In 1945 Europe had a lot of talking to do. In a historian’s view Europe had been in a state of open conflict and chaos starting with World War One in 1914, something that carried through 1945 with World War Two. In reality, there was really only a pause, not a complete halt in the fighting. After that came half a century of Cold War domination by Soviet Russia stretching into western Europe, and that’s not counting the very topical 17th, 18th, and 19th Century Imperial-age tensions and alliances that influenced the whole era. What resulted was the very honorable, very real concept of sitting down and talking out problems rather than kill entire generations of men in war; what resulted was the European Union, a system of para-Government where each EU member state sent its own elected representatives to create common policy. The idea was a further step beyond the League of Nations and the United Nations, which were always methods of unilateral action and agreements, never necessarily government. These are, of course, simplifications, but the European Union had a very positive start, and a very viable task to ensure peace and progress across the European block.
Fast forward to today. Steps towards a United Europe with a common currency and the common government have real positives for the smaller nations in the Euro bloc. Considerably more so after the destruction of World War Two and the Cold War, these nations benefit from a stronger economy and a first-world style government setup by more advanced sponsors. But, the European Union is more and more often a tool against peace and progress. Large nations like Britain have few benefits inside the European Union, with legislation from the EU being largely redundant and unnecessary. Germany, the real European economic powerhouse, is often (read: always) left at the table alone with the costs of any EU actions. And for all that the results are often negative. The attempts to stabilize Greece failed spectacularly. Mass riots brought in martial law, while strikes closed almost every public service. The economy belly-flopped so badly that barter money and goods trading were preferable to using severely depressed legal tender. All while the bill for the bailout, again, was put on Germany and the world economic situation was dismissively blamed on the United States. That’s only the most newsworthy EU criticism as of late, and a fraction of their crimes. The EU forced through the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland. The President of Europe, Hermann Van Rompuy, was close friends with Silvio Berlusconi and Muammar Gaddafi. Secret, non-transparent elections decide the membership of the European Commission, the sole policy-makers in the EU, who are also often tied to hard-line communist apparatchiks and dictators and even are suspected of serious crimes. EU policy forces open borders of nations to multitudes of unemployed and downtrodden workers without restrictions. Their legislation takes priority over national-level policies, which are often challenged. European Parliamentary speakers are not guaranteed to be neutral parties. In Cyprus, the European Union is instituting an unprecedented and controversial policy of a one-time tax on all savings accounts across the island nation, as a way of forceful fundraising for bailout cash. The list goes on and on.
The point has been made by British Members of the European Parliament, specifically the United Kingdom Independence Party, that there is no need for a European Union. Logically, they are correct. Trade, communal policy, and diplomacy can all be done without an intermediary, and no special intermediary is necessary in those functions, especially one as all-encompassing and powerful as the European Union. There might even be some good in it. Considerable assets once financing EU mandated action and paying EU membership fees would be freed up. EU policies would not be adopted from there on, and any costs therein, both long and short term, would not exist.
Despite criticism that a withdrawal from the EU for Britain would mean economic crisis, it is a loaded statement that stinks like a political sound-byte, but reveals the possibility of economic repercussions. It is a point that is contended back and forth, but the only direct casualties of a break with the EU would be the Members of the European Parliament for Britain, who would suddenly be out of a job.
But there is even an historical precedent away from common government. The heavy toll exacted from Europe during the First World War is undeniable and traumatic, but the harsh terms dictated to Germany gave rise to Hitler and the Nazis. Appeasement as a policy in Europe allowed Hitler to completely contravene the articles of peace, and only edged him closer to his goal of continental conflict. The unilateral action to declare war on Nazi Germany after the invasion of Poland did very little to save Poland from either Germany or the Soviet Union, and all cooperation disintegrated when French generals and troops failed to act during the Sitzkrieg on the western front in 1939-40. After Paris was overrun the Vichy government collaborated unreservedly with Germany and cut off cooperation with the combatants of the continuing conflict. The ultimate victory in World War Two is claimed by the independent, though united in military alliance. Such brought together parties as different as Stalin’s USSR with Roosevelt’s USA and Churchill’s UK, advancing toward a common goal separately. Whereas the corruption and elitism of the League of Nations resulted in only conflict and war, cooperation between states brought peace, even benefiting the arch-rival Germany post-War.
There is no reason to discount possibility, and history often favors the bold ideologues over the cynics. That one day the European Union as presently constituted could be of real value can only be speculated. Yet, in the case of the European Union, as with the Catholic Church, the noble objectives and possibilities are not enough to redeem it of its failings. Its perseverance is powerful, but to the ends of its own self-interest, it is dangerous. The corruption and political nepotism that brought the entire world into conflict in the 1930’s and 40’s is returning, and the United States has even offered its official support. Hope must be restored to Europe. The pledge that change will be made for the betterment of all people is paramount. If it cannot be found inside the EU, it is better the world is without it.