Experts ponder the future of the European Union during a Jean Monnet Center program

Participants in Jean Monnet Center program (left to right): Gráinne de Búrca, Savvas Papasavvas, Giuliano Amato, Kalypso Nicolaidis.“Europe’s Crisis: Where are we now?” was the title of a discussion hosted by NYU Law’s Jean Monnet Center for International and Regional Economic Law & Justice (JMC) on February 12. Moderated by Florence Ellinwood Allen Professor of Law Gráinne de Búrca, the program featured three prominent experts from Europe:

  • Giuliano Amato, former prime minister of Italy and a member of the Global Law Faculty at NYU;
  • Kalypso Nicolaidis, joint Straus/Senior Emile Noël Fellow at NYU Law and Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford;
  • Savvas Papasavvas, Judge of the General Court of the European Union

Compared to the “Armageddon-like” headlines of a year ago about the fate of the euro and the EU, “the urgency of the crisis has abated somewhat,” de Búrca said at the opening of the discussion. “For all that, our troubles are very far from over,” she added. “The situation may be for now stabilizing … but there’s a widely shared sense that many of the deeper causes and manifestations of the crisis are still with us.”
Much of the discussion focused on the extent to which Europe needs to be a more centralized federal state, akin to the U.S., or could continue as a less integrated federal union. Until recently, Amato conceded, he had thought that the EU did not need to chose between these options, but could have attributes of both. Citing the novel Middlesex (appropriately, for this discussion, rooted in Greece), Amato said that he had believed that the E.U. could function as a hermaphrodite – neither a federal nation-state writ large, nor a mere international organization. “Hermaphrodites can be happy,” he said. “Why should we have a sex for the EU?” But, “I have changed my mind after this crisis,” Amato said. “A euro without fiscal and economic policies at the European level doesn’t make sense – this is substantially our problem.”
Nicolaidis, by contrast, argued against “the misuse of the U.S. as a foil for the E.U.” and said Europeans “should resist and do resist the siren call of oneness.” She advocated what she refers to as “demoicracy” (demoi being plural of the demos in ancient Greek, and thus referring to “peoples”). Europeans, she said, may need to adopt different levels of integration for different purposes (a “fiscal union lite” might make sense, for example), but ought to “avoid crossing the Rubicon to become a federal state.”
While Papasavvas described himself as an optimist, the picture he painted was anything but that. A Greek Cypriot, he noted that in southern Europe the economic crisis remains “profound,” and that the fallout is not just economic, it is social. “Social uprising doesn’t seem improbable these days,” he said, noting in particular that parties of the extreme right are gaining followers. While Papasavvas said he believed that “more integration is the right path,” he worries that “there are limits to what the people of Europe are willing to accept. Amato sounded similarly pessimistic on this score. He described a recent budget meeting of the European Council (which defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union) as “a kind of disaster.”

Posted February 22, 2013