One of the more interesting issues to watch in the continuing European debt crisis is the movement of non-eurozone members relative to the EU-17. This becomes even more interesting with the recent talk of tier-ing up the EU into core and semi-peripheral areas.
Take the case of Poland – The Economist writes:
As the idea has gained ground that the euro zone might form an EU inner circle, so Europe itself has come to seem more important to Poland. “It is not just tactical,” says Aleksander Smolar of the Stefan Batory Foundation, a think-tank. “For 1,000 years we have been trying to get into the real Europe, Charlemagne’s Europe. Many times we have failed.”
On the one hand, Poland would benefit immensely from increased integration into the EU, it would help its economy and infrastructure continue to grow and rectify its sensitive strategic self-perception. On the other hand, remaining outside the eurozone allows Poland to tweak the value of its currency, which has been one of the reasons that it has not gone into recession during the crisis.
In many ways this dilemma is the same one EU member states have faced since the EU’s inception: the benefits of a European federation versus those of national sovereignty.
It’s funny, as an American I feel like Europe should just get on with it and federalize. Perhaps this is because I value the virtues of wide-pluralism over those of narrow-parochialism. I mean, I realize that no one wants some apparent foreigner coming in and telling them how to do things, but I also think that Europe has played the closed-off game of national competition before, and things didn’t really work out too well.
The beauty of the European project is that it represents, far beyond what America represents, the real possibility of a political entity acting ethically. Sure it too represents the possibility of a massive market and a solid reserve currency, etc. But I think that the ethical possibilities of what it represents are far more important. I’ve been accused of being maudlin before but just check out Article 3 of the Treaty of the European Union (Maastricht Treaty):
[The Union] shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among
peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.
What other political entity, outside of international organizations, has committed itself to such an ethical standard? To me this is reason enough to keep the project of European integration alive and kicking.