The European Union was established after World War II in 1950. France was the principle founder, though ideas for the formation of a united Europe have been around for centuries; this was of course one of the goals of Napoleon, but the goal of the EU is to unite Europe peacefully. When the European Union was formed it had six member countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Over the years many different groups have proposed and sought the unification of Europe for many different reasons. The unification of Europe has many different implications and how European unification affects America and the world is dependant on how a unified Europe chooses to function.
There are two primary distinct views that have historically been seen as the role of a unified Europe, one is of a “Fortress Europe” that unifies and erects a tariff wall against the United States as an economically defensive measure. This is typically a view that is seen in correlation with Europe joining with Indian and Asian markets and is also typically seen as a militant socialist view. The alternate view of this is a unified Europe that creates a larger centralized world marketplace helping to stimulate the world economy.
After World War II there was a genuine American interest in the successful unification of Europe, but even at that time the issue of Great Britain was a question in everyone’s mind because most people saw Britain as more American than European and saw the British economy as more closely tied to the American economy and transatlantic trade than to the mainland European economy.
Today the European Union holds 15 member countries, known as states, and is on the verge of admitting 13 more countries, primarily from Eastern Europe. The current members of the European Union, known as the EU, are: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
In fact it may come as a shock to many Americans to learn that today Europe is on the verge of forming what is said by many to be the new United States of Europe.
Yes, with all this talk of war, and probably even without all this talk of war, this historic event is taking place, the formation of a United States of Europe, and it’s not even a news item in America.
The official European Union web site is:
The purpose of the EU is to unite Europe in such as way as to bring lasting peace to Europe by tying the countries of Europe together economically and with strengthened legal, political, and security interests.
Right now the EU is in the process of developing a Constitution, a process that has proven difficult and trying for the organization and the people of Europe.
Though the EU holds a lot of promise for Europe, and though it has proven to be even more successful than many had predicted, there is still a lot of division of opinion among the citizens of Europe on the matter and among the different countries that make up the union.
In fact right now many question Great Britain’s role in the union, and public opinion in Britain about the EU is running low. Some have even suggested that Great Britain withdraw from the union, while of course others say that it’s unthinkable.
The EU has been progressively successful and one of the largest marks of its success has been the success of the euro. The euro is the new EU currency that is replacing the traditional currencies of the 12 members of the Euro-zone. Not all of the EU members are part of the Euro-zone.
Britain, Denmark, Greece, and Sweden are all members of the EU who are not members of the Euro-zone. This means that they have not fully converted to using the euro, though the euro is certainly a part of their economy.
The euro has proven to be far more successful than many analysts thought it would be, and more successful than some American businessmen and bankers hoped it would be.
The EU is currently larger than the United States of America, and set to take in 13 new countries, which would put it at around 500 million people, about double the size of the US.
Though the EU economy is still not as big as that of the US, it is growing. What is interesting about the EU economy is that the EU’s exports total about $170 billion more than US exports and the EU has more money invested in America than America has invested in the EU. In fact the EU is the largest investor in the US making up 61% of foreign investment in America. Britain is actually the single largest European investor in America and has the strongest ties to the American economy, and it’s also, of course, not a part of the Euro-zone.
For more economic data on the EU see:
A good basic explanation of the euro and its importance:
The BBC on the euro:
For more on the EU and European business:
For a British view of the EU issues, and Iraq:
Given this background it is important to know that the issue of war in Iraq has created serious stress on the European Union. Many in Europe were already wary of Anglo-American ties. The war has only deepened that sentiment.
There has always been some sense that much of continental Europe has wanted to strengthen the EU as a way to develop stronger oppositional power to the United States, both economically and ideologically.
For more the troubles of the EU that were caused by the Iraq situation see:
To close out this rather incomplete commentary on the EU, the euro, and Britain I’d like to highlight a 1998 address made by John Kerr, a long time British foreign ambassador, to the people of Britain after visiting America. It’s an interesting speech that everyone should read.
A few points of interest:
“Seriously, it is a great privilege to be our Ambassador in Washington. For the twin strands of the transatlantic bond remain very close. What do the two countries share? First, common values. Churchill put it best, at Harvard in 1942, when he defined them as:
'Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice, and above all the love of personal freedom - or, as Kipling put it 'leave to live by no man's leave, underneath the law' - these are the common conceptions on both sides of the ocean, among the English-speaking peoples.'
I am clear that this is still true today.”
The Anglo-centric attitude of this comment is quite obvious. The comment is made as if to say that these principles are not common concepts to non-English speaking peoples. A comment that anyone familiar with Churchill would realize is quite in character for him and obviously is still the sentiment of at least this British Ambassador today. As for the actual accuracy of the statement, that’s another issue which is always up for debate.
“Had we not joined the EU, I doubt if the total of United States investment in Europe would have been as high as it is; because I suspect that the EU might have become more like the Fortress Europe that America feared it would be; and that it isn't.
And I'm sure that the British share of that investment would not have been as great as it is; because outside the fortress walls Britain would plainly have been less attractive as the natural European base for the enterprise of corporate America on this side of the water.”
This is true, and reflects both the Anglo-centric and Anglo-phobic undercurrents of the EU situation.
