My political, economic and social beliefs completely overlap with such tenet. Unfortunately, after millenia of incompatibility between peoples, this tenet has become nothing more than a basically, but not fully, accomplished mission. Rome was not built in a single day: same thing with globalization. However, I can never see it happen not simply because of political, economic, social and financial inequality but also because of people’s mentality. My meager experience has proven it so far: my observation indicates that people always want to have a strong leader but then again they are not satisfied and make plans on dethroning him or her. Thus there is no such thing as a perfect order: from the tribal one to communism and capitalism there have always been, and will always be, complaints.
In this article I am going to discuss the European integration. It first came to some imminent people’s minds in the second part of the 19th century. Unfortunately, scenario is completely different – the French-Prussian War and later on the two World Wars after which it finally gained significant popularity thanks to the Marshall Plan and the Monnet Plan: plans that advocated European economic integration in an exhausted and destroyed Europe. There were a lot of meetings and controversies between leaders of Western Europe (Central and Eastern Europe were under the Soviet sphere of influence) but the result of the meetings was the today’s European Union.
The today’s European Union is perceived as a sort of an equivalent to the United States. In fact, one of its founding fathers back in 1950s offered it to be called the United States of Europe. There is shared sovereignty between member states, the latter’s economies are interconnected, customs taxes do not exist anymore, people move freely from one country to another just like U.S. citizens move from one state to another. Amazing! Now French know they are French but they have completely forgotten their long-lasting enmity with the German people. And not only that: from now on borders will remain as they are.
Since Europe is the continent where I was born and since it is the continent that I am most acquainted with based on what I have seen life, on TV, read in books, and discussed with friends – I can tell I cannot see the desired result. Two Europeans from different countries who greet each other subconsciously know that the person facing them is foreigner. It is not necessarily hatred what comes to their mind in this particular situation but unfortunately certain form of prejudice still exists.
What is extremely disturbing is separatist sentiments that exist in some regions in Europe where, for example, a country’s minority is majority. There are plenty of examples: Albanians in Western Macedonia, Hungarians in Romania, Basques in Spain, Albanians in Kosovo and others. Those are examples of majority-minority regions where the local majority wants their rights promoted to autonomy and why not independence.
Such questionable local patriotism exists in Belgium – a country whose capital city is both national and European Union capital. Belgium consists of Flamand-speaking, French-speaking and German-speaking citizens. It is today’s most decentralized European state and its future is vague. Residents in Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia can’t get along and neither can’t their politicians who act on national level for the sake of their region and not for that of the country. Flanders and Wallonia are two regions that differ not only in language being spoken but also in the state of the economy: the Flanders economy is in good condition while the Wallonia experiences difficulties and besides, Wallonia residents are not as well-off as Flanders residents. So what we have in Belgium today is two linguistically and economically different regions and a federal government that resigned because of its unpopularity and unability to cope with the issues.
That happens in one of the founders of the European Union: Belgium. Prognoses vary but the nowadays’ status quo and roles are least likely to be preserved. Among the basic most popular ones are further segregation of the two regions into two different countries and confederation similar to the one in Switzerland.
Do people, besides Belgians themselves, care about the future of the country? I have no concrete answer to this question but in my opinion they have to care. The most insignificant reason why people do have to care is the fact that Belgium’s capital is the EU capital as well and having Belgium vanished from the European map may symbolically mean the beginning of the end of the European Union. It may turn out to be that the European Union is a myth: that after all borders in fact do matter.
Another reason why people have to care in my opinion is that a possible segregation might cause a chain reaction, regardless of the fact that Europe is integrated in a way that there’s no need for any regional independence, autonomy or certain form of sovereignty. In this case I believe that the state of the economy doesn’t matter because richer regions will want to secede from poorer regions in order to spend their budget on whatever they want without caring much about the poorer region.
A third red flag is the size of the overall European bureaucracy. More independent countries or autonomous territories means more governments, ministries and agencies which therefore is more costly. Most people are generally unaware of those details and they will not pay much attention to them when considering seceding. All the more, the structure and the status quo of the European parliament are to be changed accordingly. This change leads to a pretty complex structure that is much more difficult to analyze by political scientists, let alone the people who will be so confused that they would not be able to figure out who is in charge of what because certain institutions’ functions will partly overlap, to say the least.
I consider lobbying the fourth red flag: weaker lobbyists will have less opportunities to have an impact on most decisions in the European parliament. Thus stronger lobbyists’ impact will increase and as a result they will be the ones to determine laws and conditions regardless of who is in control of which branch.
Possible decisions that could solve the problem in Europe:
1. Consensus: The most popular solution but is it easy to achieve?! I don’t think so as long as funds are not injected in poorer regions’ economies so that it, at least partly, compensates the financial inequality. Job opportunities should also be taken into consideration in order to reduce unemployment wherever it is necessary.
2. Help from abroad: Such possible European crisis does not satisfy the U.S. and Chinese interests. On the contrary, they need the European market as much as the European market needs them, all the more that Europeans generally buy goods at higher prices than do Americans. Oil prices are a good example. Like I said above, more countries and autonomous territories lead to more governments which leads to more institutions which leads to more governmental expenses and citizens’ taxes. Besides, in my opinion, help from abroad in the form of political pressure or certain incentives is not difficult to achieve.
3. Change in the educational system: According to my observations, educational system is problematic in Europe. Reform in the educational system is necessary in the form of richer interpretation of history, greater attention paid to promoting not only national but also European belonging is a good start. That could be achieved in some elementary middle and high school subjects. The European educational system should also focus more on foreign languages or at least English so that the language barrier is no longer a problem. All this is a rather complicated task but for the sake of the harmony in the relationships between the European peoples, it has to be achieved.
4. Measures to increase national, cultural, social and financial integration, of course without any use of coercion: I can’t see such measures to have any effect without educational reform. In my opinion, they have to be initiated later.