Scotland has announced the holding of an independence referendum in 2014 which, if successful, could add a new state in the already crowded European map. The independence would be a victory for the nationalist parties but a clear defeat for the European dream of integration. This announcement represents the latest in a series of events that prove, ultimately, the failure of the EU’s political integration project.
The current EU crisis has overshadowed the fact that their politics have failed long time ago, and the economic shield is now falling apart leaving a fragile paper castle exposed at the mercy of the turbulent winds of reality.
The reason of the failure can be traced since 1990 and made of the following:
- Absence of identity
In 1990, the European community was made of 12 members, strangled between the two superpowers and the cold war. However, they shared a long and common history with plans for effective integration. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact block and the end of cold war were seen at the time as the chance to finally break the stalemate of the Europe post-WWII. The unification of the Germany in 1990 was at the time hailed as an example of a new Europe integrating east and west towards the future construction of a united Europe. This was short lived; soon after the political establishments submitted to the strict economic and political urges using integration as a powerful propaganda to hide revenge and exploitation of a weak Eastern Europe. The Czechoslovakian split, although consensual, was an example of how nationalism was growing and integration of European countries was more difficult than reality suggest. That example leads to appease independence in the Balkans where Slovenia and Croatia entered in a war with Yugoslavia. That area will destroy forever the dream of a European integration. The EU, in front of their irresponsibility for increasing nationalistic sentiment and the inability to avoid a war in the Balkans, preferred to choose the easy way out and grant diplomatic recognition paving the way for the balkanization of the area and of the whole Europe. The rest is history, bloody years of conflict ensued and, although to be honest these wars were unavoidable, the EU had its slice of responsibility in increasing the nationalism and ethnic hatred behind the struggle. EU politicians preferred to recognise independence thus fragmenting Yugoslavia in a series of new states and culminating with the Kosovo unilateral proclamation of independence. That was the point of no return on which now Scotland independence, and many other will follow, has legal terrain to fight its claim.
As a result of the above trend, the European map is a fragmented and weak puzzle of states which do not share common ideals and, worst of all, still cultivate hate and revenge to arch enemies.
We can therefore argue: how to integrate an area where countries before living together are now building walls and segregation from each other? How to bring together under the same state Croatia and Serbia (if Belgrade joins)?
The balkanization of Europe that culminated with Kosovo independence has been counterproductive as the other huge mistake of European bureaucrats: the enlargement without ending in sight.
The enlargement from 12 in 1990 to 27 members (will be 28 in 2013) has been so rapid that the European Union is now bordering with Russia to the East and the Black Sea. No attempts have even been made to amalgamate the first 15 members before enlarging the union; instead any new country was allowed just only on two principles: the market to exploit and the crucial vote mechanism in the European parliament. Many of the member countries do not even have the standards required by the EU or a solid economy: Romania and Bulgaria are an example. But even the Baltic States, Poland, Slovakia and the big players such Italy and Spain are nearly to a breakdown point not far from Ireland, Portugal or even Greece.
The enlargement in reality was looking to attract new markets and speed economy growth, as well as exploit workforce at low cost; demonstration is the number of factories and companies that moved straight away to East in order to cut costs. The other main reason was the balance of votes in the European parliament to counterbalance big countries predominance. Both strategies have failed. The EU economy is falling and there is no need here to argue further as it is in front of all our eyes the effect of the crisis with austerity measures imposed from the top, increasing social tensions, nationalism and resentment towards Brussels. The strategy to avoid the formation of a block failed, as Germany and France still hold power and they dictate the line to the others.
We should now ask why the recent economic crisis is so important for EU future; is the euro? The stability of the markets? The financial and banking system? No, is not at stake only the survival of the Euro currency or the economic structure, but also the whole EU as organisation. The failure in building and ensuring an effective political integration was masked all these years by ensuring that at least the economy and the markets were solid enough to make us believe that with the Euro and the free market everything was going towards a precise direction. Now that the economic crisis is at its high, our eyes have finally seen the reality: there was never, and never will be under the current situation, a real project to build the United States of Europe.
The chances of survival are therefore minimum for a simply reason: whilst the economic fairy tale is fading, we realise that we still feel French, German or Italian, that we hate the EU for destroying our economies, that we do not want to submit to German decisions and so on. In few words Europe does not have an ideal, a common identity or set of principle that would bring us to say “why we don’t try harder to save at least what we have”. But what we have? Except free movement, free market, a single crumbling currency, a flag and anthem, nothing else. Even the Soviet Union in its last days of existence had more chances of survival due to the ideology still entrenched in minds and way of life. European politicians did not bother to promote within their citizens care the principles of internationalism ,solidarity and integration; instead we had money rushing, exploiting, corruption, theft, nationalism that ultimately is destroying what was born as a marvellous idea and if dying as one of the worst example on how to integrate.
Europe has not a democratic character either, as all citizens rarely have consulted in key matters such treaty revisions, accepting enlargements or on financial debates. All heads of states, PMs have built a sort of wall to avoid any referendum on any EU matter, showing their fear of failing and showing that they have no confidence in their citizens and strength of European institutions.
What could be the solution at this point? European leaders should have the courage and strength to do the only reasonable thing left with an organisation on a cerebral death: pull the plug. This must be follow by a renegotiation and rebuilding of a new EU, based on democratic and egalitarian principles between the states. The new EU would probably see only 5-6 countries starting with a single currency and with a political integration. Enlargement would be only agreed under satisfactory political and economic records. This is obviously the solution if we still want to have a united Europe. However, if we are all honest, and decide to drop the mask of hypocrisy, then it would be better to admit that the European Union will be only an economic free area, with a single currency, free movement, etc., but nothing else. The time is running out and decision should be made whether to save an unworkable union or renegotiate a new one based on reality and history.