The European Union [EU] was initially established to promote peace among European nations. Some could argue that it was successful, especially through the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community. Additionally, the EU helped stabilize Europe by aiding countries, such as Greece, Portugal, and Spain, in the transition from an authoritarian to a democratic government. However, in order to properly assess the relevance of this institution, one must analyze it through modern day lenses. What is the EU doing now? In the past 7 years, the EU has given around 350 billion euros to developing European countries through structure and cohesion funds. These funds have promoted the building of infrastructure and successfully created jobs for these developing nations. They also allow a smooth transition from unemployed workers to the working life through training facilities and programs. This has boosted economies in various countries. Also, Desmond Dinan identifies the EU’s foreign policy procedure when he says, “Once the goal of a EU foreign policy is achieved, the object of that policy—the candidate country—is no longer foreign.” Finally, the Eurozone allows many EU member countries to trade easily among each other.
On the flip side, I am wary of calling the EU a perfect institution for numerous reasons. One of the main contributing factors is the fact that I believe the EU has fulfilled its purpose. It was meant to end war among European nations and there hasn’t been a war in many decades. Even if a war is unleashed upon the world, what is the EU going to do? What can they do? They do not have an adequate military force, so they would have to rely on NATO to resolve the situation. Another huge reason that the EU is flawed is that the people do not support it. I went to the European Parliament last night to view the election results. An EU member said on national television that the voter turnout went up this year. I was elated to hear that because on the surface it seemed that the people had started trusting in the EU once again. However, after closer examination, I observed that the voter turnout had only increased from 43% to 43.11%. Even though they are still counting the last remaining votes, this should not be a number to celebrate considering that many European countries penalize their citizens with a fine if they do not vote. The actual number of voluntary voters cannot be measured. Shockingly, the countries that have mandatory voting laws could not get all of their citizens to vote. The way that I perceive this is through a simple statement: Some voters prefer getting fined as long as they do not have to vote for an institution in which they do not support. I do not believe this is a baseless statement because statistics prove that the people have more faith in their national governments than they do in the EU. According to a guest speaker that we had in class today, the EU is not transparent in the way that they spend money—and they do not have to be. The EU creates their own budget and they are not required to disclose the ways that they spend it. How can they expect 508 million people to blindly trust their judgment forever? Additionally, the EU cannot have a court of justice in which the supremacy clause is in effect because many people do not want to follow laws established by an institution in which they do not even trust. Further, the EU cannot implement economic strategies that all of its member countries must follow because of one of the most elementary economic rules: People act in their own self-interest. I believe it is unrealistic to expect that the EU can consistently develop economic strategies that benefit 28 different countries that are all in various stages of development. Comparing institutions now, I heard a SHAPE representative declare that the reason countries join NATO is because of Article 5, which states that if one country is attacked, then all other NATO member countries must support the country under attack. That same representative went on to saying that a NATO member country could do as little as sending a condolence email to the country under attack to satisfy this Article 5 duty. The EU does not even have an Article 5 obligation, so what truly binds the countries together in this institution? There appears to be very little loyalty present among even the member countries, so how can the EU expect to spread its ideas if the ones creating the ideas don’t want to follow them?
This issue of the ties that bind the EU states together is one of the central issues at the heart of the response to the European financial crisis. Very astute!