cooperation mechanism based on voluntary participation among European Union member states. Twenty-five states participated in this cooperation project, where there is no transfer of authority. “PESCO will replace NATO in the future” does not reflect reality, since, under this agreement, member states are expected to co-operate flexibly in the field of defense.

The more critical problem that directly affects Europe is the European Union’s leadership crisis and its lack of a short-term solution. German Chancellor Merkel visited Turkey four times in 2015–2016 to find a solution to the refugee problem. However, it has not been possible to reach consensus among member states on this issue and in other areas. European Union skepticism is rising day ←27 | 28→by day, both in the countries that joined after 2004 and in others. Therefore, it is not known whether co-operation between European Union member states will be concentrated in the intergovernmental dimension or the supranational field in the coming period. Intergovernmental co-operation means that existing integration goes backward or maintains its actual status, while strengthening co-operation in the supranational field will be a new European Union reform attempt, and a step forward.

3 Future Scenarios in the European Union and the Search for a Way Out of Recession

In this section, first, the scenarios for the future of European integration will be emphasized, and then the actual situation analysis method will reflect on how European Union integration will follow in the 2030s. It is implicitly stated in the entry and other sections of the Treaty of Rome of March 25, 1957, which established the EEC, that the ultimate goal of European integration is political unity. In treaties such as Maastricht, Amsterdam and Lisbon, which amended the founding treaties, the final goal was more clearly set. European integration is a project to establish peace among the Peoples of Europe, from another perspective, beyond the level of nation-states. The integration will begin with economic integration; it will gradually expand to include political and military issues. The neo-functionalist theory explains this situation. On the other hand, there are theories that the course of integration depends on the transfer of power of governments in the final analysis, and that the scope and speed of which are determined by the governments. According to the liberal supranationalism theory, European integration is formed by the collective will of governments. Governments in the final decision-making position hand over some of their sovereign powers to the supranational authority. Parallel to the progress of the era of power, the supranational dimension of European integration is strengthened by time (Rosamond, 2000). Although it seems that there is a mixed structure today, integration is fundamentally shaped by the decision of the member states.

Progress made in the integration process and issues faced during the process are also shaped in the final analysis depending on the collective decision of the member states. The main reason for the inability to resolve the blockages and problems is that there is no consensus among the members.

Future scenarios for European integration are divided into six main categories. The first, the Europa a la Carte model, is for member states to choose on their own volition which of the European Union’s common policies they will be subject to, and to be solely responsible for integration in those areas. In ←28 | 29→other words, member states will choose the options that are most suited to their interests within the objectives of European integration, just as they choose food from a menu. A minimum integration target is not envisaged for all member states. This model means deviation from uniform integration, or it could be considered an attempt to reverse integration. Once this scenario is adopted, the European Union’s international legal identity would be eliminated. Thus, European integration would lose all its gains, and the European Union would become a de facto free trade zone (Stubb, 2002: 52).

The second scenario aims to transform European integration into the “United States of Europe”, just like the federal state model in the United States. Accordingly, as a result of the advancement of cooperation, member states will become a federal state and will adopt and implement every policy developed by the European Union. This scenario stipulates that all sovereign powers should be transferred to the institutions of integration. In the European Union system, the transfer of power is gradual. Even in the monetary union and the Schengen system, the transfer of power could not be presented to all members. In the areas of foreign policy, defense and security, governments have opposed the transfer of power. Therefore, this scenario has a utopian projectability that is unlikely to occur under normal circumstances.

In the “Multi-Speed Europe” model, member states are expected to adapt to the European Union’s common policies at different times. In this model, uniform integration is essential. However, it was driven by the idea that it would not be possible for all member states to achieve the common goal of integration on the same date, and the remaining states were given extra time to reach the same point in a more extended period of time. Therefore, the developments that appear to be a deviation from the average level of integration in this model are exceptions (Piris, 2012).

Another future scenario of the European Union is the “Europa of Variable Geometry” model. This model first came up in 1994 in the Group of Christian Democratic Parties of the European Parliament. According to this model, European countries are divided into “core” and “peripheral” countries, and the aim is to make sure that the peripheral countries do not prevent further integration of the core countries. All member states are part of European integration, but their obligations differ. Countries in the group of peripheral countries can establish strengthened cooperation mechanisms among themselves. This model means deviation from uniform integration (Bertoncini, 2017).

In the “Europe of Concentric Circles” model put forward by France, enlargement and deepening are envisaged to take place at the same time. To put it another way, this model is intended to ensure that expansion does not impede ←29 | 30→deepening. This model has a large number of circles connected to a single core. The innermost circle includes the most advanced countries in the integration process. These countries have achieved economic and monetary unity, as well as reaching the most advanced level in the fields of foreign policy, defense and security. The second innermost circle is a derivative of the first, and it is the same in terms of subsequent circles. The transition from the outer circle to the inner circle depends on the fulfillment of the criteria. The outermost circle includes European Union candidate countries. The participation of those in the outermost circle may be at the level of a free trade zone or a customs union.

The latest model is called “Flexible Integration”. This model covers the member and candidate countries. Countries are divided into two main categories. Those who adopt European Union common policies are at the core; the member and candidate countries implementing elective policies are located in the surrounding area. It is possible to move from the surrounding area to the core. On the other hand, by choosing the policies of the surrounding countries, they will be able to form a free trade union among themselves.

Estella argues that the future of the European Union will depend on four factors. These include enlargement, economic growth, migration and separatist movements (Estella, 2018: 34). In the next ten years, enlargement will be minimal in influencing European Union integration. This is because the European Union is currently negotiating enlargement with Serbia and Montenegro in the Western Balkans, and in the near term, it is setting up the future in such a way that it can only include this specific enlargement. The legal negotiations with Turkey since 2005 have been effectively stalled, since in recent years, no new titles or phases have been opened, and the parties are striving not to make progress, but to maintain the current affairs without losing progress. In the Western Balkans, on the other hand, the process of full membership in Northern Macedonia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Kosovo will likely spread for a more extended period of time due to political problems. Bosnia, Herzegovina and Northern Macedonia are candidate countries; while in order for Kosovo to improve its relations with the European Union, the positions of the five European Union countries that do not recognize Kosovo must change their position in the first place. Besides, although the European Union has pledged to include states that meet the requirements, the European Union public opinion is negative about further enlargement. The current institutional capacity and financing structure of the European Union does not seem to be suitable for enlargement.

The European Union economy has not been able to recover from the effects of the 2008 crisis completely. Across the European Union, member states’ growth rates continue to decline due to the crisis, unemployment in some countries ←30 | 31→has increased, and fundamental economic indicators remain deteriorating. Significant amounts of economic assistance have been provided to Greece, Cyprus, Ireland and Portugal to save the Eurozone. The packages and sanctions to save Greece have caused severe controversy. On the other hand, the inflexible rules and calendar stipulated for the reimbursement of German-funded aid have sparked a backlash in Greece, and the European Union’s position has been interpreted as a “dictatorship” (Archick, 2016: 5).

The increase in European Union skepticism is another political development that affects European Union countries today and is expected to play a role in shaping the future. In recent years, support for populist and ultranationalist political parties has increased across the European Union. In general, these parties do not believe in the European Union ideal and are skeptical about the Brussels-based administration. European Union skeptical parties differ among themselves; while the majority is those with far-right-wing tendencies, there are also left-wing supporters. They differ on the future of European integration; some oppose the transfer of the right of sovereignty to European Union institutions, while others advocate the complete annulment of the Eurozone, and even the European Union.

Populist and European skeptical political parties are increasing their political influence day by day in many member states. Countries in this category can be ranked as Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The representation of European Union skeptical parties in the 2014 Parliamentary elections was 29 %, while the figure increased to 30 % in the 2019 elections (Desilver, 2019). Some European Union skeptical parties have also succeeded in elections at the national level. While the European Union skeptical party became a ruling partner in Finland, the minority government in Denmark survived with the support of such a party. In the 2015 elections, Poland’s European Union skeptical party secured a majority in the national parliament and became a government partner. European Union skeptical parties demand strict practices on slowing integration and refugee policy (Archick, 2016: 5).

One of the factors shaping the European Union of the future is the presence or absence of strong leadership and strategic vision. Historically, significant breakthroughs in the European Union have been directed by countries that are considered the role of “locomotive”. The transition to the common currency was established by France and Germany, while the CFSP came up as a result of the Franco-British consensus, and the European Union’s common policy on the intergovernmental level has gained the freedom. It is stated by some European Union experts that the stagnation and problems experienced in the last 10–15 years are ←31 | 32→due to the lack of a charismatic leader or a country that assumes the function of “locomotive”. German leader Merkel played a central role in the Eurozone crisis but failed to do so in other areas. Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, the German-led European Union’s response and sanctions decisions fell short of expectations (Koeth, 2018: 36).

