If I were a European, and especially if I were from the UK, I’d have decidedly mixed feelings about the European Union.
It makes intra-European wars unthinkable. That’s what Jean Monnet had in mind, and he had it right. Such wars might have become unthinkable for other reasons, but it’s nice to have an iron-clad guarantee.
On the other hand, it’s simply not going to be as easy to be a politically effective citizen of Europe as it is to be a politically effective citizen of a country with one language (or at most two), and while centralization and standardization have big benefits there are always going to be significant annoyances to go along with them. The CAP is a well-known disaster.
It’s nice that the richer countries help out the poorer ones, and there’s no doubt it’s working, but if you’re a Brit or a Dane or a Dutchman you have to think about how much of your money is going into the pockets of local political/criminal bosses in Greece or Sicily. And EU expansion will involve a big reduction in the average income level in the Union, which means a significant income transfer away from the current members.
As to the Euro, I’m just not technically competent to judge, but some very smart people think that without currency fluctuations to even things out the result is going to be large migrations in search of work, which is harder for a Greek who has to move to Belgium for work than it is for a New Englander who has to move to Arizona.
But I’m not a European. And from a distance of 6000 miles, I see very little not to like. In addition to preventing wars (and spreading the use of English), the EU makes Europe as a whole get richer faster, which is all to the good if you’re (1) an ally and (2) a trading partner.
More important, EU expansion means that the zone within which war is unthinkable grows. And the politics of EU expansion means that every country in Europe that wants to be part of the 21st century needs to have a democratic government with respect for fundamental human-rights norms.
Craig Smith’s story on Turkey in today’s New York Times puts it in a nutshell:
Turkey wants to join the European Union, and one of the most challenging conditions the European alliance has set for the country is that its military get out of politics. But Turkey’s generals are apparently not yet accustomed to waiting for politicians to give orders.
“The military obviously cannot declare publicly that they are against this because they were for Westernization since the early 20th century,” said Eser Karakas, an economist and outspoken critic in Istanbul, “but they are in big trouble now.”
Turkey’s odds of avoiding either Islamic or military dictatorship will shorten very substantially the day it enters the EU. Even its ambition to join the EU is exerting pressure in the right direction, though it’s not clear how long that can last before the Turks get their feelings seriously hurt. A democratic Iraq is a pipe dream. A prosperous, democratic Turkey (like a prosperous, democratic Iran) is a workable goal. Either one would hold out hope of being a serious competitor to Wahhabi or Shi’a fundamentalism for the loyalty of Muslims around the world.
So from where I sit it looks as if gettting Turkey into the EU ought to be a major objective of American foreign policy.