The questions about the future of the European Union (EU) remain to be answered, and won’t be resolved clearly for some time. But it does seem clear that the ambitions for the the EU to advance beyond its current economic relationships are not any more likely than they were at its genesis.
The fundamental problem with the way the European Union was created is that it was formed by a bureaucratic elite in each country that did not bother to create a political base for the whole concept in each nation’s grass roots. These elites felt they knew better than did the voters of each country what was good for them and for Europe. In the post-World War II era, there was a genuine continental desire to avoid Europe’s chronic conflicts and problems of past centuries, and the extraordinary violence and disruptions of the 20th century that arose from fascism, communism and extreme nationalisms, and it was possible to enact change without true voter suffrage.
Whereas “sovereignty” was a necessary ingredient of European history for a thousand years, it was determined to undo this concept in a very brief time, notwithstanding long-established differences of language, culture, custom and identity. This, of course, was no problem for highly-paid, highly-educated, multi-lingual and self-styled “sophisticated” bureaucrats. Inasmuch as most of Europe had only a recent acquaintance with true representative democracy, it was not considered vital to obtain popular support before proceeding with dismantling centuries of barriers and national feelings.
With its many member nations large and small, Europe is still dominated by three countries, Great Britain, Germany and France. Spain has a comparable population, but has come late to its new prosperity and influence, and the many smaller European states struggle to be heard. Great Britain which, of course, has tremendous trade relationships with its neighbors, joined the EU, but did not go along with the new common currency, the Euro. The latter did enjoy considerable initial success, but always remained only as strong as the economic well-being of its member states. When the recent worldwide economic crisis began unfolding, the weaker states, such as Greece and some of the newer members, required “bail-outs” paid for by the larger states (and thus their taxpayers), and the glaring weaknesses of the EU became visible.
It is not unlike the famous and recent incident of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota in which a major bridge across the Mississippi was fundamentally flawed in its original design, but nevertheless carried millions of cars and passengers for decades until its design thresholds were breached and the bridge collapsed.
The design of the economic European Union is, I think, lacks some fundamental elements, including most notably, genuine popular support. As even its critics point out, there is no point in going backwards, that is, the economic interdependence of all the European nations cannot be undone, but it may be time to build a “new bridge” of solid design (as was recently done in Minneapolis).
Using the crisis to attempt to hasten political unity in Europe and the total loss of sovereignty is, of course, exactly the wrong strategy to solve Europe’s economic woes. Euroskepticism, long considered unfashionable even in the United Kingdom, has reawakened among the continent’s working and middle class voters.
As for Americans observing this spectacle from across the very large “Pond,” there are omens and portents for this New World nation and economy. Already, discussions and plans to cede U.S. sovereignty to international courts and other global institutions are afoot, including among official of the current administration. There is very little popular support for these notions in the U.S., and politicians flirting with these ideas have only to look a Europe to see the risks and dangers they would lead to inevitably. If nothing else demonstrates the futility of this “world government by committee,” it is the United Nations organization itself, an institution created in idealism and to avoid the mistakes of the past, but which has become a sad, ineffectual forum for propaganda and the ultimate distortion of the very principles it set out to establish.