Happy birthday to EU! | The World Weekly
Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan,” said Robert Schuman, one of the EU’s founding fathers, in 1950. “It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.”
When European leaders gather this weekend to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which brought the European Economic Community into existence, they will be able to list plenty of achievements. The six original members have swollen to a club of 28, encompassing 500 million people, a single currency and the largest borderless zone in the world. In a region previously beset by conflict, no two member states have ever gone to war.
But in recent years solidarity has been lacking. One prime minister - Theresa May - will not attend because she is expected to hit the Brexit button four days later. Marine Le Pen, who wants to hold a referendum on French membership of the eurozone, is tied in first place with a month to go until the first round of the presidential election.
In Italy itself, 20 years of stagnation have given rise to the Five Star Movement, which has opened up a healthy lead in the polls. The refugee crisis and recurrent terror attacks have fanned nationalism across the bloc.
The mood was therefore sober when the European Commission kicked off the birthday festivities at the start of March. President Jean-Claude Juncker presented a white paper outlining five possible futures for the EU, ranging from deeper integration to the ‘multi-speed’ Europe that Britain long craved. Mr. Juncker hopes it is the opening gambit in a debate that will reach firm conclusions at a summit in December.
But for Dani Rodrik, a political scientist at Harvard, he is evading the main problem: that economic integration has leapt ahead of political integration since the 1980s, leaving the eurozone and single market without the foundations they need to function properly. As long as politics and economics remain out of balance, he argues, “the EU will remain dysfunctional”.
This leaves two options: loosen economic ties or sally forth towards a federal state. The latter seems unlikely: according to a Pew Research poll last year, 42% of voters in 10 EU countries want some powers to be repatriated.
Still, Walter Hallstein, president of the first Commission in the 1950s, later said that “anyone who does not believe in miracles in European affairs is no realist”.