The United States of Europe? – Cartoon Logic
This week, two sages of our time, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Clarkson, have both said big things about Europe, and in particular, the idea of a future European federation. Clarkson has come out as pro-‘United States of Europe’, while Johnson has fired shots at Barack Obama regarding the latter’s plea for the UK to remain in the European Union. Johnson says the Americans would never submit to a ‘NAFTA federation’ and subsequently, neither should Britain re the EU. Coincidentally, Clarkson and Johnson are both currently in talks to play the Chuckle Brothers in two big screen adaptations of their CBBC antics (namely To Me To You – The Chuckle Brothers Movie and To Me To You Two – This Time It’s Serious).
As I’ve written in this column before, I find the whole yes/no to Europe thing very confusing. But I think we haven’t talked enough about the possibility of a United States of Europe, and I think we should, for no other reason than it’s rather interesting. I’m going to imagine such a state in this very column, but I’m going to avoid passing judgement on it. Maybe it would be good, maybe bad. I’m simply interested in what it might be like.
A good point to start would be to compare the potential USE with the actual USA, using, where we can, details for the EU as it currently stands.
|United States of America||‘United States of Europe’|
|Area||9,826,630 km²||4,324,782 km²|
|GDP||$18.287 trillion||$18.881 trillion|
|Motto||In God we trust||United in diversity|
|Anthem||The Star-Spangled Banner||Ode to Joy|
|Language||De facto English||?|
|Number of States||50||?|
Glancing at that table, you can see that the USE would have more people in a smaller space, and fractionally more money too (though much less per capita). The currency of the new state would probably be the Euro, though that project has certainly been fraught with problems. It’s not in the chart, but I also suspect the USE could just lift the USA’s electoral and presidential system, by and large. It’s the question mark sections that are difficult.
Language is probably the major stumbling block for the USE. In the USA, 80% of the population has English as their sole language. Of the remaining 20%, three quarters also speak English well or very well, leaving a measly 4% with limited or no knowledge of English. Unlike the USA, which has no official language at the federal level, the EU has twenty-four official languages. Slightly over half of all EU citizens understand English, and along with French, these are the major working languages of the union. German is the most common first language, and a third of EU citizens understand it. One quarter understands French. A good bet would be to push for all citizens to have at least one secondary language, and for that language to be English, French or German. English is probably the first or second most widely spoken language in the world, so that might be the best choice; of course, I’m biased here. Spanish too, whilst only spoken by 15% of the EU population, is also spoken by much of Latin America, and is joint fourth most spoken in the world. Regardless, you can see how finding a common national language for the USE would be difficult, if not impossible. Esperanto, maybe?
Another issue is difference in size between potential member states. If you federated the EU as it is now, you’d have some imbalance. In particular, the population differences (and thus the differences in overall political influence) would be major. The most populated American state (California) has about 65 people for every person in the least populated (Wyoming). The difference in Europe is greater. There are 188 people in Germany for every person in Malta. Despite an attempt at balancing this out at the European Parliament by assigning greater numbers of MEPs for larger states, there is still imbalance. With 90 seats fewer than Germany, but 80 million fewer people, a Maltese voter has around 10 times more influence at the European Parliament than their German counterpart.
Perhaps the solution would be to divide the larger states up. Given that all states would be constitutional equals within a greater nation, this wouldn’t much matter to the people, you’d hope. This would be an excellent opportunity to solve the problems of nationhood posed by the various independence/separatist movements across Europe. The larger countries could split up into smaller states within the USE, and it might solve the Scotland/Basque/Catalan/Corsica/Tyrol/Isle of Wight issue. Based on this list, I think there would be something like 110 states in Europe. If nothing else, it would be good for quizzing. There’s a thought.
A capital. Obviously, everyone is going to want their national capital as the capital of the USE. While Riga or Zagreb might not stand much of a chance, there are definitely some likely candidates. London and Paris are the largest cities in the EU, but the institutions of Europe are based elsewhere. I think a South African-style multiple-capital solution would be best. The European Commission is based in Brussels, making that the ‘executive capital’. The Parliament is based in Strasbourg, making that the ‘legislative capital’. The Court of Justice is in Luxembourg City, making that the ‘judicial capital’.
I’m very aware that all those proposed capitals are all in Western Europe. In fact, all these capitals are located within a 200 km radius of Luxembourg City. Maybe they ought to be separated a little? It might make business a little more difficult, but perhaps it would be best to put one capital in the west, one in the Mediterranean, one in Scandinavia and one in the east, say.
Anyhow, them’s my thoughts. This is all academic, for the most part. Lots of commentators are suggesting the EU might face the possibility of collapse in the coming years. What with the migrant crisis and Russia and the UK referendum and all. Who knows? Maybe, one day, Europe will be united as one country under the star-circled banner. Or maybe not. If it was, at least it would give Jeremy ‘fired’ Clarkson something to be cheerful about.
This week, the Trumpsday clock edges forward to THREE MINUTES to Trumpsday. Whilst Donald Trump still has to defeat Hilary Clinton (for it most certainly will be her on the Democrat side), he has never been so close to the winning the Republican nomination. With Marco Rubio gone, just Ted Cruz and John Kasich stand in his way. Kasich, who stole Ohio from Trump this week (unsurprisingly: Kasich is the governor), has vowed to stay in the race until the Republican convention, diluting the anti-Trump vote and making it more difficult for Cruz, who is currently second. This works in Trump’s favour. There is still a good chance that none of these men will reach the convention with the required majority of delegates. If that happens, the wheeling and dealing will begin, and Trump may lose out to Cruz, or even Kasich. He’s promised there will be riots in the street if he isn’t picked as the presidential nominee, and I believe him. The question is, what will become of the USA if that happens? Might it fragment, or even collapse into civil war? Maybe in twenty years we will find ourselves with a USE and no USA. That would be a turn of events.