Spain’s government is considering a restriction on the free immigration of EU citizens into the country, specifically Romanians. This is just another sign that the EU’s collective solidarity is being unmade by a down economy, and pointing the way toward the future of Europe, which is to break apart into a hundred or so language-based regions, operating under a a common agreement, as a league.
It may also be the case that the boundaries of this league of autonomous regions will contract: perhaps Romania and other peripheral countries will be left out.
Perhaps other regions will find great common cause. For example, the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland — may find that common cooperation in joint activities and agreements could be beneficial. That region might decide to supprt Schengen-style immigration rules, even when the EU Schengen agreement is in serious decline elsewhere. Note the recent decision by the Danish government to strengthen passport controls on its borders with Germany and Sweden.
I also anticipate that the debt burdens of some countries might accelerate their dissolution. For example, Catalonia is already a semi-autonomous region of Spain, but in the future — when the European Union falls apart — Catalonia may want even more autonomy.
Catalonia is a great example of what the future of Europe might be like. A region dominated my a large metropolitan area — Barcelona — where the great majority of commercial, governmental, and cultural innovation occurs, and around which the outlying areas provide food, materials, and resources for the growing urban population of the urban center.
A similar model is found in the UK — a country dominated by London, and where Scotland may break off independently, while Wales may find itself too closely integrated to split. Denmark and Copenhagen is another example.
The break up of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia showed that even mini-unions composed of discordant language and cultural groups had no place in the modern world. Belgium is likely to break into two regions, of French and Flemish speaking peoples. The Basque might finally get their homeland, and the breakaway interstitial country of Transnistria could get official blessing. Why aren’t Corsica and Sardina independent, again?
Yes, German reconnected East Germany after the fall of the USSR, but that stands out as an exception to the trend. And many West Germans may regret having done it, now.
The borders of European countries are largely holdovers from wars fought generations, if not centuries, ago, or the deals struck between long-dead kings. They often have no more utility than the court dress of ceremonial guards.
But for a real change of this sort to occur, the cult of the EU will have to die out. And a different set of beliefs will have to come to the fore. Or perhaps the rise of a common set of disbeliefs. Why should anyone living in Europe trust their leaders to make the right decisions, after the mess the continent’s finances are in? I bet the younger generation don’t buy into the old dreams. They aren’t haunted by WWII.
The Eurozone is failing, and debt-burdened countries will defect, opting to have their own currencies, which they can manipulate to better resolve regional financial difficulties.
We can anticipate the desire of Catalonia to create and use its own currency, once Spain falls out of the Eurozone. Catalonia will opt out of the peseta-zone.
What to expect, then, ten years or more in the future? A Europe of loosely-connected, cooperating regions, regions dominated by regional urban centers, or ‘metros’. Not a unified EU with a single unified identity, currency, and set of laws. Instead, a network of metros agreeing to cooperate in various ways, but not to cede control of local issues to the whole. Europe will be a connective, not a collective.
Connectives cooperate: members support each other because they are drifting in the same general direction, most of the time. Collectives share a single common set of goals, and operate in a lock-step fashion.
Europe today is neither: it is caught between two chairs, and has no place to sit, as a result.
[Note that I believe than the US is naturally trending toward more of a connective approach to government, where major urban centers will become even more important as we become a more urban society. But the US is a federation, already, and has been for hundreds of years. I wouldn’t imagine we will see the dissolution of the union. However, we might see a reorganization of government, so that metro NY, for example, would not be (mis)governed by four different states.]
A connected Europe of the sort I envision is messy: it has no single head, no easy handle to grab. It is a heterogeneous crowd of small metros, pursuing their own ends, and part of the time in direct competition with each other. It’s not a state, not a collective union marching in unison toward a single shared tomorrow.
But then, that is the lay of the future world, if we are lucky. Thousands of metros, cooperating with their neighbors and others, perhaps far away, but acting in limited and local ways to make their citizens happy and healthy. And from the viewpoint of building a sustainable and resilient world, a better bet for our future on earth.
That’s why I think the groundswell in Europe is away from union, and toward a connective of hundreds of increasingly autonomous metros. There is a common disbelief in the value of being big and tight, at the expense of the autonomy from remaining small and loose. So expect a European League of metros to replace a European Union of countries.