Got chatting with a couple of Folk on The Vine about the background to the current Germany-UK-France thing, in the context of a wider Europe - especially Katheryn Brandy who suggested I elaborate in an Article ...
..... so Here we go .... its a context overview, not a Position Paper for an Honours Degree, so hang loose a little :)
Couple of Hundred years after US Independence, over in that strange far-away Land known as "Europe" from whence most original US citizens (by-in-large) came from in the early days, we Europeans were having our Butt kicked economically by our great-great - x5 - great grand-kids. This is not good for morale, getting butt-kicked by the kids :)
Only now its 2012 and life is a little different..... as the Older European States move ever closer to total Political and Economic Union.
The above is, admittedly a little simplistic, but not far off what happened. The EU have had to rely on Diplomacy - not take over by force - to get people (aka States) together, and we dont yet have a unified EU Political Core that works seamlessly. The ground-game is way, way, way more complex and harder than the bringing together of US States. The US expansion West "only" faced (aka) the Sioux Nation on horseback (I'm in trouble again I suspect - stay with me, its an analogy), and not even close in complexity 200 years later to fully fledged modernised European Nations. Full European unification is therefore still a work in progress and will be for 100-150 years yet.
Time frame aka Declaration of Independence Stage? ...... Sheeesh ..... 150 years minimum, dont hold your breath, but it will happen in the end (took all of the 1800s for the US to consolidate all member States). Its the difference between facing minimal resistance aka Native Indian tribes, and full blown Sovereign States, it takes time - get the analogy here - dont get all Nationalistic on me :)
Its those pesky German 12 Armoured Corps that were sitting at the border post .... they are still there, well six of them are anyway .... they can still ruin your whole day, and they have an economy to die for, much to the annoyance of the French. They will not go away any Century soon, much to the annoyance of French romantics with the breakfast bread, cheese and onions; and Traditional British view of "Those damned Europeans" between pinches of snuff.
Crudely, in context of the EU & Member Countries ..... view an EU Country as a rogue State in the US yelling "States Rights" where no one has gotten round yet to ratifying the Declaration of Independence, and Germany has the best military toys (we smile sweatly at the Germans over that, they will stomp on us otherwise). European Federal Army? No Chance, 100 years away at least.
There are three basic Institutions to the EU as the Core Pillars of the whole sheebang....
Political (EU Parliament Strasbourg is kind of home to the US Congress equivalent; Brussels is kind of US President & Staff plus EU Civil Service Bureaucrats equivalent)
Economic (The Common Market - amongst the guys who keep loaning the US cash to help balance the deficit) ... I'm dead, but had to get that one in rofl :)
Cultural (Pretending we are all good Europeans and love each other)
This was an easy pill to swallow. View it as the Halls of Power in Congress where the great and the good meet in the corridor and restaurant. Chat over lunch, late night drink on all night debating sessions, smile sweetly on Congressional Trips, even pop home to others abodes for Dinner and cocktails - true love at first sight :)
Until the Vote Count begins ....when its Jekyll and Hyde all over again. But ..... overall works pretty good. We tend to get on well Culturally (as such), not a big deal, except for the usual diehards nothing new there. We all fly around having a look at the places where for 200 years or so we used to beat the living hell out of each other; dutifully mutter "never again", get a bratwurst and fries take-away and fly home with not very many customs posts in sight - as such. So everyone signs up to that part of the European Union Treaty. So far so good.
Surprise ... money brings the first major hassle. However, all recognise that there needs to be some give and take. We live on each others border ..... so we chat a little more :)
End result is a gradual melding of Economies as Member States perceive an advantage for themselves, despite rampant spenders like Greece causing a pause every now and then. Except those pesky Brits sitting across the Channel who waved two fingers "hands off our economy". Well, sounds great Politically inside UK, but its not the real world in this day and age when the EU is trying to face up to the US Economic Block - unify or be run over, everyone knows it - unless you are a Brit Euro-Sceptic. The latter are still alive and well, strong and thriving - that bit is not over yet and will not be for a while.
