The Cato Institute’s Marian L. Tupy offers unique and compelling perspective on the European Union:
I started my career as a believer in the European integration process. Central Europe, where I was born, was impoverished by communism, and membership of the EU seemed like a solution to many economic and political problems in ex-communist countries. Over time, I started to see the costs as well as the benefits of the EU. It was only much later that I came to believe that the costs of EU membership far outweigh its benefits. While this was a gradual process, one event greatly helped to convince me that the EU has become pernicious and must be stopped. That event was the EU’s handling of the French and Dutch referenda on the EU Constitution in 2005.
After the people of France and Holland rejected the EU Constitution in their respective referenda, the EU establishment relabeled it as the Lisbon Treaty and adopted it nonetheless. This act of supreme arrogance convinced me that the EU establishment held the people of Europe in utter contempt and that it would stop at nothing in order to pursue its agenda of an “ever closer union.” It showed me that the EU bureaucrats see themselves as a class of wise experts who know how society ought to be organized. The memories of my childhood behind the Iron Curtain flooded back. And that brings me to my final point: does an “enlightened” class of technocrats have a right to make people free or happy or, simply, better off?
As I have explained, the EU is not only failing to address Europe’s problems, it exacerbates them. Moreover, it seems to be unable and unwilling to reform. With every electoral cycle, “establishment” parties committed to further European integration are growing weaker and anti-EU parties are getting closer to power. The EU has been very successful in plodding along, but its rearguard action cannot succeed indefinitely. At some point, one of the EU’s 28 member states will elect an anti-EU government. I fear that the longer the EU establishment ignores its opponents, the more belligerent the latter will become.
As such, a negotiated parting of ways between the EU and countries that feel they can do better on their own makes more sense. Of course, there is no guarantee that all of the former EU members will make the right choices. I can imagine Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Great Britain becoming a global free-trade superpower. But, I can also imagine President Marine Le Pen’s France hunkering down behind a wall of protective tariffs. That said, I would rather see individual nation states make wrong choices than to force them to remain in the EU, thus increasing resentment and risking greater disruption down the line.
The EU has become a large pressure cooker with no safety valve. Large parts of Europe suffer from low growth, high unemployment, rising deficits, and stratospheric debts. To make matters worse, tensions between the people of Europe are increasing. Some feel that they are being forced to adopt policies they do not like, while others feel that they have to unfairly subsidize people with whom they have nothing in common. The EU could turn down the heat by repatriating many of its competences back to the nation states. That, alas, is not in its nature. The EU risks imploding in an uncontrolled way and if that happens, everyone will lose.