Europe, Community and Common Interest

Though founded to ensure peace and stability in the aftermath of World War II, the European Union is now much more than that.  At its simplest level, it is founded on the principle that there are things we can achieve better together than separately.

To extend the concept of a hierarchy of communities I’ve used before, we are in some senses members of a european community.  I don’t use this in any formal sense or with reference to the former name of the EU, but only in the sense of a geographic community with common interests.  It should be self-evident that we have common interests, at minimum in preserving the european environment.

However, history plays a role.  A hierarchy of community headed by the nation-state is familiar territory to us all, but extension beyond this gets tied up with issues of nationalism and sovereignty.  It was easy for nations like France and Germany who had just experienced turmoil, invasion and occupation to understand that there should be some form of supranational european community.  But this is much more difficult for other states, particularly the UK and Sweden, which have been largely isolated from invasion and occupation.  This is reflected in the eurosceptic stances of both and it should be noted that neither have joined the Euro.

So presuming there is a pan-european community, what are its common interests and what are the areas where europe as a whole is a better agent than individual nations?

  • Common standards for human rights
  • Free trade and free markets, including freedom of movement of people, services, finance and capital
  • The environment
  • Supra-national infrastructure: roads, rail, air, power, water, etc
  • Common external relations where there are shared foreign interests and concerns
  • Representation at the UN, WTO and other “world” bodies

I could go on but I think this list makes the basic point for european coordination. But should this be intergovernmental cooperation or a supranational organisation with coercive (legal) power over nations?  Human rights, free trade and free markets present the clearest case for a supranational organisation.  Here it is critical that nations must not be allowed to impinge on the rights confered by liberalism (in all its aspects) and that legal power to prevent nations practising, say, torture or unfair trade is required.

I contend that there is a good, common-sense case for a supranational european organisation with legal power over its member states.

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