Saturday, 11 November 2017

Reflection paper on globalisation: Opportunity or threat?

The Commission’s White paper on the future of Europe: Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025 COM(2017) 2025 invited the citizens of the European Union to discuss our common future ahead of the elections to the European Parliament in 2019.

In the White paper, published 1 March 2017, the European Commission promised to contribute to the discussion during the coming months with a series of reflection papers on the following topics:

• developing the social dimension of Europe;
• deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, on the basis of the Five Presidents' Report of June 2015;
• harnessing globalisation;
• the future of Europe’s defence;
• the future of EU finances.

As promised, the European Commission published a paper discussing the economic and societal challenges of rapid integration:

Reflection paper on harnessing globalisation; Brussels, 10.5.2017 COM(2017) 240 final (25 pages)   

For those who prefer the less readable pastel coloured “printed” versions, with annexes, the European Commission’s web page White paper on the future of Europe and the way forward serves as a convenient channel to the White paper and the five reflection papers, including the one on harnessing globalisation in the official EU languages.

Opportunity of threat?

One of the difficulties for building coherent policies and action is that people in the EU are divided: 55 per cent see globalisation as an opportunity, while 45 per cent consider globalisation as a threat overall (page 10).  

Even worse, fear of globalisation is the main cause for voters to abandon mainstream political parties and to turn to populist parties, especially on the Right, but also on the Left, according to the 2016 study from the Bertelsmann Stiftung Globalisierungsangst oder Wertekonflikt? The lower the level of education, the less the income and the higher the age of people, the more likely they are to perceive globalisation as a threat.

Majorities in Austria and France experienced globalisation as a threat, while the proportion of people fearing globalisation was particularly low in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Public opinion in the Netherlands, Germany and Hungary formed a middle group between the extremes.  

However, in May 2017, along with stronger economies in the EU and the euro area, the Bruegel blog found that Europeans rediscover enthusiasm for globalisation, even in France, as Uuriintuya Batsaikhan and Zsolt Darvas wrote.

Tri-polar world?

A fresh post on the Bruegel blog, European worries about isolationist trends, reasons that despite populist shocks in the UK and US, withdrawing from the world is no solution, but that Europe needs to reassess the future of globalisation.

Internal EU reform is long overdue, and Europe’s allies are withdrawing, while European integration and globalisation both build on the idea work together, as a way of doing better. Maria Demertzis discusses both economic inequality in Europe (the UK and US) and the rise of a China promoting different values than the EU.

Can the EU overcome populist and protectionist pressures? Is the European Union going to be able to conclude constructive deals with China?

Let us return with a blog entry on how the European Commission wants to handle the internal and external pressures of globalisation and at a few expert comments about the reflection paper.

Ralf Grahn

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