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When the EU's Campaign Season Ends, The Real Political Battles Will Begin
R. DANIEL KELEMEN is Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University and Visiting Fellow in the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of Lessons from Europe? What Americans Can Learn from European Public Policies.
ANAND MENON is Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College in London. Follow him on Twitter @anandmenon1.See more by R. Daniel KelemenSee more by Anand Menon
It is the worst of times and the best of times for the European Union (EU). Support for European integration is at an all-time low. The continent’s economic recovery has been tepid at best. An entire generation in southern Europe has been scarred by youth unemployment rates ranging from 30 to 50 percent. Far-right and anti-EU parties are enjoying unprecedented levels of support in France, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Internationally, the EU has proved powerless to prevent Russian aggression in Ukraine. Internally, the EU has seemed equally incapable of arresting Hungary’s slide toward autocracy or halting the United Kingdom’s discussions about a possible exit. In short, the EU has rarely seemed feebler or less popular.
At the same time, however, the EU has managed to steer its way through the euro crisis, the greatest test in its six-decade history, while preserving the common currency and stabilizing the continent’s financial sector. Far from tearing the EU apart, as many had predicted, the crisis has enhanced Brussels’ authority over national economies in ways that would have been unimaginable five years ago. Internationally, Brussels has been leading ongoing negotiations with the United States over a remarkably ambitious trade deal. And demonstrators in Kiev’s Euromaidan reminded the world of the continued allure of EU membership. Finally, despite recent decreases in public support for the EU, the most recent Eurobarometer survey shows that a majority -- 53 percent -- of European citizens remain confident about its future.