An Elusive Dream - Europeans have abandoned the dream of a united Europe

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While the European Union was constructed as an economic union, its underlying idea has always been the dream of an integrating structure immersed in our common ideology, that of democracy. Democracy: the religion of the European Enlightenment, the mechanism of the ultimate empowerment of all peoples free and equal. Though not codified, when we say we believe in Europe, this forms both the structure and the content of our dreams.

For a while, integration and empowerment of the people of Europe was achieved solely by means of the free movement of capital. Banks and other financial institutions readily invested in projects outside their own economy. Then crisis struck. The last six years have been a desperate attempt to calm markets. We’ve had minimal success at this, while paying a huge and unacceptable price in the currencies of unity, democracy and the rule of law.

Long before the crisis, the primary laws governing the Euro had come to be treated as a nuisance. When, in 2003, two of the strongest member states went unpunished for breaching the Maastricht criteria, it seemed evident to markets that the “no bailout” rule would also not be enforced, and that both banks and member states were in practice too big to fail and would be saved by whatever means necessary. In 2012, the “Pringle Judgement” of the European Court of Justice, which ruled that the ESM (a bailout provision in all but name) doesn’t allow for bailouts, shows the ever-greater extent to which the law is seen as an obstacle rather than a foundation.

A European community of fate

As the European Union grew, both institutionally and geographically, so grew its evident democratic deficit. The nature of “crisis legislation” is inherently one of patchwork instead of changing underlying structures; mechanisms such as EFSF and ESM are therefore treaties between the member states rather than an extension of European Union law. Equally, promises of greater financial solidarity on the one hand matched with greater supervisory fiscal powers on the other have created a Schicksalsgemeinschaft, or co-dependence, that goes far beyond an intergovernmental organization but lacks democratic oversight. The crisis has led to such an incredible increase in co-dependence and integration that the superstate “Europe” has taken shape in all but name.


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