In recent years the European Union has entered into a spiral of austerity, which whether we like it or not, will ultimately lead to economic depression. The European Commission, which is, and at the same time, is not the government of Europe, is one of the major actors that could reverse this spiral and drive the Union to recovery and development.
So far, we have been talking of the differences between north and south. Yet, it is not a matter of geography, but of perceptions and attitudes. Indeed almost every country has its own north and south. To mention few, France, Italy, and even Germany have such uncharted divides.
The issue of Europe is not north and south, however, but east and west.
It is the differentiation between the traditional western European countries (EU15) and the formernew comers; former communist countries. This is the problem. The great enlargement, from EU15 to EU28 served strategic interests of NATO and the United States and not the interests of (what once constituted) European Citizens. These European citizens of EU15, paid and are paying for the new comers, who have become the net recipient countries of the European Union.
It served to stop the remaking of the new Soviet Union under Russia but this is not a European problem. On the contrary, a new Soviet Union could have been good for EU-15.
For practical purposes, not far from reality, we will name the EU15 group of countries Western Europe and the 12 former communist paradises which joint the Union recently, Eastern Europe. It is good to remember these origins, though it may seem politically incorrect.
One very important issue, which was not given attention (purposely or not), is the intra-EU competition coming from the rapid growth of the economies of Eastern Europe versus the economies of Western Europe.
With enlargements, the EU accepted twelve former communist countries. The first was in 1990, before the big enlargement and that was the annexation of East Germany (DDR) to West Germany (FDR). This came overnight and no one opposed the move, because in reality was never brought to consultation.
Nobody was even asked when the then Chancellor of Germany ruled that ‘one Deutsche Mark of DDR equals to one Deutsche Mark of FDR’. On the contrary, at the time, it was considered the big victory of the “free” over the “communists.” From 2004 to 2013, the other eleven former communist states joined.
The essence is that eleven countries within the EU28 are developing in a real market economy environment; the remaining sixteen are trying to survive recession fighting against bureaucracy and socialist mindsets.
Eastern Europe is rapidly growing with not as many restrictions, with deregulation without having entered in many areas into regulation, without strong trade unions, relaxed labor relations, low taxation and minimal contributions, leaving Western Europe behind.
Flagrant example of how behind in matters of productivity compared to Eastern Europe, Germany is. Former East Germany (DDR), which became an EU Member before all other communist states, in matters of development and growth is far behind them all. The reason is that former East Germany does not follow the rules of free market economy followed by all other former communists but the rules of Germany. It is as simple as that.
Ten years ago, young talented people were coming from Eastern Europe to Western Europe, in search of jobs and hope. In a few years, our youth will be immigrating to former communist states in search of jobs and a better and more human living.
Ten years ago to talk about dismemberment of the European Union was a blasphemy. Today it is an option. A remote option, but an option at that.
The Soviet Union dismembered, Yugoslavia dismembered, why not the European Union? The more so that it does not have a common currency (for all 28), nor common foreign policy, common defense policy, not even common fiscal policy.
And, if this happens where do you think former communist states as members or satellites will go? Russians are patiently waiting for that. As to the Europeans, we will have contributed with our money to the new Soviet Union. Not to say that the new Soviet Union will be a highly competitive free economy monster.
And as to the remains of EU15, each one on its own will be trying to survive in misery, between socialist ghosts and trade unions.
Last but not least, a new element has entered into the patchwork, the immigration and refugee crisis, which even the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, described as ‘uncontrollable’. This crisis is a great liability, but what we as ‘Europe’ need to do, is think about how we can turn it into asset.