Europe is falling apart. Or coming together – depending on how you spin it.
When a deal was reached last week that was to shore up ailing euro zone countries and increase European integration, only British Prime Minister David Cameron opted out. Cameron’s position, though unpopular with his euro allies, was a principled move based on the security of his country and its citizens, and should be applauded as a strike against a single, monolithic Europe in favor of democratic ideals.
Though the UK was the sole dissenting voice a week ago, with a move that many saw as isolating the UK from its European Union partners, others are now raising concerns about the wisdom of the proposed treaty, causing the 26 remaining members to seek out another way of solving their debt crisis.
The row began over the greater oversight that would be vested in the hands of EU leaders centered in Brussels. This oversight would be focused on containing national spending and debt at strict levels, according to reports. Cameron, rightfully, feared that these regulations could harm his country’s financial sector and independence, and so decided to go at it alone.
To give credit where it is due, the austerity measures proposed by the treaty are the right move. Without them, the euro will eventually be in continual crisis mode as some governments spend themselves into oblivion and rely on others to bail them out.
As nations like Greece, Spain, and Italy try to pull themselves up out of their financial quagmires, it will be up to the more financially sound nations to essentially foot the bill. Greater integration in Europe means not only greater fiscal integration, but also political integration. Though the details are still somewhat unclear, it would appear that for a budget to be passed in Greece, it would have to meet the approval of an overseer from, say, Germany. With the troubled nations unable to supply any money for the rescue fund, the governments who can, the largest of which are Germany and France, will have an understandable interest in seeing a return on their investment. Essentially, Greece’s internal political decisions could be subject to German will.
This scenario has already played out to some degree. Earlier this year, a bailout package was put together to further help the ailing Greek economy. The package required a new round of austerity measures from the Greek government. Then-PM George Papandreou decided to put the package before the people as a referendum. After German Chancellor Angela Merkel framed the vote as an in-or-out decision with regards to membership in the euro zone, Papandreou backed down and resigned. The German chancellor – and other EU officials – effectively controlled Greek political life by pushing through a new budget and ousting the prime minister.
The most concerning issue in the proposed treaty is the diminishing power of national sovereignty. If nations can no longer decide their course for themselves, the people of those nations are the ones who lose. Greater European integration is imperialism by other means. If this treaty is ratified, the citizens of nations with weaker, more insecure economies will see their right to self-determination threatened in the name of “stability.”
There is no easy way out of the European financial crisis. Any solution is almost sure to cause pain. The solution, however, is not increased centralization and integration. Anytime measures are taken to increase centralized power, whether in the name of security or stabilization, freedom is weakened. When Cameron effectively walked away from the negotiating table in Brussels, he took a resolute stance in favor of national interest and liberty.
Photo Credit: University Hospitals Birmingham