EU Countries don’t go to War with Each Other
I might have missed it in the deluge of information from both sides in the European Union referendum debate…but, as far as I know, no one has yet fully explored this point.
Just beyond the borders of the EU there have been wars – most notably in the break-up of Yugoslavia (which even saw the return of concentration camps) but also in the Ukraine and just across the Mediterranean in Libya. But no member of the EU has gone to war with another member of the EU – nor is there any obvious indication that such a level of conflict is brewing between any member states.
No British soldier has died in battle on the European continent since 1945.
In and amongst the economic and legal elements of the debate, it’s vital to remember the context of the foundation of what was the Common Market and became the European Union.
A ‘common market’ to prevent war
The setting up of the European Coal & Steel Community (ECSC), first proposed by French foreign minister Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950, was intended explicitly to prevent further war between France and Germany. Schuman declared his aim was to “make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible” (‘Schuman Declaration’ speech, 9 May 1950). This was to be achieved by regional integration, of which the ECSC was the first step. The Treaty of Paris in 1951 was designed to create a common market for coal and steel among its member states which would neutralise competition between European nations over natural resources, particularly in the Ruhr.
Schuman’s underpinning theory – hope? – was that countries that have equitable and mutually-beneficial trading relationships don’t go to war with each other. They have no need to battle over resources and, in any case, the costs to their interdependent economies would simply be too great.
Equitable and mutually-beneficial trading relationships foster the growth of the ORANGE vMEME and set it free to strive and innovate for future development, generating wealth as both an objective and a by-product of its progress.
From the ruins of a continent devastated by the most brutal and destructive war in history, ORANGE made Western Europe one of the most affluent areas of the world. Along the way, it over-rode the PURPLE/BLUE vMEME harmonic of nationalism to create a supranational construct to further “ever greater union”. Talk of a ‘European superstate’ reached its apogee with the Mastricht Treaty (1992).
On a lesser scale we saw ORANGE doing this in the way the people of the Irish Republic backed the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, dumping the territorial claim to the North’s 6 counties enshrined in the constitution of 1937. With substantial EU moneys in the early 1990s, the economy of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ had boomed, allowing ORANGE to permeate Irish culture. People became more interested in bettering themselves than continuing to fight the old battles. Conversely, in the North with a depressed economy, PURPLE tribalism and PURPLE/BLUE nationalism held sway. The Good Friday Agreement only just got through the referendum, largely due to David Trimble making it an issue of loyalty to him and trust in him among Unionists. (And in so doing, he wrecked his political career.)
The fostering of ORANGE through business investment has been at the heart of proposals Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck has pitched to several US administrations to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If ORANGE were to catch on in the Occupied Territories, the argument goes, Palestinians would become more interested in bettering themselves than killing Jews. If Palestinians relinquish all claims to the lands the Jews stole from their great-grandparents in 1948, then there is no justification for the occupation. (That, of course, is not counting the minority extreme Zionists who will be satisfied with nothing less than achieving the borders of the Greater Israel of King David’s time or Islamist terrorists who want Israel wiped off the map!)
Moreover, it the Palestinians become viable trading partners for the Israelis and their economies become interdependent, then conflict becomes too costly and in no one’s interest. (See Centre for Human Human Emergence Middle East for more on these ideas.)
We now have in Western Europe 3 and sometimes 4 generations who have little or no idea what a real war is like. World War II is something to do with old movies on late night TV. The industrial-scale carnage and the wholesale destruction are like something from another world. It seems inconceivable that Western European countries could ever again do something like that to each other.
But, if not for the EU, perhaps it could happen again…?
I holidayed in Yugoslavia in late Spring 1991 just before the slide into secessionist war started to gather momentum. Based in Montengro and travelling up along the coast into Croatia, I was aware from time to time of tensions. (Some of the Croats I spoke to were quite disparaging about Serbs.) Yet the Yugoslav towns and cities seemed as modern, cosmopolitan and ‘civilised’ as any I’d been to in France and Germany. So I was gobsmacked (for lack of a better term) when less than a year later I found myself watching TV news showing shelling of some of the Yugoslav towns I’d visited, fighting in the streets I’d walked down and dead bodies in their gutters.
All it had needed was a set of RED-driven demagogues like Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević to exploit the suppressed PURPLE/BLUE nationalist sentiments allowed to the surface by the collapse of Yugoslavia’s megalithic BLUE governmental superstructure.
The supposedly-unthinkable can happen. The BLUE/ORANGE/GREEN structure of the EU is a bulwark against it.
Recognition of this role the EU has played well came in 2012 when it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having “contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
What could Brexit mean for the EU?
There has been a huge amount of discussion on the likely effects of Brexit on the UK. The need to establish new trading links, big wobbles on the money markets, possible reduction of inward investment, the potential undermining of NATO and damage to the ‘special relationship with the United States, possible reduction of European cooperation on counter-terrorism, even the Scottish Nationalists using Brexit as a lever to push for a second Scottish independence referendum…these have all been discussed at length.
