Honorary Director-General of the European Commission Graham Avery claimed that the EU will emerge stronger from the present crisis, but warned that Britain may be relegated to a secondary role in a two-tier Europe unless it acts in a more positive and energetic way, at a panel discussion organized by the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society (FLJS) on 19th April to mark the inauguration of the Law, Justice and Society research cluster at Wolfson College.
Panellists at the discussion, entitled Europe on the Brink: Economic, Political, and Constitutional Issues, included a former economic adviser to the EC, and European and constitutional experts. The event was the first held under the auspices of the Law, Justice and Society research cluster at Wolfson College, a collaboration between the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society and Wolfson College which, in conjunction with the existing association with the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, will constitute a major centre for the study of law, justice and society in Oxford.
The event was introduced by Professor Denis Galligan, Vicegerent of Wolfson College and Board Member of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, and by Professor Christina Redfield, Acting President of Wolfson College, who welcomed the alliance of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society and the College through the interdisciplinary research cluster framework.
Professor of European International Politics and Wolfson Fellow Anne Deighton opened the discussion by situating the current instability in the EU in the context of long-term shifts in the global geo-strategic balance, and questioned the moves for deeper integration and increased powers to Brussels without additional growth.
Such moves would, however, seem unlikely from a constitutional perspective, as identified by the final panellist Professor Paul Craig, who argued that, whilst the constitutional architecture could accommodate a macro-nuclear event such as the collapse of the euro, the more likely outcome of the crisis is a troubling move towards international treaties outside the formal fabric of the EU treaty, such as the Stability, Coordination and Governance Treaty that came into being following the 2011 Summit.
Describing Britain's EU policy as "uncomfortably situated between a rock and a hard place", Graham Avery outlined the risk of Britain having a marginalized role in Europe with the stark warning that "if you are not at the table, you will be on the menu".
Mr Avery suggested that David Cameron's veto over the proposed EU treaty changes in December could herald the development of a two-tier structure of EU membership, which may lead to serious economic and political problems for Britain.
During the course of the discussion, panellists made a number of forecasts for the future of Europe, arguing that the eurozone can avoid a major political break up, but that longer term risks remain. Among the recommendations proposed were a more judicious and differentiated approach to budgetary policy, and a measure that the European Commission and now the ECB are pressing for: euro-wide or EU-wide sharing of the fiscal risks of bank failure.
Podcasts of the panellists's comments are available to download from the FLJS podcast page.
Forthcoming events include the Annual Lecture in Law and Society and a panel discussion on media regulation, to be held at Wolfson College on 18th May.