Euroscepticism has gained new momentum from the current sovereign debt crisis, which Eurosceptics insist on calling a “Euro crisis”. To deal with that one first: there is no Euro crisis. The one major currency not kept artificially low like China’s or being devalued by “quantitiative easing” like those of Britain and the USA is the Euro. In fact, the crises of Greece and Portugal, and potentially Spain and Italy (Ireland is a special case), show that the Euro is doing what its inventors wanted it to do.
Firstly: Unable to devalue their currency as a way of restructuring their debt, these countries are being forced to restructure their economies.
Secondly: As former US diplomat John R. Bolton of the American Enterprise Institute recently wrote: “A cynic would say that this crisis was pre-planned – anticipated years ago as a convenient trigger to create the ever-more-centralized EU government that its advocates could never have achieved openly.”
Actually, you don’t have to be a cynic to say that. The idea that the Euro would make European integration “irreversible” was stated openly by one of the common currency’s most ardent proponents, Helmut Kohl.
You also don’t have to be a cynic to wonder at Bolton’s admonishment: “America should resist the temptation to save the EU from itself. We must avoid propping it up directly through loans or financial assistance or indirectly through the International Monetary Fund.” Frankly, the US is in no position to “prop up” the EU. Europeans would be happy if they could be sure that the US could continue to “prop up” its own debt-ridden economy without help from China.
Bolton’s animosity is typical for a segment of American thinking that sees Europe as a competitor for world markets and influence – a competitor moreover who is dangerously soft on issues like Islamic terrorism, the Iranian nuclear threat, Russian imperial ambitions and Chinese human rights violations, and whose ideas on the welfare state, if they spread to the US, would sap the morale and freedom of American citizens. They are right on two counts. The EU is a competitor, and the EU is too soft on thugs. As for the attractiveness of the “European social model”, that’s for Americans to work out for themselves.
A European empire
But where the Eurosceptics are wrong is in thinking that they have no stake in the development of a European superstate (or, to use the term I prefer, and that has also been used by EU Commission President Manuel Barroso: empire). Europe is the vital center. Fixated on the rise of the Pacific powers, Americans may forget that Europe’s economy is still three times the size of China’s; that Europe and the USA share comon values; that the Europeans (among them two nuclear powers) are still the only ones actively helping the USA to police the globe; that Europe is stategically poised between the oil- and gas-rich but autocratic Russia and the oil- and gas-rich but autocratic Arab states and has a unique role to play in propagating democratic change and a pro-Western stance in these regions. Democrats in Tunisia, for instance rely on the EU for support. If Europe remains prosperous, stable and democratic, and can achieve unity in foreign and security policy, while remaining in close cooperation with the USA, then the centre will hold. If not, not – to the detriment of Western power, values and welfare. For thinking people, Euroscepticism is not an option.