Theater of Cruelty

The continent we are part of

Paal Frisvold
Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.
EUROPA / It is not the magazine's intention to dwell on Norway's affiliation with the EU. On the contrary. The exercise is inspired by the ongoing process in all EU countries with conferences and studies on the role and direction of EU co-operation. Is it possible to change the EU?




(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)

Key topics are how Europe and the EU will tackle the challenges in areas such as health, environment, climate, digitalisation, migration pressure, tax and security. Moreover, how can EU cooperation help restore and promote the credibility of democracy in Europe and the rest of the world?

Neither the previous nor the current Norwegian government has responded to the EU's call, although the origins of the conference can be traced all the way back to French President Emmanuel Macron's speech in the Sorbonne in 2017 – and later Ursula von der Leyen's mandate to gain a majority in the European Parliament.

No other Norwegian environment, such as the Arena Center for European Research, NUPI or others, has initiated Norwegian reflections. The discussion about Europe's future, which has not taken place since the conference on the EU's constitution in 2001, in which Norwegian members of the Storting participated, takes place entirely without Norway. This is what MODERN TIMES's editor wanted Truls Lie and I do something with. And thanks to the support of Fritt ord we have been able to publish this booklet with contributions from 25 leading actors within a wide range of society.

The EU's structure and bureaucracy

Regardless of our own relationship with the EU and Norway's affiliation, we must now take a closer look at which and what kind of EU we want. Or rather, what kind of Europe do we want: How should it be governed? And what should European countries cooperate and not cooperate on? Because even though Norway is not a member of the EU, we are part of Europe and to some extent connected to the EU through the EEA. That is why we asked forty people we consider to be opinion leaders, i.e. prominent actors within professional fields that are more or less covered by EU cooperation's policy, regulations and function.

We received contributions from 25, which are partially reproduced in this magazine. An impressive effort for which we are very grateful. It has required a lot of time and reflection to put down on paper what everyone wants with European cooperation. For the contributors show that there is both breadth and interest in Europe's choice of path. Especially after Russias invasion of Ukraine This opens up a completely new era in Europe. Other leading academics and social actors responded in this way: "This is broader than what I usually work on", or "I have thought a bit and think that I am not the right person to answer this. I simply know far too little about the questions you ask”; "this is probably far outside my core competence"; and "I do not have a qualified point of view on what the EU should deprioritise […], nor on security policy cooperation in Europe or on how closely integrated the EU project should be".

The consequences of Norway's lack of political participation in the EU have clearly led to the erosion of knowledge and commitment to how Europe is governed. The EU has in many ways become a Norwegian political "blind spot" – the word also used as the title of Professor Finn Arnesen's NAV commission. The contributors to this magazine nevertheless show the opposite: There are still many people committed to Europe out there.

At the same time, Europe is not everything. But it is now even the continent we are a part of. A Norwegian Europe must begin by including the history of European integration and the construction of the EU in both primary and secondary school. Linn Stalsberg says it best when she writes: "Answering questions about the EU is like appearing for an oral exam and not understanding any of the questions, even though you are sure you read the entire syllabus. Even for those of us politically interested, the EU's structure, bureaucracy, mandate and methods are a sauce of ambiguities." She is absolutely right. Because although knowledge of all forms of international cooperation is most often reserved for the country's upper echelons, for example all Belgian schoolchildren learn several times during the 12-year compulsory schooling about the EU's origins, institutions, enlargements and member states . Many EU countries' curricula even include the EFTA countries and the EEA.

In addition, we have a Norwegian "Brexit phenomenon" in that many simply do not want to say anything about European cooperation for fear of having to stand up for their position on Norwegian membership – since it is still perceived as
divisive and painful.

A better integrated Europe

This magazine's 25 articles from recognized personalities in various fields give us a good picture of the complexity of EU cooperation, such as the relationship between national sovereignty and European sovereignty, and areas that require and do not require intensified cooperation. Those interested in Europe will hopefully read it with both interest and pleasure. A consistent response is the need for a more united and better integrated Europe, whether it concerns climate measures, respect for human rights, protection against and handling of big tech or security and defense policy. As Erik Solheim writes: "The answer to almost all important questions for Norway in the coming decades is more Europe."

The EU's democratic deficit and the bureaucracy's unbearable power.

Something many respondents are concerned about: How can the EU become more democratic? How can most people gain a greater understanding of the EU's complex decision-making mechanisms? Iver B. Neumann points to the need to give the European Commission greater authority to propose new measures, while Mathilde Fasting is keen to strengthen the European Parliament's legislative role in areas where member states still have veto rights.

Veto

One proposal that may receive greater attention during the conference i Strasbourg in May on the EU's future, is a possible change in the EU's decision-making process: The problem with the current system is the Commission's monopoly on proposing new policies and regulations, which many would say shows the EU's democratic deficit and the intolerable power of the bureaucracy. The founders thought it was an advantage that the representatives from each country in the EU Council of Ministers and all representatives of the European Parliament did not have the right of initiative, as is the case in the two chambers of the American Congress. Today, many claim that each country's right of veto in foreign and security policy matters is no longer only a problem for Europe, but for the whole world, since it implies that Chinese and Russian economic interests will be able to divide and paralyze Europe's position on matters of Syria, Ukraine or the Middle East when Europe is unable to reach an agreement when the major conflicts arise. Requirement for unanimity also limits the EU's ability to deal with its own member states' violations of the EU constitution's principles of the rule of law, as we see in Poland and Hungary. We see the same in connection with migration policy, where a lack of solidarity between the EU countries, and otherwise also the Schengen country Norway, contributes to a paralyzed policy in an area that Sylo Taraku writes is the EU's biggest challenge.

Only when the EU countries manage to get rid of yesterday's right of veto can Europe assume the role of power factor alongside the US, China and Russia and assert its values ​​in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable world. It will also be in Norway's interest.

The results of the conferences on the future of Europe will be presented in May in Strasbourg, under the auspices of the French presidency.

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