Transformation and European Integration: The Local Dimension

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Unemployment rose, yet politicians failed to respond, with no new course proposed to uphold the principles of change, whose goals were continuously within reach and to a certain extent achieved Figure 1. The Portuguese were living in an atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust, once again opting to emigrate and reliving the memories of the s. Portugal was seemingly cast adrift, unable to find its way, with its future on hold and lacking the ability to decide its fate. Source: INE. Also, the forceful presence of women in the public space and the levels of quality of life obtained by the citizenry were distinct benefits also enjoyed.

Yet some things remain unaccomplished, and we note the inability of the democratic system to reform itself and of the State to adopt a more regulatory and less intervening posture. There has been a difficulty in conceiving of and following a strategy of clear development, in defining targets and assigning responsibilities, and in assessing and seeking out agents for mobilization.

History shows how the State has been ubiquitous, seeming to asphyxiate, intervening and dominating everything and everyone in both direct and indirect ways. The political-administrative organization is managed by a Central State, without true regionalization, and expresses the domination of coastal, urban and dynamic districts over an interior that is abandoned, ageing, and suffering persistent loss in population, economic activities. The role of municipalities has been fundamental, yet limited, in favoring education, culture and sport, be it with respect to the material dimension and investments made in infrastructures and facilities or in the accompanying social aspects, but always framed within the determinations set forth by the Central State.

Currently the search for integrated solutions for territorial development has placed increasing value on interventions carried out by municipalities together with inter-municipal communities. What is needed is to do away with the interconnection of protected interests in order to give Portugal a new impetus, one that will initiate a new cycle in the process of integration. Europe, especially Northern Europe, must play an active and unreserved role in this new cycle.

The past cannot be forgotten nor can we afford to have short memories. We cannot squander what we have earned for ourselves.

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The political changes have been decisive, such as the liberalization and increasing global integration of the Portuguese economy and society. Portugal, a pioneering country in terms of globalization, saw in European integration a sort of new globalization. However, the European Union often seems to be willing to resist this process of global integration.

The focus should be redirected toward proactive and solidarity-based participation, considering the advantages of diversity. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Change is visible in infrastructures and facilities, education, health care and in social issues. Translating these achievements onto the territorial level, however, reveals a country that is more disproportionate and concentrated in coastal areas.

The discussion has also addressed the way that Europe has managed the economic and sovereign debt crises as well as the effects of successive enlargement and growing interdependence in a more integrated and global world. Why has progress been evidenced in more material matters whereas structural changes, such as those related to attitudes, have not yet taken place?


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The GDP figures aid in interpreting the various phases in the process of European integration Figures 2 and 3. Source: INE, The key concept of this evolution shows that since the founding of the single currency, Portugal has always been on a course which presents a shift away from the average economic growth of the European Union. The combination of health indicators life expectancy at birth , education number of years of schooling for year-olds and expected number of years of schooling , and the economic component Gross National Income per capita underscore the progress made in Portugal although some figures may be lower than the EU average Figures 4 and 5.

Source: HDR, The evolution of the indicators points to the observation that after a period of economic growth and public investment expressed in a series of accomplishments public works came a loss of competitiveness. The analysis of exports and productivity allows defining the characteristics of economic activity.

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The weight of exports in terms of GDP showed a trend toward stability from to , with growth representing approximately 10 percentage points from to from Indeed, the World Economic Forum, in its Global Competitiveness Report , named Portugal its 18th most competitive member-state in a ranking led by the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. Referring to the most problematic factors for doing business, the Report highlights the following aspects: i nefficient government bureaucracy, tax rates, restrictive labor regulations, policy instability and access to financing.

The context and the political decisions, the creation of public employment and a favorable framework for access to credit produced consequences, not only in the domain of attitudes and social behaviors but also in the structural changes in employment and in the perspectives and wishes of the social classes with higher levels of education, which also eventually encompassed the lower income classes.

Introduction

Moreover, these structural changes in public sector employment were not accompanied by any parallel dynamic in the domain of private sector activities. In contrast, the lowering of interest rates and the drop in inflation rates in the s had an impact on the decision-making of economic agents families in particular , creating expectations in terms of income which did not correspond to an increase in productivity and the necessary structural changes to the economy.

Also noteworthy are the accomplishments in the domain of Research and Development activities, which require more time to bear fruit that will ultimately result in change. At the same time, the corporate structure was based on small businesses, which limits the existence of economies of scale, even when presuming the advantages that may stem from a greater capacity for adaptation within the current context of uncertainty and flexibility in responding to change.

