Friday, October 07, 2005

The birth of a nation: is the EU going to be the next USA?

As usual, it's Friday night and I can't be bothered writing anything. Here's an old college essay of mine to hold you over.

Several months ago, as our country held the referendum to decide whether or not to join the European Union, I engaged in a series of discussions with a politically-minded American concerning the subject. Although I could only vaguely comprehend his reasoning, this person was extremely pessimistic about the entire idea. I was quite surprised that a US native, a patriot with a love of history, would be so adamantly opposed to the notion of several independent states joining to form a federation. After all, that’s exactly how his country began!

The similarities are quite apparent. The thirteen colonies of the New World were significantly different in their lifestyles, beliefs, economic positions. The extreme puritan views of New England had already been softened by that time, but educated and enlightened northerners still had their significant differences with the agricultural South (mirrored beautifully in the recent skirmish between the Franco-German alliance and Poland, the largest and most populated of candidate countries and a nation whose economy is largely dependent on produce).

The formation of the Union in the 18th century was necessary because of a single threat in the form of Britain; over two hundred years later this union has been successful to the extent that some of the most powerful countries in the world consider it wise to unite their efforts in order to oppose it. In both cases the birth of a new state was fairly painless – the Empire did send troops to America but failed, and the USA, under NATO coverage, has already bombed a troublesome European country that is targeted for assimilation by the EU somewhere in the future. And let us not forget the recent tariff war between the two Unions.

The United States of America did not create a Constitution until 13 years after the formal birthday of the country; the European Union was formed in 1993 and a decade later it is still missing its ultimate legislation. The bickering around the EU constitution has been mentioned above; the US constitution was a subject of such heated debate that the creators actually didn’t include anything in it about human rights. Even the original 13 colonies of the USA included economies which were desperately below par; the EU channeled exorbitant amounts of cash into countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece to raise them closer to the central players’ level.

Subsequent events, those which shaped the USA as we know it today, also find interesting parallels today. If America expanded west, Europe moves east. The USA had a lot of trouble keeping Texas, a major player in those days, interested. In Europe the rogue nation, convinced that they can do a better job on their own, is undoubtedly Britain – not as large or wild, but equally stubborn. The problem of balancing out slave-owning and free states that led to the Missouri Compromise is mirrored in the great juxtaposition of ideologies in 21st century Europe – that of socialist democrats and laissez-fair enthusiasts. This in fact was one of the more coherent and powerful points that my American friend mentioned, and his confidence that the social issues inherent to post-industrial Central Europe, its ageing population and heavyweight welfare structure will be too much for otherwise potentially successful candidate countries to bear is quite reminiscent of the wild and wealthy West’s loathing of federal meddlers looking to exploit untapped riches. When, in the course of the creation of this essay, I mentioned the idea of comparing the formation of the two great unions to another US-resident acquaintance, he pointed out the seemingly crucial difference of the European Union not having been built on the blood of slaves and Indians. Well there are a lot of intelligent, influential people who will argue long and hard about the EU being built on the blood of East Europeans…

Thus I maintain that the unification of a continent is a process that is conducted in a similar manner on each occasion. As the only other continent besides North America and Europe to be united into a single state has become a stable and prospering nation, I feel that there are good chances for the EU. And may the Union of the New World and the Union of the Old World coexist peacefully, engaging in productive rivalry and developing both countries until that time when a better structure is dreamed up.

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