However, today, no option has yet emerged, except for the fact that Germany is guiding the European Union. The conditions in which Britain dealt with domestic political problems and Brexit, where France faced economic difficulties and could not fill the leadership vacuum, made Germany the only rational candidate. Moreover, the flexible position of the Macron administration at work in France provides the appropriate basis for reform. Germany’s abilities to use communication channels and to convince other states are also important. According to Demesmay and Puglierin, the biggest obstacles to reform and reconstruction are European skepticism and forces gathered in the “outer orbit”. The refugee problem and the negativity in the Euro area create a negative impression. Some countries, on the other hand, are prejudiced against Germany, which is hampering reform initiatives (Demesmay and Puglierin, 2017). Merkel’s announcement that she will step down as party chairman in the upcoming elections and her health problems suggest that possible breakthroughs in the European Union will be further delayed.

Developments in the international political system also affect the European Union’s mobility. Today, the European Union is having problems with its relations with both Russia and the United States. After the Trump administration took office, negotiations on a free trade zone agreement between the United States and the European Union were suspended. While the European Union has declared an embargo after the Ukraine crisis, the Union’s inability to demonstrate a strong stance against Russia, on the other hand, creates difficulties in its international relations. Due to energy dependence, the European Union’s response has been below expectations and was limited to trade sanctions. Meanwhile, the construction of a new pipeline parallel to the “North Stream” natural gas pipeline, which opened between Germany and Russia in 2014, continues under the name “North Stream 2”. Under the current circumstances, it is not possible for the European Union to take more drastic measures against Russia, since by 2016, the dependence of various European Union countries on Russian natural gas is 23 % in the UK, 25 % in France, while other countries’ dependency rates are 40 % for Italy, 55 % for Denmark, 62 % for Germany and Hungary, 64 % for Poland, 70 % for Austria and 84 % for Slovakia. If North Stream 2 operates at full capacity, dependence on Russia will be strengthened in Western European countries, especially in Germany (Collins, 2017).

←32 | 33→

Another development that will mark the coming period will be separatist movements. It is still unclear whether Brexit will result in secession. If Britain leaves the European Union, it seems unlikely that other countries will follow. As for the separatist movements at the national level, Catalonia and Scotland may be separated from their states. In Scotland, 53 % of respondents voted against independence in 2014. On the other hand, if a revote is held in Scotland after Britain leaves the European Union, the separation is inevitable. In the Catalonia region of Spain, due to the strengthening of separatist tendencies, the central government abolished Article 155 of the constitution and ended the autonomy of the region. Catalans are divided over independence. While the probability of this region staying within Spain is stronger, if it is separated, Spain’s political and economic influence within the European Union will decrease. In Belgium, the New Flemish Alliance, a political party, frequently raises the demand for secession. However, the party’s political support is around 30 % in the Flemish region. Therefore, in the coming years, the Flemish’s demands to leave Belgium appear to remain in the attempted phase (Estella, 2018: 33).

How will all these developments affect the shaping of the future of the European Union? The 2017 report on the Future of the European Union prepared by the Commission foresees the “continuation of the actual situation” as the most reliable option (European Commission, 2017). This policy means resolving fundamental problems with the broadest possible consensus or freezing, preventing it from getting worse without a radical change in the existing treaties. It is also possible to interpret this option as the preservation of the actual situation and the strengthening of intergovernmentalism. The second option is reform initiatives aimed at further ingress integration. Once this option is implemented, European Union integration will become more fragmented and complex. Because of the breakthroughs of the countries in the center, the participation and compliance of the participants – which have joined in 2004 or after – will not be possible. The third option is to go backward from the current situation and disperse the European Union integration. The power and support of the political parties that are skeptical of Europe, and the transfer of power, some universal policies to go backward, the weakening of the supranational structure, will mean the strengthening of the intergovernmental space. If this option is valid, it is clear that European integration will lose some of the gains and decline in the coming years. If the European Union becomes a de facto single market as a result of the recession, these conditions will facilitate Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Thus, the influence of the European Union will increase in the South Caucasus countries as well as the Western Balkans (Archick, 2016: 15). It is not easy to predict today which of the main trends outlined in the future of the ←33 | 34→European Union will prevail, but Britain’s departure or the will to stay inside in the second referendum, which will probably be repeated, will make future scenarios more transparent.


This study is an attempt to take a snapshot of the current situation of European integration as of September 2019. Progress in European integration continued until 2004; after which, the enlargement fatigue, the rejection of the Constitution and the disappearance of the future perspective, and the pause and recession began, due to the global economic crisis. With the Arab Spring, the influx of refugees to the European continent has caused enormous problems in the Schengen system, one of the cornerstones of the European Union. While the countries involved in the system are affected by migration movements at different levels, the Schengen acquis has been suspended altogether in some regions to prevent its full collapse. However, eliminating differences between member states has not been possible, even after making new agreements about refugees and strengthening the European Agency for the Management of External Borders and Operational Cooperation.

Today, perhaps the most critical problem of the European Union is the elimination of the future perspective, the weakening of optimism and the strengthening of European Union skepticism. In particular, the strengthening of populist, ultranationalist and xenophobic political parties in member states and the European Parliament has led to a strengthening of negative views on what the future of European Union integration will be shaped mainly by the position of countries such as France and Germany, which are the driving forces of the integration in the current period. The most important agenda item that has attracted attention today, however, is Brexit. Nevertheless, it is still unclear as of September 2019 whether Britain will leave the European Union in full. Resisting the Conservative Party leader’s demands for an “undisputed separation”, the House of Commons also blocked the possible elections. It remains possible that the final date of the unsigned departure for Britain in the coming period of time will be extended again on October 31, 2019, a new referendum in the UK would take place with a result to remain in the European Union.

Other international actors also influence the future of the European Union. In particular, the change in the structure of the international political system will affect the shaping of the form it will take in the future for European integration. The policies put forward and implemented by the United States, China and the Russian Federation in domestic and foreign policy may affect the further or the ←34 | 35→course of integration. In other words, the outlook for European integration in the 2030s will be shaped by many factors. A report by the European Commission outlined three options. These include the continuation of the status quo, strengthening the movement for integration into reforms, and finally, going backward from the current level, eliminating the monetary union and regressing the European Union to the level of the common market or customs union.

Theoretically, the future of European integration is partially compatible with the foreseen scenarios. In the “Elective European Model”, the first of its future scenarios, it is proposed to go backward from the actual situation. In the “United States of Europe” (or “European Federation”), integration is reinforced, and a single-state orientation is involved. The third option, the “Multi-Speed Europe” model, aims to preserve the status quo by reaching the integration stages of member states at different dates. In the so-called Flexible Integration model, European Union countries are divided into two main categories: core and peripheral, and the level of integration in the first one is higher than the surrounding one. On the other hand, in the “Europe with Variable Geometry” model, different levels of participation in the integration movement of all states on the European continent are envisaged. In this model, it aims to strengthen the actual situation by moving away from monolithic integration. Accordingly, some of the member states will be able to be at the level of political/military union, while some of them would be fit for monetary union, or lower stages, like the stock market, customs union and free trade zone union. Some form of inclusion in the integration movement complies with the “Europe with Variable Geometry” model. The last model is called the “Europe of Concentric Circles”. In this model, the core of the circles is located at the most advanced level, while the second innermost circle and subsequent circles symbolize the levels of derivative integration. It may be possible for those who meet the criteria to move into the circle, or, similarly, to move to the level of derivative integration of those in the inner circles.

The fact that all these practical and theoretical explanations reveal is that today, the European Union is experiencing an intermediate period; in other words, an interregnum. Whether the next stage of integration will be forward or backward, and the level and quality of European integration in the 2030s and 2040s will depend on many internal and external factors. Making more explicit statements about this subject would be a prophecy at this point. George Freidman’s book, The Next 100 Years, states, “the complete dissolution of the European Union and the return to the nation-state system”, which still remains as a possibility. In addition to the problems in the internal structure of the European Union, the policies to be pursued by Russia, China and the United States, in other words, “external ←35 | 36→factors” will play a role in shaping the future, either directly or indirectly. This study predicts that the European integration in the 2030s will be shaped by progress in some areas and regression in some other and will ultimately be compatible with the “Variable Geometry Model”.


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Ebru Oğurlu

Rising Right-Wing Populism in Europe


Populism is one of the most debatable issues of the twenty-first century’s global politics. It is gradually becoming widespread and normalized all over the world. Today, the European Union, which is undergoing its most radical transformation in its political and economic history, is also affected by this trend. Populism, which has been influencing a large and strategically important part of the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Aegean and from Eastern Europe to Southern Europe, has become a decisive element of the European integration and politics by taking the advantage of the crisis environment in Europe.

