In 2001, Andrew Duff and Shirley Williams wrote an interesting book: European Futures, alternative scenarios for 2020. In it, (and paraphrasing their text), they said:
Scenarios are not forecasts of the future. They tell stories about the future. They should be positive, not normative: might rather than should is the important distinction. The purpose of building scenarios is to challenge our mental maps of the future. Used well, scenarios can stimulate government and business to test their strategies, assess their preparedness, and even to adjust current policies to pre-empt, palliate or promote a particular outcome.
Politicians rarely have 2020 vision. They tend to focus on the short-term. A week in politics is a long time. But, change in the 21st century has to be planned and managed. Some key factors to consider include:
- Demographics and ageing: how old is old enough?
- Between now and 2050, Europe's workforce will decrease by 70 million: maintaining economic growth will require migration and open EU borders: can a balanced migration management strategy be achieved that welcomes highly skilled workers and keeps out illegal immigrants?
- Health standards and the quality of life: how much better can it get?
- Consumerism: how much is enough: can successful society get any smugger?
- Rising pollution and congestion: how much worse can it get?
- Social inclusion versus exclusion: who might be left out?
- Social equity versus financial equity: where should the focus be?
- Affordable and accessible energy and water: are there sufficient supplies, and at an affordable price?
- Clashes of cultures: Christianity/Islam; Arab/Israeli; West/East; North/South?
- Future dominance of, and competion between, China and India: what of Russia and Brazil?
- Uncertain world political/macro/defence framework: collapse of NATO and rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation?
- Changes in the Bretton Woods Institutions: what takes their place?
- Expansion of the Security Council: who joins, and who drops off it?
- Nuclear weapons: which countries (and terrorist groups?) have access?
So, consider 2020, only 6 years away. What will the EU, Wider Europe, the European Neighbourhood and Britain look like? Reflect on three options:
- Europe Adrift - adapted from Duff/Williams, (remember, written in 2001, thirteen years ago, and compared at that time with two other scenarios - Superstate Europa and Flexible Europe)
- Europe Re-floated - taken from Wider Europe's imagination
- Europe with a British flavour - again, taken from Wider Europe's imagination
1. Europe Adrift
- 28 members of the EU - the applications to join by the Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, the remaining Balkan countries and Turkey are blocked
- Renewed fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, stoked up by Serbia which is resentful at not joining the EU (as promised earlier)
- Iceland aborts EU accession negotiations
- Continuing instability in the MENA region, with no political solution in Syria; the US, Britain, France and Arab countries engage there militarily, using the "successful" Libyan model of limited intervention and "right-to-protect" argument, but unsuccessful in bringing about political stability
- Turkey moves further into northern Syria to provide a bridgehead for rebels fighting continued government repression; armed leftists, Islamic fundamentalists and Kurdish separatists fight each other and the Ankara regime
- NATO disbanded, and nothing (western) put in its place
- US still embroiled in Afghanistan
- Economic and social chaos in Russia, which has a knock-on effect in the Ukraine and the three Baltic States: Kaliningrad sold to the EU
- Very right-wing Conservative government elected in the UK on the basis of an anti-Europe ticket: publishes a timetable for phased withdrawal from the EU
- 1.5% average annual growth in Europe during 2010-20: unemployment high, and social unrest mushrooms
- Financial instability: Euro on the verge of collapse, (as credit institutions fail in the poorer parts of Europe)
- USA continues to interfere in European affairs: does not favour creation of a largely protectionist, federal European super-state
- Due to the large number of migrants into North America from Latin America, Madrid adopts the special European/USA relationship: a resentful London blocks further talks on Gibraltar
- European social model starts to implode: immigrants hired/fired without social protection: prison population doubles: refugees and asylum seekers become the target of routine street violence: right wing political parties thrive (even further)
- Popular hostility against European support for US policy: violent demonstrations everywhere in Europe: media war between US and non-US owned global companies: minority, racist parties do well in elections (again)
- Emergency powers given to police in Britain, France and Germany to detain suspected illegal immigrants
- Urban terrorists, separatists and mafia join forces to combat state authoritarianism: drug trafficking and addiction rise
- Churches try to heal social wounds, but fail: anti-authoritarian theology rises in European universities, leading to violence on campus
- EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is revoked unilaterally by the European Council
- Relations between the European Commission and the European Parliament become increasingly adversarial: significant fraud identified by four Commissioners from Britain, Hungary, Italy and Lithuania
- Belgium no longer exists: the Flemish and Walloon speaking regions evolve into two independent countries: Brussels becomes a sovereign territory of the EU
- Wider Europe up to 2050 looks dire: dog eats dog
2. Europe Re-floated
- 29 members of the EU - Iceland joins: Turkey and the Balkan countries advised they will be invited to join no later than 2025
- Greece resolves all outstanding political and territorial issues with Turkey as part of the negotiated funding package required to bail out (again) the Greek economy
- Northern Cyprus re-united with the South: both regions of the country benefit quickly as part of the EU
