Friday, April 20, 2012

Pressures in the European Union

There has always been a tension in the European Union between forces that want more integration of the member states and forces that want to maintain sovereignty. Some want integration to be primarily economic while others want more political integration. Politicians in Germany and France have tended to support further integration, including policial integration, but there are signs that may be changing.

According to news reports, Germany and France senta joint letter to the Denmark, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. Germany and France want a reform of the Schengen Treaty, which is the legal structure that facilitates the free movement of people within the EU. They call for the right of a nation to re-impose border controls unilaterally for 30 days if the national authorities believe other countries are not keeping their borders secure. The concerns are primarily member nations in the eastern and southern parts of Europe. If someone is able to enter Greece illegally, they can then move to Germany without any border controls. Currently, the member governments can impose border controls for five days and that period can be extended only with approval from the EU.

I argued in a previous post that the Euro-zone is not an optimum currency area, and that the push for monetary union was actually a political more than an economic move. Monetary integration cannot work well without more political integration and the move was, at least in part, to force more political integration. But right now, most of Europe is facing economic difficulties with some in crisis. Countries in such situations often look for ways to protect their labor markets. Given very high unemployment rates in Spain and Greece, there has been a large exodus of people from the countries looking for employment elsewhere. France's Sarkozy faces an election Sunday and has been making the EU borders an issue in his campaign.

Will the EU hold together and someday become the United States of Europe, or will it gradually fall apart from nationalistic pressures among the member nations? I still think it will hang together, but I am less sure of the belief now.

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