Populism has developed in two different ways (as right-wing populism and left-wing populism) in its historical evolution. While left-wing populism stands out in the hope of a better future through the principles of equality and justice, right-wing populism builds its politics on fear, hatred, and hostility. The topic of this chapter is right-wing populism, which shows a rising trend both in Europe generally and in the European Union particularly. Under current conditions, right-wing populism put the European Union at risk of radical transformation and a shift to a more protective and more nationalist direction. The first part of the chapter discusses populism from a conceptual perspective. The second part examines the factors that cause the rise of populism in EU/rope. This section also includes examples of populist parties, which have become the influential actors in the European political scene by taking advantage of the rise of populism. The last part evaluates the possible effects of right-wing populism, which is gradually increasing its influence across Europe, on the European integration.

1 Populism and Historical Development of Populism

1.1 What Is Populism?

Populism, as one of the most debatable concepts of the twenty-first century, is a concept that is difficult to understand and define in its essence. It is also not possible to reach to a commonly agreed definition of the concept (Ionescu and Gelner, 1969: 1; Mudde, 2004; Mudde and Kaltwasser, 2017). Its meaning and ←39 | 40→content may change depending on place and time. As a concept, populism is derived from the word Populus, which means people in Latin (Eren, 2017: 2). In this context, populism is based on the principles of serving the interests of the people and giving them the opportunity to political power, politicization, and participation in politics (Eren, 2017: 2). One of the earliest studies on the concept is the book titled as Populism: Its Meanings and Characteristics, compiled by Ghita Ionescu and Ernest Gellner in 1969, following a conference in 1967 with a significant theme on “To Define Populism”, attended by a group of leading researchers in the field. The book, which does not define populism as a concept, states that it is human at the center of populism. Following the publication of the book, many studies have been conducted on populism, which has become a topic to be discussed within different fields of social sciences. However, rather than defining the concept, these studies have focused on different elements of populism such as public sanctity, anti-elit/ism, anti-establishment, statism, charismatic leader(s), as well as homogeneous and organic societies (Gherghina and Soare, 2013: 3–4).

Although there is no specific and commonly agreed definition, recent studies on populism are based on two common themes, i.e. people-centered and anti-elit/ism (Ionescu and Gellner, 1969: 4; Taggart, 2000; Mudde and Kaltwasser, 2017; Taggart, 2019: 80). Within the framework of these common themes, Paul Taggart is one of the leading writers who try to define populism. According to Taggart (2000), populism is characterized by “its critique of the internal and external establishment, a heartland for a ‘core people’ that the populist message refers to, a lack of core values, a sense of extreme crisis, a charismatic leader and its chameleonic nature as well as its ability to adapt to changing circumstances”. Within the framework of this definition, Taggart shows that populism lacks core values and has a chameleonic nature emerging as a way of reaction under different political and economic circumstances. Similarly, there are some other studies that define populism as an event-oriented phenomenon appearing as the result of threatening developments for the society. In that sense, populism also appears as a reaction to the political or economic mismanagement of the society (Stewart, 1969: 185–186; Mény and Surel, 2002: 13, Mudde and Kaltwasser, 2017: 100–102).

On the other hand, Cas Mudde, another researcher known for his studies on the concept, described populism as a “thin-centered ideology” (Mudde, 2004). According to this understanding, populism is an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people (Mudde, 2004: 543). ←40 | 41→This understanding is based on three main components of populism, i.e., anti-establishment, authoritarianism, and nativism (Mudde, 2004: 542–548).

Referring to these two general definitions, populism is also defined more specifically in three different ways as a doctrine, a discourse style, and a political mobilization (Bonikowski and Gidron, 2013). The approach that defines populism as a doctrine is similar to Mudde’s approach, and it regards populism as a set of interrelated ideas about different aspects of politics and society that can be used by different actors in different social and political contexts (Bonikowski and Gidron, 2013: 17).

Populism, as a style of discourse (Laclau, 2005; Panizza, 2005), is based on the opposition of us (people) and them (corrupt elite) (Balfour, 2017: 56) and aims to establish a close connection with the public (Wodak, 2015). In this context, populism symbolizes an anti-elit/ism-based political style and represents a political expression used by different ideologies and all political actors, regardless of left-wing or right-wing, liberal or conservative (Taguieff, 1995: 10, 41; Bonikowski and Gidron, 2013: 8).

As a means of political mobilization, populism is a strategy used to produce and maintain power (Weyland, 2001). Although this strategy is implemented in different ways, it is basically a form of organization and movement that gathers the masses around a political actor, targets the existing economic and political elites and challenges the established order (Minogue, 1969: 204–209; Mény and Surel, 2002: 11–17; Bonikowski and Gidron, 2013: 17).

As all these definitions show, populism lacks a rigid and unchanging system of thought. Rather, it is seen as a strategy, a discourse, and/or a syndrome that serves different ideologies (Wiles, 1969: 166–179). Therefore, all of the right, left, and centrist ideologies can easily apply to populism and can strengthen their mass and popularize their claim by creating an alien, refugee, elite, or enemy under the appearance of order (Dizman, 2019).

1.2 Brief Historical Evolution of Populism

The roots of populism go back to the Narodniki movement led by the peasants in Russia toward the end of the nineteenth century, and to the popular uprisings led by the People’s Party in America during the same time. In both cases, the reaction of rural producers, defined as real people, to the established order they symbolized as corrupt elite was the determining factor. Left populism, regarded as second-wave of populism and observed in Latin America between 1930 and 1960, emphasized the spirit of social mobilization with positive connotations. This second-wave of populism, the most prominent examples of which were ←41 | 42→observed in Brazil and Argentina, implemented policies with an emphasis on the people that aimed at the political integration of the working class. The third-wave of populism, on the other hand, represents right-wing populism that has been on the rise in Europe since the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In fact, in Europe, it is possible to see both right-wing populism fed by nationalism and xenophobia, attracting attention through its hate speech as well as anti-migrant, anti-minority and anti-foreigner policies, and constructing its political understanding on fear, as well as the left-wing populism that advocates struggle against the domination and inequality of neo-liberalism and emphasizes the hope for a better future through the principles of justice and equality (Zabala, 2017). However, the prevailing and gradually strengthening understanding across the continent is the right-wing populism that has taken its place in politics with negative connotations since the early 1990s (Balcere, 2017: 19). This kind of populism that has also been identifying with extreme right is being strengthened by the current economic and the refugee crises of the European Union (Mudde, 2004: 549; Taggart, 2004: 270).

The inability of the mainstream politics to solve the European Union’s current problems and the dissatisfaction of the European Union citizens have resulted in an increase in the votes of the populist parties, that adopted anti-immigrant, ultra-nationalist, protectionist and anti-European Union policies, in local, general and European Parliament (EP) elections. Although these parties cannot be influential by themselves under today’s conditions, they are threatening the European Union integration and order through their strengthening effects in their actions and discourses. Moreover, populism, which has captured a significant part of Europe and brought the European Union to the brink of a political crisis and social disintegration through its political fear as the result of developments in recent years, is not the only problem of today. On the contrary, this increasingly normalized policy poses a significant threat to the future and integration of the European Union.

2 Rise of the Populism in Europe

2.1 Right-Wing Populism in Europe

Europe today faces a populist Zeitgeist (Mudde, 2004). Populism, whose rise in the continent began in the 1980s, has become a permanent force both in Europe and in the center of the European Union. The main reason for its strengthening in Europe is that the reconciliation model set up in Western Europe after the Second World War by basing on social democracy, and mixed economy has ←42 | 43→become open to challenges with the end of the Cold War. In the 1990s, populist forces led to the discussion of different issues such as tax issues, migration problems and nationalism by basing on the economic, social and political effects of the neoliberal model being created (Atikkan, 2014: 46) and caused the breakdown of this consensus (Taggart, 2000). Ethnic, racial and religious intolerance coupled with the socio-economic anger suffered by the losers of the new order and the growing sense of societal insecurity as the result of terrorist attacks in different European countries since the mid-2000s has fed different populist currents in different parts of Europe. Populism criticized the high taxes as well as liberal migration policies in the Scandinavian countries. It is based on anti-migrant and anti-foreigner policies in Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Poland. On the other hand, separatist populism on a regional and ethnic basis is strengthening in Italy (Mercan, 2018: 71). Among the different types of populist politics, right-wing populism is the one on the rise in Europe.

Among the most well-known representatives of right-wing populism in Europe, it is National Rally in France, Flemish Interest in Belgium, Freedom Party of Austria and Party for Freedom, established with similar names in Austria and the Netherlands, respectively, and Alternative for Germany in Germany. JOBBIK (Movement for a Better Hungary) and FIDESZ (Hungarian Civic Alliance) in Hungary, and the Law and Justice Party in Poland are the representatives of right-wing populism in Eastern Europe. Northern European countries that adopt a similar understanding of politics include Finland’s the Finns Party, Denmark’s Danish People Party and Sweden’s Sweden Democrats. The common characteristic feature of the parties above is that they adopt a nationalist and protectionist policies with an anti-migration/migrant, anti-foreigner and anti-Islamic understanding (Petersen, 2018: 15). These parties also target the European Union representing supranationalism and prefer seeing it as an intergovernmental organization where states can cooperate in the fields and issues when they think it necessary (Nas, 2018: 190).

