What is this 'European Union'?

Anne-Marie Slaughter in the IHT, with a piece on the EU. She cites the number of times both George Bush and John Kerry have referred to the European Union – and it’s not often. This bit is good:

Suppose the citizens of Ohio or Oregon or Alabama understood that the EU has a larger population and gross domestic product than the United States. That English is widely and increasingly spoken as a second language. That most of the students who are either no longer applying to American schools or unable to enter the United States for a lack of a visa are choosing European universities instead. And that EU representatives are thick on the ground in many developing countries, both trolling for business and doling out aid and advice.

Suppose further that at a time when one of the most important issues in the U.S. election is which candidate is better placed to “win the peace” in Iraq and Afghanistan, American voters knew something about the EU model of building democracy – through assistance, admonition and accession negotiations. Americans would not likely believe that the prospect of EU membership, even if such a thing were possible, would have convinced the Taliban or Saddam Hussein to lay down their arms. But they might think that after the first flush of military victory the EU could teach America quite a lot about the exercise of civilian rather than military power.

EU citizens may be dubious about the EU’s effectiveness, particularly in political and military affairs. They may be unhappy about the democracy deficit. And they may be skeptical about their new constitution. But they know that the EU is an entity distinct from “Europe,” a rising entity of their own creation that is not simply an imitation of the United States. As a result, American voters are genuinely living in a different world from their European counterparts.

This trans-Atlantic divide results not from policies but from the most basic perceptions of relevant political actors in the international system. It should worry us all, well beyond the election.

One thought on “What is this 'European Union'?”

  1. Some of that is interesting, but I reject the notion that the EU is a rising entity. The EU represents a great coming together of the European states, but those states are in serious decline. It’s as if they’re on a sinking ship and they’ve decided to die holding hands rather than separately. The EU is the support you get by holding hands with someone who’s facing the same end as you are.

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