Limited economic sovereignty was given by UK, but no way on currency and State Budget - hands off. So, limited sign up to the brave new world by the British. Mainland Europeans however, power ahead with common currency and binding European Central Budgets, UK refused it. All in all limited economic integration across all of Europe, but its getting there as a Europhile would say - apart from we obstinate Brits :)
Here is the real problem, and what - essentially - caused that bun fight in the woods I alluded to. No Country - including France and Germany, but especially UK were willing to cede Political Power to Strasbourg - no damn Eurocrat is going to frame my laws, as the saying goes - States Rights anyone?
There were some concessions of Sovereignty to meld together Politically, but its a real hard uphill slog, with the UK not even off the start line. UK refused this part of the treaty, and will not let go of Sovereignty, insisting it will pass what laws it sees fit, despite agreeing to some limited powers over UK from Strasbourg. Its a minefield, and anti-euro guys reading this are screaming right now, and I may not reach old age because of it (!), but it'll do as a starter.
This is the limited membership of the EU by the UK you hear about (and the finance fudge above) - UK will not let go of political and economic power to Politicians in Brussels and Strasbourg, and is the reason people talk about Britain "Opting out" - it will not ceed Total Sovereignty in any form. Thats got watered down a little on the edges over time, but still holds (largely) true.
Keep this in context, it was 100+ years before all US States signed up to the Union.
Very crudely Strasbourg is the US two Congressional Houses - and - sort of - Brussels is the US President, White House Political staff, and Government Bureaucracy. The (crude analogy hang loose here) equivalent of US Supreme Court, is The European Court of Justice (but only "Justice", a super-sized Legal Court, its not a Constitutional arbiter in any way, except on existing European Law Ratified by Member states), completes the comparison. The Infamous Three Pillars of State in both the US and EU.
Who's in Charge
Very crudely Strasberg is your two Congressional Houses - and - sort of - Brussels is your President, White House Political staff, and Government Bureaurocracy. The (crude analogy hang loose here) equivelent of US Supreme Court, is The European Court of Justice (but only "Justice", a super-sized Legal Court, its not a Constitutional arbitor in any way, except on existing European Law Ratified by Member states), completes the comparison. The Infamous Three Pillars of State in both the US and EU. However be clear, at present National Sovereighty of member States rules all as a bottom line - true enlightenment has not yet arrived :)
So there you have it - European Political Union (less UK opt-out), Financial & Currency Union (less the British £), and Cultural cuddles (includes the Brits). Complex .... for sure in terms of dynamics and cultures, but look at it this way - was the 19th Century all sweetness and light in America before "Westward Hoo" was promulgated in 19th Century America straddling a civil war?
Be clear on one thing though ..... do not underestimate the Financial Clout and Political Savvy of an emerging Unified Europe aka end this Century ..... that would be a baaaaad move. Its already a multiple of the US in terms of Gross Domestic Product and sheer population size. The muffled rumblings coming up the rear on the inside rail in the great World Race are China and Europe, which China will win of course, Europe being a close third behind the US.
Its going to be a long process as we are dealing with long standing Sovereign States. Its already been 50 yrs in the making. However, as each generation passes on, the new ones give a little more toward the common goal as they dont carry yesterdays "baggage".
In a crude sense, its like the slow expansion of US States joining The Union throughout the 19th Century, except the Europeans have already signed up - its merging Political and Economic systems that will take time in the Europeans case. European "States" are not "Greenfield Start ups" as many US States were, so lots of cultural baggage around that the US didnt have to sort out (as such). Slow process for sure, but its the essential difference between merging existing National States and my analogy re the Sioux Nation above, no disrespect intended or given to the Sioux Nation. The US took the whole of the 19th Century to sort it all out, Europe will be longer due to existing systems and cultures to revamp - its not a Greenfield Site, so 150 years minimum overall, start of next Century to complete if we stay the course.
On a World Stage, would be nice to learn to live with each other, not beat everyone over the head (again) before we hit the finish line - the latter is tedious, hope we have all grown out of that by now.
Still, I'll be long pushing up the daisies by then ..... hope it works out for ya'll :)
Wikipedia article if you want to follow up detail from the above overview: