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Interview with Sergiu Mișcoiu: “The Brexit Earthquake Was Read Differently Not Just by the Leaders of the Member States, but also by the EU Leaders”
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland leaving the European Union and Euratom represents a major challenge to the EU member states and has complex economic, financial, social and political implications for the entire Community acquis.
Sergiu Mişcoiu, professor at the Faculty of European Studies, Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, offers us an overall picture regarding the perspectives and challenges related to the protection of the EU’s identity in the post-Brexit context, in the interview given to Vladimir Adrian Costea for the Geostrategic Pulse magazine.

Dr. Sergiu MIȘCOIU

23/03/2020 Region: European Union Topic: Geopolitics


     Vladimir Adrian Costea: Mr. Mișcoiu, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland leaving the EU brings back under discussion the future of the European Union. What is the lesson the EU is learning from Brexit?

     Sergiu Mișcoiu: The main lesson is that the process of European integration isn’t linear and one-way. Its dynamics depends on the countries’ willingness to be part of this process, on how committed they are, and the supranational component is far from being able to really influence the direction these countries are headed to, or whether they are led by Eurosceptic or Euro-indifferent governments. Until Brexit, the possibility offered by the Treaty of Nice to a state to leave the European Union was considered absolutely hypothetical and highly improbable. However, Brexit is proof that there are sovereign national political bodies who decide for themselves. We can argue, of course that the British have been manipulated and subjected to a nationalist-populist rhetoric; however, they have undoubtedly voted in favour of leaving the EU.

 

     How can the EU be defined in the post-Brexit horizon? Do we have more or less Europe? Or, on the contrary, we have a multiple-speed Europe?

    The Brexit earthquake was interpreted differently not just by the leaders of the member states, but also by the leaders of the European Union: on one hand, sovereigntists such as Viktor Orban but also some pro-Europeans, thought it was necessary for the EU to adapt so as to allow more decisional autonomy to the member states, in order to avoid another “Exit”. On the other hand, European leaders such as Emmanuel Macron, believed that Brexit was a call to closing ranks even more, to emphasising the supra-national nature of the European institutions, and in fact to heading towards a European confederation (even though the use of this concept is avoided, so as not to shock the European public). This fracture line brought the relaunching of the European project to a stalemate, and Ursula von Der Leyen’s Commission is the result of this stalemate: the new commission has a programme aimed at conciliating these different views and does not intend, for example, to start talks on a new, more integrative European treaty.


    To what extent does Brexit strengthen the feeling of solidarity amongst the EU member states? What are the main prospects and challenges related to the EU identity projection in a post-Brexit context?

    Among the EU founding states, as well as among the Northern states, Brexit has regenerated a sense of solidarity through the reaffirmation of the unity and the common values institutionally supported by the French-German nucleus: a social and a liberal Europe, open and directed towards jointly taking advantage of the benefits of globalisation. However, countries such as Poland, Hungary and, to a smaller extent Croatia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, interpreted Brexit as a message of consolidation of national sovereignty, as well as of (re)assertion of a common Eastern-European platform – a Europe of nations intended to be responsible and sovereign, following the Christian tradition and defender of rather “classical” values. This cleavage seems difficult to overcome, as it actually matches significantly different views and cultural, ideological, and geopolitical commitments, both strongly advertised by their proponents.

 

UK and European Union by Gatis Sluka, Latvijas Avize, Latvia, 21.11.2018 (Cagle Cartoons)

 

     What are the scenarios regarding the redefinition of a new cooperation framework between the EU and the United Kingdom?

    As the current status quo shows, neither of the two initial scenarios came true. We did not have a soft, carefully and consensually negotiated and timed Brexit, as we did not have a brutal divorce that wouldn’t leave room for maintaining mutual arrangements, such as the negotiation of a flexible form of customs union. The Coronavirus crisis can, however further estrange Great Britain from the Continent, sadly at a moment coinciding with the timing initially planned for clarifying the post-Brexit framework for cooperation between the UK and the EU. Consequently, Britain is slowly overtaken by those who are in favour of straying further from the EU, an EU concerned more than ever with fighting against a pandemic which ravages the whole continent.

 

     What are the prospects for the EU expansion in the Balkans? What about Scotland joining the EU?

     An expansion of the EU should be decided during the mandate of the current Commission, so that the idea of enlargement and the positive dynamics of the EU are not compromised. Geopolitically speaking, Serbia - which is the country more likely to join the EU, is torn between the EU, Russia and China. North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to face identity issues, as well as issues of political and institutional stability. Unexpectedly, one of the countries with the slowest post-communist transition, Albania, seems the closest to an eventual integration. As for Scotland, it can very well win the rematch against Great Britain and break away from it, should a secession referendum be agreed upon by the Parliament in London, which for now is not the case. So, the more the public agenda is busy with the worst sanitary crisis in the world’s recent history, the more fanciful is today discussing the possibility of an eventually independent Scotland joining the EU.