But there seems to have been relatively little consideration – at least in the media – on what Brexit might mean for the future of the EU.
In fact, nobody seems willing – or possibly able? – to predict just what is likely to happen.
Although it is provided for (theoretically) in the Lisbon Treaty (2007), no member state has ever left the EU – although Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark) withdrew in 1985. The departure of a full member state has no precedent.
The withdrawal of the UK, the third biggest contributor to the EU budget (12.57%, according to Statistica), must have an enormous effect on the EU’s finances and economy. As the Leave campaigners never tire of telling us, by any set of calculations the UK puts more in than it gets out. So Brexit will leave a not-insignificant hole in the EU’s financial structure – up to $3 trillion in GDP, according to David Francis on Foreign Policy.com. (Add to that a potential loss of 16% of total EU exports if a trade war is a consequence of Brexit – although a trade war would hurt the UK more, with something like 45% of our exports going into the EU.)
More important, though, would be the political ramifications of Brexit.
Francis reports Heather Conley, director of the Europe programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as saying Europe is facing a ‘perfect storm’ of crises: the ongoing debate about bailing out Greece, the Syrian refugee crisis and the looming Brexit referendum. The Greek flirtation with leaving the EU last year, combined with the UK referendum, has made the prospect of abandoning the EU a possibility for other members who don’t want to deal with broader European issues.
Conley: “The migration crisis has put the foot down on the accelerator of saying no to Europe, saying no to refugee quotas…. What other EU countries in the EU will say is, ‘I don’t want to be part of an ever-closer union.’”
The multiple critical challenges the EU is facing – especially the migrant crisis – have emboldened far right movements across the EU.
Conley views David Cameron’s decision to have an in/out referendum as an attempt to draw the sting of UKIP and the right wing Tory Eurosceptics. However, the referendum vote looks like being uncomfortably close in England – though not in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As many commentators have already mused, a majority for Brexit in England only creates its own dynamics for the internal unity of the UK.
However, a vote for Brexit may strengthen far right ‘leave’ movements in other countries. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Le Front National, calls herself ‘Madame Frexit’. Conley says Le Pen “can now demand the same bargain that Cameron got” and call for a French referendum on Europe.
Could the EU start to unravel in the wake of Leave winning in the UK? Would that strengthen exit movements in other countries? Certainly MEPs are worried about this, according to EurActiv’s Georgi Gotev. Justice Secretary and leading Eurosceptic Michael Gove has been widely reported – eg: Michael Settle in The Herald – as welcoming the such an outcome, saying it would lead to “democratic liberation of a whole continent…. So yes there will be ‘contagion’ if Britain leaves the EU but what will be catching is democracy.”
Estimates vary from 2 years to 10 years as to how long it would take the UK to negotiate its way out of the EU while fulfilling existing commitments. Imagine if 2-3 years into those processes, another country voted to leave and a year or so after that another one. …
Like any divorce, things can get nasty very easily. The EU and its departing members could end up in disputes over all kinds of things from trade tariffs to fishing rights to airspace, etc, etc…and economic and legal disputes sometimes turn into military disputes.
David Rapkin & William Avery (1986), in one of their explorations of the causes of war, cite a telling speech from American president Woodrow Wilson in September 1919: “Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?”
The so-called ‘Cod Wars’ of the mid-1970s, when British trawlers were shelled by Icelandic gunboats and Royal Navy frigates were despatched to defend them, is indicative of how easily commercial rivalries can lead to military action. The UK was by then a member of the EU; Iceland wasn’t. If both were members of the EU, they each would have had to abide by the EU rules
The ‘unthinkable’ could happen.
The problem with the EU…
…is that politics have always led economics. In a sense, that was the intention of the founders of the ECSC: force-fit the economics to the political vision.
For more than 3 decades, the strength of the northern European economies enabled this strategy to work. However, the accession of Greece in 1981 and then Spain and Portugal in 1985 introduced the first economies into the then-European Community which were consistent under-performers in comparison to existing members. Indeed the European Stability Initiative (2006) reports that then-French president François Mitterrand openly opposed these accessions, fearing both their economies and their political systems were not up to being members of such a high-performing club.
30 years on from those accessions we can see that Mitterand’s fears were well-founded. Spain and Portugal are major drains on EU resources while Greece remains locked into what seems to be perpetual economic crisis.
In his classic article The EU: an Organisation divided by Values, Alan Tonkin articulated something of a North/South divide in the EU. He identified strong elements of RED in the cultures of Greece, Spain and, to some extent, EU founder member Italy being at odds with the BLUE/ORANGE enterprise cultures of Germany, France and Britain. The live-in-the-moment motif of RED will have driven the profligacy and lend, lend, spend, spend policies of their governments. A complete contrast to the forward-looking and disciplined work ethic of German culture.