2.2 Reasons for the Rise of the Right-Wing Populism in Europe

Populism is fed by different channels. The socio-economic reasons of populism include the reactions of the losers of globalization and modernization, led by the working class, to the mainstream political parties and discourses, due to its adverse effects such as unemployment, marginalization and structural exclusion (Betz, 1994: 37–67; Taggart, 2000). While the left-wing populists, who use socio-economic factors as the main argument, create a contrast between the wealthy/upper-class elites and the oppressed people, the right-wing populists who use ←43 | 44→economic problems as a tool for their own legitimacy accept foreigners and migrants as the main factor behind these problems and emphasize the cultural roots of populism (Çöpoğlu, 2017: 4–5).

In this context, the economic crisis that began to be observed in the 1970s paved the way for populism in Europe with its social and cultural reflections. The problem of employment and migration caused the competition of labor on the domestic versus foreign basis, and social conflict rather than social cooperation. This problem gained a different dimension in the 1990s. In this process, the right-wing populist parties, which use cheap foreign labor to avoid the effects of the crisis, have been targeting foreigners/migrants since 1980s as the result of the economic relief. This time they have turned to populism through the emphasis on identity and planted the seeds of social distrust and societal segregation (Mercan, 2018: 76–78). The adaptation problem of the increasing number of migrants with the society and culture they live in shows that the economic causes of populism in Europe should not be considered separately from its cultural dynamics.

The cultural reasons of populism indicate the desire to create a homogeneous society based on common identity and common past based on ethnic nationalism and the wish to return to traditional values (Rydgren, 2007). On the other hand, the emphasis on religion (particularly in Christianity) is remarkable especially recently among the right-wing populists (Brubaker, 2017: 1198–1200). In this context, right-wing populists oppose multiculturalism by referring to identity politics and common cultural values along with their anti-migration/migrant, xenophobic and ultranationalist policies. Rather they aim to set up a monocultural and homogeneous social structure. The only way to achieve this goal is to confront the “real people” with the “common enemy”, led by the foreigners (Muslim), migrants and refugees coming from outside of the continent (Dizdaroğlu, 2017: 21; Dizman, 2019).

In the past decade, the socio-economic and cultural dynamics of populism, in general, have been embodied as a result of the Euro crisis and the refugee crisis in Europe and led to the rise of right-wing populism in the continent. The Euro crisis, which had to be experienced along with the negative effects of the 2008 global financial crisis, and the refugee crisis, which started with Syrian civil war and reached to its peak with the influx of refugees in 2015 as the result of the Arab Spring uprisings and instability in the Middle East, have deeply affected the European Union countries (Çöpoğlu, 2017: 5–6). Although both crises represent different problems, they have generally caused mistrust in society. The policies taken and implemented by the elites following the crises increased the economic and social costs throughout the Union and ←44 | 45→the failure to manage the crises correctly caused anger and resentment among the public. The mainstream political parties and elites that were not interested in the demands and problems of the people pushed the citizens to search for alternatives, and the populist parties, that saw this as an opportunity, found the public support by claiming that they defend the people’s interests the best. In this context, anti-elit/ism and anti-European Union discourses of the populists have found a response in society and increased the success of the populist parties (Kneuer, 2019: 36).

In addition to the economic and cultural factors, there are some political reasons behind the rise of populism in Europe. The functioning mechanism of the European Union, which is institutionalized around European integration, provides a suitable environment for this rise. The concentration of political and economic authority in Brussels, the shaping of policies at the center and their imposition on the sovereign members result in an unfavorable situation for the countries in terms of sharing of authority and responsibility. On the other hand, the transfer of national sovereignties and decision-making powers to European Union bodies leads to a gap between the European Union institutions and the member states as well as their citizens and increases the dissatisfaction of ordinary citizens. Under these conditions, the problems led by the distance between the “European economic integration” set up at the continental level and the “social and political obligations” left at the national level provides the main fulcrum of the populist forces (Levrat, 2013: 17).

On the other hand, the legitimacy crisis and democratic deficit of the representative democracy in Europe also play a role in the rise of populism. In an environment where citizens are not included in the administration and where they even distance themselves from the administration, the European Union has become a structure dominated by the elites and bureaucrats being far away from a representative democracy and provided the justified reasons for the populists to legitimize themselves (Taggart, 2004: 276–279; Müller, 2017: 114–117).

3 The Effects of Rising Right-Wing Populism in EU/rope on European Integration

Right-wing populism, which has been rising in the politics of EU/rope, poses a significant threat to European integration, which has been contributing significantly to the continental peace and development for over sixty years. The effects of populism in the continent are being felt both in the European Union specifically, in terms of its politics and functioning mechanisms and in Europe generally, along with its societal and social reflections.

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The most prominent influence of populism in European politics is the simultaneous rising of the Euroscepticism. Populism and Euroscepticism, growing under the hegemonic conditions of global economic crisis and uncertainty, are two different sides of the same coin (Kaya, 2016: 6) and the rebirth of populism is developing in parallel with the rise of Euroscepticism. Since populist parties have mostly adopted an anti-European Union policy (Çöpoğlu, 2017: 6–7), the power of populist parties also normalizes Euroscepticism (Brack and Startin, 2015) and poses a severe problem for the future and role of European integration in the international system. Twenty nine percent of the votes of the populist (and, therefore, anti-European Union) parties in the EP elections of 23–26 May 2019 – as their best result so far – is the proof of this problem (Rankin, 2019). The strengthening of populists within the EP will make the internal functioning of the European Union more difficult, on the one hand, and allow populists to determine the Union’s agenda and policies, on the other (Kandel and Gondaud, 2019). In the more fragmented and divided EP according to the election results, reaching the majority will be more difficult and decision-making process will be more complicated (Schulz, 2019). Consequently, the politics of the mainstream parties will become a problematic issue and these parties will have to cooperate with all other groups, including populist parties.

On the other hand, the strengthened populist block in the EP will directly affect some of the European Union policies. At the top of them is its migration policy. Populist parliamentarians with anti-migration agendas will seek to prevent humanitarian and solidarity-based solutions. The realization of this possibility will raise questions about the reliability and credibility of the European Union, which is accepted as a “value-based” structure, and will question its international actorness (Dennison and Zerka, 2019: 4). At the same time, as a result of the tactical unification of populist parties, the Union might transform into a more protective structure. As the result of this fact, which will affect particularly the European Union’s trade policy, the European Union’s trade relations with third parties as well as its ability to use trade as a tool to improve European welfare and achieve foreign policy objectives will weaken (Dennison and Zerka, 2019: 3). On the other hand, increasing power of the populist parties in the Parliament will cause foreign policy issues to be shaped according to national sensitivities and domestic political balances and will indirectly weaken the European Union’s international dynamics. As a result, all of these possibilities will question the global power, influence, and status of the European Union by making it more inward looking, more protective and nationalist.

The social and societal effects of European populism are being felt in the strengthening polarization between citizens. In this context, intolerance toward ←46 | 47→foreigners is gradually increasing and paving the way for racism referring to extreme right-wing policies. Increasing and widespreading racism is targeting migrants who are held responsible for the unfavorable course of society and their adaptation policies to the society. Under these conditions, populist politics, which deepens the distinction between the local and foreigner, will cause instability that would increase polarization throughout the Union and create an environment of distrust throughout the society by infiltrating into all layers of society.

Migrants (and primarily Muslim migrants) who were invited as guest workers in the first years of the integration are accepted as the primary source of this distrust. Therefore, the second social impact of populism is the rising Islamophobia across the continent. Muslim migrants and minorities, who have been portrayed as scapegoats of the current crisis environment of the European Union, have been subject to exclusionary practices both by the populist forces themselves and by mainstream political actors who approximate their rhetoric and policies to the populist discourses. Many European Muslims are being discriminated in the fields of work, education and housing, and they experience a sense of social exclusion (Er and Ataman, 2008: 761–764). These attitudes toward foreigners and especially Muslims endanger social stability and integration.

The third social impact of populism is the hate speech that has been spreading throughout the continent. Increasing racism, rising extreme right and discrimination against all foreigners, especially Muslim migrants and minorities, legitimize hate speech and threaten societal peace (Karan, 2012: 94). In such an environment where the social foundations of the European Union are severely damaged, the biggest risk is the weakening and gradually invalidating of the motto of Unity in Diversity as the European Union’s founding philosophy. The legitimacy crisis of the European integration, which is accepted as a model for social tolerance, regional stability, and development in other geographies, as the result of populism, will cause the Union to lose its global attractiveness.


