Federalism: Not a United States of Europe, please!

The European elections 22 May 2014 bid the opportunity for a payoff: it is certainly not inconceivable that the populist aversion to ‘more Europe’ courted by the left and right may prove a force to be reckoned with in the European parliament.

If politicians representing the moderates fail to present their own view of the future of Europe, then populism may prove the only political alternative. The following are four building blocks of an entirely different story of Europe.

Although European unity has long been very much a matter of internal borders – in the sense of the immortal phrase “war no more” – it will increasingly become a matter of exterior boundaries during the next few decades. The actual motive for integration lies beyond the continent itself, as the position that it occupies in a new world is changing radically. When Europe has to turn to countries like India, Brazil and China to help it overcome the monetary crisis, then it is evident that a vital change has occurred.

The setting for a new story about “Europe” is therefore more likely to be Beijing instead of Berlin, or Sao Paulo rather than Paris.

Concealed vitality

This external perspective reveals to us another factor, however, which may prove vital to any story focused on the future of Europe. Consider the Human Development Index for example. The top five in the 2012 index consists of Norway, Australia, the United States, the Netherlands and Germany in that order. Belgium ranked seventeenth, France 20th and the United Kingdom 26th. In stark contrast, the BRIC countries scored rather poorly: Russia 55th, Brazil 85th and China 101st, while India could only manage a lowly 136th. The corruption index paints a similar picture: the western nations fare far more favourably than the BRIC countries.

This leads us to gradually discover the concealed vitality van the majority of European societies: by comparison, they boast a high measure of equality and quality of life, low levels of corruption and a constitutional state which functions reasonably well, but also urbanisation which compares rather favourably to that of the megacities sprouting in countries like India and China for example. Amid all the discussion on the matter of Europe, however, there is a deplorable lack of this sort of comparative perspective: only then does the quality of our society actually become apparent, after all.

*Continue reading at Presseurop.

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