The states of Europe are disunited

Europe just 150 years ago (double click for more detailed view)


We think of Europe as ‘old’. Geographically and culturally it is.

But not politically.

Italy, for instance, was cobbled together from various fiefdoms and Principalities only 150 years ago.

Ditto Germany. Then, less than 70 years later, it was divided again, and reunified fewer than 30 years ago.

All over Europe there are breakaway movements: in Scotland, in Belgium, in Bulgaria. In Spain there is Catalonia; in France there is the Basque region; in Germany there is Bavaria. Even staid old Holland and Denmark have their internal dissident movements.

There are inhabitants of northern Italy who might vote for secession from southern Italy. Many in the north consider the south a burden on their harder-working culture. Which is not to mention the baleful influence of the Sicilian Mafia which now pervades the entire country, where once it was very local to the far south.

So a lot of the problems of government in Europe are rooted not only in the very recent past, but in the very present now.

These are the sorts of problems you have to take into account when thinking about the possible success of a United States of Europe.

The road to a federal United States

So you look to Americans for a possible model.

Their road to federated status involved a great deal of bloodshed, including the War of Independence, the Civil War and the war between Mexico and Texas (and much other conflict).

It took almost 150 years. Still, the USA’s status as a federal republic with a single-value, centrally controlled currency only emerged 100 years ago. The dollar had varying values state by state. Even the amount of silver in a coin had yet to be regulated.

Two hundred years ago, America consisted of just 19 states. Many others joined in the late 19th century, and 11 in the 20th (Alaska and Hawaii as recently as 1959). The dollar did not have equivalent value as currency across all states until around the time of WW1. It wasn’t a serious international currency until WW2.

Ted Truman, Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said recently: “The euro is a currency without a state, while the renminbi (China’s currency) has too much state.” This is how markets look at currencies.

Two hundred years to spare?

So if you want a euro with a state, that will require a United States of Europe. If you’ve got 200 years to spare, and don’t mind a fair bit of violence along the way, then good luck to you. Much, much simpler to roll back EU ambitions and ditch the currency.

Plus, less to worry about if the Silesian people of Poland break away to form their own state; or the Albanian people of Kraja break away from Montenegro; or – more to the point – if the Russian natives of Crimea in eastern Ukraine prefer to hitch themselves to Putin’s wagon.

Can other currencies overtake the dollar?

Or, you could wade through this if you really want to depress yourself.
This is, ostensibly, ‘The case for a United States of Europe’. If that wasn’t the headline, you’d be forgiven for thinking it had the complete opposite agenda.

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