The European Commission will struggle to promote plans for further integration among European Union member states because of the rise of populist movement across the bloc. Prof Alan Winters forecast the bloc will face “a hard time” as countries like Hungary and Italy solidify their defiant stance against decisions taken in Brussels. The British economist also suggested the EU will focus on protecting the single market from the aftermath of Brexit.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Prof Winters said: “European integration over the past 40-50 years has had sort of bursts where it got deeper and then periods of retrenchment where states stilled or even retreated.
“The European response to a crisis is often to seek greater integration, with the Commission anxious to harmonise more – attempting to enable economic efficiency – but the member state becoming very nervous.
“Particularly I think with the populist regimes now in Eastern Europe, deeper integration is going to prove a hard sell. I would think that Europe is in for quite a hard time resolving these issues.
“They may well find that further integration is off the table.”
Hungary and Poland, which have right-wing populist governments, have previously vowed not to comply with any order from the EU to start taking in migrants saying it transgresses their sovereignty. In September 2018, the European Parliament voted in favour of punishing Hungary for the perceived violation of European “core values.”
Brussels was also embroiled in a prolonged battle with Italy over the draft budget the eurosceptic Government proposed to adopt in 2019. This week Brussels and Rome appeared to reach an agreement, with proposals for a deficit goal of 2.4 percent of GDP reduced to 2.04 percent after weeks of bitter dispute.
The first draft of the budget put forward by the Lega-Five Star Movement coalition was rejected by Brussels as it breached the bloc’s guidelines.
Elsewhere in Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is keen to stick it to the EU by calling a vote of confidence in his own government.
Mr Morawiecki’s nationalist and eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party has clashed with the Brussels club after it overhauled the judiciary and took more control over public media.
Since coming to power three years ago, PiS has grown increasingly isolated in the EU amid accusations at home and abroad of a tilt towards authoritarianism.