However, the accessions of Greece, Spain and Portugal were largely driven by political expediency. Those countries were new fledgling democracies, still recovering from dictatorship, and the EU, for political rather than economic reasons, wanted to bring them into the ‘club’ to help stabilise them politically and socially. However, that also gave the EU seriously-underperforming economies among its membership.
Similarly political reasons led the EU to breach informal understandings between NATO and Russia and bring in many of the countries of Eastern Europe in 2004 and 2007. The accessions were widely seen as aiding those countries escape the dregs of Soviet Communism and to avoid falling back under Russia’s influence.
While the economies of a number of these countries have performed well in the past decade – especially Poland and the Baltic states – others have done less well, notably Hungary and Romania, who were deemed so unready economically that full membership was delayed till 2007.
Moreover, the migrant crisis has revealed a new faultline in the values of the EU. Last Summer Angela Merkel’s GREEN made her willing to accommodate 800,000 Syrian refugees in Germany. Meanwhile, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, reflecting a vMEME harmonic of PURPLE/BLUE nationalism, couldn’t have made it clearer that there was no place for Muslim refugees in his Christian country.
Quite what the ramifications of this newly-exposed values schism will turn out to be is hard to gauge yet; but it undoubtedly needs to be managed or it is likely to lead to problems in the years to come.
The EU has become an ever more-dysfunctional organisation because it has failed to recognised the different vMEMES dominating its members’ cultures and to develop a way of acknowledging and managing those value differences.
Stay in but reform…?
Britain leaving the EU is a risky business. For all the economic and security reasons outlined by the Remain campaign…but also – and perhaps most importantly – because the UK’s exit may well trigger contagion, as Gove puts it, with the EU coming apart and national rivalries re-emerging. It may, of course, be that Gove’s fantasy of countries all getting along and negotiating endless bilateral trade agreements does come true and that a post-EU world would be a more affluent and fairer world.
But the weight of history speaks against it. Terrible violence in the Balkans and in the Ukraine speak against it.
It’s instructive here to consider Sigmund Freud’s view of man’s natural inclination towards violence due to the Id’s destructive Thanatos drive. (The Gravesian RED vMEME represents Freud’s Id at its most complete manifestation.)
In the famous ‘Why War?’ letters between Freud and Albert Einstein, Freud (1932) wrote: “You are amazed that it is so easy to infect men with the war fever, and you surmise that man has in him an active instinct for hatred and destruction, amenable to such stimulations. I entirely agree with you…. Conflicts of interest between man and man are resolved, in principle, by the recourse to violence…. The death instinct becomes an impulse to destruction when, with the aid of certain organs, it directs its action outward, against external objects.”
It is Thanatos, this drive to destroy, that needs to be constrained – not given licence by commercial rivalries. The more countries are interdependent and submit to a supranational body, the more likely the drive to destroy on a large-scale level can be controlled. Thus, they less likely to go to war with each other. The premise of Schuman’s Declaration. Or, as Freud put it: “…the suppression of brute force by the transfer of power to a larger combination, founded on the community of sentiments linking up its members…. the common needs and habits of men who live in fellowship under the same sky favour a speedy issue of…conflicts and, this being so, the possibilities of peaceful solutions make steady progress.”
Given Europe’s all too bloody history and the millions upon millions who have died and suffered through it, an EU-type concept is necessary to limit an all-too-easy drift to violence.
Assuming the UK does vote to stay in, however, that must not be read as a thumbs-up for a deeply-dysfunctional organisation to continue as it is. The supposed reforming of the UK’s relationship with the EU barely scratches the surface of what needed.
What is needed is a roots and branches reconstruction.
It is the GREEN vMEME’s conceit that all are equal…when plainly all are not equal. All may be valuable but not all are equal.
So the EU needs to become an organisation that can recognise difference, both in attitudes and capacities, and find ways of managing those differences. Romania is not Germany. In time it might be enabled to develop similar attitudes and pro-rata equivalent capacities…but it takes a great deal of commitment and a lot of support for a country to move from PURPLE/RED with a touch of BLUE to centre itself in BLUE/ORANGE with a touch of GREEN. These things cannot be magicked but circumstances (life conditions) created which enable a natural development to occur and indicate a developmental path to be followed.
It may be that EU needs to have a number of different categories of member. We already have 2: those in the Eurozone and those not. So there is a precedent of sorts. But categories of member based on political, legal and social development as well as economic performance. Perhaps ‘mature’, ‘maturing’ and ‘immature’…? Influence in the decision-making of the EU would be related to category.
That’s a far cry from GREEN’s wanting to give every country the same status…but it’s perhaps necessary if the EU is to maintain its founding objective of having a safer, war-free Europe. As a mature country with a great history and still potential to be developed, the UK has a vital role in reconstructing an EU which is sustainable.
If the UK wants to have a safer, war-free Europe on its borders, then voters need to be reminded of what the EU is really all about.