With French presidential elections looming, tensions are once again re-surfacing across Europe. Jonathan Saxty encapsulates the dilemma facing candidates in every member state: campaigning for the national interest within a framework of obligations to the EU. When the two collide, who wins?
"This of course gets to the fundamental European dilemma. As we saw with the German reluctance to bailout Greece – and the compromises last year to appease frugal northern countries wary of bailing out what many saw as feckless southerners – European politicians often fail to behave as actors in a common endeavour so much as national leaders defending respective constituencies.
If the EU is ever to function as a cohesive entity, then it is incumbent on politicians on the Continent to think and act as a common body, rather than with each country catering to its domestic needs first and foremost. Bunching together countries with divergent histories, languages and cultures, sharing little more than proximity, was bound to end up like this. It is what has long stood in the way of fiscal union. The north doesn’t trust the south to spend wisely and the west doesn’t trust the east to play by the rules (and the east in turn doesn’t trust the west not to impose what it sees as alien values).
The EU lacks sufficient shared identity and purpose of the kind which genuine national unions need to function. England may not like subsidising Northern Ireland but it accepts it as the price of union, even while acknowledging that poorer regions should in fact be levelled-up. How odd it would be if local politicians in the UK championed regions and sub-divisions in the beggar-thy-neighbour tones of European politicians."
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