The Downfall of the EU
Sixty years ago, the Treaty of Rome formed the first multinational European alliance ever. In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty unified Europe's currency and, thus, formed the European Union. Now, it may fall.
- British feathered dart hitting the bullseye (Public domain photo of Ingram Publishing)
The old saying goes: "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link".
- But what if the strongest link breaks first instead? A paradox, sure, but one can only assume that the outcome will be one in the same: the chain will break.
- The current state of the European Union is a sort of large scale, slow motion version of this analogy. Originally designed to bridge borders, strengthen armies, and harbor trade, Britain's impending leave of absence and France's upcoming election serves as a a sharp reminder of the limits of cross-cultural interaction in an increasingly globalized world.
- Map of the most "Euro-Skeptic" countries according to polls (Graphic provided by public domain of express.uk)
- After World War II, much of Europe was completely distraught. Divided and destroyed by the harrowing effects of ideological extremism on both fronts, countries had to find a way to unify and exit out of their postwar slump. In 1957, their efforts culminated in a convention that converted the powers into a collected alliance of six nations through the Treaty of Rome. The newly created EEC integrated national economies and encouraged friendly power buildup among its members.
- By 1992, Western Europe's unification culminated into the Maastricht Treaty, which unified capital currency into the euro and transformed the alliance's official name into the European Union.
- The European Union Explained, by CGP GREY (Fair Use)
- "It is not that European monarchs were more immune to the glories of conquest than their counterparts in other civilizations or more committed to an ideal of diversity in the abstract. Rather, they lacked the strength to impose their will on each other decisively.. In time, [this] pluralism took on the characteristics of a modern world order." (Henry Kissinger, World Order). As Kissinger states, has Europe over time transcended past this pluralistic tendency? Or, rather, have the internal struggles of the European Union affirmed it?
- To view the contrast between past and present in perspective, one must travel back in time over 350 years ago to the Peace of Westphalia.
- Location of the Munster Negotiations that brought Westphalia principles into action, public domain of PTHREAD1981
- Westphalia,signed over the course of 1648, consisted of a series of peace measures designed to bring an end to political instability and bitterness between warring countries in turn for a new beginning of self-determination on a scale unlike anything seen before.
- From the beginning of the peace of Westphalia, European countries had begun to engage in a sort of leapfrogging of cultural ideas and strategies, a catalyst for friendly competition between nations. In turn, massive entities such as the British Empire were born and innovative technologies, such as cars, clocks, and culverins, transformed the world forever.
- After the two Great Wars, however, this attitude of independence was seemingly abandoned in favor of a unified and strengthened Europe, one seemingly destined to maintain peace through shared borders, armies, and leaders. Europe slid from a mode of "independent independence" to "shared independence".
- Europe at Night, public domain photo by Eric Fischer
- In itself, this trade-off of power has seemed to have its share of benefits. Any resident of Munich can freely drive over several borders to reach Budapest without issue. The use of a shared currency allows for seamless purchases anytime, anywhere. Most importantly, all countries are obligated to aid each other in the event of a crisis. Take Greece's emergence out of bankruptcy as a prime proof of concept. Take it also as the very thing that has begun to these nations apart.
- Greek Protesters flee from riot control, public domain photo by Piazza Del Popolo
- When the euro was fully integrated into the EU in 2002, trade costs between countries fell significantly. Consequently, labor costs to make such goods actually rose, due to the complementary increase in overall trading volume. Greece, however, fell behind. Unable to match production of exported goods with imported ones, Greek debt rose tremendously. This loss of a competitive edge in Europe's marketplace is the very reason why Greece fell so spectacularly. Requiring several bailouts between 2010 and 2015 from its EU counterparts, Greece ultimately failed to pay back its billions of euros in loans owed, after a referendum that voted against adhering to stricter rules composed by the EU. Their European donors not only accepted the referendum, but also continued to make bailout donations to the country to help maintain its economy.