Defend Europa
Opinion » Europeans Divided On Political Integration
Opinion

Europeans Divided On Political Integration

European Integration?

Since the Second World War, the nations of western Europe have embarked on a course of economic and, later, political integration, the culmination of which is what we now know as the European Union. This process began with the Treaty of Rome (1951), which established the European Coal and Steel Community. The motivation behind this pact was to link the industrial production of France and Germany in order to make war between the two European powers practically impossible – it’s no coincidence that this treaty essentially encompassed only those sectors of the economy that allow a nation to wage war.

This was followed by subsequent treaties that further integrated the economies of the “inner 6” – France, (West) Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and Luxemberg – with the Treaty of Rome (1957) and the Merger Treaty (1965), which also merged elements of judicial and administrative mechanisms. The European Economic Community then expanded, with countries such as Austria, Britain, Portugal and the Nordic states joining one by one. The crucial moment in the development of European integration came, however, in 1992, with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty which formally created the European Union – a supranational union of both an economic and political nature.

It would be a mistake to see this as a seamless evolution entered into willingly by all parties. Referendums in Denmark, Ireland and France have all, at one time or another, struck down European Treaties, only for them to be implemented anyway by a political class seemingly unaware of the resentment it was sewing. And in the early 21st century, the Eurosceptic movement began to grow in size and power, culminating in Britain’s relatively extraordinary decision to leave the European Union in June last year. This was perhaps unsurprising, given that Britain’s membership had always been a rather poor marriage of inconvenience, but Eurosceptic movements have been growing exponentially in Holland and France, two of the European Community’s founding members and historically staunch advocates.

These days, the issue of European integration is now coming to a crescendo; the choices have evolved from the level of integration – which has always been a rather grey area – to a very simple, black-or-white decision; do we want a fully integrated United States of Europe, or do we not? It should provide an insight into the self-confidence of the liberal agitators, when they still seek to deny the reality that the end goal of European integration is always federalism. This is, as they well know, a misrepresentation of the situation. Today, even those who once sought to conceal the aims of integration, namely arch federalists Juncker, Schulz, Verhofstadt and co., now openly and passionately call for the creation of a nation called Europe.

This is the course taken by those at the helm, but do Europeans agree?

The answer is, as with all political issues, that some do and others do not. A recent survey of Europeans from some of the continent’s key players has directly questioned participants’ opinion of a United States of Europe (hereafter USE), which is refreshing if nothing else. It found that, predictably, the vast majority of Britons are opposed to this idea, with just 19% answering in the affirmative when asked if there should be a USE by the year 2025. If Britain’s domestic political class has any sense whatsoever, it would take advantage of the unique situation in which 81% all agree on something – an unprecedented majority in every sense of the phrase.

Similarly, citizens of the Nordic members of the European Union are equally as opposed to such a development. In Denmark, 80% oppose the creation of a USE by 2025, whilst 81% of Finns and 79% of Swedes are also of this opinion. This is interesting because the Nordic states are not and have never been prone to spontaneous outbursts of nationalism, or firm assertions of national sovereignty, but they appear fairly unanimous in their opposition to further political integration on a continental level. One can understand such a response from the Brits, given their propensity for romantic patriotism and strong sense of independence, but it’s curious that the same strong opposition comes from the non-imperial Nordic countries – I do have a theory as to why this is, which I shall touch on a little later.

The story is very different in Germany and France. It’s oft said that Germans wish desperately to be Europeans, so that they may forget that they’re German, and this is at least partially reflected in the polls; 48% of respondents in Germany said they would support the creation of a USE by 2025. Perhaps most startling, however, is that 52% of French respondents claimed they would support this move. This is really quite remarkable, particularly for a country in which a candidate promising a referendum on EU membership gained almost 40% of the vote in this year’s presidential election. It’s also interesting that perhaps the most patriotic country in the continent’s western region finds the notion of removing its country from the map quite favourable.

Although, when the European Union is viewed in the context of history, and not just as a contemporary political football, one begins to appreciate exactly why these various nations hold the views that they do. For fear of sounding like a Europhillic Liberal Democrat, it must be said that the European Union has achieved one undeniable success, namely, the prevention of war between the major powers. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the Great War (1914-18) and the horrors of the Second World War (1939-45), a period of relative peace and stability was welcomed by both France and Germany regardless of the cost. Both their countries had been decimated by war with one another on multiple occasions, causing the loss of millions of French and German lives. When one assumes the context as a politically and historically minded Frenchman or German may take, it becomes less surprising that such large quantities of people in each of these countries would support the end of their respective nations in favour of a single state.

This logic may also apply inversely to the British and Scandinavians. Britain, being an island nation, had the relative luxury of not having to deal with invasion or occupation during either the First or Second World Wars, and enjoyed a ringside seat whilst standing aloof from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Britain’s historic position as a nation of supreme naval power, along with her relative internal stability, has removed the requirement for additional protection in the shape of a united Europe – this is most probably why Britain never quite felt at home with Europe, despite 45 years’ of membership. Scandinavia, too, enjoyed a relative insulation from all of the European conflicts in the last century and a half. Sweden remained neutral throughout the entirety of the Second World War, whilst Finland was able to repel the Soviet invasion – an invasion of an external, non-European threat – sufficiently enough to survive the war in tact. None of the Nordic nations fought with any great enthusiasm, and their loss of life was comparatively much lower than that in France or Germany.

That’s not to diminish the sacrifices these countries made, but it is simply a reality that Germany and France suffered more than anybody else.

What, then, does this all mean for the future of Europe?

We must face the facts; a United Europe, in some shape or form, is practically an inevitability. The most likely scenario will be a political union between the original “inner 6”, which will undoubtedly be led by Germany, especially in the realm of economics. Kaisier Wilhelm’s fleeting desire for a United States of Europe (led by Germany), to rival the United States of America, will come to pass. The real question that remains is the future status of those nations who will probably not seek to join a United Europe; the Nordic nations, Great Britain of course, and the Visegrad nations of Eastern Europe. The answer will remain a mystery for the time being, but it’s certainly food for thought for those interested in shaping the future of Europe.

Related posts

Dem BBC News Wokim Blackpelas Talk Talk Pidgin

James Zebedee

Catalan Independence: Principle vs Pragmatism

William

New York, New York, New York

Jonathan

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More