Now that the European Union constitution has been essentially defeated, what is the next step in Europe? While political leaders in Belgium are clinging tenaciously to the constitution, hoping to perhaps resurrect it at some future date, some of the few conservatives in Europe see this as an opportunity to try a different approach: one that will create a European Union based on conservative ideals.
French conservative Sabine Herold feels that the European Union is essentially a good thing for Europe, and for the United States. As she said at a recent conference held by the American Enterprise Institute, a strong Europe means a strong ally for the United States and a healthy competition. She felt that the idea of a European Union is good for Europe, as long as it is modeled on conservative values and does not follow the socialist pattern of the current overall European economy. Essentially, had the constitution been ratified, it could have opened up a dangerous possibility for overall European socialism, but Herold still feels that a more unified Europe is necessary and economically beneficial.
Dr. Liam Fox, of the Conservative Party in Great Britain, also sees a future for further unification of Europe. Fox, while strongly against the recently voted on constitution, does want to see a European Union created along conservative lines. The dangers of the recent constitution, according to Fox, are that it would have given the E.U. many powers of an integrated state and removed much of the sovereignty of the E.U.‘s member nations. However, Fox, in a recent speech to The Heritage Foundation, called for a “reformed Europe,” employing the free market reforms of supply-side economics, and operating under a flexible, democratic type of E.U. unlike the current system.
The E.U. is in financial difficulties right now. While the euro is strong, the economies of certain nations in the E.U. are not on the same playing field with other E.U. nations’ economies. This widespread inequality, coupled with prevalent socialist policies, has led to increasing taxes and increasing unemployment. I would agree with Herold who said that Europe’s decline is dangerous for the United States. I would also agree that Europe desperately needs democratic and free market reforms, as Fox called for. However, I do not think that another European Union, created under conservative values, is the answer.
My first concern is the sheer improbability of a conservative European Union. “Free market” and “conservative” are not popular words in Europe right now, and I find it difficult to believe conservatives could in fact take leadership of the E.U. Nor do I think they could effectively combat it with another sort of unification-of-Europe effort. I feel that socialism is so thoroughly ingrained in the European consciousness and particularly in the minds of the E.U. leaders, as to be nearly impossible to disengage. If we hope for free market reforms in Europe, we need to hope for those reforms to come from the masses of the individual countries and the leaders they elect, we cannot expect it to efficiently happen from the top down, as it would if the leadership of the E.U. were conservative. This is because even if the EU operated on conservative principles, but was made up of many socialist countries, the effect would still be overall socialism, similar to what we see happening in Europe right now.
The best solution for Europe would be to give up on further unification. The nations are still sovereign, and should be left sovereign. The sort of conservative economic reform that would be best, and most feasible, is for the nations of Europe to be left in their current states of sovereignty, and each nation to undergo its own, individual, free market reform. Reforms should be a product of the people themselves realizing the benefits of free market systems, and then electing conservative leaders for their nations on their own initiative. Anything else is forced and unrealistic. Economically speaking, the European Union is currently as unified as it needs to be. A step further, for example, ratifying even a conservative constitution, is an unnecessary step towards less independence and more collectivism among the nations of Europe.
It is very important to the United States that Europe have an economic reform movement. A strong Europe provides the U.S. with healthy economic competition and, generally, with a strong ally. Furthermore, if Europe experiences certain free market reforms it is conceivable that the nations in Europe could also become more pro-U.S. However, this is the sort of economic reform that should happen because Europeans see the need for free markets themselves, like more and more of them are already doing.