Well my time in Germany is nearly up, just two weeks until I'm back in good old England. This leaves me with a little more free time than I would usually have and so I've decided to write a couple of blogs. My reading recently has led me to the European Union and the arguments surrounding its existence and viability. I was shocked at how little media Jose Manuel Barrosso's re-election as President of the Commission got as this is effectively the most powerful position within the EU with its agenda setting powers. Obviously something needs to be done about the lack of interest in the EU and over the course of my next few blogs I will be explaining my thoughts on what would work.
Firstly however just to set the scene nicely it's probably a good idea to look at the case itself for actually having the EU. Clearly both sides in the debate have points but the economic arguments of having it are far too convincing. While on a more nationalistic sense with Britain, it is better to be part of a process that we can change rather than running away, hiding under the blanket and hoping that EU legislation won't affect us.
So why do we need the EU? Why is it not better for all nations just to trade and negotiate on the International stage? Why do we have all of these rules and bureaucracy?
The main argument in favour of the EU is the fact that larger states are in fact better. If you look across the world who is the most successful country economically? It is the USA. This is because across the US there is a massive amount of diversity in the economy which allows greater specialisation and economies of scale. Only 20% of the USA's GDP is traded in the global economy - the rest is traded domestically. The USA can effectively produce its own goods using its own raw materials, and then sell it domestically to the huge US market. The EU is the same and just like the USA only 20% of the EU's GDP is traded globally. Even Britain trades 56% of the time with other EU countries! By forming a large trading bloc, the EU can compete with Asia and the USA in a way that would have been impossible for smaller states. It is true to say that some small states have been successful like Singapore and Hong Kong, but these have been at the cost of completely integrating with the global economy thereby losing their sovereignty over macro and micro economics. Therefore a large argument in favour of the EU is based around the idea that 'bigger is better'. By forming a large bloc it lowers the cost of public goods, provides a broader range of services, increases productivity and increases employment, growth and wealth. Relatively Europe is in decline compared to the rest of the world and without the EU there is no way that countries like France, Germany and Britain could maintain the high standards of living that they are accustomed too.
Another strong argument is that the EU helps to correct market failures that would normally cause benefits in some countries at the expense of others. Examples are pollution - acid rain, etc - unfair competition and worker exploitation. The EU legislates on these issues in a way that no international agreement could ever do, and so helps to deal with issues that are important to nations but is impossible to deal with alone. Also the EU haslegislated on issues like equality (it is now a crime across ALL EU states to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, race, etc,) maternity and paternity leave, and also given rights to temporary workers. Without these rulings it would be fair to say that some countries and nationalities in Europe would suffer unfairly, and I believe that this is a key point in why the EU is so beneficial.
The EU and the single market are also very advantageous in a different economic way as, for example, in just the first 10 years of the single market it created 2.5 million jobs and gave €5,700 to every household. These are only Commission estimates, but it would be foolish to claim that the single market and the EU have not brought real economic benefits. Also I think it is quite interesting to note that the entire 'mammoth beaurocracy' of the EU in relative terms is probably the same size of one that would administer a medium sized European city. Talk of Brussels sucking in most of the EU budget is far off, and in actual fact the EU is much more efficient than any National Government would admit (why you ask? because than people might ask how the EU is able to run with such small costs and then maybe they might want cuts in Government beaurocracy).
A lot of people also take for granted the benefits of the EU that they might experience throughout the year. For example it is due to the EU that it is so easy to go on holiday through Europe because of the open market and freedom to travel legislation. Also any British citizen if they wanted can just pack up and move off to Spain. These are because of the EU, and people should be reminded of that!
Some people argue that if a country wanted they could just up and leave the EU and so avoid all the social legislation, but get a partial membership and so keep membership of the single market. Alternatively some argue that we in Britain should just leave completely the EU. These claims seem foolish when put into perspective as the above arguments show that the benefits of the EU are vast and that leaving would be bad for the economy. If Britain were to leave it would be a huge gamble that our economy would be able to make the shift, and even if it did why would we want to do this when we get a pretty good deal from the EU? Why should we fight to get back our sovereignty from the EU only to hand it over to the global economy? Also arguments about partial membership seem strange because effectively they are saying that we will still be subject to all EU legislation in the economic fields, yet we won't have a voice in any of the drafting process. To assume that legislation from 26 of our closest neighbours wont effect us is crazy! The EU is now an agenda setter in the world that other nations are forced to follow, for example in the chemical industry the EU is one of the largest traders and creators. Therefore when other countries deal with the EU in the field of chemicals they are forced to adhere to EU standards (e.g. REACH). As I said earlier I would rather be a part of this process and actually have some kind of influence on the process, rather than run away and hide and pretend that the EU won't affect us.
Therefore these are my arguments as to why the EU is needed so much, and also why we as Britain should remain a part of it. I haven't even had space to mention how the EU has dealt with hunger and war, while creating a culture of consensus that my grandparents would have thought impossible. The EU is here and we need it. To think otherwise I think is strange and I will be interested to read what other people's opinions are on the matter. What is needed now is a proper plan to bring EU citizens into the process (but I will leave this for the next blog before I start discussing mor Hix!).
As for now I'm going to return to the world of au pairing, I think it's going to be a long day tomorrow...