EU struggle in a world of growing barriers

Employment and Social Affairs

Globalisation was supposed to tear down barriers, but security fears and growing concerns on States capabilities to manage migration flows have fuelled a new surge of wall-building around the world. According to data published in a research by the University of Quebec in Montreal, the number of walls worldwide remained stable soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall; however, fences construction projects has proliferated after the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 and lately also due to growing fears linked to social impact of refugee flows.
But it is not just a matter of physical fences and barriers: Brexit consequences and US president Donald Trump’s protectionism are two key elements in order to highlight the renewed nationalism that aims at favouring national States interests more than multilateralism and cooperation in the framework of International Organizations. The same Donald Trump has praised britain’s Brexit decision, and the prospects of a US-EU free trade (TTIP) deal have since failed. And even inside the EU there is a feeling of growing need to protect national interest first: and it is non just related to migration flow and fences built by Hungary, but also as regard a general perception of mistrust in the European common project.
On 29th of March British prime minister Theresa May has “triggered” Article 50 exit notification starting two years of tough negotiations with the EU. The European Council President’s Donald Tusk clarified that there must be “sufficient progress” on withdrawal talks – including a “divorce bill” before negotiations on future relations begin. “In these negotiations the Union will act as one”, said Tusk stressing once more the need for Unity to negotiate better with those who decided to move back to “national state first”.
So now it seems clear that negotiations will be though, but there are also mutual interests where London and Brussels has to work on together in order to find a common stance on new relationship, even with Great Britain outside the EU. “After more than 40 years of being united, we owe it to each other to do everything we can to make this divorce as smooth as possible”, said European Council President. Thus, high on the EU’s agenda is securing the status of around 4 million EU citizens already living in Great Britain. Banks and insurance market have warned the loss of passporting rights following Brexit would force them out of London. US banking giant JP Morgan said around 4.000 jobs would leave Great Britain, Goldman Sachs and HSBC threatened to move 2.000 and 1.000 positions from London to others EU cities, while insurance market Lloyd’s of London announced plans to establish a subsidiary in Brussels.
Furthermore as regard freed trade the EU stance seems to be at the moment that “any free trade agreement should be balanced, ambitious and wide-ranging; it cannot, however, amount to participation in the Single Market”. Between Brussels and London appears to exist at least a common understanding on the need to maintain an open dialogue trying to avoid too many damages from Brexit.
On the other side US new stance with Trump appears to be even more aggressive. During the latest week the US president signed two executive order that provoked strong reactions in many countries of Europe. The first executive order focus on tougher enforcement of anti-dumping laws, increasing the collection of anti-dumping penalties and to tackle foreign governments that subsidize their products in order to sell goods at below-market prices.
The second executive order calls on the Commerce Department to produce a comprehensive report aimed at identifying “every possible cause of the US trade deficit”. Once completed, the findings of the report will serve as the basis that will guide the Trump administration’s future trade policy; US administration officials have 90 days to finish a country-by-country and product-by-product analysis. Those announcements highlight once more that “America First” and nationalistic approach are a wide ranging ideology non just related to building fences – as the one the new Washington administration wants to erect along the border with Mexico – but also to a kind of conservative vision that wants to be alternative to alleged distortions promoted by globalization, free trade, multilateralism and International Organizations. The question still open is if isolation and nationalistic approach could be the right answer to correct those shortcomings or they could be better solved through cooperation and dialogue. Next year seems to be characterized for EU and other International Organization by a struggle in order to prove their success against the new surge of barriers and nationalism. Unity inside the EU is the key element to deal with this epochal challenge.

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