- Financial stability in the EU as credit institutions in the poorer parts of Europe and the Euro are rescued by China
- Belgium remains one independent country, with Brussels as its capital
- Stability in the MENA region: democracies established in all countries: unplanned migratory pressures from them to the EU decline strongly: Schengen extended
- Turkey withdraws from northern Syria, once stability has returned in the post-Assad period
- Kurdish separatists granted full autonomy and political freedoms within Turkey
- US withdrawal from Afghanistan complete
- Netanyahu turns the USA off Israel: strategic change of direction by America to work with Arab/Muslim states first, and Israel second
- Russia avoids economic and social chaos: start-up of economic (non-energy) modernization programme: Russia acknowledges the sovereign rights of the three Baltic States as members of the EU and NATO: Kaliningrad leased to the EU until 2100
- All political parties (left, right and far-right) in all EU countries, as well as the candidate and potential candidate countries, recognize that migration is the key future EU issue, and that it has to be managed constructively: European demographics make this inevitable: aware of this, no country has the courage to withdraw from the EU and "go it alone"
- 2% average annual growth in Europe during 2010-20, with 2.5% projected for the second half of the decade: unemployment remains high, but social unrest kept under control
- Global warming less of an issue as a result of international cooperation, post-Copenhagen
- USA develops an alternative indigenous energy supply; development of fracking breaks America's dependence on Middle East oil; gas exported to Europe to reduce its dependency on Russian supplies passing through the Ukraine
- America formalizes an EU/USA special relationship which shares ideas and experiences: convergence in wide areas of European and US global policy, particularly concerning migration: major review of whether Schengen experience is relevant to the US/Mexican border; US-EU trade deal concluded
- European social model improves, particularly related to migration: immigrants hired/fired with social protection: migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers no longer the target of routine violence: popularity of right wing political parties starts to decline
- Detained suspected illegal immigrants dealt with under the "new" EU migration package: drug and people trafficking brought under control as a part of improved EU migration policy
- Projected growth in employment opportunities lets students and staff in European universities focus on studying rather than violence on campus
- EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (including for migrants) strengthened by the European Council
- Relations between the European Commission and the European Parliament become increasingly adversarial: fraud continues to be identified
- Wider Europe to 2050 doesn't look too bad, after all
3. Europe with a British flavour
- Cameron is still Prime Minister: Osborne waits his turn diligently: the Liberal Party has been disbanded: Labour remains in the wilderness: electoral reform reappears on the agenda: Brown, the two Milibands and Clegg all go to the House of Lords
- Britain avoids a Japanese-style lost decade: green banks and state-led investment in technology remain all talk and no action: Britain's politicians suffer a collective loss of nerve: puritan Britain pays down its debts: the rich go further offshore, failing to pay their fair share
- North/South, class and racial tensions in Britain are overlaid with a new one (also seein in the rest of Europe) - the battle for resources between the growing number of longer-living, older generation, and the massive cohort of well-educated, technically savvy, young people worried about job security, housing and their ability to shape their future
- The euro does not collapse thanks to substantial support from the BRICs: sterling becomes a popular reserve currency
- Scottish independence causes the UK to lose its seat on the UN Security Council
- China's GDP outstrips that of the United States: the Sixth Fleet leaves the South China Sea: the world prepares for a post-American world
- The United States and Canada withdraw from NATO, due to "chronic European underfunding"
- Putin forced to pull back troops from the east of Ukraine; the Crimea rejoins Russia by "popular request"
- A Falkland Islands' joint-sovereignty arrangement with Argentina has been established, and is working well: oil has still not been discovered in viable quantities, but drilling continues
- Democracy has finaly been established in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and Syria, following the Arab Spring
- Whilst ISAF withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014, Britain, France, the USA and other European countries have been drawn into fighting vicious insurgency campaigns in Somalia and Yemen
- Inequality in Europe worsens to dangerous levels, with the middle-class becoming poor: riots continue to force the debate between adopting either a law-and-order or a fundamental causes approach: the immigration issue will not go away
- A poorly paid, mobile workforce develops in Europe, turning it into a haven for inward investment - an emerging market that provides India and China with an alternative manufacturing base
- There is a major struggle between those who want economic growth, employment and income (with which to pay down state and non-state debts), and those who want to preserve the European museum of green and pleasant lands
These are difficult and unpredictable times. Concerning Europe Adrift, is this a scenario you want for 2020 for the EU and its European Neighbourhood? If not, what can you do to ensure that it (or something similar to it) does not happen? And, whilst you are at it, consider 2030. What type of Wider Europe might your children, grandchildren and you inhabit 16 years from now? What other scenarios can you paint? Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.