The European Union is in danger of collapse for one basic reason. That reason is that political control is not related to the member states’ economic performance. It you compare it to a family, the kids have access to their parents’ credit cards.
The damage was caused in two ways. On the one hand, bankers in France and Germany found they could provide hard currency (the Euro) to countries with a lower GDP allowing them to buy goods made in France and Germany. In effect, the difference between their actual economic performance and the one reflected in the currency was a loan. When these subsequently couldn’t be paid off, the people on the hook were the taxpayers in France and Germany.
Pernicious as that was, an equally unfortunate effect of the European Union was to give too much power to the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels who enjoyed goading their three large neighbours (now two) by issuing complex and irrelevant regulations on almost every topic. These regulations, more than anything else, were what caused British voters to revolt, provoking Brexit.
If you compare these two issues, you will see they are both a case of power without responsibility. In the first case, bankers and industrialists were using the union to expand their markets at the expense of their own citizens. In the second case, the bureaucrats were exercising power without having to meet the voters who had to pay for their actions.
How could this be fixed?
The first principle should be to give the two largest economic powers still in the Union executive powers, namely: Germany and France. These countries should sit as an Executive Presidency with veto power over every decision.
The second would be for the smaller powers to form themselves into groups or parties; one for the Nordic countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands, led by the Netherlands; one for the Eastern countries led by Russia; and a third for the Southern countries led by Italy. Each group could send a member to sit on the Executive Council, with a vote but without a veto.
In other words, the two countries with the largest economies would always be able to block or modify proposals from their smaller neighbours, but the neighbours, if they formed a majority could pressure the major powers, as long as they didn’t push too hard. Yes, it would be a balancing act, but it would work because it would reflect both regional interests and different economic realities.
Where should a capital be for such a renewed European enterprise? I would vote for Breisach, Germany and Neuf-Brisach, France. They’re right across the Rhine River from each other, they have the same name, and the French town has a perfectly preserved Vaubin fort (pictured) to remind the parties of the alternative to cooperation.
What about Britain? Well, it could emulate Japan, another island off the coast of a larger and more powerful neighbour. To make that work, it should follow Japan’s example on immigration, revolutionary though that would be to the commentariat.
What about Turkey? It’s time we all agree Turkey, after 1,500 years of trying, is not and never will be, a European country.
What about NATO? The North Atlantic Treaty Organization belongs to the 20th Century, not the 21st. Let Iceland be in charge of the North Atlantic. They’re welcome to it.