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  • The European Union is a great success story

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on June 7th, 2005 (All posts by )

    The European Union is the biggest and wealthiest continous trade zone in the world, and ten new members joined last year without a hitch. Other countries are lining up to follow, and are doing everything to shape up and meet the Union’s standards. The EU is thereby spreading rule of law and democracy ever wider eastwards. There is a reason why the United States pushes the EU to take in ever more countries, you know.

    Now, why don’t I see anyone in the so-called ‘Anglosphere’ acknowledging this success story, instead of endlessly obsessing about its faults?

     

    21 Responses to “The European Union is a great success story”

    1. mariana Says:

      I thought rule of law and democracy existed in Eastern Europe before the EU got there. Hell, they existed in Western Europe before the EU existed.

      I fail to see the value in an institution that feels the curvature of bananas is an issue needing regulation. If the EU was simply an open economic zone instead of a wannabe transnational neo-monarchy, it would have my blessing. Besides, last time I checked, there was a rather serious dearth of economic growth in the Eurozone. Some of what I’ve read implies the changeover to the Euro was not well-executed.

      I root for its demise simply because I feel it’s an impediment to economic and political freedom in Europe.

      It’s not the nation state that’s gotten Europe into trouble in the past. It’s the impulse to make Europe itself into one large nation state that piles up the bodies.

      I also suspect that the US “pushes” them to take in more countries so as not to appear negative or against the EU.

    2. Richard Heddleson Says:

      Now, why don’t I see anyone in the so-called ‘Anglosphere’ acknowledging this success story, instead of endlessly obsessing about its faults?

      When did this naysaying start to happen in the Anglosphere? Could it have been when the EU was hijacked to become a “counterweight” to the United States? But this leadership will pass, partly because of the growth of the EU to include more pro-US nations to dilute the power of the anti-US cabal now losing its control of the EU.

    3. Lex Says:

      Ralf, I think that you are mistaking the relief many of us felt when this last effort started to falter for some kind of opposition to “Europe” more generally. That Europe has established a large free trade zone is good. That most European countries seem to have no inclination to fight each other anymore is also good. So, bravo to those things.

      But, please note, in contrast, that the United States has a large free trade zone with Canada, but has no equivalent of the Brussels government. Canada and the USA do not seek ever closer union and do not feel any need for uniformitiy in their laws or institutions, or even for a common currency. Instead, we trade, we have a defense alliance, we cooperate on any number of issues on an ad hoc basis, but we resolutely avioid the creation of a “North American” government.

      The European achievement is praiseworthy, but the direction it is going is mistaken. They do not need and should not seek a “European” government, especially if it is going to be unaccountable and intrusive and impose a socialistic model of government on the entire continent.

      Moreonver, they do not need, and should not seek, to “balance” the United States, which means oppose the United States as a matter of principle. The Canadians do not always go along with the United States. But they do not make opposition to the United States a principle of their policy. Chirac has made it clear, over and over, that the purpose of a unitary European power is to set itself in perpetual opposition to the United States — bluntly, to be our enemy. That is foolhardly. No one in the Anglosphere is likely to applaud the success of such a program.

    4. Mark Says:

      Ralf,

      I was quite impressed by Rifkin’s book The European Dream, and saw a review of another book that talks up the positive side of the EU experience. Rifkin defines some of the values that support a cooperative venture like the EU, and they look suspiciously Canadian and blue-state. So if the red-state values represent the Anglo-sphere’s take, then there is probably some ideological friction that leads to knee-jerk assaults on the EU. There would also be the historical competition between French/German old Europe leadership and the Anglosphere, so that might also lead to thoughtless side-taking. The EU also represents a challenge to the American model of unbridled free enterprise, which is a religious conviction for many people.

      Personally, I like some of the ideas about cooperation that are emerging from the EU experiment–both in the political and in the business arena. Rifkin was talking about some kind of cooperative computing initiative that could give a boost to European businesses that I thought was exciting. Also the tilt toward green energy seems wise. That may come from a take care of your land mentality that is formed in Europe’s boundedness, while the Anglosphere is more wasteful because of reliance on abundant frontiers.

