Hopeful about the European Union
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My friend Rene Madsen is from Denmark, and every now and then we discussed European political events, our views on the process of European integration, what we like and dislike about living in the USA, etc. I have told him repeatedly how I feel very hopeful about the future of the European Union, but never gave him a detailed list of reasons as to why I am so excited about it. Well, here it is.

Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003 20:41:59 -0500
From: Jesus Ortega
To: Rene Madsen
Subject: EU: new Constitution and foreign policy document


Not sure how closely you follow European news, but you may have heard about
the final draft of the EU Constitution as well as the document on a common
foreign policy.  You know, I am getting more and more hopeful about the
future of the EU by the day.  I understand there are many different views
on the proposed Constitution, and we are a long way before we see any of
that implemented.  However, my point is not so much that I like or dislike
this or that document.  What fills me with hope is to see an Europe that
is taking the lead again.  Heck, we are slowly but surely getting to the
forefront of political and economic innovation without nearly noticing.
Let me explain myself.

First of all, the euro has been a tremendous success so far.  I know, it
may go up and down, and the dollar may become more valuable than the euro
again.  It doesn't really matter.  The common currency has demonstrated
that it can compete with the dollar and, even worse (for the Americans),
prove more attractive than the dollar to foreign investors.  What does
this mean?  Capital, which is something we have lacked in the past when
compared to the Japanese or American economies.  Capital that can be used
to reinvest and boost domestic consumption.  Keep in mind that one of the
reasons why the American economy has been able to sustain the high levels
of debt it has had in the recent past was precisely this.  An attractive
currency brought foreign capital to the country and the Government could
afford to have a higher deficit or debt because it didn't drain the 
financial markets.  Well, now there is a currency that is competing head
to head against the dollar in the international markets.  Pop.  The bubble
bursted.  Time for a reality check in the USA.  

Second, in the pure political front, the process of European integration is
perhaps the most innovative since the foundation of the US itself back in
the 18th century.  It is the first time that several independet nations
agree to come together and share parts of their own sovereignty in the 
name of a common interest and, by doing so, also for the first time in
centuries many other people are looking to us as an example to follow.
The "American model" has expired.  There are no nations in the making 
anymore.  All countries are already there, and their borders are more or
less clear.  Yet, there is an obvious need in many regions of the world 
for a model that helps them bridge their differences and teaches them to
come together as separate nations in order to improve their economies
and lifestyles.  Did you notice how all these countries (in Latin America,
but also in Africa or Asia) are not looking at the US as an example to
follow anymore?  They are looking at the EU.  They don't want to lose
their national identities, but at the same time are fully aware that they
need to transcend their own borders.  The US does not offer any solution
to that.  The EU does.  Heck, they even tried to copy us unsuccessfully
with their half-hearted NAFTA project.  That tells you a lot.  Political
innovation is on the other side of the Atlantic these days, and not here.

Third, our economic and social model is also far more attractive to the
developing nations than that of the US, and for a good reason.  The American
model of "unfettered capitalism" does lead to deep social divisions that
those countries cannot afford.  Their social gap is already too large as
it is.  They cannot afford an economic model that deepens those divisions.
A model like the European, based on a market economy tempered by the 
Government, offers both social as well as economic growth to those nations,
which is precisely what they are looking for.  To be fair, we still have
to tweak the system quite a bit in order to control the cost, but in the
long term it offers a much healthier society than the American model. 

Finally, we are starting to see some serious attempts to build a real
common foreign and security policy that also includes a common rapid
action task force.  The document just released yesterday actually calls
for a EU that is not afraid of military involvement to defend its 
interests, fight terrorism or stop the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction.  However, it also acknowledges that this can only be done
in a multilateral way, respecting International Law and within already
existing institutions such as the UN.  I am also convinced that in this
field the EU will become more respected than the US, simply because our
attitude is not so arrogant, unilateral and blindly nationalistic (as a
matter of fact, the EU itself cannot be nationalistic because it is not
a nation).  

So, these are the main reasons why I am so excited about the process of
European integration.  I believe I told you this a few times already, but
never took the time to explain the reasons why I have so much faith in
the project.  These are also the reasons why I don't want to become a
US citizen.  I have my faith and my hopes on the other side of the 
Atlantic.  It seems clear to me that while the "American way" showed the
path to follow during the whole 20th century, it is the "European way"
that will show the path during the 21st century although it will still
take a couple of decades to settle down and become evident.  The reason
is clear: while the world becomes more and more globalized, the US keeps
clinging to outdated notions of national sovereignty.  The future is in
a concept that melds together the national identities with supranational
interests, but the Americans are unable to come up with answers to that
conundrum because their model, based on pure nation-state, has brought 
them to where they are now.  It's too difficult to change one's ways until
something happens, everything is shaken and the inevitable downfall comes.
In the meantime, the EU is coming up with an answer that appears to work
and solves the puzzle.  That's why I have faith in the future of Europe.
Sure, there will be ups and downs, but I am firmly convinced the future
is very bright.

Jesus Ortega