Is Europe a failure? There are so many skeptics and opponents today after 50 years of constructing Europe since the end of world war II that one wonders if the tide has reversed. The reality today is that there are critics in all member countries of the EU that denounce the bureaucracy, the endless negotiations on political issues; all blame Europe for allowing massive immigration, fueling political disenchantment, working-class and middle-class decline, rising inequalities, low growth, massive unemployment, fiscal austerity, excessive taxes and so more! For all today's evils that plague us, the culprit is Europe, Brussels and the commission. Let's get out of there, say UKIP, NO2EU 3, Front National France, Party for Freedom Netherlands, Podemos in Spain, and many others.
Yet the story is not a simple dichotomy between a "yes" and "no". There is a 600 year history to have in mind (on this more later). The set of events which have led to the present European Union, first started after WWII in 1951, when the governments of devastated continental western Europe - France, Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg), Germany and Italy - created by the treaty of Paris, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), to cooperate in rebuilding their countries after five years of a horrendous war. The ECSC brought benefits to its six founding members in reconstructing Europe's devastated countries, with the aid of the Marshall plan . Six years later, economic growth was high, fueled by reconstruction. To advance further, the same six governments created the European Economic Community (EEC also known as the Common Market), by the treaty of Rome on 25 march 1957 11,12. The EEC was open to all European countries. Treaty proposed the progressive reduction of customs duties and the establishment of a customs union. It proposed to create a common market of goods, workers, services and capital within the EEC's member states. It also proposed the creation of common transport and agriculture policies and a European social fund. It also established the European Commission. These were the "Golden Age" years of the 1950s and early 1960s when economic growth reached unprecedented levels between 4.5 and 6% annually and prosperity increased for all peoples of the EEC.
Britain and other European nations initially declined to join the EEC and instead founded the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) by the Stockholm Convention in 1960. Britain was one of the founding members together with the following six countries: Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland. Finland joined in 1961, Iceland in 1970 and Liechtenstein in 1991. In 1973, the United Kingdom and Denmark left EFTA to join the EEC. They were followed by Portugal in 1986 and by Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. Today the remaining EFTA Member States are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. But in the European perspective, Britain was not keeping pace in terms of growth. Between 1950 and 1970, it was overtaken by most of the countries of the EEC in terms of growth of prosperity as measured by the number of telephones, refrigerators, television sets, cars, and washing machines per 100 of the population and infrastructures. Indeed, by the early 1960s, the EEC nations were showing signs of significant higher economic growth; so Britain changed tack. But because of its close ties to the United States, French President Charles de Gaulle twice vetoed British admission, and Britain did not join the EEC until January 1973, when Ireland and Denmark also became EEC members. Greece joined in 1981, Portugal and Spain in 1986, and the former East Germany as part of reunified Germany in 1990.
In the early 1990s, the European Economic Community EEC became the European Union (EU). It was established in 1993 following ratification of the Maastricht Treaty signed on 7 February 1992. The treaty called for a strengthened European parliament, the creation of a central European bank, a common currency (the Euro), and a common defense policy. In addition to a single European common market, member states would also participate in a larger common market, called the European Economic Area (EEA) designed to integrate the member countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) ie. Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein effective (*). Austria, Finland, and Sweden became members of the EU in 1995. As of today in 2015, there are twenty-eight member states in the EU.
The Maastricht Treaty (known as the Treaty creating the European Union EU) was designed to integrate Europe economically and politically; it was signed on 7 February 1992 by the members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands and ratified in 1993.
(*) Switzerland voted no by referendum to join the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1992; but it has a series of bilateral agreements with the EU which allow it to participate in the internal market. Norway rejected admission to the EU by referendum in 1992 but is a member of the EEA. Most of foreign trade of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are is with the EU.
Is the EU as perceived today a failure? It is premature to judge the success of the EU because in its current form it is only a quarter century old. The EU is the first experiment of its kind - supranationalism - with such complexity and scale. It is an attempt to go beyond the nation state and establish a supranational entity. Whether the EU will become a super-state and in what form is for the future to decide. But since its inception, the EU has covered a lot of ground. It must not be forgotten that we are dealing with 28 national governments each representing divergent national interests, different cultures, history, language and geography. Decision making obviously takes time. The experience of the creation of the United States: there are striking parallels between America’s founding years and the European Union’s ongoing political and economic crisis. In fact, the creation of the US Constitution and the birth of the American people offer reasons to hope that some of the most difficult issues facing Europe can one day be resolved [link].
We the People of Europe: What the EU can learn from America's founding years http://t.co/vSbOll0vUW— Project Syndicate (@ProSyn) 12 Août 2015
The failed institution of Europe so far seems to be the euro. A single currency established between sovereign states that refuse to share solidarity ie. transfers of the richer parts of Europe to the poorer parts. It was a project designed to lead to political integration of its members by converging of their economies. I have compiled a list of articles that relate to the inadequacy of the euro, as viewed in Europe, the US and the world.