Populism, led by those acting in the name of serving the people for the people against the elites defending the established order, is one of the most debatable concepts of the twenty-first-century politics. The concept, which cannot be dealt with in a single conceptual framework or in a single historical context, is discussed in this study within the framework of right-wing populism, which has been rising in Europe and known in terms of its exclusionary policies based on ethnic identity. In this context, populism contradicts the European integration, ←47 | 48→which aims to transcend national identities and national sovereignties and to create a new field of belonging and politics based on Europeanness. Nevertheless, it has become an undeniable reality both in Europe as well as in the European Union and has become permanent in mainstream politics. The xenophobic, anti-migrant, ultranationalist, protectionist, and populist parties that successfully exploit the existential crisis of the European Union for their own interests have increased their votes in the local and general elections of many member states as well as in the EP elections.

The European economic integration model, which was initiated in the bipolar world order of the post-Second World War period as the only way of survival, has progressed towards the goal of political unity with the end of the Cold War. However, the institutional structure has not developed to the same extent in this process and the emergence of deficiencies and weaknesses in terms of democratic legitimacy and collective identity have created great discontent among the peoples of Europe. Under these conditions, populist movements and leaders, which strengthened their power day by day, became a government partner in some countries and increased their public support in others even if they could not come to power. Thus, they directed the mainstream parties toward restrictive and exclusionary policies, especially on migration, and caused the politics to shift further to the right (wing). This understanding, which prioritizes national identities and is sensitive to the sharing of sovereignty, is a severe obstacle to the deepening of European integration. For this reason, the fight against populism stands as the most crucial issue for both the European Union and its members. Overall, right-wing populism, which is one of the most prominent examples of polarizing politics, has become the most crucial test of the European integration project in a time period when the agenda of the European Union has already been occupied by the discussions on the disintegration of the integration itself.


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Omca Altın

The Probable Effects of the Migration Problem on the Future of Brexit and the European Union


The North African and Arab countries entered into a change with the popular uprisings that began in Tunisia in 2011 and later emerged in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and, finally, Syria, and this situation was called as the “Arab Spring.” The main point of change has been the desire to express and convey the freedom and economic rights of citizens in these countries, which are ruled by an authoritarian regime and/or a single person, by acting together (Sandıklı and Semin, 2014).

As a result of the civil wars that emerged after the Arab Spring, the number of immigrants in the world reached the highest level since the World War II. Especially in this case, which occurred because of the Syrian civil war, it caused millions of people to take refuge in countries neighboring Syria (Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, etc.), which helped Europe avoid facing the immigration problem for a long time. However, with the immigration waves turning toward Europe after 2015, the problem of migration has become one of the most critical issues of the European Union (Bayraklı and Keskin, 2017). More than a million people came to Europe in hopes of escaping from their countries and living in better conditions due to factors like civil war, terror, poverty, and political pressure (Akdoğan, 2018). The economic, social, cultural, and political impacts of these sudden migration movements, both legal and illegal, harm all European Union member states to the extent that the European Union’s policies and Union order are in distress (Akdoğan, 2018).

Due to the deficiencies of the Union’s asylum system and the existing regional differences and national interests, the European Union cannot determine a clear and integrated policy and can produce restrictive and short-term solutions. Therefore, European Union member states, who think that these intense migration movements will affect Europe even further in the near future, follow different policies regarding the migration problem and it is seen that a federalized European Union is formed against this problem although it is not well desired (Şahin and Nişancı, 2018).

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The European Union’s inability to determine a clear and integrated policy in the face of the migration problem and the creation of somewhat restrictive and short-term solutions by not resting on the basis of the problem have made the migration problem a threat to European Union member states; since, it cannot successfully address the concerns of the member states about migration, confidence in the European Union has decreased. In particular, immigration was one of the main reasons for the decision to leave the European Union as a result of the referendum on whether the UK would leave the European Union. Many people living in the UK, where one of the major concerns is immigration, thought that leaving the European Union would reduce immigration to their country. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has encouraged many other European Union member states and weighed the anti-European Union mentality. All of these developments have been significant threats to the European Union’s immediate future.

1 The European Union’s Attitude toward the Migration Problems

When the 2015 immigration report published by the United Nations is examined, it has been observed that the number of international immigrants has increased in the last fifteen years and reached to 244 million people in 2015. It is also stated in the report by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) that 2/3 of the international migrants are hosted by the countries that are called “high-income countries”. Based on 2015, approximately 124 million out of 173 million people (71 % of 245 million international immigrants) are in OECD countries, and the rest 49 million are in non-OECD countries. Approximately 71 million people, the remaining 29 %, live in middle- and low-income countries (United Nations, 2016).

In 2015, the number of migrants in the European continent was 76 million, and the Asian continent was 75 million. The number of migrants in Asia, which was 49 million in 2000, reached 75 million in 2015, and thus Asia was identified as the continent with the highest increase in the number of immigrants between 2000 and 2015 (United Nations, 2016).

When the distribution of immigrants is examined by the country, it is determined that the USA had the highest number of immigrants in both 2000 and 2015, while it is stated that the European countries ranked higher in 2015 compared to 2000. In 2015, there were a total of 41 million immigrants in a few European Union member states like Germany, the UK, France, Spain, and Italy. Therefore, these are among the 20 most immigrant-hosting countries ←54 | 55→in the world (United Nations, 2016). At the same time, it is stated that other European Union countries host 35 million immigrants. The biggest reason for the increase in migration in European Union countries is undoubtedly the influx of immigrants (lead by the sheer number of Syrians) coming from these regions to Europe as a result of political turmoil in North Africa and Arab countries. If the year 2015 is examined, Germany alone has accepted a total of 1.2 million migrations (Martin, 2016).

The European Union opened its doors to the influx of migrants in 2015, yet immediately realized that migration was indeed a big problem when many people have drowned as a result of their boats sinking while attempting to flee illegally to the European countries (Ercan, 2016). Especially, during the period from the beginning of the Arab Spring until the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi was found on the shores of Bodrum, it was seen that the primary goal of the measures taken by the European Union regarding those who want to migrate to the European Union member countries by crossing the Mediterranean Sea is to remove them from Europe (Bayraklı and Keskin), 2017).

With the increasing migration problem, security measures increased at the border gates under the Schengen Treaty. Those who want to cross Europe from North Africa and Arab countries have chosen the sea route where border crossings are more accessible but life-threatening, and they have crossed to the European Union member states, such as Greece, Italy, and Portugal, which are coastal to the Mediterranean (Çenberci and Gövdere, 2017).

The illegal entry into European countries by sea and the increased number of lives lost during this journey have changed the European Union member states’ approach to migration, and many other European Union member states – such as Germany and Austria – have opened their borders. However, after a while, European Union member states closed the border gates again and resorted to harsh measures to prevent migration, and even barricades were established at the borders (Ercan, 2016). For example, in 2015, when migration waves peaked, Hungary became a focus of discussions with the measures it took. On July 7, 2015, a decision was taken by Hungary to draw barbed wire to the country’s border with Serbia. With this decision, Hungary tried to prevent migration from Greece to Hungary via Serbia (Bayraklı and Keskin, 2017). Hungary increased the border controls by building a wall at the border following the application of barbed wire. This move of Hungary also affected the border practices of other European Union member states, and after a while, the Western Balkans were preferred for migration (FRONTEX, 2017). Thus, those who wished to migrate to using the land route have tried to enter Europe from Turkey’s Bulgarian border. As Bulgaria increased its border controls further as well, migrants chose the sea ←55 | 56→route instead of the Balkan route, causing many people who attempted immigrating to lose their lives (Kanat and Aytaç, 2018: 74). Bulgaria has announced that it will increase the number of wire fences at its border with Turkey, and then took a step further and replaced the wires with walls (Thorpe, 2016). Some European Union member states stated that Bulgaria should be supported in its attempts at preventing the migration waves by such serious precautions. In particular, the United Kingdom has provided protection to support Bulgaria to improve European Union border security (The Guardian, 2016b). Therefore, the measures in Bulgaria’s border with Turkey increased to the highest level, while Bulgaria stated that more troops would be sent to the Turkish border to fortify the efforts. Turkey-Bulgaria border has gradually become militarized by the construction of observation towers, upgrading of surveillance systems, and the increased numbers of security forces (Wing and Aytac, 2018).

On the other hand, Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner proposed the construction of a typical “European wall” to protect further the Union’s borders from migration (Bayraklı and Keskin, 2017: 125). Europe’s high-level border controls, visa policies, and the examination of asylum applications outside Europe are other activities to prevent migration (Keles, 2014). Looking at France, another European Union member state, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front Party, stressed the need to re-establish the borders of France at a rally held in 2017, meaning that migrants should be dispatched from the country and immigration should be limited (Nossiter, 2017). Marine Le Pen weighed on the issue of migration also in the 144-item presidential manifesto for the 2017 election, promising to minimize immigration, further tightening all the conditions for obtaining French citizenship, not tolerating illegal immigration, and giving priority to French citizens in jobs and housing (Aras and Sağıroğlu, 2018).

The panic created by this increasing wave of migration, which is thought to be out of control, has created deep debates and disagreements between European Union member states, and the anti-foreigner policies have gained a foothold. For example, the UK has started to be very reluctant to immigration due to the increasing anti-alienation in domestic public opinion (Dinç, 2018). At the same time, there has been a significant increase in the votes of anti-foreign parties in European Union member states (Dinç, 2018).

