A Union by any other name

Events of the past few months have revealed cracks in the European structure. Citizens, politicians and journalists have expressed surprise at the lack of solidarity among member states and the overreaction of some nations at the possibility of having to provide Greece with help. The truth is that they should not react in this way, as the underlying ideals of the European Union have always been cooperation and gain, both of which can change or even cease to exist depending on circumstances. Even as early as the 1950s, the European family was building its house from the top down, rather than from the foundations up. This brought peace to the continent and transformed the unified states of Europe into the biggest economy in the world. Today, however, when we see the most powerful member of this «giant» being called upon to help the weakest, not only do we see it hesitate, but also its desire to expel the member from the family. This is only to be expected, as Europeans may view each other as partners, but ultimately as foreigners. The sense of belonging that defines ethnic, religious and other social groups has never been cultivated on a European level. Another uncomfortable truth is that if the Union really wanted to win over Europeans, it would have to conduct itself like the nation-states of two centuries ago: forging a common culture and a unified educational system, creating a closed society that defines itself in relation to others, with its own mythology, «national» holidays and landmarks. Nothing of this sort has happened so far, partly because of politicians’ reluctance and partly because of resistance from the nationalist element, which has grown to worrying proportions in the wake of the crisis. The EU is like an arranged marriage between consenting adults. Often such marriages can be a lot more stable than those based on true love, especially if both partners know that divorce is in no one’s interest.