The story of the European Union is short and promising. Or perhaps I should have written "was short and promising." We all know the devastation wars that are behind the success story of first The European Coal and Steel Community, then European Community, now European Union. Perhaps in the absence of World War I and World War II Europeans and more precisely French and Germans would have never sit down and agreed upon building a common market. The Euro has in my opinion hurt the European Union along two axes because the political, fiscal and monetary unions have been left incomplete. This article delves into the formation and first stages of the European Union, analyzes who's behind the vision that enabled the consolidation of a common market, analyzes the present and explores the future of perhaps the World's most innovative supranational consolidation and integration episode.
Think about it. One hundred years back Europe started The Great War. No need to repeat what everyone can read today on Wikipedia. For centuries European nations had fought each other. Empires emerged and declined, from Portugal and Spain to France and Britain. Europeans conquered and ruled the World, colonized sometimes massacred local populations. Europeans competed against one another as much as they hated one another. Animosity between France and Germany fed the conflicts. Poverty, unemployment facilitated the emergence of radical ideologies: fascism, communism. The United States learned how to intervene and proclaimed its superiority and World dominance subsequent to the armistice and in the aftermath of World War II. The Cold War then begins.
It was a different generation of Americans, which defended freedom, democracy, fairness above everything and anything else. Americans saved Europe and the World from Nazism and Fascism. Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S Truman and Secretary of State General George Marshall had a vision and no doubt knew how to lead the World forward towards a New World Order. I think that that kind of American leadership is gone with the wind. Today's leadership in The United States prioritizes money making and is unfortunately radically business-oriented. It's no longer the people but the money what really matters contrary to Suze Orman's postulates, of which I am a big advocate.
It was a different generation of Europeans, who were fully aware of the carnage, the bloodshed, the inhumanity of the Nazis-led genocide, a generation of Europeans -perhaps and more particularly the French Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman and of course Britain's Winston Churchill- who envisioned a united Europe which would no longer fight endless Wars of rivalry.
Lenin and Stalin's communism only exacerbated American expansionism in Western Europe, Greece and Turkey. NATO was created. The Marshall Plan was inaugurated in General George Marshall's Harvard Address on 5 June 1947. The Bretton Woods Institutions emerged. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed. The United Nations was constituted, building on the failure of the League of Nations. It was looking back on the rearview mirror, the true birth of a New World Order, a Renaissance after the two World War's Armageddon.
The World has not seen another Global War ever since. Myriads of regional wars remain. Today's Global War is perhaps economic. The United States' leadership has only been mildly threatened by an emerging China. Much of Asia, Subsaharan Africa, the Arab World and Latin America remain lagging behind. The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals signed in 2000 which expire year-end 2015 will not be fulfilled in spite of Kofi Annan and Professor Jeffrey Sachs' exciting and extraordinary work.
The generation of the World's very last true leaders -now called The Elders- is passing away along with the late Nelson Mandela. My great Mentor and Advisor, former UNESCO Director General Federico Mayor Zaragoza repeats time and again that in his opinion there are no longer true leaders on the surface of this Planet, with perhaps the sole exception of President Barack Obama who will soon retire from office. I think that Europe's crisis is centered around the defense of national priorities over continental priorities. Following this logic, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a great leader for Germany, but not for Europeans.
The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was created with the signature of the Treaty of Paris in 1951. France's Jean Monnet who had been a Deputy Director General in the failed League of Nations, became its First President. The ECSC acquired a wider scope with the signature of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, adding to Europe's new era of understanding, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. Six members are the founders of the ECSC including eternal rivals France and Germany, as well as the three Benelux countries and Italy. The United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Portugal and Spain joined through 1982 increasing the number of members to 12. Today's European Union features 28 members.
I think that the European Union's enlargement and the creation of a common market with free movement of goods, services and people (Schengen) were the three obvious moves that the European Commission's establishment in Brussels had to approach perhaps and obviously setting the ground for the establishment and the adoption of a common currency as suggested by Columbia University Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Mundell who in 1961 wrote his seminal paper "A Theory of Optimum Currency Areas."
The 1990s were a buoyant decade for the European Union. Under the leadership of former European Commission Presidents Jacques Delors, Jacques Santer and Romano Prodi and the participation in their respective cabinets of super star Commissioners such as Javier Solana, expansion increased from 12 to 15 members and the extremely sophisticated work which enabled the launch of the Eurozone was accomplished. It was a time when the European countries were unable to agree upon an exit strategy which would conclude the Balkan Wars in the former Yugoslavia. It was a time of strong leadership featuring Presidents and Prime Ministers who were respected throughout such as François Miterrand, Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher and perhaps Felipe González. Europe's troika has lost its essence ever since.
The Euro physical coins and notes were finally introduced in January-2002. I think that even Euroskeptics from Britain must respect the work done by Brussels in the introduction of the supranational currency. Today's Eurozone comprises 18 countries out of the European Union's 28 members. Technicalities and the economic and financial crisis which has particularly hit Europe's south have aggravated the doubts about the common currency and divided the European Union's along two axis.
In February 2005 Spain was the first country under Premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero which in a public referendum voted in support of the European Constitution. Later in 2005 France and the Netherlands rejected the European Constitution also in public referenda. The economic union was moving forward. The democratic union was not. The constitutional crisis sank Jean Monnet's United States of Europe in a trap. The Euro crisis has only contributed to aggravating the evils.
