Article

Future Scenarios of the European Union

Brigid Laffan

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics


Published online September 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190228637 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.1493

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Debate on the future of the European Union (EU) never abates because the Union is a polity characterized by considerable change in its internal and external environment. Scenarios are an important tool in mapping possible futures for the Union as they bring underlying trends into focus. Four scenarios on the future of the EU are presented: disintegration, piecemeal adjustment, functional federalism, and a United States of Europe. The political and policy battle concerning the future of the Union is between scenario piecemeal adjustment, the dominant response to the crisis and to events on Europe’s borders, and functional federalism, defined as more integration but in defined fields. Piecemeal adjustment represents a Union that muddles through, incremental reform, whereas functional federalism represents a Union that garners sufficient political capacity to be more strategic in particular functional areas. Systemic disintegration is regarded as unlikely, but partial disintegration may occur because of the exit of the United Kingdom, challenges to a number of EU regimes, and the threats to the Union’s normative order from some member states. A united states of Europe, is highly unlikely as the member states are not in favor of transforming the Union into a state-like federation. The degree of contestation about the future of the EU precludes a transformation of the system at this juncture. Three intervening factors will have a major impact on the future of the EU: the profound changes in the global environment, turbulent politics in the member states, and the Franco-German relationship as a source of leadership in the Union.

Keywords: European Union; scenarios; disintegration; federalism; turbulent politics; global environment; European Union politics

Article.  9131 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Politics and Law

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