“The idea that there is an alternative 'blue water' foreign policy open to a UK which turned its back on Europe is one which would find very few takers in the United States. As Ray Seitz warned in a memorable speech, the extent to which the United Kingdom is listened to in America will be affected by American judgments about the extent to which the United Kingdom is listened to in Europe, and would be able to rally EU support for a common United States/United Kingdom policy prescription.”
I will discuss the alterative “blue water” policy of Britain again later, but I believe that while there may have been few takers on such a strategy that those few takers are currently in the White House. As Sir Kerr does point out, America’s interest in the EU is highly dictated by the extent to which the EU can be kept in line with British, and hence American, interests. Everyone involved is well aware of this.
“Now let me step back a little, and try to judge what kind of Europe America would like to see us help build. And here I may, I hope, be forgiven a touch of cynicism.
First, America today knows less about Europe than you might think.
"I found, when I called on new Congressmen elected in '94 and '96, a surprising number who had never held a passport. And in Middle America, away from the cosmopolitan seaboards, coverage of the outside world, in newspaper, radio and television is thinner, much thinner, even than here.
And the reason for thin supply is thin demand. In the Manichean world of the Cold War, most Americans saw a case for staying engaged in the outside world, saw a case for major military deployments in Europe; saw a case for major aid programs to a third world where the conflict between Communism and Capitalism was being fought out. Now the US - while enjoying a golden period of high growth and low inflation - comes last, in per capita terms, in the OECD league table of aid donors. Now the US owes the UN 1.3 billion dollars of overdue subscriptions. Now the Hill - and particularly Democrats on the Hill - are not willing to allow the President fast track authority for new trade agreements. Now the Hill, at a time of financial crisis in Asia, holds up necessary increases in IMF resources - though the IMF of course pays interest on any use it makes of its dollar quota. There is a risk, I put it no higher, of America turning its back on the world.
Internationalists in the White House, and State, and on the Hill, have a fight on their hands: isolationism is back. I used to find it useful to remind Republican friends that Republican Senator Vandenberg was as much the hero of the Marshall plan story, 51 years ago, as was Truman or Marshall himself. And that the generosity of the Marshall plan was one of the best investments America ever made.”
As an American I have a totally different take on these issues. While I agree with Sir Kerr about his observations, I disagree with what he proposes to be the reasons; perhaps he was just trying to be polite.
The truth is, Americans (in the general sense) have been drifting into an isolationist view because Americans simply don’t care about the rest of the world. America is now a place that has grown up with 50 years of “We’re #1!” America has become highly distracted with superficiality and internally created issues that should be trivial, but which have been turned into the major issues that American minds dwell on. Quite honestly, much of American policy simply does not make sense when viewed in relation to the outside world so what we have done here in America is turn off the outside world, which makes our policy more palatable to Americans. What Sir Kerr was observing was not so much a conscious isolationist stance in America, it was a lack of international concern based on lack of international knowledge. Interestingly, at this same time when it was so obvious to a foreign observer that Americans were disinterested with the outside world, American international business was, and is, more important to America than ever before.
I’ll revisit this topic later; I don’t want to go too far into it here.
“Nor do Americans see the widening of the EU as an alternative to its deepening. They tend to believe that the two go together. They see, or say they see, a strong US interest in a strong EU.
Now, a cynic might say that a US definition of a strong EU is not always the same as a European definition. The ideal US prescription for European Defense Cooperation has for example often seemed to be European co-operation to buy US-made defense equipment.“
I wouldn’t be so surprised to see Sir Kerr proved wrong on this opinion of his. Bush is now prescribing large increases in the national “defense budget”; I think Sir Kerr may want to re-evaluate. What I am saying is that the Bush administration sees Europe as less of a partner in defense than previous administrations and will probably focus more on an internal market for defense equipment.
“Finally, a word about the American view of EMU. Frankly, the view I found on my arrival in Washington in 1995 was a combination of ignorance and incredulity. Most people hadn't heard of Maastricht.
The small minority who had heard of the EMU enterprise tended to regard it as a rather academic, diplomatic, Treaty exercise, describing a rather risky project, plainly lying far in the future, and to debate whether and when the EU could really be an optimal currency zone. And whether the European labor market was sufficiently open, and its resource transfer mechanisms sufficiently large, to cope with economic shocks, in the absence of an exchange rate stabilizer.”
Yes, and now we are getting to the heart of the matter. Not only are American citizens ignorant of highly important international affairs, but apparently our policy makers are as well. For any American policy maker not to have even heard of the EMU, even in 1995, is not acceptable. I’ll be the first to admit that I had not heard of the EMU in 1995, but I’m also not a policy maker, however, I was following the euro with interest by 1999.
What this shows is a total lack of long range planning about the EMU in relation to the American economy. High-level American investors, businessmen, and politicians have certainly come along over the last five years on the matter of the EU and the euro. They are taking it seriously now, but few American citizens are aware of the issues of the EU, and right now it seems that the American policy making in relation to the EU has been left in the hands of politicians and businessmen alone and is not part of the realm of public concern, which means that the American agenda on the EU has not been set democratically, it has been set autocratically.
I like this speech by Kerr because this is a speech given to the British by America’s closest ally. This is what our “best friend” had to say about America, a friend that, as he pointed out, has more in common with America than pretty much any other country, and is still from the Anglo-centric perspective. If this is what the British have to say about American politics I think you can guess what the rest of Europe has to say.