вторник, септември 06, 2005

European Unity Gets a Wakeup Call

European Unity Gets a Wakeup Call

Published in OhMyNews on 10 June 2005

[Opinion] Bulgarian citizen reporter Zahari Varbanov weighs in on the EU constitutional crisis

If we have to define the main European problem today, inevitably we shall arrive at the division of opinions which are based on the differences of interests of member countries. On a national level, every country in the European Union (EU) is more or less profoundly divided about the possible solutions and consequences of the recent political impasse.

Fundamentally the fear of developed countries is that their privileges may be impinged if the principle of equality starts to reign in Europe. The constitution, despite all inevitable imperfections, should represent by definition a common law for every European citizen.

But this is structurally unacceptable when the document's details start to interact on different levels of development with the whole. By way of the referendums in France and the Netherlands, the European people have shown that they are not ready to sacrifice their privileges for the right to live with the others in a country-continent.

Another conclusion should be that the people in Europe also do not wish to accept the supremacy of a central government over their national laws. So much has been written about the British and French aversion to their internal problems depending on the decisions made by Eurocrats in Brussels that I do not feel it necessary to touch on this problem again.

So, the problem is an evolutionary one. A unified Europe tries to do at least two internally contradictory things.

From one side it makes an effort to preserve the national identity of member countries, and from the other, to create a feeling of a common European home. Everything should go smoothly if national identity is not understood as the yardstick for one's standard of living, and in many cases a way for a cultural, and consequently untouchable, set of values.

Let's go straight to the heart of the problem. The Europeans are not ready to sacrifice part of their social benefits for the creation of a new European identity. For me, as an ordinary citizen, it is necessary to find a point of comparison to orient myself in this maelstrom of opinions and pseudo-solutions, which are very often contradictory.

One such model I see is the interaction and way of coexistence between each state in the United States. It is easy to see that the Europeans have to decide whether they wish to live in a common country, governed by a common law and principles; that, or the preservation of their traditional lifestyle and the abandonment of the idea for a common home. An artificial mix of the two may be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain and is not a viable social model.

When we think about the desire to profit from a common market's strong points on the one hand, and the refusal to pay the price for that, on the other, two major factors have to be taken into consideration.

The first is the extremely heavy bureaucratic machine which has established itself in Europe. From strictly practical point of view it is a monster which is threatening the very existence of the system. Recently it was shown that the Italian deputies in the European Parliament receive 12,000 euros per month, on top of all the other privileges they have. The deputies of other nations receive less but fight fiercely to preserve and even increase their privileges.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The whole administration, including the necessity to translate official documents and correspondence into so many languages involves fantastic expenses.

But the biggest problem in this regard is that the distribution of common funds into the EU does not follow a strict and logical plan directed at the development of meaningful projects. In contrast with the United States, where the system responsible for the distribution of funding is well established, this is not the case here. The lack of such a tradition of public funding distribution reflects the hidden mistrust and anger among the population.

The second problem is more or less external to the European community, but no less serious. Globalization is far from accepted even in the most developed countries. This is paradoxical from the first point of view because it was initiated by them in the name of the complexity of their values: a common market, the free movement of goods and capital, free movement of the work force, the avoidance of double taxation, and so on.

Ordinary Europeans fear that the acceptance of the principles of the global economy will limit their capacity to influence the social processes in their countries, and shall impose a style of life similar to the one in the United States.

Let's be honest. In Europe the U.S. system is not admired. But again, there is a price to be paid for a higher standard of living. It is well known that usually when someone refuses to pay one's bills for a long period of time the interest to be paid later is a lot more burdensome. There are no indications at the moment that there is anything on the horizon that will help the Europeans to escape this rule.

The failure of the referendum in France and the Netherlands is seen as a vote of no confidence in the central governing structures in Brussels. There are too many levels of bureaucracy between the citizen and the politicians who make decisions for them. This may also sound paradoxical, but the solution to this situation is possibly related to another symbol of globalization -- the Internet.

The Net is the only tool able to reduce the astonishing distance between the citizens and the representatives sitting in the European Parliament. If Europeans feel that their voices must not be drowned out and can use the Internet to keep in touch with the politicians in the EU capital, they probably won't be so reluctant to new proposals.

The whole set of problems mentioned here reflects an understandable, human reaction toward self-preservation and the consequent refusal of the new European constitution. We can only hope that the Europeans shall learn to live in this fast developing world before the world decides how to impose common rules on them.

2005-06-10 18:43
©2005 OhmyNews
© Захари Христов Върбанов Всички права запазени.