A Frenchman could wake up in the morning in the beautiful city of Paris, fly to Brussels for lunch under the Manneken-Pis Fountain, spend the night in the wildly liberal city of Amsterdam, drive to Hamburg for a hamburger, get coffee in Warsaw, marvel at the exquisite churches of the City of a Hundred Spires, attend an opera in the musical city of Vienna, get a pizza in Milan and fly to Athens to walk on the same ground where the Ancient Greek civilization prospered.
That Frenchman would not need any visa, because he is a European citizen. There is actually such a thing as a European citizen, but being from a European country alone is not enough. One has to be a citizen of the European Union (EU) member country.
Currently, there are 28 members (including the United Kingdom, which is still technically inside the EU) that have ensured between themselves a free movement of goods, services, capital and people. The EU was first born under the guise of an economic community, primarily created between Germany and France; it subsequently developed to include other close border allies.
As time went by there was greater and greater integration of trade, which inevitably led to political and finally social integration. Sometime during the end of the 20th century, the Soviet Union crumbled, leaving America to declare itself the undisputed superpower of the planet, and a patron of a strong, united Europe (which would very much be to the advantage of America).
But so what? Why should anyone else care?
All countries have their closed borders, own governments, traditions and cultures: what significance does a united Europe has for the rest of the world? The prevailing argument is that the EU keeps global wars at bay. It is no secret that as long as the world has ever known Europe, it has been at war within itself. For the most part these wars, although bloody, have been contained. No one really cared to unite the Europeans, to find a common cause for them, to get them to work together.
But World War I happened, and the international community for the first time wondered if it would not be better if the Europeans finally got along. Then World War II occurred, some 60 million people perished, and the international community (save for the Soviet Union and its allies) unanimously agreed that the Europeans should indeed get along.
Of course, it is entirely possible for countries to get along without having to be integrated inside a system like that of the EU. The rest of the world does it most the time. But history is a very potent geopolitical disrupter. There will always be bad blood between nations that have been at each other’s throat’s for millennia. Most world leaders still get a lump in their throats when they think of a rearmed Germany! So the EU was designed to be the overseer of its member’s international and domestic issues.
Every country, once in a while, experiences a jingoist movement, an almost understandable consequence of an economic downturn, and the other countries of the union, under the veil of the EU, will arbiter. In other words, under the critical eye of the EU, vile leaders like Hitler or Mussolini will not (theoretically at least) pop out. Another important contribution of the EU to world peace and stability, together with America, is the propagation of liberal democracy.
This is especially true today, almost more than at any other time, when America is being headed by an extremely conservative pro-Russian president and communist China is on the verge of becoming the wealthiest country in the world. But for most – or for me at least – the greatest importance of the EU is its idealism.
Could the world have imagined such a thing?
Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Hitler wanted to unite Europe, but it never occurred to any of them that this could be done without force, with a little bit of patience and determination. Uniting so many countries under the same banner, creating a continental citizenship, erasing borders, purging nationalistic urges and living in peace and prosperity – this is the greatest human endeavor since the founding fathers of America fused the colonies under a practical democratic union of states.
There is a running gag in movies – every time there is an alien invasion, the citizens of the world unite to fight the common enemy. But this is actually humanity’s perverse concept of itself, an understandable reaction of what is known to be true of humanity: that nothing short of an alien invasion will unite people (if that). There are just too many differences, diversities, that of race, nationality and religion. Imagine an American Union, an Asian Union or an African Union.
But baby steps first – envision a true East African Union.
Not a lot of Ethiopians would mind an economic, social and political integration with a country like Kenya, but what about with such an unstable and very poor country like Somalia or South Sudan?
I doubt it. In fact, most African countries are marred with deep tribal tensions within their own states.
Within the next decades, secessions are more likely than a union. But should the EU succeeded in its goals, then it would have been proved that nationalism – peoples inexplicable attachment to their borders – is not an inherent human problem.
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