Saturday, March 25, 2017

Perspective on the European Union

At the signing of the Rome Declaration at the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Community on March 25, 1957, E.U. leaders expressed their intention to further strengthening the federal Union. Even as “regional conflicts, terrorism, growing migratory pressures, protectionism and social and economic inequalities,” as well as Britain’s upcoming secession provided a sense of pessimism, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive branch, said, “Let us not lose perspective.”[1] I submit that this advice was at the time very important.

E.U. leaders in Rome to sign the Rome Declaration (source: NYT)

The E.U. president/chief executive pointed out that as daunting as the “Euro-skeptic” mood was at the time, the challenges were “in no way comparable to those faced by our founding fathers,” as the E.U. had been able to “achieve almost eternal peace.”[2] Indeed, the European Coal and Steel Cooperative had been formed in the wake of World War II precisely to forestall another such war by keeping an eye on German extractions of iron-ore for possible re-armament. The prevention of war within the E.U.’s borders has been a significant mark of success, and problems with immigration in 2016 paled in comparison—and yet what is closer to the eye can look disproportionately large, and thus important.

Even the secession of the state of Britain can be reckoned as an instance of political stability, and thus of peaceable political change in the E.U. Had the latter refused to allow the state to secede, as the U.S. refused to allow South Carolina and other states to secede in 1861, armed conflict could have resulted after the British vote to secede from the Union. Flexibility in terms of federalism is a strength rather than a weakness, even though the want of sufficient authority at the federal level has plagued the very functioning of the E.U., much as the same problem eviscerated the U.S.’s original treaty, the Articles of Confederation. Perspective is thus vital.

[1] James Kanter and Elisabetta Povoledo, “E.U. Leaders Sign Rome Declaration and Proclaim a ‘Common Future’ (Minus Britain),” The New York Times March 25, 2017.
[2] Ibid.