Friday, 13 April 2018

United States of Europe?


A United States of Europe has been advocated for centuries as a means of preventing European War. Even after the US Civil War demonstrated that war between federated states was by no means impossible, prominent European figures continued to argue for such a project.

The devastating wars of the twentieth century gave fresh impetus to the idea, and in the 1940’s the federalists effectively gained the upper hand over those who favoured looser associations such as the Council of Europe and EFTA. Recognising however that their ideas were well ahead of European pubic opinion, they agreed to a step by step approach towards “ever closer union”. The most recent step was the Lisbon Treaty of 2007, which effectively reintroduced the previously down-voted European Constitution under another name. It is under Article 50 of this constitution that the UK is currently negotiating withdrawal from the EU. A number of notable politicians have endorsed a United States of Europe in recent years.

However recent years have also seen a significant push back against the centralising tendencies of the European Commission in particular. Heavily indebted members of the Eurozone have been forced to accept major deflationary measures despite consequent heavy unemployment and popular discontent. Migratory waves have placed the open borders Schengen system under intolerably heavy political strain. Nationalist political forces have grown stronger in various member states.

To all of this the Brussels answer is more Europe, not less. For example the single currency won’t work properly without a common fiscal policy and to save the single currency from the pressures it has come under we must therefore remove the individual fiscal freedom of member states. The absence of a popular will for this is not considered an obstacle.

To some, European federalism is yesterday’s answer to yesterday’s problems. Aloof, remote government is no longer acceptable to populations who, in the information age, are far more in touch with alternative thinking on how their needs may be met.

This is not to say that the ideal of fraternity is not a fine one. However, if fraternity is to be realised, ways need to be found of making it compatible with liberty and democracy.