Make no mistake: in historical perspective the European Union has been a great success.
For about 1000 years Europe was a place of “warring states”. Today’s national states slowly emerged from a struggle for mastery in Europe overlaid by religiously motivated sectarian strife. After two world wars, Europe no longer is in a position to tear itself apart anew. Economic integration first of Western Europe, and now the ongoing process of undoing the outcome of WWII for Eastern Europe makes internecine war impossible .
Yet Europe disappoints, and the emerging political structure has limited popular support. Pundits have emptied rivers of ink over the fact that most people remain suspicious of the European Union. I shall not add to this chorus of lamentations, but rather point to a point that I have yet to see in print.
The European Union is all about the “four freedoms of movement”: goods, services, capital, and people. Over the years, substantive progress has been made. It is this kind of integration that renders war impossible: no country now has an autochthonous and self-reliant industrial and agricultural structure capable of waging or sustaining the war effort. If nuts are produced in Germany, the bolts come from Spain, or Greece.
There is one glaring exception to this integration, and I’ll ask you to identify it.
I’ve given you a hint – so think hard again.
Everything moves freely within Europe nowadays – with one, glaring exception: politicians. Look at the photo of the latest European Council: none of these women and men who are supposed to lead Europe into a Union has ever politically left their home base. Not a single one. In fact, they pride themselves of their sub-national “terroir”. Nicolas SARKOSY has been labeled “mixed-blood politician” of suburbia without deep roots in the “France profonde” (see my 101 – Elections as catharsis).
As long as a German citizen will not seek political office in Italy, and a Finn in Spain, the EU will remain a distant dream. Ronald REAGAN was born in Illinois, made his career in California, and was elected President of the USA. His origins were no more than a biographic detail.
Admittedly, in the European Parliament there are “political groupings”. But the national outlook predominates. And at the EU Council level national interests are paramount.
How to overcome this glaring deficiency in integration?
This I’ll leave for a later blog. I want you to think hard about this deficiency.