In recent years the identity of the European Union has come to be inextricably linked with the logic of crisis. As opposed to other polities around the globe, the EU does not just face recurring crises but seems to exist in the very element of crisis. In a way, it welcomes crises. It has turned danger into opportunity with many of its defenders arguing that crises can be a way to move forward.
The main reason for this, of course, is that the EU is not yet concluded as a political construct. It is still developing. We learn this fact as we study its politics and law, its history, and its institutional shape. We speak of the European project and, quite literally, even of the European construction. There are very few voices in Europe arguing that one should stop with the current institutional framework, that the current stage expresses what Europeans most deeply want from the EU. No one seems to think that the current state is stable. If there is disagreement, it is about the destination and, less obviously, about the kind of movement we should accept. Federalists want to lead us towards what they see as the obvious final destination. Many insist we have to move faster, while external conditions are still favorable. Conservatives believe in a more natural process, in the spontaneous development of a European demos over many decades.
“Leavers” in the United Kingdom also insisted the status quo was unsustainable. Many of them vaguely appealed to a mythical and improbable past where the EU was no more than a single market, forgetting that a single market is built with common rules and common institutions and must, therefore, acquire an obvious political meaning.
That the EU cannot exist in its current form – and that everyone seems to accept this tenet – explains why it is permanently in a state of crisis.