by Alexandru Nastase
United States of Europe! Is it a real project or a utopia? If the prophet Nostradamus would have lived today, then we may have had a vague idea. But since not even Nostradamus had a chance to hear about the European Union and its future plans, answers to the above question we must look for them…ourselves.
The right direction: towards a European super state or towards the collapse of the European Union?
The past, as well as the striking similarities with the other United States, those of America, make us to believe that in the future, the term of United States of Europe is not quite a utopia, as many may think. Still, before we draw any conclusions we have to look at the barriers that stand in the way of a hypothetical state called United States of Europe.
For several years now, inside the European political class one can hear insistently voices about the idea of "United States of Europe." According to a recent article published in the EUObserver, the former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer believes that turning the European Union into a state with one army, one constitution and one foreign policy is the biggest challenge of our era.
Advantages and disadvantages. Pros and cons.
With or without such statements one thing is certain. Today, the European Union is dangerously advancing his way to becoming a federal super state, with one currency, one legal system, one army, one police force, and even its own flag.
- No boarders, free movement
- Unique currency
- Equal rights for its citizens
- Huge political and military power
- Unique language (most probably English)
- Economical performance of the state members
- Heritage and own culture
But not everyone share the same point of view as Joschka Fischer. In a press conference organized on 11th of March 2011, Vona Gabor, the president of the Hungarian far-right party Jobbik, declared that the European Union has no future, and the countries of Central and East Europe as well as the former socialist countries, should cooperate together and support their interests in order to survive the European Union’s split.
According to the Romanian news agency Mediafax, in the same conference Vona Gabor also said that he sees a "tragic" future for the European Union because the idea of a federal structure of the Union, similar to that of the United States of America, is inadequate for Europe which has member nations of hundreds of years old.
The economical crisis which divided the European Union in two
But regardless of who would support and regardless of the motivation which led to this concept of United States of Europe, the hard part is just beginning and solving the national component is decisive.
A union between the European countries can be made properly only between the states with an equal level of economic, social, cultural and political landscape. Otherwise, everything would be just a colonization of some by others.
In a recent video conference held by Noam Chomsky in front of the Global Journalism Master students of Örebro University in Sweden, the famous professor and American linguist declared that “the major problem of the European Union is to bring together countries that are on different levels of economic development. Bringing them together can cause serious problems. It could turn out that countries like Germany and France will want to stop the European Union, tired of being responsible to pay out others debts. In fact there are plenty indications in this direction.”
Plenty or not, the indications to which Chomsky refers to, started to grow in number only two years ago when the global economical crisis hit Europe. Honey and milk until that moment, the bankruptcy of Greece divided the nations of European Union and put the future of the euro currency in question.
Ten years ago, the European Union was proposing with its "Lisbon Agenda" to become the most competitive economy in the world. Now, the European Union president, Herman Van Rompuy, says the Union is struggling to survive due to the shock provoked by the public debt crisis. The new economic development strategy called "Europe 2020" goes even further: the European Union does not need any kind of growth, but only a "smart" and "sustainable" one.
Also, according to many specialists, a fundamental weakness in the single currency is its lack of a centralized budgetary mechanism, such as exists in the United States, to move resources from rich parts of the union to poor parts.
With all this a logically question arise. Is it true that the European countries could survive the economic crisis and the future global economical challenges only by introducing a fiscal union and turning into a supranational state, as many analysts from Brussels say?
The modern parents of the “United States of Europe”
Discussions around the topic of one single European super state, an old idea of at least 55 years, have reignited once the political proposals of German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer and French President Jacques Chirac. The first suggested the creation of a European government, starting from providing the necessary powers to the European Commission, the transformation of the Parliament into a Legislative with more powers in Europe, choosing a European president, the new entity being composed of the powerful states who wish so, the rest of the states taking part into the European super state only when they are ready to assume the financial obligations required. Also a supporter of the nation-state, the second proposed, instead of a federation, a quicker integration led by a group of "pioneer states" (France and Germany). But Fischer and Chirac have been opposed by another proposal, put forward by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, according to which the federalist vision or supranational would still be desirable, but the role of Parliament should be strengthened through the creation of the two rooms, which include representatives from of the national parliaments.
