What is the European Union, apart from the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner?
If you ask most Spaniards on the street, you will find yourselves in front of a fervent europhile, praising the wonders and successes of the European Union throughout its history. If you ask most Englishmen on the street, you will find yourself in front of a europhobe, telling you of the robbing of UK funds, the silly rules they force each and every one to follow, and therefore the waist of money that the European Union represents.
How true are either statements and where does the truth lie?
Firstly, Europe as an idea is a beautiful thing. After centuries of wars and bickering amongst each others, seven decades ago an idea which had been in the mind of many since the Roman Empire, to have a united Europe by force, finally took the tone of doing it through peaceful means. They would be one, equal, respect each other, etc.. This of course is met differently between different people and different countries and some might think that they were doing fine by themselves, but still a very pretty idea.
Leaving the idea behind, what exactly is the European Union? Well its a complicated thing, but it resumes in a series of treaties signed by European states that have conformed an series of institutions, the largest and better know being the European Commission, and laws that all or most countries must follow. To what purpose? Originally the idea was to pool together economic resources to insure no future wars to compete for these resources. The risk of war inside the European Union soon seen as impossible, it became important to reinvent its purpose and it was transformed into a strong economic bloc to act as counterbalance to Communist Europe. When the wall fell, this no longer meant anything and the EU’s mission became to insure the better coordination of the different economies in order to grow, by creating one economy with full movement of goods, people and lastly funds.
Now what do all these different suits have in common? The economy. Remember that the previous name to the European Union was European Economic Community. It is true that in some periods there have been big pushes to the social agenda of the European Union, but the main focus that has never changed has been business, since there had to be a simultaneous agreement from the European Commission European Council (meeting of heads of state) and national governments to push agendas. So forget the idea of all united, equal, etc…, let’s make more money. So let us build infrastructure in poorer regions and countries so that richer ones can profit from cheap wages. However, let us not unify the electrician titles in each country, for instance, to avoid having floods of cheap electricians cutting prices in richer areas.
So where does the idealised Europe exist? Only in the nice words of politicians, and in the minds of certain people.
The European Union could be a social union, where all have indeed equal opportunities, where there is respect amongst all, but this cannot succeed if Europeans don’t realise that they have a say in what is done, and that the European Union becomes a true democracy close to its people.