      On a personal note, my daughter’s chem-lab partner, Jutta (sp?), an exchange student from Germany was quite proud of the EU. My daughter listened to an EU official when she was in Washington for National Youth Leadership Conference last fall and reported that the woman was very excited about and proud of the EU. I’m hoping that my daughter will get a more informed view of the EU as she spends her next school year in France.

      I’d chalk the negative view of the EU up to values conflicts, ideological views, competitive spirit, and lack of conversation with people who live with the EU.

    5. Shannon Love Says:

      I have to second the assertion that the often stated goal of the EU to act as a “counterbalance” to the U.S. is the source of much of the hostility towards the EU over here. This concept shows up repeatedly in media and discussions on the EU in all forums and across the political spectrum. Rightly or wrongly, we have a strong perception that many in Europe regard the EU primarily as a vehicle for anti-Americanism, not a tool for promoting free-trade and democracy.

      The fact that the EU is based on a civil or structural law system instead of a common law one as in the Anglosphere also causes a lot of anxiety and misunderstanding. The EU authorities are by American standards highly unaccountable and largely unrestrained.

      So, from our viewpoint the EU appears as an emerging superstate that is only weakly democratic and which perceives itself as existing primarily to oppose us in some manner.

      Historically, such situations did not end well.

    6. James R. Rummel Says:

      The main objections that I have to the European Union can fall into two categories: perception (or public relations) and practical concerns.

      So far as perception is concerned, it seems that the majority of admiration for the EU is possible only if one ignores recent history. Your assertion that the “EU is thereby spreading rule of law and democracy ever wider eastwards”,/i> is a prime example. Last time I checked, virtually the sole reason that this is happening is due to the fall of the Soviet Union. And which country bore the greatest burden for winning the Cold War? Which government paid the most to fund NATO, which people stepped up to counter the Soviet military threat to Europe and the world? It certainly wasn’t the European countries, which slashed their defense budgets to the bone in order to fund Socialist programs.

      So the claim that the EU is the sole promoter of democracy and freedom in Eastern Europe, or even a major cause, is disingenuous at best.

      Claims such as yours lead many Americans to the conclusion that the EU is engaged in an undeclared public relations war against the United States. The way that the strongest supporters of the EU aren’t above employing anti-American sentiment in order to win reelection doesn’t help convince us otherwise.

      On the practical side, the EU and many member countries have turned their backs on their responsibilities. Europe’s collective security measures are a sick joke, something that I’ve posted about multiple times on this blog. The inescapable conclusion is that the EU expects the Americans to provide for their defense, something that many voters are finding ever more distasteful considering the claims that the EU is going to be a “counterweight” to the US.

      James

    7. Lex Says:

      “knee-jerk assaults on the EU”
      “thoughtless side-taking”

      Mark, the opposition to the EU Constitution has not been “knee jerk” or “thoughtless”, as far as I can see. Those comments apply better to the other side. The support for it has been based on scare-tactics and baseless threats.

      Also, the referendum was not on whether there would be an EU, it was on whether the draft Constitution would be approved. Separate questions. Defeating the draft Constitution was, in my view, a very good thing. This is not a knee-jerk response to anything. As to thoughtless side-taking, Chirac’s repeated statement that “Europe” must “balance” the USA, and his efforts to align himself with anyone who is opposed to us, is the most blatant example of thoughtless side-taking I can think of.

    8. DaveVH Says:

      Mark, I too think there are some things the EU has got right. For example, it accidentally discovered a foreign policy which works, and which now has a name – the neighbourhood policy (bit derivative, but hey).

      I disagree with you about the knee-jerk reactions though. I have no substantive evidence for this, but it seems that when people find out about the EU and the way it works the less they like it. Exchange students are happy with it (as I was when I swanned around the continent on an EU grant). But plenty of North Koreans are happy with North Korea too.

      Why not dump the ideology, corruption, and undemocratic decision-making, then see what we have? This is what really troubles people, after all. Perhaps I’m the only one who felt a link, however slight, with Ukraine, when the French and Dutch voted no. The Europeans who like the US, and there are plenty of us, might be a little disappointed with the current meme in the US blogosphere which says Europe MUST integrate. What if the people say no?

