After nearly a decade of debt crises and a high-profile leave vote, the European Union has fallen on hard times financially and politically. Even so, the European Commission is soldiering on.
March 25, 2017, marks the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, and EC officials paint the union’s recent woes as mere blips when compared to seven decades of peace and the creation of a trading bloc of 500 million consumers.
“Sixty years ago, Europe’s founding fathers chose to unite the continent with the force of the law rather than with armed forces,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement marking the anniversary. “We can be proud of what we have achieved since then. Our darkest day in 2017 will still be far brighter than any spent by our forefathers on the battlefield.”
No argument there, but there’s plenty of debate about the structure of the European Union.
A book compiling George Soros’ thoughts about the EU carries the forbidding title The Tragedy of the European Union. The euro has relegated “debtors to the status of Third World countries,” argues Soros, the billionaire hedge fund manager.
The euro fattened then flattened the economies of debtor countries Greece, Ireland and Spain. Soros forecasts a long period of Japan-like economic stagnation for the EU, followed by a possible unraveling of the union.
Soros’ book, published in 2014, isn’t the only title to paint a bleak outlook. In The End of the Euro: The Uneasy Future of the European Union, Belgian journalist and economist Johan Van Overtveldt raises similar concerns. He calls the European Economic and Monetary Union “an accident waiting to happen.”
“The euro member states must change the rules of the game if the union is to survive, but Europe’s political leaders have failed to act decisively,” Van Overtveldt writes.
He warns of the possibility of a chaotic end to the EU. Alas, one alternative to the EU – the Brexit policy chosen by British voters in June 2016 — doesn’t seem a simple solution, either.
British journalist Ian Dunt acknowledges that the EU is no nirvana.
“The EU is a well-meaning but internally contradictory experiment in transnational political organization,” he writes in Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now?
Even so, Dunt argues that leaving Europe only complicates Britons’ aim to trade more freely with the rest of the world.
“Leave wasn’t an alternate economic or political model,” Dunt writes. “It was a blank canvas which people could project their hopes, aspirations and frustrations onto.”
Alas, he argues, the empty slate likely created misguided views of the UK’s future.
“The idea that Britain has grown stronger by leaving the EU will be seen as a bad joke,” Dunt writes, “when it is being bounced from pillar to post by bigger negotiating partners.”