But this consortium of nations has been racked with problems for the last three years or so, and I imagine many people—or the ones who care—are wondering: “What on Earth is going on over there!?” Because even I, with my strong connections to that corner of the world, am wondering the same thing… major debt issues, something about Greece and Spain being broke… is that it?
I think if we were to create a parallel to the U.S., it might be something like: Florida, Texas and Georgia are financially upside down and California and New York have to foot the bill. But would anything ever be so bad as to warrant hundreds of billions of dollars in aid money to these states? It seems a bit excessive… Oh wait, we don’t bail out our states, we bail out our corporations. Ok, it’s making a bit more sense now.
But analysts say the apex of the fiscal crisis has passed. Maybe, but a whole new set of problems are coming to light—and it’s not too hard to see why. Check out this New York Times article. It’s a great little piece of journalism. Not only because of the accurate insights of the writer, Andrew Higgins, but also because of the reality-oriented comments from the sources he chose to include in the article.
The basic premise is this: Politicians around Europe are taking a break from Eurozone crisis hand-wringing and turning their attention to things like elections in their own countries and pressing domestic concerns. As Thomas Klau, head of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, put it: “Now that markets no longer hold a knife under leaders’ throats, they are slipping back into their normal mode, which is to manage their own immediate reality.”
One of those concerns is a growing dissatisfaction with the European Union. Big surprise, right? Taxpayers in the wealthier countries—France and Germany—have funded much of nearly 500 billion Euro bailouts while citizens of the cash-strapped countries like Greece, Italy, Ireland and Portugal have been forced by EU mandates to tighten their belts and make concessions to wheeling and dealing politicians. Everybody is getting the screws.
This is nothing that hasn’t been said before. The question is, what does this have to do with THEE?
Well, quite a bit really. In response to a crisis, European Union politicians were able to quickly consolidate enormous amounts of power and money. Decisions were made for entire countries at a tier above where they should be made—that being within those individual countries rather than at the level of A Consortium of Nations. Popular dissatisfaction with the EU is forcing government leaders to refocus on more appropriate political territories—that being their direct constituents.
Naturally, people are resentful of those outside of their communities/regions/states/nations making decisions for them. During my travels in Europe, I asked friends, family and acquaintances what they thought about the EU. And from France to Germany to the Czech Republic, I heard different versions of the same complaint. An old man in Prague told me he felt it was no different than when the Soviets were in charge: some political body in some far-flung city (then Moscow, now Brussels) were telling the Czechs how to live their lives.
Part of the problem is a sort of twisting of two distinct types of political territory, as defined by THEE. First, there is a social territory where cohesion is created with a shared language, culture, history and an innate sense of togetherness Second, there is a service territory—much more artificial and arbitrary but nonetheless important—where governing bodies like the EU or a even a city council attempts to exercise political control. Simply put, they’re applying one-size-fits-all solutions to a myriad of social territories. And not-so-coincidentally, THEE mentions Soviet Russia under Stalin as an example of getting this distinction wrong.
Now, David Cameron of the UK is putting a referendum to his people, giving them the option of withdrawing completely from the EU. France and Germany—who have bared the brunt of sacrifice in the name of unity—are accusing him and Britain of “cherry picking” which EU policies he does and does not follow Many fear the Union could unravel completely. To me, it makes perfect sense why they would want to cherry pick and it seems inevitable that, in time, the Union will unravel. The UK is not France or Germany or Greece. Britain’s problems cannot be solved without a uniquely British solution. And that concept goes for every country in the world.
Let’s just hope the Nobel Prize Committee is right and they won’t all start killing each other again.