Europe On A Tightrope

The European Union has been a conundrum for the United States and even its own members since its earliest years. Highlighting this has been the interesting, but perplexing, vigorous objection that exists within Britain in respect to leaving the EU. To begin with, their decision to support withdrawal was approved by referendum 51.9% to 48.1%. Now another referendum is being demanded. The focus of “remaining” or “leaving” has shifted repeatedly. Most recently there has been conflict within the EU over the issue of free migration – or at least the ability to travel about and work without restriction in the member countries by their respective citizens.

To complicate matters, regarding freedom of movement, has been the arrival of the American, Steve Bannon. He is characterized in some of the press as a member of the so-called “far right” that is now seeking international status while pushing their rather generalized stance on strict controls on migration between and among countries in general. Of course, this theme is equally anathema to the “Remainers” as it is honey to the “Leaver” bears. Bannon obviously loves every minute of his expanded and revitalized attraction.

Unfortunately, this single-issue focus does more to cloud the overall problem than it does to clarify. This fact tends to be lost in the constant political race with the unknown by the unknowing. What is not being done is to consider how the entire matter of the unification of Europe originally was conceived and what it has become. For the sake of dispassionate analysis, let’s look at the evolution.

Evolution of the European Union (EU)

The basis of the creation of a unified Europe (originally Western Europe) was a desire to rebuild after WWII and hopefully in 1951 an instrument to prevent yet another war. These aims quickly gave way to the fear of a Russian–backed communist takeover of the areas west of the areas already taken over by the Red Army from Germany. That was swiftly to become an ancillary, if unspoken, aspect of European unification. The sequence of evolution has gone as follows:

  • 1951 – European Coal and Steel Community – West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Netherlands.
  • 1957 – European Economic Community (EEC) [forming a common market among the above nations including thereby the European Atomic Energy Community.]
  • 1957 – European Economic Community (EEC) [forming a common market among the above nations including thereby the European Atomic Energy Community.]
  • 1967 – The above countries merge into one under a Council of Ministers forming a European Parliament.
  • 1979 – Direct election for Euro Parliament held.
  • 1993 – EU created and monetary union begun.
  • 2002 – Euro replaces national currencies in twelve of fifteen countries in EU.
  • 2004 – 10 additional countries join with the new constitution, but in 2005 France and Netherlands reject the new document. 2007 there are two more countries added to the EU that now has 28 members.

Further to this discussion, it is more important to accept the fact that the European Union, as it exists today, benefited immensely from the Russian withdrawal and the conceptual encouragement from the United States. What has evolved today is an apparently successful amalgamation of nations – though more for some and less for others. At the moment, many in Britain feel they are decidedly in the latter situation.

Growth of “far-right” in Europe?

Coincidently, Europe is embroiled by the emergence of what the “Guardian” newspaper refers to as the “populist far-right.” While strongly represented in Italy, this movement is said to also have a serious following in Poland and Hungary – with high profiles in France and the Netherlands. Most importantly Germany’s AfD Party (Alternative for Germany), according to a 3 September 2018 poll, is running second only to the traditional CDU (Christian Conservative Party), with the SDP (Liberal Socialist Party) in third place. The situation in Europe in general – and specifically in terms of the EU election – is said to be growing in support of defending national identity and opposing migration. To add to this, there is a striking growth in opposition to increasing European integration.

The economics…

All this is going on as Britain is trying to decide if it wants to remain a part of this new 21st century reality. Obviously, the strongest force in this decision-making equation would be the economic numbers relative to the advantage of staying in “in the club.”  Unfortunately, these figures are under serious dispute and/or are seemingly unclear. Naturally this plays into the hands of other national opposition groupings mentioned previously. The United States is so focused on its own internal divisions it is quite unable, or even interested, in paying attention to what is going on among its own European allies.

Russia trade with EU

One would think that Moscow would be smacking its lips at the European disarray, but that is not happening. Russia itself has become so involved in its trade with and investment in the EU market that even their vaunted international political machine is dashing about trying to figure out which way to turn. Meanwhile, partisan politicians of all stripes are making a living from conventions, fund raising, and generally wherever they can stir up public reaction.

At least no talk of war at present

The good thing is that now, for the first time since the end of WWII, no one is talking about a hot war in Europe. However, all the aggressive yet peaceful argumentation and political action does get rough enough. That is particularly true when those wanting to leave the EU in Britain and elsewhere are being urged on by groups ranging from rabid nationalists to strictly political opportunists of all colors and interests. This also applies to those who remain ardent supporters of the European Union concept. In the past it was easier. They just killed each other!