Human nature is one important aspect of any social movement, because it is this feature that no economic forecast or political development could ever control. It is complex, unpredictable and occasionally becomes a destroying force.
Leaving aside the geopolitical circumstances, the European unity & peace project, later called the EU, was created one the basis of compromise and forgiveness. It may sound like a Wilsonian type of phrase, nevertheless, not only that it made sense at the time –after two catastrophic global wars- but it expressed people’s need to be reminded that the Good could prevail. It’s never easy to set aside the nationalistic factor that usually feeds the ego and leads to an escalation of intolerance towards ‘the others’. The ECC that later became the EU was a promise of establishing European values, such as social justice and democracy, that would erase nationalistic ambition in favour of all members of the ‘family’. It was promoted by visionary politicians, such as Schuman, Delors, Mitterand, Schmitt, that have witnessed the ashes left behind by the horrors of the race for world supremacy. It also meant rebuilding Europe also economically, nevertheless, the prospects of deeper integration were thought to be a long term careful process.
Looking back in history, one might conclude that the decision to establish a pan European project after WWII has proven to have been a 6 decade-long success story: economically and socially. The prospects of constant growth, cultural development, free trade and free movement, along with a good standard of living throughout the continents’ Member States seemed to have kept under control the monsters of lying inside human nature.
“The mere fact that Europe faces no major military threat nowadays (ed. note: 2012) could make the continent a victim to its own narcissistic differences”.
What exactly is the dangerous side of the human nature that has once brought the darkest shadow upon the continent? I could not find any better explanation but in the words of American foreign affairs expert, Robert D. Kaplan: “The mere fact that Europe faces no major military threat nowadays (ed. note: 2012) could make the continent a victim to its own narcissistic differences”.
And it is these particular personal ambitions that have generated conflicts and escalation of social tensions which led to costly wars on the Continent, for much of its history. Should we make a comparison, in modern times Europe seemed to be similar to an upper middle class family who experiences ups and downs, but it’s mainly creating its own drama to keep busy; never having to fight for surviving a harsh climate or struggle below the line of poverty.
Since WWII is now just a page in the school manuals or a documentary on History channel, European nations started to slowly ask themselves why they tolerate each other’s nasty traditions and habbits. As Kaplan points out, the more Europe is looking for unity, the more it’s starting to be tormented. The analyst suggests that it is both the determinism of geography as well as the human factor that creates this paradoxical reality.
For the past two decades, the new European leaders embarked on a fast ride to European deeper integration which has proven to be a dangerous interference with the slow pace of historic success stories. The Greek crisis that we are witnessing now – with absolute dramatic consequences for the small European nation and for Europe itself- is a product of the technocratic decisions and endless reports fabricated in Brussels and served by this generation of EU leaders. Unlike their predecessors, they lacked the sense of decency and a sense of reality. To establish a ‘one size fits all’ type of economic standard has proven to be a failure harshly paid by the European people that have not asked for it. It is unrealistic and absolutely dangerous to impose a unique development standard across a European continent that incorporates so many special traits which actually have made Europe the most advanced civilization in the world. Even federal US have accepted its states as they are and moving federal funds accordingly.
It seems to me like everything that happened at a decision level in Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the unification of Germany has been a bubble which is now about to burst. The European dream was overfed with promises of more and better in such a short time that no criticism was permitted. We know now Greek’s admission to the Eurozone was based on false reports provided by Athens that fooled EU inspectors. Sure, one might say, who can verify a country – well, it was done in such a rush to get Greece into the Eurozone (the more the merrier) that many eyes were close. But it’s not Greece that suffered the big crash; also, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland.
The euro currency implemented so fast and so irresponsibly was a product of ambitions of the new generation of leaders to prove the world and the US also that Europe stands a global superpower. It emerged from their own lack of political experience and self-centered ambitious to occupy a place in history pages as the leaders of the new European world.
While for me, as a traveler and European citizen the Euro has simplified trips and transactions, for at least a third of the Eurozone it has become an unbearable burden; a burden that has given these periphery European states (which are the salt and pepper of European civilizations) the impression that they are coerced into becoming more German regardless the cost. Germany, which holds de facto, the strings of power in our European Union, seems to have lost the understanding of the motto: unity in diversity.
It was Chancellor Helmut Schmitt offered a gloomy warning about Europe’s future: “If we Germans allow ourselves to be seduced into claiming a political leading role in Europe or at least playing first among equals, based on our economic strength, an increasing majority of our neighbours will effectively resist this. The concern of the periphery about a too powerful European centre would soon come racing back. The possible consequences of such a development would be crippling.” Years later, his warning became a prediction which is, unfortunately fulfilling.
What started as a sentimental dream of unity and prosperity, step by step built to eventually become an unique success model, is starting to be dismantled not by external forces, but by stubbornness, sense of superiority and lack of vision. Unfortunately, few are alive to remind us where prevailing of such a behavior could lead.