Magazine article The World Today


Magazine article The World Today


Article excerpt

Crisis, What Crisis?

THREE ARTICLES IN THE JANUARY ISSUE of The World Today essentially pose the question: Had the EU bitten off more than it can chew?

Erik Jones, in 'Mis-selling Europe', argues that the EU's spokesmen have mistakenly claimed to be able to cut employment and improve productivity.

Christopher Smallwood, in 'Facing Fragility' fears that Italy, unless it reforms its economy, may renounce the Euro, encouraging others to follow.

James Pettifer, in Remaking Europe, sees Europe making for turbulent Balkan waters, with Turkey perhaps missing full membership, with member states severally responsible for jobs and productivity, national currencies resurgent, and influence in the Balkans handed back, as Pettifer puts it, 'to Austria and its friends in a way that has not been seen in the region since the Hapsburgs'. No wonder they implicitly agree that the EU is in what Jones calls 'such a crisis'.

I'm not sure it is. The French and Dutch votes against the proposed EU Constitution are yesterday's news: they've not stopped Europe. The imperfect EU budget agreement has typically given everyone a going-away present in return for some pain: even France has had to accept an embarrassing review of EU finances in two years.

Jones is right to remind us that EU hopes on jobs and productivity were too high; but its responsible spokesmen have always stressed that the EU creates conditions for improvement rather than waving a supranational wand. Smallwood is right to point out Italy's dilemma; but too pessimistic, I suspect, about every Italian's ability to 'arrangiarsi' when in a tight spot. And while Pettifer rightly fears how hard it will be to Europeanise the Balkans, he seems too ready - at least verbally - to Balkanise Europe. 'Austria and its friends' will certainly wield influence; but the real weight is that of the EU as a whole.

There have long been four main reasons for building Europe: to pursue peace by preventing war among members (achieved); to enhance prosperity by preventing trade war among them (largely achieved but still needing vigilance); to merge national sovereignty under joint rules and institutions (progressively happening but bitterly contested by 'Eurosceptics'); and to increase Europeans' collective influence in a world of superpowers. …

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