Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Europe's Tug of War

The end of the European Union will not be on the back of Britain’s decision to leave it, regardless of what some members of the British political aristocracy might believe. But whether this nationalist arrogance is baseless or substantial is irrelevant. The illustrative point remains – nationalism will, eventually, kill the European Union.

Of course, it’s easy for a quite stereotypically British Remainer to say such a thing – it allows me to support my country by claiming the crumbling empire is not my country by their continent, whilst simultaneously bashing the abhorrent nationalistic overtones that consumed much of the Leave campaign’s media strategy (“take back control,” “Independence Day,” anybody?). However, the seeds of the European Union’s demise are not found in the dissent of little England, but instead within the textbooks of history.

Are we so far removed (or, perhaps, so democratically evolved?) to forget that 100 years ago Europe was embroiled in the (then) largest war in human history, only to then go and top that a couple of decades later? Or, choose more recent conflicts such as the Balkans in the 1990s, the Kosovo crisis and the return to genocide on European soil. These conflicts are borne out of national identity and the desire for self-determination – take back control could be applied to almost any European state at some point in that state’s history.

To believe, as many European technocrats and Remainers do, that the European Union is somehow a fundamental (and, by extension, permanent) entity is dubious at best. For what’s next for Europe but some sort of federalised state? The crisis in the Eurozone has shown the current model is tremendously fragile, and as reaction from Britain breaking away is it so mad as to think the European technocrats would call for closer integration between those that remain? And is the ultimate – perhaps extreme – outcome of this not something like the United States of Europe?

Such federalisation is unlikely because of nationalism, and the evidence is clear to see. A prime example is the calls for independence in Catalonia, which inevitably leads to a discussion of the Basque country. Or consider a 2015 Scotland, or even Kosovo should political forces move sufficiently. From the perspective of integration, take Turkey. The core part of what remains the sick man of Europe, those in Brussels seem to believe Turkey is sick, but certainly not European (Union, mind you). Lastly, take Switzerland – which is not even in the European Union – which consists of 26 federalised Cantons which operate quite independently.

History is expressed through our geography, which is itself expressed through colours on a map. Europe, for its size, is rather colourful. The question of why is because nationalistic beliefs dominate Europe, and have shaped the lay of the land (sometimes literally) when stressed. Though I think inaccurate, it is still a justifiable inquiry to say technocracy and loss of control in Europe stressed these tensions in Britain, resulting in Brexit. Further stresses – perhaps brought on by further integration – may lead to more Brexit scenarios popping up in the near future (a great example of this, in my opinion, is found in Emmanuel Macron, who is calling for a stronger European Union whilst his opponent in the election – Marine Le Pen – had a very Eurosceptic message. You could argue Macron is acting on a mandate, given he won. You could also argue Macron should be trying to convince those who didn’t vote for him, less they bite back next time).

The reverse – more decentralisation – is almost an admission of defeat. For those of us who want the European Union to survive, of which I am one, we must find another cure for the beast. That cure is not immediately forthcoming, but it should include the European Union rethinking its role within Europe the continent. If it continues to act as a self-actualising behemoth, it will fail to see the minute cracks until they become caverns.

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