A month’s scrutiny of the E.U. and its politics has touched on several different areas and, worryingly, problems with the institution. However a contradiction has emerged in the arguments seen on Gaps in the Dialogue that should be addressed. That is, if we can find so many faults with the E.U. why do British politicians and the contributions on this site call for widening integration? Why should Turkey, the Ukraine, or possibly Russia be brought into an institution that, many argue, is flawed?

I’d initially like to go over what has been touched upon by Gaps in the Dialogue during December’s exploration of the E.U. First, Louis called for federalism and a greater foreign policy, deeper integration in other words, as well as calling for the Ukraine to be admitted – widening integration. However, this positive view of Europe was dampened by scepticism over any role referendums could play in the future of the E.U. I agree that past referendum results have meant governments will be unwilling to risk more votes, but referendums will be beneficial due to the process, not necessarily the result. An open debate on Europe in the UK will benefit Europhiles, not Eurosceptics because it allows a chance for myths to be debunked. Second, Joe suggested that the left had traditionally supported Europe and faced a contradiction – to devolve power down or pool power at supranational levels. This, I would argue, is a mislead view of traditional leftist politics which always looked to avoid the common market and the E.C. until centre-left Labour politicians realised it was unavoidable. Furthermore, the European project on the continent was a Gaullist led movement to further free markets – often against the wishes of leftist parties such as the German SDP and French PCF. Therefore the contradiction that Joe discusses is centrist one and an electoral problem for most political parties. Of course, the left has since changed its stance but the answer, possibly, is to make the E.U. more democratic instead of restricting its mandate as Joe agues. Only a democratic and open E.U. can be something to be proud of. Last, Jez points out that the E.U. is largely ignored by politicians and media alike even though its regulatory and global policy role is large and growing. Jez complains that legitimacy and accountability is missing in Brussels, but a lack of dialogue and debate around the issue will mean reform will be slow to arrive.

The point that I’d like to address with more detail is the idea that emerged from Joe and Louis’ contributions. That is, the E.U. has problems, but further expansion is to be desired. I would disagree. Expansion has, traditionally, been viewed by British politicians as a beneficial move for the E.U. as a tactic of watering down the power of the Paris-Bonn, now Paris-Berlin, axis. Hence, the UK enthusiastically welcomed the Nordic expansion of 1994 and the Eastern expansion of 2004. It may also be behind the UK Government’s support for Turkish membership. This support is echoed by Joe and Louis who wrote ‘we should expand Europe to include Kiev, and for that matter Ankara and even Moscow’, and ‘hopefully we will be inviting the Ukraine into the mix following national elections in January’. The E.U., I agree, is a positive force in politics and there is scope for expansion in the future but expansion now, while Euroscepticism is rife across Europe would be premature. The problems that have been discussed throughout this month on this site need to be addressed. How can citizens be further engaged? How can the debate on Europe be won by Europhiles? What will the new President and High Representative’s roles be? These questions must be answered before we complicate the institution further, because be in no doubt – the Ukraine and Turkey will provide huge challenges for the E.U.

There is one further point I’d like to bring up concerning European integration. That is, what do we want the E.U. to be? If the answer is, to borrow some famous words, an economic giant but a political dwarf then premature expansion may be useful. The economies of the East would add further weight to an already hefty economic institution. But if the answer is an institution with a political voice on the world stage – which Jez and Louis refer to in positive terms – capable of countering China, the US and developing countries then the complications stemming from further expansion may slow us down. How can a united, political voice emerge in the foreseeable future from an organisation that includes such varied states? I would argue the European Union has a long way to go before it is capable of incorporating such large states into its framework. Remember how painful the ratification of Lisbon was, and how vital we all view E.U. democratic reform to be in order to win the support of an already sceptical population.