Political fiction: Onwards to Europe 2.0

30 May 2011 – Die Welt (Berlin)

Forget the nation-state: Europe would be much better off if it were fundamentally reorganised – into powerful regions in the north and the Alps and picturesque bankrupts in the south

Only 40 percent of Germans in 2011 see their future in Europe, and only 25 percent have confidence in its institutions. This survey is the answer to 25 billion euros from Berlin for the well-padded owners of Greek banks. It’s not national narrow-mindedness that is at work here since the southern Germans shell out for their fellow countrymen in Essen or Bremen with as little gusto as they do for Athens, Dublin and Lisbon. Only the scare tactics deployed against nationalism keep the EU alive. Exploitation via transfers is always better than war, stresses the nomenklatura. For the first time in half a millennium, Europeans can act in a post-national way. Following the crash in the birth-rate across Europe, they simply lack the numbers to continue to fall upon each other with bloody consequences. The unification process is not an instrument to prevent war, but a sympathetic expression of the inability to wage war.

A new layout of the European map is hope for a future beyond nation, religion and tradition. So spoke the Swedish historian Gunnar Wetterberg in 2009, proposing a rebirth of the Kalmar Union for the Nordic region. If Iceland, Denmark together with Greenland, Norway plus Spitsbergen and Sweden, Finland and possibly Estonia pooled their 3.5 million square kilometres and 26 million people, they would create the eighth-largest economy in the world. Later candidates would be the Netherlands and Flanders. An alliance with nuclear-armed Britain would make the North Sea a Mare Nostrum and furnish a partner for USA/Canada, together with whom the North Atlantic as well would be impregnable.

Switzerland is also peered at as an example, since it works as a nation united by consensus in which the citizens of Geneva are not French, those in Ticino are not Italians, and those in Zurich are not Germans. Neighbours who no longer want to be neighbours can, with their confederates of choice, go about fencing off an optimal economic and monetary area, which will then draw in the bolder adventurers of the world to balance out the birth deficit.

There won’t be any subsidies to offset the wealth gap. While advocates of transfers in Bremen and Berlin are continually cooking up new ways to reach into the purses of the neighbours, Swiss cantons have to earn their own daily bread by attracting innovative companies and a more efficient workforce. Nevertheless, they also care for their destitute and are usually more to the fore there than Germany's better neighbourhoods are.

The nation-state would have to queue at the back

The OECD in 2009 judged Switzerland to be the world's best location for innovation, and in the Global Competitiveness Index for 2010/11 the country also landed top spot. Out of Italy, the wealthy industrial north as a whole would be in the running for the Alps region, with a hand outstretched to Florence and Urbino. In the east, the polyglot Slovenians would round out the federation. With 70 million inhabitants across 450,000 square kilometres, the whole area would be the fourth largest economy in the world, after the United States, China and Japan.

Even the regions considered to be beyond saving would get a second chance with the Northern Union and the Alps Federation. Instead of billions in transfers, there now would be only blueprints for a fishing rod, with which everyone could land his own fish. After the inevitable state bankruptcies, Portugal, Spain, southern Italy, the Slavic Adriatic and Greece could create a Mediterranean federation with over 100 million people, which could always draw customers from all over the world to sample its solar energy, organic food and cultural charms. If Israel were brought in, even the weapons would be there that, given its proximity to the Islamic crescent, it already needs.

The remainder of the Baltic, with Poland and EU candidates Belarus and Ukraine, would be similar in scale to the Polish-Lithuanian empire that ended when it was carved up in 1795 between Berlin, Vienna and St. Petersburg. A new version of Rzeczpospolita with around 110 million people would no longer need fear Russia, which is aging even faster. France could go it alone, but together with the rump of Germany the two might also transform the anxiety-inducing concept of Eurabia into an honorary title. Since in both lands from 20 and 25 percent of the youth will be extremely incapable of ever being educated, super crèches ought to be the turning point for the tiny tots. If the promise to turn every child into an ace at math comes through, such a Berlin-Paris axis would write a new page in world history.

Under the banner of red-green-red-green bringing together the Marxists, ecologists, socialists and followers of the Prophet, such a multicultural rainbow equipped with high tech would be a light unto all the nations. It will no longer necessary to fall upon those who do not believe in it, because they have almost all options open. The nation-state, though, would have to queue at the back. To it will remain mostly only the hotheads from the right and left, the one dreaming of lost power and the other of transfer payments without end.

Translated from the German by Anton Baer

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