Thirty years ago, many Europeans saw multiculturalism, the embrace of an inclusive diverse society, as an answer to Europe’s social problems. Today, a growing number consider it to be a cause of them. That perception has led some mainstream politicians, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to publicly denounce multiculturalism and speak out against its dangers. It has fueled the success of far-right parties and populist politicians across Europe, from the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) in the Netherlands to the Front National (FN) in France and the United Kingdom Independence party (UKIP) in Britain. And in the most extreme cases, it has inspired horrendous acts of violence, such as Anders Behring Breivik’s homicidal rampage on the Norwegian island of Utoya in July 2011.
How did this transformation come about? According to multiculturalism’s critics, Europe has allowed excessive immigration without demanding enough integration, a mismatch that has eroded social cohesion, undermined national identities, and degraded public trust. Multiculturalism’s proponents, on the other hand, argue that the problem is not too much diversity but too much racism.
The truth about multiculturalism is far more complex than either side will allow. Multiculturalism has become a proxy for other social and political issues: immigration, identity, political disenchantment, working and middle class decline. Moreover, different countries have followed distinct paths. The United Kingdom has sought to give various ethnic communities an equal stake in the political system. Germany has encouraged immigrants to pursue separate ways of life rather than granting them citizenship. France has rejected multi cultural policies in favor of "assimilation". The outcomes also have varied: in the United Kingdom, there has been communal violence; in Germany, Turkish communities have drifted further from mainstream society. In France, the some of the immigrant North African communities feel themselves not belonging to the Nation State(*). Everywhere in Europe today, the consequences are the same: fragmented societies, alienated minorities, and resentful citizens. Multiculturalism as described may therefore not be a problem specific of Europe, but of the gradual transformation of society as has happened all over history.
(*) the Nation-State is a myth constructed over time by generations of elite; based on a system of education, a long historical story told in a specific manner, a national anthem and songs, a military service or armed forces, and national days of hommage and memory some of which are religious. It is in this respect that immigrant minorities deny belonging to the national culture.
The history of Europe (Western Europe) has its roots far in the past, starting in the Roman times, the Collapse of the roman empire, the middle ages, the papacy and feudality. The beginning of the present modern system of social organisation is traced to the end of the middle ages (circa mid 16th century according to main stream historians); the feudal organisation with its lords and serfs was ill adapted to the transformations that were sweeping over Europe with the growth of commerce (spices, silk, woolen fabrics...) from Italy to Flanders. The hegemony of the pope and of the catholic church of Rome were being objected. A first major set of events commenced with the protestant reformation in 1458 in Germany with Martin Luther, a revolution that swept Europe during the next two centuries. The second series of events was the attempt to hegemony over Europe by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. As King of Spain he became ruler of many greater and lesser European states, Charles was the heir of three of Europe's leading dynasties, the House of Habsburg of the Habsburg Monarchy (Austria today), the House of Valois-Burgundy of the Burgundian Netherlands, and the House of Trastámara of the Crowns of Castile and Aragon. The Habsbourg attempt to hegemony over Europe was challenged by France, the Netherlands and England and terminated in 1648 after a thirty years war with the treaties of Osnabrück and Münster. In the meantime the Netherlands successfully gained commercial, cultural and social hegemony in Europe that it exercised unchallenged over the 17th century.
During that time, transformations were happening in England. In 1588 England defeated the so called invincible Spanish armada in 1588, thereby opening the Atlantic to English merchant ships and to colonisation of the Carribean islands and of North America. Institutional changes took place during a full century until the glorious revolution and the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. These institutional changes led to the present parliamentary regime and restrictions of the power of the sovereign; the changes paved the way for the emergence of the industrial revolution, liberalism, capitalism and colonialism which were to sweep over western Europe during two centuries until 1914. The French revolution in 1789 was a major transformation whereby the power of the sovereign was ended and power was given to the people. France then sought to gain hegemony over Europe during a short period 1789-1815 when Napoleon was definitively defeated at Waterloo by a coalition of other European Nation states - Britain, Austria, German principalities and Russia. From then, the century 1815-1914 saw the successful hegemony of Britain over the world with colonisation, a period called the first globalisation.
But rivalries in Europe between the major powers for exercising global hegemony - Britain, Prussia, Austria and France and their peripheral states, continued unabated. A new thirty years war in Europe 1914-1945 opposed the European nation states, Great-Britain and its colonial offshoots - in America, Australia, New-Zealand and South-Africa. The 1914-1918 war saw the arrival of a new hegemonic power, the United States of America. This hegemony became most real after world war II and the confrontation with Russia where anti capitalist system forces took power in 1917, deposed the sovereign and created a communist Marxist regime based on government planning of society instead of private property and market forces. The Soviet regime lasted only 70 years and was abolished in 1989 after a peaceful revolution.
In the meantime, liberal capitalism has spread over the world - except Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea - as the sole organisation of societies. Nation States are all interconnected in a complex inter_state system. To produce and increase prosperity equally distributed for their peoples, Nation States have to import raw materials, intermediate products, finished goods and services - that they don't or can't produce physically and competitively; but to import, they need to export equivalent value in money of raw materials, intermediate products, finished goods and services.
So the question today is as follows: "Is a supra "Nation State" of the old order of the world system desirable? Aren't the problems of Europe today reflecting the inadaptation to the conditions of globalisation.
Mis en ligne le 01/08/2014 pratclif.com