Rethinking our Relationship with the EU

Europe will have to decide what it wants, and soon.

After the close of last week’s Olympic Games, EU President Romano Prodi boasted that “The European Union’s sportsmen and women performed outstandingly at Athens, winning 82 gold medals and more than 280 medals in total.” Noting that the EU had outpaced both the USA and China in the quest of Olympic gold, Prodi also reminded reporters that European athletes would be flying the EU flag at the 2008 Olympics, in addition to the flags of their individual nations.

Prodi joins a growing chorus of powerful Eurocrats who are championing ever greater European integration. This is all well and fine, but it is time to ask if Europe is willing to cope with the responsibilities of its creeping federalism, as well as its rewards.

Ever since the EU agreed to a combined currency, the specter of a truly federal system has hovered over Europe. In the last four years, the EU has taken ever greater strides towards becoming a true Federal State, evoking comparisons between a young, newly federalized America and the fledgling European Union.

But the ramifications of a Federal Europe demand some tough choices.

A common currency, a rotating presidency, a parliament, and a zygotic constitution would, in the minds of most observers, clearly constitute the foundations of a full fledged nation. Member states of the EU retain a great deal of autonomy, but Europe is indeed starting to look like a single, integrated entity. If this integration moves forward, certain realities and political consequences will have to be accepted.

Prominently, the EU’s relationship to the United Nations will have to be reconsidered. Should France and the United Kingdom both hold Security Council seats if both are members of a larger meta-state? Should each EU nation still have a seat in the UN General Assembly, giving the EU undue influence in world affairs? And if so, why shouldn’t Florida, or New York be represented, for example? Critics will rightly point out that the EU is still not quite a nation, but the EU is already starting to act like a collective animal.

Times are changing. A massive slate of diplomatic documents and treaties will soon have to be modified to cope with the emerging reality of Europe in the 21st century. Nothing is certain, however. Growing dissatisfaction within the EU has been demonstrated in recent elections, and dissatisfied citizens may yet forge an EU that looks more like a loose confederation than a meta-state.

In any case, the relationship between the EU and the rest of the world will have to fundamentally change as the EU evolves, and the EU may well discover that it is very difficult to have one’s cake and eat it too.

Posted by Damon Dimmick at August 31, 2004 2:54 PM