Union without power

Union without power -  CO.EUR.

The European Union has been the most extraordinary experiment in the history of political institutions. For the first time  huge numbers of people from  nations stretching from Scandinavia to Portugal have come together to form a bigger society without anyone using force to make them to do so. For more than 60 years after its beginnings in the late 1940s,  the European Union's revolutionary path of state formation without centralized coercive power gradually mastered its members'  local strategic interests.  From Ireland to Estonia, most Europeans began sharing a single currency and central bank, accepting rulings from a European court and parliament, and crossing borders without passports. The European Union had become the safest place on Earth, and it was an extraordinary  result in a continent  raven by geographic barriers, with two millennia of history of internal wars and  distinct groups of people with different histories, languages and cultures.

But this extraordinary  result  was  undermined by the lack of eradication of the  sense of a common political destiny. It was mainly the promise of economic prosperity  the glue that kept the European Union together. With the  protracted crises that affected Europe  since 2010 the consensus  on a further integration  has increasingly broken down and  the process of European Union  has been  put under discussion both by governments and citizens and  national leaders are appeasing their populations by bypassing European rules. The supposed inability in preventing, face and solving  crisis, like the Greek debt crisis or huge immigration  flow, it’s the main complain made to European Union. But  the European Institutions  have not  enough powers to face and solve such problems. The EU’s greatest integrated power lies in its regulatory authority over the single market. Even if some of the EU’s founder wanted to create a United States of Europe, with a central federal government, the series of treaties that have brought the EU into being over the past six decades have left it with a hybrid structure where, if in some aspects  it resembles a federal system,  it remains an international organisation, in which the constituent states are the main decision-makers. It’s a rules-based union that lacks of a real  centralized coercive powers of a traditional state The most important decisions are always taken collectively by national leaders at the European Council. The EU limits can be underlined also in the sphere of budget capability of intervention. The  amount of the EU  budget  (in 2015  €141 billion) is the equivalent of only about 1% of European GDP, compared with the 40-50% of GDP spent by most national governments. The largest single planned expenditure over the next five years, 38% of the total, is for agriculture subsidies. Almost all of the EU’s spending on infrastructure and other projects is disbursed as grants to national governments. The biggest-ticket items for most governments, social benefits like unemployment insurance and health care, that are the most important for citizens, are still in the hands of the member-states. Also, the union's predecessor, the European Economic Community, was born from a free trade agreement between six countries in Western Europe that had relatively similar levels of economic development and fairly coherent views of what the organization's policies should look like. But now, with the joining of all almost European countries, the Union  has become large and heterogeuneous and difficult to govern with the current Institutions.

In order to face the crises  the most reasonable  response should  have been  to move towards the strengthening of the European central institutions at the expense of  national ones and in giving Brussels the necessary centralized coercive power to enforce its rules. But is isn’t the direction Europe is moving in. Since 2010 the path of consensus  on the idea of European deeper integration  has increasingly broken down. Members States were looking for solutions at the national and regional level, putting  their own interests first, meanwhile a growing nationalism and fear of globalization was raising among the European public opinion where a large share believes that their country should deal with its own problems and let other nations fend for themselves.

Probably in  the next years society organisations, national governments, opposition  political groups will increasingly put under discussion the European Union legitimate in order to demand concession, justify domestic decision or increase popularity, with as result a  freeze or reverse the process of EU integration.  So for who still believe that  the European Union  was the most successful formula  for peace and prosperity in  is time to work hard in order to defend  the acquisitions, built a  sense of a common political destiny among the European citizens and increase the powers of the European Institutions .