These elements are also associated with weaknesses with respect to the quality of labor management and organization, essential vectors for change and dynamism of the economy. Basically, under EU law, individuals may develop in Europe a set of social relations not based on their national bonds but organized around alternative forms of ties mainly family and professional ties.

The continuity and permanence of these ties are secured. EU law provides an anchor for personal identity beyond and across the boundaries of national jurisdictions. It is to these forms of identification that Mr. Let us recall that, in contrast to a pure public good, a club is, according to well-known Buchanan theory, an excludable good, meaning that it is possible to prevent people who have not paid for it from having access to it.

Cameron suggests, both more control on free movement of persons and the imposition of new conditions on entry of migrants and on access to social benefitsā€”conditions which ask for proof that those persons have the material or cultural capacities to assimilate and that they will really contribute to the host society. Cameron is far from alone in upholding such a conception. It has to some extent reached the supranational institutional world, as illustrated in the recent Dano decision of the CJEU.


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Instead, it focused on the objective of preventing Union citizens from becoming an unreasonable burden for the host member state. In this judgment, the Court oscillated between two approaches. One was a culturalist approach which abandons the traditional protection of factually integrated persons for the sake of a logic of assimilation with a view to the maintenance of the perceived cohesion of the host society.

Dano enjoyed a residence certificate and had a child born in Germany, it was noted that she speaks German poorly, cannot write in German, and is not willing to integrate into the labor market. It consisted in relying on the condition of the applicant having sufficient financial resources to qualify for a right of residence under the EU citizenship Directive. This decision shows how difficult it is to resist the re-territorialization of free movement policies in the context of a significant decrease in trust and harmony in the Union, particularly in times of economic and political crisis.

Now, it cannot be that the process of integration culminates in the effacement or destruction of the emancipatory dimension of the project. Or if it does, then the way the question of integration through law is answered leads to the destruction of the concept itself. Second, the institutional practice seems to deviate from the Federal principle.

To recall, the Federal principle rests on the idea that European integration constitutes a global system in which viewpoints may vary depending on the institutional level in question but to which all participants, Union institutions, Member states and citizens, are bound and committed, each one in its own place.

Transformation and European Integration

The strongest claim in federal systems is the claim of commitment and loyalty made upon Member States and citizens. However, we are now experiencing the development of some disturbing phenomena which affect many aspects of integration, but are perhaps most visible in the field of the Economic and Monetary Union. The practice pulls in two opposite directions. On the one hand, we see the development of a set of institutional relations that are directly concerned with the objectives and values of the Union, and yet seek to distance themselves from the EU framework.

However, it reflects more broadly a lack of commitment to the idea of the EU as a whole, that is, to the idea that the Union is more than the sum of its parts.

The European Union Explained*

True, these new mechanisms often mention EU law as a condition for their validity, and may involve EU institutions in their operation, as was made clear in the Pringle judgment. In this context, EU law refers to strict financial conditionality and to a rigid system of monitoring. Structural principles of EU law, such as protection against an imbalance of power, democratic accountability, and judicial review, are being sacrificed. Significantly, in Pringle , just like in the Dano case, any reference to fundamental rights has been completely discarded.

On the other hand, we can observe the Union or its executive organs interfering in areas where member states are supposed to enjoy some autonomy. Here, cooperation among actors and representative institutions is replaced by monitoring compliance and executive dominance. In both cases, regardless of whether involving avoidance of the EU framework or strengthened centralization within the EU framework, the normative assumptions underpinning the operation of the law in the EU context are undermined.

In a way, these observations on the changes affecting European identity and the Federal principle lead to the same outcome: a profound transformation of the process of integration. This transformation is not equivalent to disruption. Secession does not appear to be seen as a feasible option even if there may be a temptation to exit the Union in some quarters. Resistance to further integration is just another way of relating to Europe.


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  5. Yet, it is no longer integration through law in a classic sense. In both the Dano and the Pringle cases, what is left of law is a body of rules without an ethos. What is left of integration is a form of factual interdependence within the Union without a deep sense of mutual membership. It is not a matter, in my view, of returning to the foundational values of the EU. To a certain extent, I follow Joseph Weiler who suggests that the spiritual dimension of the European project is exhausted.

    This has become the central question for us today. Arguably, there are three possible solutions.