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Major Issues Facing the European Union Essay

Pages:9 (2744 words)

Sources:7

Subject:Government

Topic:European Union

Document Type:Essay

Document:#70288459


Six Reasons the European Union Will Not Last

Introduction

The European Union (EU) is the heart and soul of modern Europe, yet it is not without its challenges. Whether it comes to trade issues, member states failing to follow regulations, or immigration issues, the EU has no end of problems that arise from year to year. This paper will describe a few of the challenges and show why the larger issue of representative government in modern Europe is now coming face to face with an increasing wave of nationalism and a push by some member states to exert more sovereignty over their own affairs without respect to what the EU has to say about it. After looking at issues such as 1) Brexit, 2) the immigration crisis, 3) the open borders policy, 4) the problem of NATO, 5) the ultra-high and potentially catastrophic levels of debt that the European Central Bank (ECB) has made possible through its easy credit and low interst rates monetary policy, and now 6) the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, this paper will show why the future of the EU looks grim and what might happen if it does completely disintegrate in the near future.

Brexit

Nothing scared the EU more than the thought of Brexit—England breaking away from the EU and undermining the sense of unity and security that the EU had established over the years. First voted on in 2016, it was not actually until 2020 that Brexit officially took place (BBC, 2020). The UK now stood apart from more than two dozen European nations for the first time since 1973. Not only was this a shocking new development that showed the world the UK was going to reassert its sovereignty on the world stage, it was also an invitation for other nations to follow suit. Since Brexit was first voted upon in 2016, other nations’ leaders have threatened to lead a revolt against the EU and do the same.

From France to Italy to Spain to Hungary and on, a rising tide of nationalism has exalted several independence movements and garnered a great deal of support for populists who are fed up with EU policies that they see as prohibitive, punitive, and dangerous for their own nations. Leaders in Italy, France, Hungary, Spain, the Netherlands, and Greece have all been quite vocal about their issues with the EU, and now that the UK has officially taken steps to leave the EU, it leaves the Union more unstable than when it entered in. There is now a great deal of uncertainty about whether the EU can assuage the nationalist wave spreading across the Europe. With each nation now thinking of its own self-interests instead of the collective, there could be many more nations that follow the UK out the door in the coming years.

The Immigration Crisis

One of the reasons for the rise of nationalism has been the immigration crisis stemming from the non-stop wars in the Middle East that have decimated the region and forced millions of migrants from their native lands. Currently Turkey is threatening to unleash a tsunami of immigrants onto an already hemorrhaging EU, whose member states (like Hungary) are refusing to take even one immigrant into their country. Germany has been very open about accepting immigrants, but it has come with a tremendous price for the party involved in making that decision. Germany’s leader Angela Merkl, so often seen as the face of the EU has lost considerable prestige and support in Germany as native Germans have expressed their discontentment with their leader’s willingness to give refuge to millions of Middle Eastern refugees. The Germans, like the Hungarians, the Italians and the British are all concerned about the safety risks, the economic risks, the health risks, the social risks, the cultural risks, and the political risks that come from allowing so many refugees through their borders. Considering that the threat of terrorism is still high in Europe and that many new terrorist attacks have occurred in EU countries since the immigration crisis began, it is not hard to see why citizens of these countries are rallying behind leaders like Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Marine Le Pen. As the Graph 1 image below shows, many Europeans see refugees as an existential threat.

Graph 1. European perception of immigrants as threat. Pew Research Center (2016).

As the Pew Research Center (2016) graph shows, nearly three-fourths of Poland sees immigrants from the Middle East as a threat, and approximately two-thirds of the public in Greece, Hungary and Italy feel the same way. Opinion was divided in the UK and yet the majority of the public was able to leverage their views to get Brexit accomplished. The risk for the EU, now, is that with so many people in so many different countries still upset with the immigration crisis and no end to that crisis currently in sight those countries may vote to leave if that is what it takes to get their borders shut.

The Open Borders Policy

Indeed, one of the worst policies to have come along in the opinion of EU member nations has been the open borders policy, which allows an EU citizen or guest to freely travel from one member nation to the next without requiring a…

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…markets and the economies of Europe. The UK has already left, setting a terrible precedent for other countries to follow. These trends are not positive developments for the EU and with the global economy wavering there is a great deal of downside risk. How can the EU weather the coming social, political, and economic storm that is gathering overhead?

The reality is that managing a modern representative government among dozens of diverse peoples and nations is not as easy as was envisioned fifty years ago. Moreover, the fact that so many new nations that are only marginally European have been accepted into the EU is an indication of the complex nature of the enterprise that the EU has undertaken. It is now attempting to govern nations with very different characteristics, cultures, ambitions, and identities. The sense that one has from watching the EU is that it is not so much about spreading prosperity and ensuring peace as it is about control and exploitation. Greece is nothing more than a debt colony today and should have never been admitted into the EU in the first place. But with the help of Wall Street and the ECB, the tiny nation was able to join and become a debt colony. Italy is in similar shape, as is Spain, Ireland and others. How is this a system that can work for long?

Thus, the future looks bleak for the EU. It is not going to be able to address its internal problems, which are leading to the rise of populist voices and nationalist movements, even in the normally staid Germany. The EU is not at a crisis point: its purpose and function has been shown to be unnecessary by Brexit. The UK, after fifty years of participation decided that enough was enough and that it was time to hand back its membership. What example has that set for the rest of the EU’s member states? If any of them dares to try to go it alone the way the UK has they may just find that they can indeed stand on their own two legs. Such a discovery would be shattering for the EU and the Euro. And what would happen to the debt colonies of Europe then?

Conclusion

The EU is having an existential crisis. The current pandemic, the mounting debt, the NATO tensions, the exit of the UK, the rising tide of populism/nationalism, the open borders policy, and the immigration crisis are all signs that the EU is facing a potentially fatal moment. Should the collective tide turn against the representative government that is the EU, it could be torn to tatters in relatively…


Sample Source(s) Used

References

Amadeo, K. (2019). Eurozone debt crisis. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/eurozone-debt-crisis-causes-cures-and-consequences-3305524

BBC. (2020). Brexit. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887

Chadwick, L. (2020). Recession could tip EU. Retrieved from https://www.euronews.com/2020/02/27/could-covid-19-coronavirus-trigger-a-european-economic-recession

Grose, T. (2020). Coronavirus tests Europe’s open borders. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2020-03-02/europes-open-border-agreement-may-become-casualty-to-coronavirus

Herszenhorn, D. (2019). Europe’s NATO problem. Retrieved from https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-nato-problem-defense-procurement-training-research/

Pew Research Center. (2016). European opinions of the refugee crisis. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/16/european-opinions-of-the-refugee-crisis-in-5-charts/

Wirtz, B. (2019). The Beginning Of The End Of Open Borders In Europe. Retrieved from https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-open-borders-in-europe/

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