Afterimage Review

Global vs. Regional Village: Can EU be Both?

The European Union
The European Union and its regional villages are not an alternative to the global village.

The European Union has lost touch with its people in a national sense. But in the regional sense,  the European Union is still seen as a successful project.

When independent European countries, with all their cultural, political and economic differences and  war history, started working together on a common legal basis, the word Europe acquired a new meaning. The continent got united  to create a “European Union Family”. The basic idea to stop future wars with putting national resources under a supranational law dates to 1952 when the Montanunion was founded. In 1993,  after many years of negotiations 1993 it became European Union.

But for its inhabitants this supranational building with the abbreviation “EU” was too big. The fear that regional belongings would no longer be recognized in Brussels were born with the word EU.

To understand this lingering fear, some context is necessary. The majority of a nation’s population, in Europe particularly, do not live in their capital. More often than not, a country’s commoners did not understand the trappings of their own national policymaking, let alone the workings of an entire continental government, so to speak.

By joining the European Union, every policymaker (no matter from which country or party) continued to make its policy with one big change: Unpopular decisions were hid under the excuse: It’s not us making this decision; it’s the EU’s fault. It was easier to say that sentence instead of justifying a difficult policy position in a rational and constructive way.

This tepid justification had another advantage: The population understood the national policymakers for the first time and were able to direct their anger towards a tangible institution. For decades voters felt solidarity with their politicians, and elections showed that the ruling parties had the trust of their voters.

The policymakers, with this one convenient excuse, effected a national feeling of solidarity for years. But, the center cannot hold. It’s ironic that national policymakers expected this complacency to last; their ignorance explains the logical growth of polarized wing parties in their respective countries.

The extremism in one’s parliamentary politics may have also arisen from the national policymaker’s tendency to claim only the benefits of a certain action by the EU, rather than to simply ascribe it to the institution’s efforts as a whole.

But while nations grapple with their fringe politics at home, and taboo words like Brexit and Grexit are dominating domestic politics, Europe is also experiencing the rise of regions — at least in the political sense of the word.

The European Union has lost touch with its people in a national sense. But in the regional sense,  the European Union is still seen as a successful project.

the benefits of the European Union

Let us explore the benefits of the European Union in the face of embittered criticism that it finds in the national politics of its member states.

Just recently, an Austrian company developed a program that would allow EU member states to apply for “project help” much more easily. The developed program was financed by a EU project. This major step is also integral for regions as they now could theoretically get better access to European funds.

The European Union is not only the lowest common denominator of its 28 Member states.  It is a platform for its regions. And the EU has a fund to support them directly when presented with an viable proposal. Throughout the years, Infrastructure like streets, bridges and tunnels were built. Every year two cities can apply for the title “European Capital of Culture”. The European Union knows about the important factor “region”. This October, Brussels will be home to the forum,  European Week of Regions and Cities.

We’ve established that the European Union is a good partner to regions regarding infrastructure and culture.  But is it also a good partner in political and legal matters? The answer is yes. Institutions like  the European Court of Justice  are there for everyone.

Towards the end of 2014 a region in South Tyrol (Mals) made the decision to stop using herbicides on its territories. The leader of the village received an order from the Italian Ministry — which for a lack of a better term, could be categorized as a “cease and desist” mandate. Just the existence of the European Court of Justice could help in such cases. In the Case of Mals the village found another solution. Instead of a total ban they changed the law. Pesticides were allowed up to 50 Meters to the border of a field. But as the parcels of land in Mals are not huge it means a ban of Pesticides even though de jure the Pesticides are not forbidden.

EU as the Global Village

The term “Global village” is a nice one. It  is a success story in a liberal world that must reconcile and reach an equilibrium with the rise of multinational corporatism. But its latest product,the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ( “TTIP” ), is not accepted by the public at large; because, seemingly, it seems the EU is not negotiating with the corporate world with the best interests of its people at mind.

The second term “producing working places” is not enough anymore. The abbreviation TTIP causes negative thoughts by a majority of Europeans as it is associated with genetic engineered food and Pesticides. The possible advantages of a common legal bases and a common market are not seen as strong as their negative (environmental and economical influence on Europe as US companies are bigger and have more resources. They would lead the small European businesses bankrupt. A small bar in Berlin wrote on its wall recently: “Here you can tip us but don’t TTIP us”.

The European Union and its regional villages are not an alternative to the global village. A global village you find everywhere. You just have to walk the main street and you find everywhere the same brands. There is no diversity as the big global players dominate. But the global village produces problems that can be solved if regionalism is promoted at an acceptably-proportional frequency. Even global players recognize that. For example, Mc Donalds  is buying regional meat in Europe.

A global village wants to promote commerce at lowest costs. A regional village wants to produce working places without destroying nature and regional work. The label local sells as even global players could testify. The future is the combination of local and global. The European Union gives Europe a common legal basis. The regions will find their way as long as they stay part of the European Union.

We will see what England will do if it chooses to Exit the EU. Will Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have referendums to Exit the Empire to be part of the European family again?

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About the author

S

"S" is a history expert and a lover of Kennan's papers. He lived in several European countries. In Spain he saw that nearly every second person between 15 and 24 gets unemployed. In Luxembourg, he soon realized it will become next to London —a Chinese currency hub. S. currently lives in Austria where he experienced the trains and refugee camps.

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