Everyone on European soil must be proud of what has been accomplished since the signature of the Treaty of Paris was completed in 1951. Most Europeans were born in the aftermath of World War II. A handful lived through it, perhaps even fought or dwelt a concentration camp. Europeans who have lived in different countries are well aware of the cultural differences which still exist today. Nationalism within nation-states as in Spain or the United Kingdom is only a consequence of Europe's diversity and of the myriad of ethnicities which share a continent. Differences must and shall not disappear, but diversity must not stop us from moving forward with integration. But not only Europe is diverse. The World is a diverse and diversity ought to be an asset and not a liability.
Millions of University graduates in Europe have spent one year abroad through the Erasmus Program which fosters exchange of students between Universities across countries in Europe. I could also spend my fourth college year in Paris and my sixth college year in Stuttgart. Most Erasmus students in their early twenties think that Europe is a fraternity. Youth is of course wonderful. Differences only emerge as we grow adults. It is then when the Germans look down on the French, the French look down on the Spaniards, the Spaniards look down on the Portuguese, who in addition look down on the former colonies of Angola and Mozambique. Few will actually reckon the relative truth which hides in my words.
Religion continues to divide Europeans. Let me be blunt. There is a first and second breach among Christians. The first breach fosters a division between Protestants and Catholics. The second breach fosters a division between Catholics and Orthodox. Then there is a third breach between all Christians and Muslims. It is important to understand the rationale behind the three breaches and in what manner they feed the current Ice Age in Europe.
The European Union and the Eurozone are divided today along two axes. Northern Europe is protestant. Southern Europe -including the PIIGS and therefore Ireland- is catholic. Protestants grow at full employment. Their spreads over public debt are below average. Catholics stagnate with unemployment above the 10% mark. Their spreads over public debt are above average putting extraordinary pressure on public debt levels which are already soaring at one hundred percent of gross domestic product. Protestants look down on Catholics. Then there is Greece where most Christians are orthodox. Of course nobody in the PIIGS countries acknowledges to be like Greece even though they are - I think that Portugal and Spain are closer to Greece than to Ireland or Italy. Then the whole of Europe's Christians look down on Muslims, even though it is not politically correct to admit it. Many are afraid of Muslims living in Northern Africa and Turkey. The three religious breaches contribute to Europe's division. In this scenario Turkey will never join. Anyhow Turkish no longer care about joining the European Union, the euphoria is gone.
Now there is the nation-state and the former Empires, whether Portugal, Spain, France or more recently Britain. One still breathes the Empire's grandeur when visiting Paris and London. I have lived three years in Paris and one in London. Britons and French's sense of security and moreover their arrogance is fed by a former grandeur which was perhaps well deserved then. Grandeur is earned not inherited. So France still thinks she is ruling French speaking Africa and Britain still thinks she's running the British Empire through its Commonwealth of Nations. So Spain still thinks she's influential in Latin America and Portugal still thinks she's influential in Brazil. In this environment of course each country must continue to maintain its Ministry of Foreign Affairs with its numerous embassies, consulates and diplomats. The European Union duplicates the national networks of embassies through its External Action Service commanded by Catherine Ashton. Duplicity and redundancy and therefore inefficiencies shall perpetuate in a European Union unable to set a more ambitious path towards total integration.
Then there is the Germany's regrettable way of approaching leadership in Europe. Germany has historically shown that she is unable to expand and subsequently manage an Empire. Germany tried to do it in World War I and World War II without success. The country has succeeded at doing it in the present European Union through the imposition of its economic Third Reich, a truly economic empire. The Euro is for many the new Deutsche Mark and half of the Eurozone is now lagging behind due to Germany's lack of compassion and its imposition of strict and straight economic justice.
I think that there is no future for the European Union if Europeans do not move beyond their fears once and for all. First we have the cultural fears that divide the Germans and the French, the Spaniards and the Portuguese, the Britons and the Continental Europeans, then religious breaches that divide where the Romans once built an Empire prior to the emergence of Christianity and Islam. Finally the technical reasons must be dealt with. The fact of the matter is that today's debate and strategy is almost exclusively technical. The technocrats in Brussels are increasingly perceived far, remote and unknown, as the technocrats at the World Bank and more specifically at the International Monetary Fund are perceived in many developing countries.
I think that there is no future for the European Union if the youth do not embrace the ideals, the passion, the romanticism of one hundred years ago when many were willing to risk their lives to defend an ideal. Of course the ideal was perhaps ill one hundred years back. Today there is simply no drive to fight for ideals. The youth in Europe have oftentimes embraced new values and attitudes of tolerance. Many are laid back and liberal in the social sense. But consumerism, narcissism and the search for the immediately pleasure have become the only priorities ahead. Many University graduates believe their diplomas shall grant them secure jobs and comfortable lifestyles. That was true in the 1960s and 1970s. China and the emerging BRICs are now changing the rules of the game. At 38 years old I see the two generation-divide, Europe's Berlin Wall: an elder generation with fuel and no ideals, a younger generation with no fuel full of ideals. Americans are ahead of the game with extraordinary initiatives such as the Peace Corps and of course the Armed Forces of which I am no big fan but which nonetheless enrol thousands of voluntary men and women in uniform every year to fight and defend an ideal of freedom and democracy. Nothing alike of continental scope has been put together by our elites in Europe who I think are fundamentally concerned with economic growth and business profits.
I lead a global initiative that is trying to embrace Universal values from the very beginning as a de facto pre-condition for take-off, incorporating and embracing cultural and religious differences, in order to discuss technicalities on a much more even playing field. We are setting up teams in every country and territory. I think that we will be able to design a common future for The European Union if we embrace diversity, change attitude and allow efficiencies to enter the equation. Europe's new name might then be Euphoria.