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Future of the European Union - Enlarged or Broken?

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Try to imagine what historians will write about Europe in the year 2100 about the Future of the European Union - does it still exist?

Did integration succeeed in preventing a Third World War - as was the hope of the founders of the European Union? How stable was the Union after expansion to include many former Eastern bloc nations? What happened following the economic crisis of 2009 - 2011 and the threat to the Euro? What was the outcome of major showdowns between The Federal States of Europe and America through 2020-2030? How did the European Union cope with massive influx of foreign nationals? What happened to national parliaments, laws, markets, languages and cultures?

Major challenges to the future of Europe lie ahead. If the great experiment succeeds, it will create an economic, political and military force to pose real challenges to the United States, with its enlargement to 25 countries and a population approaching 500 million. Recent expansion has already added 23% to the EU's land area and had included 75 million additional citizens, with a combined economy of $9.3 trillion, approaching that of the U.S.

Future of European Union will be costly

Expansion is a costly business: EU subsidies to the Eastern countries were $40 billion between 2004 and 2006, a large slice of the annual $97 billion Brussels budget - unlikely to scratch the surface in future. Anyone following the decline of Germany's economy following the years of integration had to recognise the immense investment of resources by old West Germany into the East, for little economic return.

Just visit smaller towns and cities in places like Slovakia or the Czech Republic, dominated still by Stalin-influenced mass-housing projects and decaying ex-communist infrastructure. Many of those 75 million new Euro citizens are existing on average incomes of no more than $450 a month, yet have an expectation of the same kinds of economic and social rights that those in France, Germany and Britain take for granted. They also find themselves bound by tens of thousands of EU directives, such as rules on food preparation and hygiene in restaurants, which are impossibly expensive to implement without help.

Deutsche Bank studies of GDP growth, productivity and other factors suggest it will take Slovenia, the most developed country, up to a decade to catch up with the EU average. The problem is most acute for Poland, the largest country in the new group, with a population of 39 million. The economy ground to a halt in 2002 with unemployment of 17% in early 2003. At current rates it could take 40 years for Poland to reach average EU living standards.

Tensions may grow if workers in the West feel their jobs are not only moving East, but also their own tax money, which is being used to rebuild nations they care little about.

If the future of the European Union continues as planned, a Greater Europe will rebalance unequal power struggles on the world stage, currently dominated by America even though America is consistently out-voted on many issues. But if the European experiment fails, it will disintegrate eventually into conflict and chaos.

The Most Likely Future for Europe

The most likely scenario for the future of the European Union over the next decade and a half will be slow but steady progress towards integration, held back by the rich diversity of cultures and economic crises. A Greater Europe cannot be built without strong EU governance and visionary leadership, yet these are the two issues which are notably missing at present.

The European Parliament does not command the same sense of respect as national Parliaments, nor the connection with ordinary people. This is a serious problem. Who makes decisions in Europe anyway? Is it EU councils of Ministers who are appointed by their own governments? Is it elected representatives of the people (MEPs)? And that is the heart of the problem.

What happens when an economic crisis unfolds rapidly - affecting different nations in conflicing ways?  What happens if a nation behaves irresponsibly, in ways that create instabilities and liabilities for other members of the Euro Zone?

The Future of Europe: Challenge of Tribalism

Culture differences are profound and deeply sensitive to the future of the European Union. Take language for example. In France there is great resentment about the dominance of the English language and it is illegal to play too many English songs on the radio. It is hard to imagine such a profound division between different States of America.

Passions of large numbers of people within the EU can be easily inflamed by insensitive decrees from Brussels, or by "unfair" treatment by one country of another. Disputes over budget deficits, overspending, beef, lamb, asylum seekers, chocolate, Iraq and so on are not just superficial. They often hide very long, historical issues and profound resentments. Finding a way through will mean finding a common EU voice, a clear moral lead from a commanding EU figurehead who will bring confidence and clarity. The current system of a 6 monthly rotating leader is unsustainable, confusing, destabilising and makes effective leadership impossible.

The Future of Europe: Challenge of Rapid Enlargement

The European model is changing forever with rapid expansion to the East, doubling the number of countries and embracing nations that are extremely poor in comparison. Governance will be complex (we don't even have an elected President), and so will be the culture mix. Face the facts: ethnic cleansing is a daily reality in Europe - even in the UK. Every night somewhere in Belfast we see sectarian attacks and every morning the removal vans arrive to take another family away to another location. It is the same in Bosnia, and Kosovo, both part of old Yugoslavia, yet another part of the same old nation is entering the EU: Slovenia. So here we have nations rushing to become one, who cannot even stop people in the same street butchering each other because they want to be so different. So expect growth, extension, vast economic trading areas, and with it growing tensions, economic tensions, xenophobia and resentment.

See also presentation on the future of Europe - impact of joining for 10 accession countries - UNIDO speech by Dr Dixon to cabinet ministers and government officials from 11 existing and future EU nations


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Thanks for promoting with Facebook LIKE or Tweet. Really interested to hear your views. Post below.

Patrick Dixon
November 09, 2012 - 12:26

Really interested in your views on these controversial issues. Do you think the Eurozone will survive? How many nations do you think will leave the Euro over the next few years? Can the Euro project be fixed? What would you do if you were the President of the EU right now?

find out
December 19, 2011 - 05:08
future of europe

europe has no future rather than to be a continent on the map but i foresee that the economical and monetairy ties will be cut withing the next 2 years
the first step was made by PM Cameron who in my opinion did the only right thing no longer to be hold accountable for the desorganization of other european members like greece, Italy spain , Portugal and many more .
Or will it be a new trend that in case private people can no longer satisfy their creditors we can pass over these bill to the community. Or do we really think that the USA , and China are stupid enough to finance a corrupt and sick system. they will wait till the time is right and buy everything 50% below value dismantel and move technology to their countries. as our political " leaders" claim to be rol models for the people.
its a shame they the keep on lying although they know that that what they say was already history even before it reach the paper.
PMs , finance ministers, and others all are being teached one rule before they become active " what ever you do or say don't get caught" i predict that before the end of 2012 the euro currency will no longer be and the northern european countries like Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium will trade with the German Mark again.

Knowledge is moving out of the european continent to more atractive regions as europe is simply not able to feed their own raised experts

Reply to find out
Patrick Dixon
November 09, 2012 - 12:24

Well the EU situation has deteriorated a lot since you made the post. Many are now expecting the UK to leave the UK eventually. I do not share that view, but I do think the UK will end up on the edge of the EU - which may matter less than some are worried about, especially as each year the % that the UK trades with the EU goes down, and % with emerging markets rises.

Join the Debate! What are your own views?


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