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The European Union’s Future: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities




 Speaker(s)
Mr Jørgen Ørstrøm Møller
Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS & Adjunct Professor at SMU & CBS

 Date
26 August 2014 (Tuesday)
 Venue
Singapore Institute of International Affairs, 60A Orchard Road, #04-03 Tower 1, Atrium@Orchard, Singapore 238890

 Time
5.3opm-7.00pm
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The EU Centre and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) co-organised a public lecture by Mr Jørgen Ørstrøm Møller (Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS & Adjunct Professor at SMU and Copenhagen Business School) at SIIA’s premises on the 26 August 2014.

As the new European Commission takes office in November, the European Union looks slated for a promising yet challenging season ahead.  The rise of a more assertive Russia has forced the EU leaders to think more deeply about the EU’s relations with its eastern neighbours. And while the eurozone looks set on the road of recovery, growth is still anaemic and unemployment remains high.

Mr Jørgen Ørstrøm Møller reminded the audience that the financial crisis of 2008-9 was not an EU crisis, but a global debt crisis that originated in the United States. Even in terms of indebtedness, EU countries are in better shape than the US or Japan.

While expectations on the performance of the single currency may have been too high, Mr Møller insisted that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with it. Contrary to what some economists prescribe, he also contended that a political union was not necessary as a prerequisite to monetary union in Europe, citing the successful examples of currency unions in the continent in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Mr Møller believed that if the euro were not in place in the Eurozone, the global debt crisis would have set off competitive depreciations in Europe, leading to a global depression. The presence of the euro had prevented this catastrophic scenario. . The only issue he had with the architecture of the single currency was that the international markets had allowed Greece to borrow at the same rate as an economically more robust country like Germany. Nonetheless, he believed that the EU would emerge from the crisis strengthened, and in a better shape.

In Mr Møller’s opinion, the EU would not break up as a result of the sovereign debt crises, as some commentators have speculated. Rather, it is what he called the “artificial” nation-states of Europe that are following a trend towards secession – one only has to think of Scotland or Catalonia. In the Scottish case, a “yes” vote for independence in September 2014 seems highly unlikely; but should the UK vote to leave the EU in the 2017 referendum promised by the Conservative government, Scotland would want to vote on the issue of independence again, as it has a greater interest in remaining in the EU.

On challenges in Ukraine, the EU was caught off guard when former president Viktor Yanukovych announced he would not sign the association agreement with the EU – a move that was the immediate trigger for the Euromaidan revolution. EU officials knew about the problems brewing in Ukraine until then, but did not take action.  That was the mistake, but since then, Mr Møller opined that EU policy towards Ukraine has fared better, such as its coordinated and calibrated efforts to penalise Russia with sanctions.