European politicians prefer to act in the wake of tragic events, usually in the public eye, and feel compelled to take action with the pressure of world public opinion, human rights organizations in Europe, and civil society organizations working in the field of migration. However, an effective result cannot be obtained with the security-based solution suggestions that are made afterward (Bayraklı & Keskin, 2017).

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Factors such as the economic crisis, unemployment, security, and integration played an essential role in the increase of anti-alienation in European Union member states and the closure of borders to immigrants. Many European Union member states struggling with the economic crisis did not want to cover the extra costs that would arise, alongside the increase in unemployment rates with the entry of immigrants into their countries. At the same time, some European Union member states think that immigrants will create security problems in the country, and they see them as a crime (Martin, 2016). France and Denmark stated that they did not accept migrants from North Africa and Arab countries due to security concerns, and tried to legitimize the reasons for not accepting the immigrants by giving examples of the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris and Copenhagen in 2015 (Eddy, 2015; Gargiulo, Botelho, and Almasy, 2015). On the other hand, European Union member states think that immigrants and their first- and second-generation children will experience integration problems in Europe. The fact that in the 1970s, the first- and second-generation descendants of immigrants received by European countries to meet the labor force were very low, and their rates of crime were high (Martin, 2016) caused the citizens of European Union member states to create pressure on the politicians to prevent further immigration (Çenberci and Gövdere, 2017). Therefore, the issue of immigration has become an issue for the ruling parties in Europe. The far-right parties, on the other hand, have raised their votes with anti-immigration. In other words, anti-immigration attitudes played an essential role in the empowerment of far-right parties in Europe (Aras and Sağıroğlu, 2018).

2 The Effect of Immigration Problem on Brexit

The UK’s European Union accession process has been vetoed twice by French President De Gaulle; and with the end of De Gaulle’s political life, it became a member of the European Economic Community alongside with Denmark in 1973 (Açıkmeşe, 2012). Since 1973, when the UK became a member of the European Union, its membership has been a subject of constant debate in its domestic policy, primarily based on independence and full sovereignty. The United Kingdom has distinguished itself from many of European Union’s transnational and intergovernmental arrangements, including the Union’s “Schengen” system. Immigration mobility, which the European Union considers to be a general problem, has been seen as another side effect of European Union supranational policies by its opposition in the UK. However, especially, the issue of immigration has always been an important statement for the European Union ←57 | 58→opposition in the UK (Özerim, 2017). The influx of immigrants faced by the European Union following the recent turmoil in North Africa and Arab countries has played an essential role in the Brexit process, defined as the separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Çolak, 2018).

It can be seen from the beginning of the BREXIT process that conservative parties in the United Kingdom have been frequently called upon to leave the European Union, especially in recent years. In response to these calls, UK Prime Minister James Cameron promised to hold a referendum for those who wanted to leave the European Union if he won the elections in 2015, and after he won the elections, the referendum was again at the top of the agenda (BBC News, 2016). The referendum, which was decided to be held on 23 June 2016, resulted in a 52 % for-separation from the European Union (The Guardian, 2016a).

Looking at the result of the referendum held on 23 June 2016, immigration was one of the most critical reason why UK decided to leave from the European Union (Goodwin, 2016): The concerns of the citizens of the UK on the economy and its sovereignty have been influential in portraying immigration as a significant reason for leaving the European Union. Many UK citizens believed that the government should be much more influential in migration (even if the result was to leave the European Union), and even though that leaving the UK would reduce immigration to the UK. Even among those opposed to the UK’s separation from the European Union, some were disturbed by the European Union’s immigration policies (Boswell, 2016). In one study, the UK was identified as the most concerned country about migration; it was seen that the UK’s concern about immigration was caused by the civil war in Syria and the migration of many people from Syria to Europe. Another study conducted in 2015 showed that around 79 % of the British had concerns that the UK’s active involvement in the military in Syria would seriously increase attacks on the United Kingdom. Therefore, linking migration with terror and security problems played an active role in these concerns (Özerim, 2017). In particular, during the pre-referendum propaganda period, it can be seen that xenophobia theme and border management and the sovereignty over the border themes have been used hand in hand (Özerim, 2017). During the campaign, advocates of the separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union stated that the European Union could not address the public’s concerns about immigration and terrorism (Akdogan, 2017) and emphasized that the main reason for the immigration problem in the country was stemming from the European Union membership (Akdogan, 2017). During the referendum campaigns, another issue that was emphasized by the parties that wanted the UK to leave the European Union was immigrant employment (Tilford, 2015; Hobolt, 2016). In particular, the fact that newly ←58 | 59→arrived migrants work at lower wages in the country increases the unemployment rates of the resident population, which has worried the UK (Boyle, 2015). On the other hand, one of the campaign issues of the European Union opposition was the application of new member states to the Union, and particularly Turkey’s application process: With the signing of the Readmission Agreement between European Union and Turkey, Turkish citizens would be able to travel visa-free within European Union borders, and with the completion of Turkey’s membership process, they would also be able to work and settle in the UK, and this possibility frightened the UK citizens. Seeing this reaction, the European Union opposition used it as campaign material.

The free movement of European Union citizens is another issue that has been proposed as a reason for the UK’s separation from the European Union. Those who oppose the free movement of European Union citizens stated that the European Union citizens coming to the UK are burdened with public services, experienced integration problems, and caused an increase in crime rates. Although the issue of migration during the referendum was dealt with based on the migration of many people from Syria to Europe after the civil war in Syria, the free movement of European Union citizens was an another issue. Increasing unemployment within the European Union and the migration of workers from other European Union countries to the UK has been among the most important reasons for the separation decision (Burns, 2016). As we had seen, during the campaign process before the referendum in which the UK was to leave the European Union, the issue of migration became the slogan of the campaign, and it was emphasized that leaving the European Union was the only way to regain control over immigration (McSmith, 2016). It has become clear that immigration is one of the main problems that have led the UK to leave the European Union.

3 The Effects of Migration Problem on the Future of the European Union

The immigration problem faced by the European Union in recent years and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union following the referendum have created a severe problem for the future of European integration. One of the main reasons for this was the fact that it was the first time that an European Union member state wanted to leave the European Union (Köroğlu, 2017). Particularly European Union supporters have started to worry that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union as a result of the referendum may serve as an example for other European Union member states and that new demands for separation ←59 | 60→may appear for consideration (Gürlesel, 2016). Therefore, serious concerns have emerged about the future of the European Union.

As mentioned earlier, the immigration problem is one of the most critical factors for UK citizens to decide to leave the European Union in the referendum (Archick, 2016). Apart from the United Kingdom, other European Union member states have had objections to immigration (Martin, 2017). The European Union is still struggling with immigration problems. In particular, the creation of competitive labor markets in the countries where immigrants have settled has caused the resident citizens of the countries to face unemployment problems. Therefore, local citizens, who face the problem of unemployment, began to criticize the immigration policies implemented by their governments. At the same time, increasing immigration has increased security concerns among citizens (Archick, 2016). Therefore, severe xenophobia levels have started to emerge in European Union member states (Köroğlu, 2017). In particular, the statements of the right-wing parties that the growing migration movements would harm the European identity were also supported by the citizens (Archick, 2016). As a result, support for anti-European Union parties has increased and is expected to increase further shortly (Stiglitz, 2016). That will have an adverse effect on the future of the European Union.


The number of immigrants in the world has reached the highest level since World War II after the civil wars in the North African and Arab countries following the Arab Spring. However, with the migration of immigrants toward Europe after 2015, the issue of migration has become one of the biggest problems the European Union has ever faced. The European Union has failed to develop a clear and integrated policy in the face of this migration problem, and so far has only produced restrictive and short-term policies/solutions for it. Therefore, the European Union countries, who think that migration movements will affect the European Union in the future, have followed different policies regarding the migration problem.

Increasing and out-of-control migration movements have increased workers’ wages and unemployment rates in European Union member states. Therefore, anti-foreignism has increased in the European Union member countries who are worried about these migration movements, and eventually, they have started taking harsh measures to prevent migration. At the same time, the trust of the European Union member states toward the European Union decreased, and the intensity of anti-European Union statements has increased among the citizens of many European Union member states.

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Particularly in the United Kingdom, which is considered one of the most immigrated countries among European Union member states, European Union opposition has won the referendum, which was set to decide whether the Kingdom should leave the European Union, and the BREXIT process has started. One of the most critical issues that the United Kingdom cited as a reason for leaving the European Union was the migration problem. European Union opposition in the UK stated that their departure from the European Union would be a useful tool to reduce migration.

The immigration problem faced by the European Union in recent years and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union following the referendum will have a negative impact on the European Union’s integration process. The possibility that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union to encourage other member states to follow a similar policy and the pressure of anti-European Union politicians for referendums of a similar caliber in their countries, and thus a natural concern for more separations from the European Union seriously threaten the future of the European Union.


