Europe, Not Euro, May Break Apart

Fear about euro’s collapse has receded, but Europe as forged after industrial revolution is fracturing, reverting to regional entities with cultural traditions, languages and animosity against the nation-states that swallowed them without their consent. Scotland in Britain, Catalonia and Basque Country in Spain, Flanders in Belgium, Lombardy or Padania in Italy. Soon maybe Wales in Britain, Bavaria in Germany, Brittany and Occitania in France. On top of this litany, there’s growing concern about Britain exiting from the EU. The Holy Roman Empire dominating Central Europe before industrialization counted 1800 states ruled by kings, knights and bishops. The states were too small to reap the fruits of industrialization. Fragmented markets prevented transnational supply chains and were incapable of shaping logistics; transport infrastructure; most important of all, political system necessary for transition from feudal and agricultural states to manufacturing. So the European nation-state emerged. Admittedly Britain, France and Spain could trace their roots back 100 or 200 years earlier, but were not solidly secure until around 1800. Italy and Germany were born between 1860 and 1871. Nation-states masterminded regional economic integration, but never completely succeeded in shaping a national culture. Yes, a national language gradually took over, but the regions preserved distinct cultural identities. They acquiesced with the nation-state and obeyed respective capitals in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Madrid because force compelled them to do so and economic advantages were evident. Standard of living rose as industrialization conquered the regions, and prosperity followed. The end result: The increasing standard of living was sufficiently higher to compensate for attacks on cultural identity to ensure the nation-state’s prerogative. The people in the regions traded in some but not all cultural identity. This became even more manifest as industrialization went into next phase: Economic globalization. International treaties strengthened the capitals’ hold over regions. The regions could not access global markets without the capitals’ consent as laid out in international rules negotiated among nation-states. Scotland could not on its own strike a deal with United States or Argentina for export of ships from shipyards at the Clyde. Only London could. And over the first half of the 20th century, Europe showed little support for regionalism or cultural identity. Few Scots genuinely felt as Scots or saw Scotland in any other way than as part of the United Kingdom. The role of the nation-states as imperial powers solidified this view. For Scots, being part of United Kingdom provided a platform for a central role in running empire and profiting by doing so. Conditions favoring nation-state are disappearing and rapidly. Empires are gone. Industrialization is giving way to economic age shaped by information and communication technology, ICT, opening access to the world outside the nation-state framework. Manufacturing used to be cornerstone of European economic activity, but except for Germany, no longer. The burden of transition has been unevenly distributed aggravating the skepticism among regions about the virtue of nation-state. Over the last four years national political systems have lost legitimacy because of impotence in dealing with the crisis. A feeling of unfair distribution of hardship and burdens when capitals cut welfare and increased taxes fuels idea among regions that more fairness may be found if they handled these questions on their own while relying on the EU despite its shortcomings for economic policy (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

One Response to Europe, Not Euro, May Break Apart

  1. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel is widely regarded as the uncrowned queen of Europe. If we inquire into the basis of her power we become aware of one characteristic feature of her effectiveness: her characteristic quality is a tactical adroitness that might well be deemed Machiavellian. The Prince, Machiavelli believed, must only stick to what he said yesterday if it brings him positive advantages today. Transferring this to the present situation would produce the maxim: today you can do the opposite of what you proclaimed yesterday, if it improves your own chances in the next election. Thus Merkel fought long and hard to extend the working lives of the German nuclear power stations while calmly accepting a possible exit from Europe. Following the catastrophe at the Fukushima reactor she did an about face and approved an end to nuclear energy and a new commitment to Europe. Since then she has showed herself to be a master of ‘last-minute rescues’. Yesterday she said: ‘Eurobonds? Over my dead body!’ Today she instructs finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble to look for a way out of or around the financial crisis that includes tolerating direct credits from the ECB to participating banks and states, credits that in the last analysis have to be paid for in part by the German taxpayer. The political affinity between Merkel and Machiavelli – which I think of as the Merkiavelli model – is based on four mutually complementary components (…..)


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