THE European Union was born out of the idea that the peoples of the continent were the cream of humanity, and that if only they were to join together, they would – this time collectively rather than as individual countries – once again achieve primacy over vast sections of the globe. It was Karl Marx who wrote that a repeat of history converts tragedy into farce, in his “Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, and so it has come to pass. The European Union has become a near-farcical entity, furiously working out averages that would suit all its members rather than evolving systems where the best would lead and laggards would get left behind.
In other words, the system that made the European continent dominate the rest of the globe. Among the worst errors was the euro, a common currency that was set up on the shaky foundation of separate central banking systems, and entirely different cost structures and management cultures within a heterogeneous “union”. The other error was to repeat on a larger scale the mistake made by Helmut Kohl, who in a fit of generosity, decreed that the East German currency would be deemed equal to West German Deutschmark, which at that point in time was among most stable currencies on the planet, while East German currency was in its fundamentals depreciating at speed.
At its core, the EU is a club based on ethnicity and the myth of a common European ancestry. Hence the fact that the UK welcomes mafiosi from Romania into its cities while denying techies from Hyderabad or Chennai in India the opportunity of living and working in Britain, even though these latter would generate huge volumes of taxation for the state, as well as contribute to GNP in a way far superior to that of most of the hundreds of thousands from East Europe who every year cross into the UK to stay. Hopefully, despite hints of racism during the Presidential campaign, the US will retain the advantage it has by being far more colour-blind than the European Union in welcoming professionals to its shores.
If the countries in Asia were ever to concert on such matters in the way they ought to, several of the largest economies in Europe would face sanctions from Asia because of the reality of EU discrimination against those from the world’s largest continent in favour of those from the world’s smallest. The European Union has become a vehicle for squeezing money from the rest of the world to throw at countries and regions in Europe that are behind star performers, thereby creating a culture of dependence and a cost structure that is unsustainable for purposes of global competition. Negotiating any agreement with the EU has become an exasperating process, because of need to satisfy each need of its more than two dozen members rather than work out outcomes that are better balanced and less one-sided.
It is true that the US too seeks to impose a “my way or the highway” code in its negotiations, especially with poorer countries, but the fact is that the US is a single country while the EU only pretends to be a unified entity. In actuality, the East European members in particular have each become adept in securing as much advantage as possible from the EU as they can get away with, including securing concessions from the rest of the world through the intercession of the bigger economies in the alliance. Given the steady downsizing of the cost and technological advantages of European entities globally, membership of the EU is becoming a negative rather than an advantage, given the burden (of poorer members) that need to be carried by the stronger, a birder that is hastening the collapse of French competitiveness and which will soon drain away the edge that German companies now possess, given that Berlin will need to fill the cash subsidy vacuum created by London’s exit.
Throughout Europe, the telling of history as a seamless tapestry of endowing civilisation in distant shores by the intervention of European countries has led to a nostalgia that has generated the impulse to repeat history, of course with less bloodshed and obvious control this time around. A united Europe was seen as the pathway towards the regaining of primacy by the continent, just as the superiority of the European worker over counterparts in other continents was assumed in the policy of seeking to give a monopoly to such workers within the EU rather than open the doors to migration of those with skills. Of course, the EU has now got the worst of both worlds. It is having to cope with a flood of migrants with indeterminate skills and uncertain loyalties, while at the same time blocking those (mainly from Asia) who would have made significant contributions to local economies but are not allowed entry because they are not of European ethnicity.
Of course, those of such ethnicity are always welcomed into the EU, whether they technically be citizens of countries in Asia, Africa or South America, even while fellow citizens from these locations who are of non-European ethnicity continue to be excluded. Just as was the case earlier in Europe, ethnicity is at the core of policymaking in Brussels The choice of “Brexit” ( or leaving the EU) by the British people is likely to see the rise of similar sentiment in France and Germany, the two countries that have fashioned the EU into a club designed to look exclusively after the interests of those from the continent and their ethnic kin outside. In France, it is becoming very probable that Marine Le Pen may get elected the next Head of State, while in the US, although there is a frenzied effort by the Washington Beltway to demolish the chances of Donald Trump, the fact remains that in coming months, revelations of misconduct by those linked to the Clintons may yet cripple Hillary Clinton’s drive to win back residence in the White House.
Given the way West Europe has hobbled itself in competitive terms by its Kohl-like generosity towards East and South Europe, economic growth is likely to slow down even more, leading to the election of “right nationalist” parties that say openly what the EU would like to hide away in a closet of silence, that the European experiment is about ethnicity and the presumption of superiority over other comers. After Brexit, there is likely to be a Frexit, when France bids goodbye, followed by Gerxit, the departure of Germany from EU, leaving it a club of countries in South and East Europe. June 23 vote in the UK is likely to be start of a slow process of meltdown of a political construct that refused to acknowledge that unless each country sees itself in global rather than in narrowly continental terms, it will finally fall behind others who are more open-minded.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.