Saturday, February 9, 2013

Strategic Issues Facing Europe

Having one of the largest economies in the global market, Europe is a key pillar of the global system and whatever happens to Europe in this upcoming year will alter the way the world functions right now on a global level. 

Dr. Pustay and Dr. Thornton gave some very good insight on what is going on in the European Union right now. With 27 countries currently in the Union, and more to be added soon, it amazes me how anything ever gets put through the policy/decision making system that Dr. Putsay showed us. How feasible do you guys think the European Union is on an economic and political level? Should they keep on accepting new countries even while they are in the situation they are in right now? 

There were a lot of issues brought up during the seminar including the debate about Turkey wanting to, or now not wanting to, join the Union, the unemployment crisis hitting Greece and Spain (with many other countries not far behind), and the rising old-age dependency ratio. What do you guys think will happen with the increasing unemployment rates? Will there be a clean-cut solution in the near future, or are we going to be seeing political upheavals and riots by the general population?  

Dr. Thornton brought up a nice tie-in with last weeks lecture about energy when she mentioned fracking. With all the enthusiasm about fracking right now, it is surprising that France has outlawed it completely. How do you think the other countries will react to the idea of fracking, and what will it mean for the European Union and world if they countries do start fracking on a large-scale basis? 

None the less, with everything negative going on with the European Union right now, there has been much good that has come from creating the European Union, as Dr. Pustay put it, when was the last time Germany invaded France? 

Thoughts or comments on the lecture? 


  1. My opinion on the EU is that it is a great idea. I never understood why they needed to take things beyond open borders and unification of fiscal policies. I believe that accepting as many countries as possible will be very beneficial to business because of the open borders policy.

    I don't think unemployment in Spain will exist for a long time. I think that it's just something temporary while the EU corrects the way it governs.

  2. I'm glad that Dr. Pustay ended by emphasizing again that the EU has accomplished many impressive things (Pacifying the Germans and the French, for example).

    That being said, it still has dramatic room for improvement but that improvement will ultimately require the EU to take a stance on what it is trying to accomplish.

    They began with the notion that they will maintain the absolute sovereignty of constituent nations. Nearly every step along the way to integration, they have faced difficulties that stem from this fact. As they have expanded, this has only gotten harder and harder.

    In many ways, I see the EU as being a very dynamic place in the coming decades. Will they figure out how to balance twenty seven voices to efficiently communicate as a single unit? It won't be easy and it won't be quick, but it certainly must be done if they want to sustain themselves for the long-run.

    1. I've been asking myself the same question. From what I've taken away from the readings- and Dr. Pustay pointed this out- I get the impression that the EU can't decide whether it wants to be a unit or not, and it's been having this debate since its inception. I totally agree- 27 different countries, and the cultural and linguistic divisions that exist within each of them- yikes.

      I also feel like the differences are always going to be so great that there never WILL be a consensus about what exactly the EU is "supposed" to be. These countries have all grown their own identities for thousands of years despite being in such close proximity to each other, so the idea of maintaining the national sovereignty of each makes sense. On the other hand, most of the leaders will have the cultural interests and ideas of their own countries at the tops of their priority lists, even if they say otherwise. There are such different ideas about government, social hierarchy, and what should and shouldn't be the responsibility of citizens. I can't see how that diversity multiplied by 27 (or more) could ever find enough common ground to have one overlying governance that is satisfactory for everyone involved. Basically, I see the whole situation as a catch 22.

  3. If you are interested in the Euro debt crisis, you can check out Altman's article on Foreign Affairs, titled "The Fall and Rise of the West." He argues that Europe has made some great progress: 1. establish a central fiscal authority with effective control over each country's budgets and debts; 2. entitling European Central Bank the authority to supervise private banks in Europe; 3. certain countries in Europe are improving their structural productivity problems that were more or less contributors to the crisis; 4. exports from PIGS are regaining competitiveness; 5. Eurozone governments' effective move in trimming public sectors for economic renewal.
    Altman is very optimistic about the rising of Europe.
    But the nature of the European Union will prove to be a huge problem for Europe to move forward. Europe will certain come back and surpass its previous economic prosperity, however, what is this Union in terms of security defense? In terms of national identity vs. a single-Europe identity? Will its Union prove to be more effective than a United States model, or will they be equally effective?

  4. I do not think that the EU will be more effective than the US. The main reason being the lack of authority the EU has over its members. As it was mentioned in seminar, that is the big question. How much power should the EU have and will giving up power be beneficial to the individual countries in the long run?

    The member all have a different work culture so it will be hard for the EU to standardize work practices without creating social unrest. In terms of energy, Poland plans to start producing shale gas for commercial use in 2014 which will make the EU less dependent on Russia, which currently has a monopoly on energy. I think France will eventually allow fracking as Poland shows progress in the region.

  5. It is my opinion that the EU first needs to determine what its goal really is. What does it want to accomplish? Economic security for the region? Military security for the region? Or simply to maintain the status quo? My personal feeling is that right now the EU does not know what it wants to do or where it wants to go in the future, which is causing the bureaucracy that "makes our Congress look efficient."

    Rigoberto, I think you sum it up correctly with your question, "How much power should the EU have and will giving up power be beneficial to the individual countries in the long run?"