      Regards,

    9. Mitch Says:

      The “weak form” theory of European integration, allowing for the free movement of goods and services across borders, is a fine thing. Even the Euro makes some sense, but it might be a little out of sequence (economic integration before monetary integration would have been more prudent).

      The political aspects are another thing entirely. We can’t help but get nervous when Europe once again comes up with a Universal Theory of Everything that will explain all mysteries and bring about paradise on earth. The well-documented “democracy deficit” (e.g., the powerful but unelected European Commission) makes it more likely that when things start to go wrong, they will not be corrected.

      We would have thought that the sorry performance of OLAF would have been warning enough. Instead of issues of graft, can you imagine what would happen in the event of a challenge to the European Commission’s power?

      @ Mariana: I think it was the curvature of cucumbers, rather than bananas, that the Commission got all excited about. Phallic vegetables, not phallic fruit. There is a completely separate set of regulations governing sausages and salami.

    10. Mitch Says:

      I posted my comment before I read this. Follow the money.

    11. Sandy P Says:

      Ralf, we were over there 3 x in 100 years, we’re a little leery.

      It’s not going to work.

      Don’t you feel shortchanged that you weren’t asked, you were told you were going to join?

    12. Sandy P Says:

      Via EU Referendum:

      Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt is convinced that the Belgians would have voted in favour of the Constitution.

      “Moreover, Brussels is the centre of Europe, in fact we are Europe. It is impossible to vote against oneself, isn’t it?” he says.

      (Bovendien: Brussel is het centrum van Europa, eigenlijk zijn wij Europa. We kunnen toch niet tegen onszelf stemmen?)

      Interviewed in the Flemish weekly magazine Humo, 7 June 2005.

    13. Mark Says:

      Lex,

      Can we edit a post once it’s up?

      Strike the “knee-jerk.”

      Strike the “thoughtless” and insert “thoughtful.”

      My English teachers keep telling me to dump the adjectives, but does the lesson sink in?

      One of your comments did tickle me though: “Those comments apply better to the other side.” Isn’t that almost always the case when one disagrees?

    14. Robert Schwartz Says:

      What Lex said.

    15. Jim Miller Says:

      Ralf – You raise a fair question. I can only speak for myself, but I opposed the proposed European constitution — because I wish Europeans well. For the same reason, I opposed the euro, thinking that it would cause stagnation in much of Europe.

      That’s not just altruism. I think the history of the last 100 years shows that the United States (or, if you prefer, the Anglosphere) is better off when Europe is prosperous and democratic. And that we are both better off when we work together.

      I’ll leave it to you — since you are better informed on this point — to decide whether those who are promoting the EU the most fiercely have the same attitudes toward the United States that I have toward Europe.

    16. Scott Campbell at Blithering Bunny Says:

      >Now, why don’t I see anyone in the so-called ‘Anglosphere’ acknowledging this success story, instead of endlessly obsessing about its faults?

      Because Europe is a success story (well, partial success story) *despite*, not because, of the EU and the EC.

    17. Lex Says:

      Jim Miller’s comment is on the money, and I will second his statement that my desire to see the proposed Constitution defeated is precisely because I want Europe to be successful. I don’t believe in “Europe” as an idea or a project. So, like most people in the USA, I am not “against Europe”. I want the people there to have peace and prosperity, both out of generalized benevolance (when it is costless) and because the USA is better off when Europe does not have depression-era levels of unemployment, anemic growth, unaccountable and undemocratic institutions and increasing public disorder. The Constitution would have made these trends worse not better.

      The proposed Constitution reflected an approach which was directly BAD for Europe and indirectly BAD for the USA. Hence it was BAD.

    18. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Thank you all for your comments. I’ll answer tomorrow. I also hope to find the time to put up one or two posts.

      Just this much for now: I, too, was against the constitution, fo it is way too long and is about micro mangement rather than lying down priciples, the way a proper constitution should.

    19. GUYK Says:

      If one considers ten plus percent unemployment in Germany and France a success that I suppose that Europe is a success story. The EU appears to me to be an attempt by the socialist leaders of Europe to impose their socialist values first upon all of Europe then the world. A recent mention of an Axis was enough to send chills down my spine.

      I have no doubt that socialism in Europe will eventually cause its economic collapse. The question is what kind of government and economic system will emerge from the ruins.

