The ‘Old World’ is in trouble. Deep economic, fiscal, social and in some parts political trouble. The Continent that had to show the world how it’s done is ailing itself. When the powers of the Great Islamic Civilisation started to dwindle Europe defined history with colonialism, ballet, the French Revolution and ‘Das Kapital’ among others. The ‘cultivation’ of the ‘uncivilised’ parts of the world were considered a noble enterprise while Europe couldn’t keep its own house in order leading to more than one devastating war. To prevent division and devastation from ever happening again in the ‘Old World’ the European project was born, starting modestly with six nations forming the European Coal and Steel Community. This lot famously signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957 creating the European Economic Community. In the course of time more countries joined the project especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism. The Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, which came into force the year after transformed the European project from a economic community to a political union in which a majority of states were to use one single currency.
Coming from Lowlands Country, which is one of the founding members of what is now the European Union, I grew up with a positive attitude towards the European project and I remember the large queues in front of the cash machines when they were to spew out euros for the first time instead of guilders, that’s how keen we Dutchies were on the new money.
The Union, always having been a rather bureaucratic operation, became larger and larger. Across Europe people started expressing their unease and fear for losing their national identity and being governed by a far away, bureaucratic and not horribly democratic force.
I do believe in the European project as it has given the continent increasing stability -with the exception of pretty dirty conflicts in the Balkans two decades ago- and prosperity. I have been able to lead my life for the last decade as a national from Lowlands Country, residing in London, studying, paying fees and receiving financial support if I were a British national. A lot would change for me if the UK were to leave the EU. Then on the other hand Europe scares me too as there is an issue with accountability. The bigger the Union has become to more power lie with the executive, the European Commission and Council over which citizens of the member states have very little influence. For a large project like the EU to be more efficient larger member states like Germany and France are to exercise more power. The current debt crisis has not been created by the ordinary people of the member states, but the solution to the problem in the form of austerity measures and bailout packages will very much effect them and yet on which the ordinary EU citizen has no say. The proposal to let people voice their opinions on EU policies in the form of a referendum is a very valid one. However, Europe does not like to ask the people for their opinion. It went horrible wrong when asking the people for their opinion on the EU constitution. Cameron applied a three line whip for MPs not to vote in favour of a referendum on UK membership of the EU. Merkel, Sarkozy and the markets all almost had a heart attack when Greek prime minister Papandreou suggested a referendum on the Greek rescue package. Democracy is beautiful as a concept, but just not very practical when it comes to a smooth execution of the European project. And where does that leave us as EU citizens?
The European project was designed out of the dream to have stability and prosperity across the continent. Something went wrong, though. The country considered the cradle of European civilisation has proved to be a terrible book keeper and despite almost four decades of democracy the fear of another military coup remains. And Greece is not alone in its troubles. A sexist clown with bad humour as well as manners is (still) governing the eighth-largest economy in the world and its debt problems is Europe’s, if not the world’s biggest economic and fiscal nightmare.
The whole affair is the best economic and political soap in years. Just such shame that the stupidity and incompetence of a few is likely to effect millions without those few to be really bothered. I think it’s high time I joined the 1 percent…..