Europe Old And New

James C. Bennett has some interesting thoughts about the future of the EU that are well worth reading. A selection:

Since the Maastricht Treaty turned the European Communities into the European Union, this dynamic engine (went the spin) would create an economic vortex that would suck in Eastern Europe and transform it as well, and detach Britain and Ireland from their traditional economic and political orientation to the United States. It was this united Europe, led by its Franco-German axis, that was supposed to have been the New Europe.

Behind the facade erected by this spin, however, was an economy with substantial and growing structural problems, naggingly persistent high unemployment, a highly imperfect single market that still held embedded national barriers, a single currency that offers some benefits but freezes into place a one-size-fits-none fiscal policy dictated from Frankfurt, and a mostly-unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels that increasingly alienates the electorates of more and more of the member-states of the EU. In a fairly short space of time, people began to realize that the supposed New Europe was actually an old, increasingly problematic social-democratic model that was failing adapt to the challenges of its mounting demographic changes.

Bennett is right, the Franco-German axis of the EU is supposed to be the way for the EU to gain economic and political power. Yet that isn’t at all what is likely to happen. Instead, the ossified welfare states of France and Germany are no model to follow for economic success, and their political obstructionism and foolish pacifism does no better on the international stage. The fact is, the more Schroeder and Chirac try to collaborate on creating a new future for Europe (led by them, of course) the more Eastern Europe and England find themselves becoming increasingly marginalized. As that happens, the dominance of the US only increases.

I like Bennett’s idea of creating a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Zone that will undercut the control of the EU on the European economy. If France and Germany wish to play power politics with the United States, they need a reminder that it is fundamentally a game they cannot win.

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