Monday, May 9, 2011

The EU's No. 1 problem is .....

On this Europe (or EU (or EUrope, I prefer "EUrope" actually)) day, May 9, 2011, I am re-iterating what I have for years considered as the EU's No. 1 problem. Here is my syllogism:

The European Communities/Union have for some 54 years now been an on-going building project. Like a road that is being continuously upgraded.

The problem with such a road is that there is always construction going on and that disrupts traffic and confuses (and irritates) the drivers.

Well, by analogy, that is the reason why the ECs/EU have never been a very popular "project".

Does that mean that the ECs/EU should have abandoned their target of ever closer Union? Should they have remained a mere "customs union" or "common market" (not even a "single" one)? Or stopped after 1.1.1993 (the start of the Single Market)? Or after 1.1.2002 (the intro of the Euro notes and coins)?

No! On the contrary!

In spite of what some think (and even more claim) the ECs were from the date of their conception a "project" that aimed at political union, "a sort of United States of Europe" (as a well known British political figure is supposed to have said (after WWII) that Europe needed).

Thus, the problem with the EU is that this "end" (goal) has been too slow in being reached. And the on-going (but painfully slow) upgrading of the ECs/EU, day in day out, has been a disruptive element in the lives of the ECs/EU's firms (especially the SMEs and micros) and citizens.

At the end of the day, we (EUropeans) all know (both those who we like it and those who do not) that the ultimate goal is a United States or Federal Republic of Europe (ie something like the USA or the FR of Germany). But most national level politicians, for reasons that are more or less known, have and been still are afraid to announce officially to their citizens/voters/populous what they/we already all know.

A USE/FRE government with a PM, a cabinet, based on the seats of political parties in the USE/FRE Federal Parliament, with an FRE Upper House or USE Senate that consists of the elected PMs of the member states (German model) or 2 reps per member state (elected), the Euro, a USE/FRE army, a USE/FRE IRS (tax authorities), federal minimum wage (USA has one too), federal police and of course federal laws. Plus a federal budget financed not by X or Y "rich" state but the rich and high income earners from all over the USE/FRE! A USE/FRE that is a major "player" in global affairs of all kinds. With a foreign Minister (Secretary of State) who has as many powers as Hilary Clinton does in the (first) Obama administration! Maybe even a USE/FRE President, probably with a mostly decorative/ambassador role (ie not US or French style, sorry Arnold)!

Come on, that is more of less, what we (500 million EUropeans, at present) know that the final state of the ECs/EU is going to be! Some want that, some do not. Maybe that is a matter for an EU-wide referendum to decide.

But what almost no EU citizen likes/wants, I argue, is the perpetual upgrading of the entity, like a road, that makes our lives difficult with all those work signs, bulldozers, workmen, etc!

Enough is enough though!

Get on with it. Finish this European Integration "project", finally!

Get it done.

Stop the lame concerns re political costs and announce what we anyway know that the end result is going to be: United States or Federal Republic of Europe. Give us all the details of the final "product" and set a precise and fixed deadline to get there, ASAP. Give us a chance to say Yes or No and when we probably say Yes, even by 51-49 margin. do it, just do it. So that we can experience that final product. Live, work, venture, employ, plan, dream, career, export, etc in it!

Just do it! Until you do, that's the main problem of the EU, the Euro, all things EUropean!

It this a Catch 22? Nope.

A Gordian Knot? Neither!

No need for the determination of an Alexander the Great to do it. Merely a matter of enough political and other leaders (eg opinion leaders) having the guts to announce to us what we all more or less know is coming but do not know when (while we suffer the daily upgrades).

I personally think that until January 2013 at the latest you will make the announcement.

PS. Does that mean no more new members? IMO no, the possibility to expand the project geographically with new members is not the real problem. The wider vs deeper dilemma, discussed before the 2004 enlargement, is a pseudo one, although some (eg the UK government) did manage to materialise part of that pseudo dilemma into reality! But that's another post.


  1. I received the following comments by e-mail from Charles:

    Since its formations in European Coal and Steel, Treaty of Paris, Costa v ENEL, Van Gend en Loos, to recent treaties and cases, there has been a lot of development in EU institutions, laws, and politics. I defer to your depth of knowledge on the evolution of the EC/EU, europeans, and to your knowledge of their current direction. However, I do understand the nature of political systems, and I wonder if the all at once treatment is even possible.

    My first issue is the assumption that "we (EUropeans) all know" that the ultimate goal is a US of Europe. Having lived in both systems, I don't assume that citizens know the mechanics of either of these systems. So, the first problem is the dissemination of information. Why? Because, to do things of a political nature, you need "political cover" (money, media, education) giving people a good idea of what to expect and how it will work. The alternative to an government that is always a "work in progress" is a government that is a mystery to its citizens.

    Secondly, you need to be in control of the process or you will have other problems. I suggest that going to fast is like driving a car at night faster than your headlights can "see". Losing control opens you up to a third problem - those that arbitrage the system.

    I really don't know as much as you, but I have seen problems with political systems in the United States and I know what the effect of "right now" would mean. Would it mean you could out run the ripple effects of sudden movement, would it confuse those that would take advantage of the system, or would it give clarity and a definitive form to the EC/EU as you suggest.

    I do believe that people should have their rights "right now", and to the extent that the EC/EU can do that, I agree with you.

    Mostly, I believe that as long as you have an educated and informed citizenry, you can do what you need to do. In either case, democracies require the consent of the people if they are to survive.

    I enjoy the discussion though.


  2. Charles,

    1) I stand by my argument that all EU citizens knew and know that the "project" was to result in a (real) Union (not necessarily exactly the US model, after all there exists the German federal model).

    2) re: "right now"? It is more like "finally". 15 members have 25+ years in the project and IMO Austria, Finland and Sweden knew exactly what they were getting into. That is why Norway decided to stay out (and Switzeland). As for the 10 of 2004 and 2 of 2007 entry, discussions and debates were held before entry. So, "right now" is "finally/at last".

  3. Hi! Interesting article.

    I think that was the target of the previous generation, but not of the current leaders.

    The creation of a United Europe is so culturally dramatic, difficult for Europeans to assume it.

    A European head of state. Really King Juan Carlos and Queen Elizabeth are ready to have a national authority over them? Are Europeans ready to accept that?

    But especially - and according the idea that this is the goal -: how can it be announced in 2013? United tax remains, united legislative system, etc.

    However I agree: the main problem for Europe is the ambiguity. Always incomplete Europe, always "under construction."

    So we must accelerate integration, question is: how?


  4. @Javi:

    How? Via civic & political will.

  5. To get Europe to the right track, we (European) need to transform the integration process into a inclusion process. Its not enough to harmonize policy between the memberstates or between companies. Inclusion needs a harmonisation on the level of people. And to ensure that people wont stay "out" of Europe the most important is to activate the directive against discrimination in the European Council. Without this action integration would be possible but not inclusion (= no "real" unity!)


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