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In Praise of a United Europe: Why We Should Work to Preserve the Union

Posted on the 01 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
In praise of a united Europe: Why we should work to preserve the union

Flags at the European Parliament's Robert Schuman building. Photo credit: Tristam Sparks

On a train journey between two European capitals, I came across a newspaper supplement in Le Monde newspaper (yes, apparently there are still some uses for print newspapers). The supplement is called europa and is a coordinated effort by six national papers to create a jointly-edited publication that tells the ongoing narrative of what unites European nations. In a sea of negativity and with no shortage of naysayers, it was refreshing to see some people putting their heads above the parapet in support of the European dream that I unashamedly support.

Whilst there are obviously difficulties with the European Union’s fundamental structure – as highlighted by its current, world-impacting financial crisis – it’s worth remembering that there are also some pretty good reasons for wanting to preserve the union. The most important reason is the deterrent against war that a unified Europe provides. By establishing shared goals, by establishing commercial trade relationships, and by supporting one another in times of need, the incentive to kill each another necessarily dwindles.

There are commercial incentives in preserving the Union as well: By staying together we maintain economic ties amongst ourselves and with the rest of the world. Like companies in free markets, when countries are free to trade with one another and permit their citizens to move freely for work, those countries tend to do both of those things. Similarly, a unified European currency has greater buying power than do divided currencies – I’m pretty confident that all those Porsche Cayennes sold in Greece and that German manufacturers made so much money from would never have been purchased in drachmas. Surely the years of wealth creation seen in Western Europe since the establishment of the European Union – as well as the panic that its breakup is today engendering in markets around the world – must be evidence of these commercial advantages.

Fighting to preserve a unified Europe is also to recognize an increasingly entrenched reality: more and more people are international citizens. To use a now dated term, globalisation has become the norm. It is no longer unusual for people to marry different nationalities, to live in countries other than where they were born, and to have children with multiple nationalities – let alone multiple cultural backgrounds. Much of the Western world is becoming one big New-York-style melting pot, and I for one think that’s no bad thing.

Finally, as no argument worth its weight would be complete without full disclosure of the totally selfish, personal reasons for supporting it, here are mine. Mainly, I hope Europe survives as a Union because for all its flaws I love it, and hope always to move freely around it. Europe may be an old world culture, battered and bruised, with little more than the vestiges of long-gone glory days, but it’s my battered and bruised Europe and I’ll defend it to the end.

Yes, the Greeks enjoy the good life more than austerity; yes, the Italians take cheesy romanticism to new levels; yes, the Spaniards are passionate to the extreme; yes, the stereotypes of symmetrically perfect Swedes and ultra-efficient Germans are probably true; and yes, the French can enjoy food and drink like few others in the world. All those cliches are probably true and all those characteristics – along with the ones I haven’t the space to bore you with – are what makes Europe such a pleasure. Moreover, as someone who has always described himself as “half French, half Greek, brought up in London, and 100 percent confused,” it would be so nice to one day say “I’m European,” and for that to mean something.

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