United We Stand, Divided We Fall: Can the European Union Survive as a Cohesive Unit?

The Ideas and the Ideals Underpinning the Creation of the EU

The European Union (EU) was born of a necessity to prevent the horrors of the First and Second World Wars when Millions of people were slaughtered due to the prevailing fascist ideologies at the time.

After the Second World War, the governments of most European countries decided to form a union that would be loosely a Federation having close ties with each other and have a common approach to solving the problems of its member countries.

As the decades following the Second World War ensued, European Leaders found common cause in staying together as a unit with the understanding that Unity is perhaps the easiest way to preserve the shared prosperity and growth that underpinned most European economies.

Indeed, this line of thinking that started in the early 1970s and continued into the 1980s culminated in the creation of the Eurozone as a single Monetary Union and led to the adoption of the Euro as the common currency for all member countries.

Thus, as economic growth picked up, all countries partook of the fruits of such growth to the extent that the EU became the World’s Largest or Second Largest Economy (depending on how you count) in the run up to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

The Global Financial Crisis and the Sovereign Debt Crises of 2008-2009

As the GFC struck the world in 2008, European countries were smug in the belief that it would not spread to them since they had managed to have growth without risk taking.

However, the joy was short lived as the Sovereign Debt Crisis began in mostly Southern European Countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Spain and rapidly engulfed the continent with the effect that at one point, it looked like the EU was unraveling.

Indeed, only the most laborious rescue efforts by France and Germany, in particular were able to stave off the threats from Grexit or the event of Greece crashing out of the Eurozone and taking down the continent with it. However, despite Brussels (which is the nerve center of European Union governance and institutions) bailing out many countries including Greece, the flaws in the structure of the Eurozone was apparent as the EU is basically a Monetary Union without a Fiscal Union.

These flaws while initially papered over were not able to be hidden for long and this has given rise to the prospect of the EU breaking up.

The Threats to the European Union

Moreover, despite the pretence of unity, the historical legacies of mistrust and hatred between the EU countries began showing up as Eastern European Countries began to take a tough approach to Immigration and especially so since 2015 when Germany took the lead in welcoming refugees and immigrants from Africa and the war torn Syria as well as other Middle Eastern countries.

Indeed, it became clear that the age old rivalries were rearing their head again and this led to some commentators musing about whether the Ghosts of the Past were returning and soon, the alarm bells began to ring in the capitals of Europe as this prospect began to become a reality.

Perhaps nothing else illustrates the deep divisions in Europe than the Brexit Referendum that saw the majority of British voters opting to leave the EU.

As can be seen from the frantic efforts after this event, soon France and Germany which were always at the forefront of European efforts to foster unity found themselves at the receiving end by many Europeans who believed that they were getting a Free Pass to prosperity at their expense.

This set off another round of negotiations and brainstorming about whether Europe and the European Union were about to Return to History.

The Fudge cannot be Forever

As things stand now, all possibilities are on the table and despite Greece being bailed out thrice and now emerging into a state without external help, there are still deep fissures in the EU.

On the other hand, Brexit is going nowhere as can be seen from the successive rounds of negotiations that have failed to achieve anything.

Thus, Europe stands at the crossroads wherein it has to make crucial decisions regarding its common future.

Though Emmanuel Macron was elected in France recently and is a proponent of the Liberal Order, Angela Merkel, who is the other proponent, finds herself in deep water as far as her clashes with anti immigrant and anti liberal forces is concerned.

Indeed, the present state of play in Europe is that it takes One Step Forward and Two Steps backward leading to a stalemate and deadlock as far as efforts to preserve the concept of EU as a cohesive unit are concerned.

Having said that, there are no real alternatives as well and this is the reason, the EU is continuing to muddle along in what has been described as Fudge wherein leaders pretend to have solved each crisis without addressing the underlying issues and problems that bring on such crises.

Conclusion

Lastly, the election of President Trump and the attitude of Russia are certainly not helping matters and this is the reason why many experts believe that ultimately, the EU might collapse as a unit.

Whichever outcome transpires, it is important to note that it would represent a rupture and a break from the successes of the past in forging European Unity and hence, it remains to be seen as to how long the liberal ideas underpinning the EU continue.

To conclude, in times of global turmoil, it is better for the European Union to exist as an entity as otherwise, there would be chaos and anarchy.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.


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