    20. Knucklehead Says:

      While it makes zero difference to anything, add me to the list of Americans who thought the EU was a good idea but that the devil would be in the details and it would be more difficult than the Europeans I talked to about it seemed to think it would. They were the ones who thought it was a no-brainer and a cakewalk.

      Once the details started getting felshed out I became leery. The two big details were a 300+ page “consititution”. Y’all do what you want with your countries and governments but if y’all think a constitution needs 300 pages you might want to consider sitting down a while and rethinking things. That constitution strikes me as a recipe for madness soufle and, as someone else above mentioned, we’ve sent troops twice and we don’t think the third time will be the charm.

      The other detail I found the devil in was when France decided that the EU should be its national vehicle for chaining down the hyperhegemon. If that’s the point of the EU then I don’t think the EU is a good idea. Y’all build whatever sort of economy and society you want over there, but keep your chains to yourself.

    21. Ralf Goergens Says:

      mariana,

      just one example for spreading rule of law: Some of the Baltic states were discriminating against the Russians living inside their borders (having moved there while the Baltics were part of the soviet Union); that would have led to serious conflicts with Russia as well as in these countries thenmselves, but because they wanted to join the EU they had to clean up their act first.

      There indeed are some silly regulations, but you’ll finf them anywhere. And the problems with the European economy originate in the individual members, and not the EU.

      Richard,

      The idea of the European Union as a counterweight never found favor with a majority; Chirac liked it, maybe Schröder, but that was it. It never was a realistic prospect. Given the long tradition if balance of power games in Europe, it is only to be expected that some would wish to balance American power, of course, but it shouldn’t be taken all that seriously.

      Germany also was the driving force behind the acceptance of the ten new members, including Polnd, the Czech republic etc

      Lex,

      the idea of an European super-state is very unpopular, only backed by the most foolish idealists; it is mostly those who are against the
      EU under any circumstances who talk up the European super-state.

      Mark,

      thanks for your comments, but I felt that Rifkin was going to far, and he also was only looking the EU, without giving the problems inside the individual members proper attention.

      Shannon,

      the EU is not a anti-American project, like I said above.

      Your point about the structural law system instead of a common law one is a good one, but that simply the way things are on the Continent, EU or no EU.
      We have to work under these circumstances, no matter what.

      James,

      Your assertion that the “EU is thereby spreading rule of law and democracy ever wider eastwards”,/i> is a prime example. Last time I

      checked, virtually the sole reason that this is happening is due to the fall of the Soviet Union. And which country bore the greatest burden for winning the Cold War? Which government paid the most to fund NATO, which people stepped up to counter the Soviet military threat to Europe and the world? It certainly wasn’t the European countries, which slashed their defense budgets to the bone in order to fund Socialist programs.

      So the claim that the EU is the sole promoter of democracy and freedom in Eastern Europe, or even a major cause, is disingenuous at best.

      The absence of the Soviet Union is not the same thing as rule of law and democracy. Somebody has to do the scud work of filling the vacuum, and offering institutional underpinnings. That’s what the EU is doing, and saying so is neither disingenuous nor anti-American.

      Sandy,

      it would have better if we also had had an referendum, but the German constitution doesn’t contain a cluase on that, for historical reasons.

      Jim,

      Ralf – You raise a fair question. I can only speak for myself, but I opposed the proposed European constitution — because I wish Europeans well. For the same reason, I opposed the euro, thinking that it would cause stagnation in much of Europe.

      That’s not just altruism. I think the history of the last 100 years shows that the United States (or, if you prefer, the Anglosphere) is better off
      when Europe is prosperous and democratic. And that we are both better off when we work together.

      I’ll leave it to you — since you are better informed on this point — to decide whether those who are promoting the EU the most fiercely have the same attitudes toward the United States that I have toward Europe.

      Like I said above, I am against the constitution myself, and I agree that it is best for Amerca if Europe propers.

      Those who promote EU most fiercely are no or less anti-Amercan than anybody else in Europe. And Chirac isn’t promoting the EU, he wants to control it.

      GUYK,

      the poblems of members like France and Germany are self-inflicted, and not due to the EU.