The cultural barrier
Europe is a continent of different and distinct nations. If from an economical point of view there are some differences between its countries, some large and some smaller, which can disappear through a comprehensive development effort, from a cultural perspective, these differences will be maintained a long time and perhaps some of them will never disappear. Each nation has a specific reference to deity, nature, politics life and its very own existence, has traditions and customs which can prove to be impossible to quit. It is true that there are also general human values, which may provide the basis for a future system of values, which will express the way of thinking and feeling of the Europeans. If so, the European Union or The United States of Europe will never be a federation, but will be a confederation, which is a union of independent states, established under an agreement determining the conditions of association and its functioning.
The future superpower theory
T.R.Reid, a former Washington Post reporter and author, in his book called “The United States of Europe: The new Superpower and the end of American Supremacy” tries to demonstrate an interesting fact. Even though he is an American citizen he tries to advocate that a hypothetical super power called United States of Europe will rival that of the United States of America in the 21th century. His arguments, theories and ideas are based upon concrete facts and statistics. In his book, Reid covers a wide range of material in detail from research he has done while living in Europe to interviews with usual European citizens. Undoubtedly, the author’s arguments are powerful. Reid devotes many chapters of his book to the European social model and the idea of "soft power." Reid details the rather gigantic amount in taxes all Europeans pay for the immense array of benefits they receive, for the extraordinary transportation system they enjoy, for the assurances that workers and the elderly receive, and for the vastly improved infrastructure that provides the foundations for contemporary Europe. Reid also states that, after the end of the Second World War, the Europeans have crafted a unified state that has created the world's largest trading bloc, the world's strongest currency, one of the world's largest populations, one of the world's greatest manufacturing bases, and a model network of social structures. With all these above mentioned arguments and, of course, many more which I couldn’t mention because of the lack of space in this article, made the American journalist T.R.Reid to believe that the 21th century is the era and the moment of the rise of the world’s next super power: The United States of Europe!
But how actual and accurate these arguments are today? To find an answer to this question, and having in mind that the book was published almost seven years ago, in 2004, I decided to contact Mister Reid directly. After a long week of exchanging emails, I finally managed to interview T.R.Reid. This represented one step closer to a better understanding of the hypothetical power which Europe can be, directly from the mouth of an American citizen.
Seven years have passed since he wrote the book and many things changed all this time. First of all, the European Union expanded its borders with two more members in 2007 when Romania and Bulgaria joined the Union. Another important issue is the constitution of the European Union which over the years failed multiple times to be ratified by all members. And one more aspect, also of a huge importance, is the financial crisis which started in 2008, causing the total collapse of Greece and the shaking of other member states economies in places like Spain, Portugal or Ireland.
How important all these events were and how these events affected the development of the New Europe is yet a mystery also to Reid. The American journalist still sees the European Union as a “Superpower”. Talking about the unique currency (euro), Reid argues that “the euro has been the strongest currency in the world over the past seven years, while the United States dollar has weakened against most major currencies.” And this fact is only leading to the supremacy of Europe over the United States, states Reid. “European regulators set the rules for global commerce, because the single market is the biggest market in the world. European nations in total buy about 11 times as much from the United States as China does and about 5 times as much as Japan. So American firms have to obey European rules. So in commercial and political terms, Europe already is a superpower. Of course Europe is not a military superpower, and does not to be one.” clarifies T.R.Reid.
“In some ways, Europe is a United States already with visa free borders, a common currency, shared regulation of health, food, anti-trust etc. I think this process will continue, gradually. But it won’t be an actual United States of Europe until the member nations work together on military affairs and diplomacy.” T.R.Reid
How Reid, sees the future of the European Union is not a singular point of view. Other writers and experts like Andrew Reding or Mark Leonard share the same optics: it is just a matter of time until a highly developed Europe will rise as the new world’s superpower.
Is full unity the endgame?
But is it really possible? What is the future reserving to the world with a continent, Europe, developing and expanding in such a fast manner? Looking in the past, in just 17 years since the birth of the modern European Union, a considerable number of countries embraced the principles of Europeanism, 27 member states serving now the interest of Europe, as a whole.
As we saw and as I mentioned above there are some important barriers standing in the way of a United Europe. First of all the lack of a Constitution and then the cultural barrier followed by the economical unbalance throughout the member states represent important aspects to be resolve before we can see a super power called The United States of Europe.
It certainly will be a long historical process, with many ups and downs. But, in principle, even today we have all the prerequisites for it to materialize in time.
Written by Alexandru Nastase