    As far as fracking is concerned,I think it will depend on the state of the economy, fuel prices, and France's ability to continue powering the country with nuclear energy. From what I understand, France has an energy infrastructure based primarily on nuclear energy, therefore it does not need oil like Poland, or other EU nations do. If France decides to move away from nuclear, and towards more fossil fuels, then yes they may legalize fracking, but I imagine there will have been a lot of technological breakthroughs by then that would provide the politicians a loophole when legalizing it. Again, if the economy is so bad that they are desperate for jobs and tax revenue, they may turn to the oil industry to provide that through fracking, but that would not be nearly as popular with the masses as raising taxes on the wealthy, so it is doubtful that a poor economy by itself would cause them to legalize fracking.

    As far as the unemployment rate goes, I think that not having a job isn't so bad in Europe as long as your parents are getting a nice pension and social security check with which they can support you and them, and as long as you are getting an unemployment benefit check in the mail. I am not sure what the policies are, but my impression is that unemployment benefits are pretty good over there, which is one reason people are not as "riotous" as one would expect. It is interesting to me that in Greece more riots are caused by austerity measures, which would theoretically increase employment while reducing social benefits, than by the unemployed begging for new jobs/opportunities.

    [Sorry for the odd thing that is happening with my name on the post, it is putting both my wife, Paige, and I as the posters and I'm not sure why! Any tips on how to fix that would be greatly appreciated :) ]

  6. There have been quite a lot of questions asked throughout this post, and I would like to share my thoughts on a few.

    Should they keep on accepting new countries even while they are in the situation they are in right now?
    -- Yes, but only if that country can add value to the EU or to their overall mission. I believe the best way forward for entities such as this is to define a clear need that this organization is meeting. Once that is done, it is easier to set specific goals and work towards them together.

    Will there be a clean-cut solution in the near future?
    -- I feel like it's rare for there to be a clean-cut solution to almost anything ever, much less this situation.

    How do you think the other countries will react to the idea of fracking, and what will it mean for the European Union and world if the countries do start fracking on a large-scale basis?
    -- I don't think it will be much different than the United States. Just as some states allow it and others don't, the big issue will be on the political sector and how a potentially lessened energy dependence will impact international relations.

    I certainly agree with Ming that the EU has accomplished many impressive things, especially the relationship between Germany and France. However, I do not think that the EU will prove to me more or equally as effective as the US. While their model may be similar, there are two significant differences between members of the EU: history and culture. Just as Dr. Pustay pointed out, the cultural differences between countries are rather great. Add to this the thousands of years of history each country has, the battles won and lost, and the partnerships that have formed and broken. People of the United States have a much more common history and culture. Beyond the Civil War, we have more or less been able to unify with each other and identify ourselves first and foremost as citizens of the United States. Citizens of the EU identify themselves with their individual country instead, and rightly so based on the vast amount of history they have, and the diversity in culture. In order for the EU to function with the effectiveness as the US in this manner, it will take a LOT of time, dedication, and the building of trust. They must identify a need and commit to a common bond that will unite each person as more than just a citizens belonging to a similar organization. Until these mindsets adapt, I believe the EU will continue to have to fight to create this image. Unfortunately, I am not sure that this will change without a major event requiring them to do so.

  7. Roberto's question is a very important one. I think the UK's approach to this question is correct, i.e. ask the citizens what they think. This is very counter to the "Eurocrats," who seem to view their mission as saving Europe from itself. However, for the EU to ultimately succeed as a more integrated entity, people have to be willing to view themselves as both Europeans and their original native country, similar to how people in Texas view themselves as Americans and Texans. This is not something a group of elite Eurocrats can legislate. Rather, it is a cultural shift which must originate from the people.

  8. Although my reply to Ming's comment was pretty pessimistic, I agree with all of you who have said that the EU has accomplished something pretty significant keeping war and inter-country conflict at bay- no German invasions of France and that sort of thing.

    I wonder, though, if it's possible for the EU's goals to extend beyond continuing mutual cooperation and maintenance of the status quo, as William put it. In my opinion, the economic positions of each of Europe's countries are so different that there is no way one overarching policy could benefit them all. If the EU's goal is security, how does it enforce security measures without the authority that comes with a system of government that is at least in part "vertical"? (The US, for example- and certainly not implying that the American system is flawless- in theory, states can govern as they see fit in areas that are not deemed federal responsibility by the constitution, but the federal government's policies are the supreme law of the land.)

    I think that the EU, as the not-quite-government but not-just-loose-affiliation that it is, can't hope to accomplish anything beyond maintenance of what Europe is at this moment, especially given the addition of new countries. If it tries to exert more power or create more broadly applicable policies, we're going to see social unrest and deterioration of relationships between countries.

  9. I think it will be interesting to see if the EU and the US move forward with their free trade talks to something more realistic. If a free trade agreement is reached between the two most powerful economic bodies in the world, I think it would greatly change internal dynamics of the EU. I believe this type of agreement would help strengthen already stable economic countries, while further isolating struggling ones. I feel this would more obviously distinguish the elite EU countries from the weak ones. However, I do believe it is in the best interest of the US and Europe to have a free trade agreement in order to compete with the rising Asian powers.

  10. I strongly agree with Erin's comments - especially regarding the level of cultural diversity present in the European Union right now. The EU may never function as cohesively as the United States simply due to the fact that national pride plays a different role in the EU than it ever has in the US. In the EU, the idea of "nationalism" would most likely have a deleterious effect on the level of unity present in the union, due to the fact that the EU is comprised of highly diverse nations with unique cultural and social profiles. In the US, nationalistic pride involves practicing devotion to the US as a whole regardless of what state or region one calls home. The fact that all US citizens share a common nation means that unity may be far easier to achieve here than it is in the European Union.