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Didem Saygın

A New Step in the European Union: Pesco and Its Future


The European Defense Community (EDC) initiative, an essential step in the defense field in the European Union, is based on the Pleven Plan and the EDC Treaty texts. The Pleven Plan aimed at establishing a European army within the European integration movement. However, Germany was expected to be a part of the defense system. The Plan shaped the Community by including arrangements such as how the EDC will be organized, its primary strategy, and its armament system. The treaty establishing the European Defense Community, the following basic text of the Community initiative following the Pleven Plan, was signed on 27 May 1952. With this treaty, it was emphasized that the troops coming together in Europe would collaborate against all kinds of attacks and that this union should not be seen as an opposing entity to NATO. However, the EDC initiative could not be established due to reasons such as the rearmament of Germany, the lack of support for French interests, and the lack of European readiness for supranational defense cooperation. The subsequent formation of the Western European Union (WEU) did not provide the expected results either. The Maastricht Treaty re-accelerated the EU in various fields, while the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) formed the second intergovernmental column of the Union. The unanimity of the decision-making part while attempting to expand the areas of cooperation on this issue has reduced the effectiveness of the structure. With the Treaty of Lisbon, defense policy has come up again. While the areas of decision-making were expanded with a qualified majority vote, changes in foreign policy caused the defense policy to be brought back to Europe’s agenda. At this point, the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) became one of the most discussed topics: It is aimed to develop military cooperation between EU countries and to make the EU effective in international defense.

With PESCO, EU countries have taken steps to reinvigorate defense co-operation, which remained passive years after the impact of changes in foreign policy. Both the refugee crisis in Europe, the Trump effect, and the loss of confidence in the EU caused by Brexit have brought the Union back together in defense. In this respect, European countries tested by EDC, WEU, and CFSP will take a new step with PESCO. However, there is no doubt that European ←65 | 66→countries will give a new test in the context of PESCO to make joint decisions (considering that there are countries supporting the Atlantic within the EU).

1 Development of Defense Policy in the European Union

The Dunkirk Treaty was the first treaty in Europe for defense between Britain and France in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Dunkirk Treaty included assistance against attacks from Germany, as well as taking necessary measures if Germany did not meet its economic obligations. However, considering that Germany had already come out of the war in a ruined way, it could be said that the main target of this treaty was the USSR, and the USSR was as an imposing actor in the global arena (Efe, 2007: 3). Then in March 1948, the Treaty of Brussels (officially “the Economic, Social and Cultural Cooperation and Joint Defense Treaty”) was signed in Europe. The countries of this Treaty were the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the trio of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, which is also called Benelux. This treaty was a multilateral one and also was the pioneer for the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington DC on 4 April 1949 (Dinan, 2005: 268). Although the idea of creating a new defense community in exhausted Europe after the Second World War was well-received, the formation of the European Communities was awaited to achieve close cooperation between European states.

1.1 The Pleven Plan and the European Defense Community Initiative

Considering both Britain’s policy of not being involved in the mobilization of integration that began to form in Europe after the Second World War, as well as US support for integration, this situation led France to be acknowledged as the leading state in Europe after the war. In particular, the blockade of Berlin in 1948 and the start of the Korean War in 1950 revealed that Europe was not prepared for a defense despite the recent formation of NATO. Especially the necessity of defense against a possible attack of the USSR gains importance at this point (Özdal and Genç, 2005: 77). These two issues have initiated discussions on the development of defense policy in Europe and the creation of a community in this direction. In particular, the USA’s demand for the re-arming of Germany and asking for the support of its allies in Europe to act in this direction (Özdal and Genç, 2005: 78) led the European states to a new quest. In this case, the most problematic area was the refusal of France, which opposed the arming of Germany (Ülger, 2002: 52). As a result of US pressure, France withdrew its reaction to the rearmament of Germany, and the French Government announced the Pleven ←66 | 67→Plan on 24 October 1950 by French Prime Minister Rene Pleven. This proposal put forward by Jean Monnet, one of the pioneers of the European Communities, foresees the establishment of the EDC (Karluk, 2005: 11). The plan draws attention to three points in particular.

Firstly, the Pleven Plan envisaged an army with military and political authority under one roof, which would co-operate with Western forces. The German forces, which would benefit from European security systems, would also be involved in this formation. Secondly, the Ministry of Defense system would be established, and the Minister would have responsibilities to the member states that made the appointment. Also, the decision and implementation of European arms and equipment programs were other tasks assigned to the Minister in Pleven’s Plan (Gözkaman, 2014: 8). The plan also envisaged the establishment of six divisions (one to be formed by Germany) of 1000 soldiers each and the responsibility of coordination of this army (formed of soldiers from various nationalities) to be given to the Minister (Özdal and Genç, 2005: 79). The plan also included issues such as the creation of an Allied High Command for times of conflict, the establishment of a European Council of Ministers that would have a single defense budget, and its own weapon procurement process (Cebeci, 2018: 152). Thirdly, the formation and development phases of the army would not delay or hamper NATO’s programs, but rather support and facilitate them instead (Gözkaman, 2014: 8).

Despite the opposition of De Gaulle and his followers, the French Parliament adopted this proposal, and on May 27, 1952, it adopted this plan, together with the six-member states of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Thus, the EDC Treaty was signed (Karluk, 2005: 11). However, disagreements between countries continued. For example, while Britain opposed the supranational structure of the treaty, France emphasized the necessity of acting as a unity in terms of foreign policy primarily for the member states (Ülger, 2002: 53). On 30 August 1954, the Founding Treaty of the EDC was rejected by the French Assembly as a result of the negative votes of the pro-Gaulle. With this rejection decision, the initiative of the said defense community ended (Özdal and Genç, 2005: 82).

1.2 Western European Union and NATO

The Western Union was established with the Brussels Treaty (1948) between Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom. The Treaty of Paris, which was signed in Paris on 20 October 1954 and entered into force by 6 May 1955, increased the number of its members to seven with the ←67 | 68→accession of Germany and Italy (Karluk, 2005: 11). However, with the establishment of NATO, the WEU remained in the background. In the 1980s, the attempts of European member states to re-activate WEU did not produce a viable result. However, with the Maastricht Agreement, WEU has been brought back to the agenda (Çayhan, 2002: 43).

The Maastricht Treaty, which entered into force in 1993, aimed to establish security and defense policies as well as standard policies among EU member states. In this sense, WEU has become a branch of the EU as a security and defense level. However, the WEU could not be integrated into the EU due to the lack of a full agreement between EU member states in the areas of safe, defense, and standard foreign policy (Reçber, 2006: 24). In Europe, NATO’s presence in 1949 reduced the effectiveness of the WEU, although there were always aspirations for independent defense policy from the United States. In this case, differences between European states are also significant. For example, for a European group such as Brussels and Luxembourg, led by France, an independent defense from NATO is essential. While these countries are defined as more Europeanists, a group such as Denmark and the Netherlands, led by Britain, saw the future of Europe in NATO (Cebeci, 2018: 152–153). At the same time, the UK stated that it would not participate in the EDC but would support it externally. This is an example of the Atlantic-European distinction in Europe.

1.3 A Common Foreign and Security Policy

The Maastricht Treaty, which entered into force in 1993, added a security dimension to the standard foreign policy among the EU countries. The Maastricht Treaty has putthe EU in a three-pillar structure and the second pillar was the CFSP, which operated internationally. In fact, this Treaty aimed to restore the WEU, which was overshadowed by NATO, and to strengthen the EU’s defense wing. The CFSP aimed to protect the values and integrity of the EU and to ensure international security (Çayhan, 2002: 46). The WEU Declaration, which redefines WEU as an essential defense arm of Europe rather than NATO’s rival, and stated that a real European security policy would be developed within this framework, has found its place in the annex of Maastricht Treaty (Cebeci, 2018: 155). It was stated in the Declaration that WEU will be an inseparable part of the EU’s development and will strengthen the support and solidarity within NATO (Ozgen, 2016: 145). The cooperative relations between the EU-WEU and NATO were discussed in detail in the Amsterdam Treaty, and the Declaration of WEU annexed to this Treaty on 1 May 1999 (Özdal, 2008: 133). A meeting of the WEU Council of Ministers was held on 19 June 1992 in Bonn. The Petersberg ←68 | 69→Declaration was published at this meeting. According to the Declaration, WEU was ready to take part in the EU and European defense. In addition, the distribution of tasks of the military teams that would be assigned under the command of WEU has been shaped. These missions were called “Petersberg Missions,” and it was decided that the missions would be a form of humanitarian aid and evacuation missions, “peacekeeping” missions, and “peacemaking” missions, including crisis management (Özgen, 2016: 146). Amendments were made to the institutional order of the CFSP with the Amsterdam Treaty, as well as to the effectiveness of decision-making. The EU Council of Ministers has been given the authority to take joint action and joint attitude decisions. Cooperation between EU countries has been adopted. A high representative office has been established for the implementation of the CFSP. On the other hand, with the necessity of looking at the Petersberg Duties within the framework of CFSP, it contributed to the new security understanding of the Union (Özdal, 2008: 133). In 2003, the European Security Strategy (ESS) was adopted by The European Council, and it gave signals about the structure of the EU troops within the framework of this Strategy. This strategy brought together the immediate threats facing Europe under five main topics: These included terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional problems, failed states, and organized crime. The most prominent objective of these threats is the level of social cohesion and prosperity in Europe. In this context, the idea that the troops of the Union should be formed mostly due to emergency intervention has gained importance as a result of these threats (Bati, 2018: 58–59).

