Column: Will Europe stay united?

Jun 02 2014, 04:19 IST
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SummaryThe EU needs to decide whether it will be a full-fledged federation or become a loosely united confederation

While we in India have been creating a transformative atmosphere, have a thought for the other side of the world where a different sort of change is threatened. At the most recent elections for the European Parliament, the ‘responsible ‘parties have suffered losses across the Union. Germany is one of the few major members which has not seen the revival of a right-wing nationalist party. This has its own explanation due to Germany’s history with Nazism.In France, the UK, Austria there is a strong revival of anti-European Union sentiment. As it is, even the bigger parties in the UK have ceased to be strongly pro-EU. David Cameron has been promising a referendum on being in or out of the EU. But that is not till 2017. The Conservative Party has been growing steadily Eurosceptical. The Labour Party has lost its Euro-enthusiasm. But the new right-wing Eurosceptics are fiercely anti-European. While other parties are mildly unhappy about the structure and institutions of the EU, parties like the UK Independent Party (UKIP), the French National Front want to withdraw from the EU altogether. They are right-wing, but not in favour of liberal capitalism. They are, if anything, corporatist . They are also anti-immigration, not just of people from outside Europe but of anyone from outside their country. The European Union had established the idea of free flow of labour across the single market which the EU has legislated. It is this which has roused the ire of the right-wing parties. The established parties had also argued for the Euro and promised good times. Now, with years of the Eurocrisis and a drastic fall in living standards, the lower classes are keen to abandon the European experiment.The European experiment began after the War mainly to maintain peace between France and Germany whose quarrels had by then caused three major wars over seventy five years. But the project was top-down, begun by two

visionary civil servants from the two sides—

Monnet and Schumann. At first, the six nations which came together in 1957 were interested in economic cooperation. It was called the European Common Market. Then, two processes happened simultaneously. More countries joined the European Community and its role expanded till it became a European Community. Then, it enlarged after the fall of the Berlin Wall to become a Union.

Now, with thirty-plus countries as members, the EU is neither a federation nor a confederation. It

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