The idea of a common European identity existed in academia long before WWII, but the devastation that WWII brought to the continent made people think long and hard how we could stop slaughtering each other on such scales. The two main actors in the notion were France and Germany. The first time they fought each other was in 1214, in the Battle of Bouvines, and since then they have been at war quite a few times, dragging others into it as well.
The main idea behind the EU for the French and German politicians that pushed for it was to bind the two countries in a common fate, thus avoiding a new and vastly more destructive war. The luck of patience with any nationalistic/right movement stems exactly from the inherited European fear that any space given to national pride will lead to the next shitshow. The truth is, however, that when even healthy patriotism is scorned and common people’s worries are dismissed as paranoia, it is a recipe for the results seen today.
Why the European Union is anything but a dictatorship
The Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, despite his cool title and notoriety, is essentially powerless. The European Commission consists of representatives from each of the 28 (soon to be 27) countries, each one of them responsible for a specific policy area. However, its overall mission is advisory and supervisory. It offers reform blueprints and tries to uphold the EU treaties. It basically comes in to establish common agreements on how countries act, but even that doesn’t always happen. To give an example, one rule dictates no debt over 60% of GDP or else a country must enter the Excessive Deficit Procedure. And if a nation doesn’t comply, the punishment could be economic sanctions. It has not happened even once; not the sanctions, not even the warnings. Greece only entered an economic program when it was at the brink of destruction, not when it passed the 60% debt limit.
The European Parliament is a body that is determined by elections held in each member state, and again doesn’t have much power or legislative initiative. The power it does hold is over the signing of treaties. It elects the president of the commission and can sack the whole commission.
But who holds the keys in Europe, you may ask. That title belongs to the European Council and to the member states’ parliaments. The council is comprised of the heads of state or government of the member states, along with the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission. The council votes on and ratifies reforms and the occasional sanction, but still it doesn’t have the last say. Every major decision must be passed through national parliaments; some of them through regional parliaments.
Greece’s bailout program was voted on in 28 member states’ parliaments, and Greece voted in order to accept it. So the concept of calling the program blackmail is misguided. No organization would expect people to give an indebted group money without terms.
That is also why the idea of the UK going back to a blue passport being an act of “taking control back” is baseless. It was never binding. Croatia doesn’t have a burgundy passport, for example.
Many failings can be found in the European Union and the way they conduct their business, but being autocratic is not one of them.
Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.