With the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, some arrangements have been made regarding CFSP. The title of the High Representative has been redefined as the “High Representative for the Union’s External Relations and Security Policy.” The High Representative has also acted as the Vice-President of the Commission. A European External Action Service (EEAS) has also been established to assist the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in their work. The EU’s foreign and security policies are still intergovernmental in terms of decision-making mechanisms, and most decisions are made unanimously. However, in CFSP, the issues that can be decided by the qualified majority have been expanded to cover more topics. In the CFSP area, the Lisbon Treaty has developed new mechanisms. The most important of these is “Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).” This structure is a mechanism that the member states, “which fulfill the higher criteria of military capabilities for the most demanding tasks and commit more to each other in this field,” plan to come and work together. (Cebeci, 2018: 162).

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2 PESCO as a European Defensive Movement

The European Council decided on 22–23 June 2017 that PESCO should be launched in order to strengthen the security and defense of Europe, and this cooperation plan was signed on 13 November 2017 among 23 member countries. On December 7, 2017, two other member states joined them and set the principles of the 25-member PESCO (EU Official Website, Accessed on 12.08.2019). The United Kingdom, which did not sign PESCO, did not participate in the co-operation agreement since it was in the Brexit process, and Denmark stated that it would not be involved in such a formation from the beginning. Malta emphasized that it would consider the issue. At present, PESCO has started its activities with the participation of 25 member countries. The ultimate goal at PESCO is to optimize existing resources in the light of the most challenging tasks and operations, to increase their overall effectiveness and to contribute to the Union’s effort to achieve it (EU Official Website, accessed on 12.08.2019). Under PESCO, member states are required to make their own national plans for what can be done concerning the EU’s collective defense, rather than the creation of an EU army. To this end, the EU also commits to contribute to PESCO with a budget of 5 billion Euros starting from 2020 (BBC, 17.11.2017). From the next budget period (2021–2027), the European Commission has proposed a European Defense Fund that will provide “development windows’ of up to 5 billion euros per year. Although it is known that the EU budget comes from the member countries, the European Defense Fund has another importance since it represents a new common funding source within the EU (Biscop, 2018: 163).

However, the legal arrangements for PESCO are laid down in Articles 42(6) and 46 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which constitutes Part 1 of the Lisbon Treaty, and in Protocol No. 10, which is an addition to the Treaty. In particular, the existence of the Brexit process and the ‘US First’ policy implemented after Donald Trump’s election as President brought to the agenda the need for further cooperation in the field of defense. The defensive steps that had previously been kept under radar in the EU Treaties highlight the innovations brought by the Lisbon Treaty; these are PESCO’s mutual assistance/defense clause, solidarity clause, and the EU Battlegroups, which became operational in 2007. Article 42 (6) of the TEU, as amended by the Lisbon Treaty, paves the way for flexible integration in the field of defense and permits permanent structural cooperation for the member states which have “binding commitments to each other in the most demanding missions” to “meet the higher standards of military capabilities”. However, the decisions are taken between the member states regarding the application of defense, and military force traditionally continues to be taken unanimously (Şahin, 2017: 21–22).

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2.1 The Structure and the Projects of PESCO

The EU Military Staff (EUMS), EEAS, and the European Defense Agency (EDA) act as partners, as the PESCO Secretariat. In the Secretariat, the primary roles of the EEAS and EUMS are to contribute to the evaluation of the Member States’ annual contributions to the operational aspects and to coordinate the evaluation of the PESCO project proposals, particularly in the areas of compliance. On the other hand, EDA facilitates capacity-building projects within the scope of PESCO, particularly by coordinating the evaluation of project proposals in the area of capacity building (European Defense Agency, 2019).

The Council adopted the first list of 17 projects to be developed under PESCO in March 2018. Projects include defense training, talent development, and operational readiness. The first 17 approved projects cover the following areas (EU Official Website, Accessed on 12.08.2019):

“European Medical Command”

“European Secure Software-defined Radio (ESSOR)”

“Network of Logistic Hubs in Europe and Support to Operations”

“Military Mobility”

“European Union Training Mission Competence Centre (EU TMCC)”

“European Training Certification Centre for European Armies”

“Energy Operational Function (EOF)”

“Deployable Military Disaster Relief Capability Package”

“Maritime (semi-) Autonomous Systems for Mine Countermeasures (MAS MCM)”

“Harbor & Maritime Surveillance and Protection (HARMSPRO)”

“Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance”

“Cyber Threats and Incident Response Information Sharing Platform”

“Cyber Rapid Response Teams and Mutual Assistance in Cyber Security”

“Strategic Command and Control (C2) System for CSDP Missions and Operations”

“Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle/Amphibious Assault Vehicle/Light Armored Vehicle”

“Indirect Fire Support (EuroArtillery)”

“EUFOR Crisis Response Operation Core (EUFOR CROC)”

With these projects, PESCO allows the EU member states to work more closely in the field of security and defense, to develop joint defense capabilities of the member states, to invest in joint projects, and to increase the operational preparation and contribution of (their) armed forces.

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While the defense policy of the EU was not an issue until the last period, it was brought back to the spotlight after the Brexit process coming up, and Donald Trump pulling the USA out of the security of Europe within the scope of the “USA first” policy (and in this context, the EU losing both political and defensive support). The failure of the ESS initiative within the framework of the Pleven Plan after the Second World War and the failure of WEU to reach the desired stage and being deflated by NATO are indications that the EU has not been able to integrate into some form of defense. Although significant steps have been taken toward the CFSP with the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties, the unanimity of the member states is taken as the basis in the decision-making part. Although the Lisbon Treaty enlarges the areas of decision-making with a qualified majority, especially in the CFSP area, it still remains generally intergovernmental. PESCO, which is currently on the agenda, has been elaborated with the Lisbon Treaty and has recently been considered by European countries. While CFSP is more policy-oriented in the EU, PESCO involves more project-oriented defense cooperation with the projects it brings up. The projects are mostly aimed at the development of defense industry technology, and this contribution is expected from each member country. Also, the CFSP is an intergovernmental structure, while PESCO will remain at a critical point. Whether PESCO will be created in a supranational structure is also crucial for its future. In this regard, whether European countries will give PESCO a supranational character or whether it will maintain an intergovernmental dimension like CFSP will be decisive in the future of PESCO.

In this respect, it is essential to establish unity among European countries. However, the fact that some of the countries within the EU are Atlantic supporters and others are pro-European prevents unity in the field of defense within the Union. It should also be taken into consideration that Britain’s separation from the EU will weaken the Atlanticist group within the Union as well. The participation of 25 EU member states in PESCO supports the majority’s desire for unity in defense.

However, the refugee crisis, which is seen as a reflection of the Syrian problem in Europe, has encouraged European countries to come together in the field of defense. Both the refugee problem and the growing security crises in Europe have triggered a step toward PESCO. Security issues and terrorism in Europe can keep European countries together under a standard defense policy. A firm defense policy against both Russia and the United States led European countries to cooperate. This seems to be in favor of PESCO for now. However, the attitudes ←72 | 73→and policies of the member states will shape whether PESCO will be established as an alternative to NATO or will be operative in cooperation with NATO. It is seen that PESCO has given the EU a new impetus at this stage and that unsuccessful initiatives of ESS and WEU have attempted to be revived with a new step. At this point, if PESCO is held intergovernmental and is not seen as a danger to nation-states, and if it acts with additional project and technology support, there is a chance of success. Also, PESCO will enable the EU to act independently in the field of defense while reinforcing co-operation between the Union countries that have been separated by the Brexit process. In a way, PESCO is the EU’s desire to act as an independent force. Considering that this cooperation movement is the aim of protecting the European territory, it will focus more on the concept of “unity” against the increasing understanding of the nation-state concept in Europe. At this point, PESCO is expected to revive the sense of unity in Europe and to stimulate the desire and cooperation under one roof.


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Biographical notes

Altuğ Günar (Volume editor) Burak Darici (Volume editor)

Altuğ Günar is an assistant professor at Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University, Turkey. His main interests are the European Union, the European Union Economy, and international economics.<B>Burak Darıcı</B> is a professor at Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University, Turkey. His main interests are monetary policy, labor market, financial markets, and international economics.


Title: Future of The European Union Integration: