The State of the European Union

The State of the European Union

Earlier this morning, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered the final State of the European Union address of his tenure from the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The speech included a few important new proposals but was mostly filled with flowery rhetoric and calls for further solidarity within the 28-member bloc.


Citizens across Europe, for their part, mostly tuned out. And who can blame them? Bland technocratic pronouncements aren’t exactly a draw these days, particularly when domestic politics are aflame across the continent.

So what do Europeans care about these days; how do they see their future; and what – if anything – do they expect from Brussels?

Here’s some perspective, from three distinct vantage points:

Pocketbook issues at home. Europeans are worried, first and foremost, about their own economic well-being. In 14 countries within the EU, respondents listed unemployment or health and social security as the top challenge facing their national governments, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey. But perceptions of economic well-being vary widely within the Union: while 90 percent of Germans and 86 percent of Swedes describe the state of their country’s economy as “good,” only 11 percent of Hungarians and 2 percent of Greeks feel similarly.

Brussels and borders. When it comes to their expectations of Brussels – that is, those distant technocrats – immigration outstrips all other issues as citizens’ top concern for the bloc as whole. They want Brussels to better secure Europe’s borders. In Hungary and Italy, national governments are actively testing the bounds of what the EU is willing to tolerate in terms of the treatment of immigrants.

It’s no coincidence that Juncker announced in his speech today a plan to strengthen Europe's border forces, by adding 10,000 new guards by 2020, to deal with these concerns. At the same time, the European Parliament is set to vote to put into motion a process to punish Hungary for flouting EU norms on migrant policy. But stripping it of its EU voting rights would a require a unanimous vote, which remains unlikely.

Trust in the European Union is still high. Europeans broadly support the EU’s core pillars—including the euro currency and free movement of people across internal borders. In fact, even if they find Brussels’ sprawling bureaucracy dull and tedious, a growing proportion of Europeans trust EU institutions more than national ones, even if those numbers vary somewhat from country to country. In every country in the Union, a vast majority (over 70 percent) continues to support the free movement of people across national borders. A majority in all 28 member-states say they “feel they are citizens of the EU.”

The bottom line: Europe is coping with many challenges today, from the rise of far-right euroskeptic governments, to an uneven economic recovery, to Brexit negotiations – but trust, support, and optimism about the bloc’s future has improved as a whole among its citizens over the past few years, whether they pay attention to what Brussels has to say or not.

Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

More Show less

How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

More Show less

As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

More Show less

Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

The climate crisis: how screwed are we?

GZERO World Clips