IT IS A SAD THING THAT THE EU – THE EUROPEAN UNION - IS NEITHER ADEQUATELY UNDERSTOOD NOR APPRECIATED IN THE U.S.
WE COULD LEARN A GREAT DEAL FROM IT.
If you relied solely on American media for your knowledge of the EU, you would get the impression that the entire entity is bankrupt, and about to go down the tubes.
It isn’t, and it won’t.
What you are actually witnessing is a relatively recent work-in-progress whose political institutions are still evolving – so it is having some growing pains. Nonetheless, it is still a fact that in most of Northern Europe, much of the population enjoys a higher quality of life than in the U.S. As for the rest of the EU, countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland are going through a difficult period – but they are all better off than they were only a couple of decades ago; and their problems are solvable.
The EU is a mostly successful economic powerhouse consisting of 27 democratic nations containing a total population of 500 million. It’s greatest achievement is in removing the threat of war and dictatorship from a region which, for centuries past, seemed to do, or experience, little else.
As for dictatorships, I will recall going for a walking holiday in Spain in the Sixties and the palpable oppression of the Franco regime. Guardia Civile and troops were everywhere and political freedom added up to zero.
Later on, when I got married, we honeymooned in Portugal (for the record, I am now divorced), and that country was under the thumb of yet another dictator called Salazar. Once again, armed police were everywhere – even in the disco.
Soon after that, Greece, which had suffered terribly in WW II, and had then experienced civil war, became a military dictatorship under the control of the Colonels (who, reportedly, received help from the U.S).
Less than forty years later, the entire EU is democratic and large parts of it are extremely prosperous. In addition, many thorny social issues, which still trouble the U.S., have been substantially resolved. The list is long. It includes:
- Healthcare systems that are largely better than ours; and which cost significantly less.
- Better infrastructure including excellent public transport systems.
- Vastly superior worker rights.
- Much greater harmony between workers and management.
- Paid vacations which European workers actually do take to the great advantage of their health and productivity.
- K12 education that is, generally speaking, better than ours.
The amazing thing is that the EU has been created entirely with soft power, through dialog and negotiation. Meanwhile, we have stumbled from one war to another, at huge cost, and we’ve lost most them. Concurrently, the average Middle Class American has seen his, or her, standard of living decline since about 1973; and it is continuing to decline. Could it be that we have something to learn from the European way of doing things? A reasonable person would think so.
The EU deserves its Nobel Prize.