Calling The Euro Home

In the lead up to this week when Ireland votes on the Austerity package, I’ve given a lot of thought to the things that hold the EU together, and it occurs to me that, as much as Ireland is in Europe, and I can see myself swearing allegiance to Ireland at some point, the EU is a thing too cold and mercenary to ever hold my loyalty.

In response to the fiscal problems here in Ireland (and in Greece, Spain, and elsewhere), I’ve heard people say that the EU needs to adopt a more American style of fiscal policy (a federal reserve system for policy oversight and administration of the single currency).  Yes, the fact that the U.S. is bound together under a single currency and some addled notion that all states share the country’s economic burdens has a certain naïve romance on this side of the Pond.  But the notion that you solve the current EU economic ills by simply appointing a central policy bureau is as failed a notion as thinking that you can institute a harmonious continent-wide system of government simply by voting it into existence.

The first problem (of many) with this idea/notion/delusion is that the EU is not, and never will be, a unified national presence in any way like the U.S.  When the latter states joined the United States they joined a national ideal, a concept that they believed in.  Not so the EU.

To directly quote the EU website (

“The EU is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries that together cover much of the continent.

It was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries who trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict.

Since then, the EU has developed into a huge single market with the euro as its common currency. What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organization spanning all policy areas, from development aid to environment.”

The EU is a union formed for state security and economic gain.  That’s a fairly mercantile and mercenary mandate.  Now, years later, as we try to reconcile 27 disparate notions of “pursuit of happiness” and “right/wrong”, there’s no ideological glue to hold things together. There’s no ideal to hold people together.  The EU offers nothing to swear allegiance to except global competitiveness.

As immigrants in a new country, what is it we swear allegiance to?  For soldiers in foxholes it’s the guy next to them.  For me that means neighbors, friends, family, and the people I interact with on a regular basis.  That’s Ireland.  Asking the Irish (and other Europeans) to be more like America in structuring fiscal policy and swearing allegiance to that policy is a failed idea, and one that was doomed 50 some years ago when the EU was formed.  It’s like asking a team of highly paid All-Stars to suddenly play with the same heart and soul as the national champion team from a secondary school. The technical aspects have all been seen to, but fundamentally it’s a utilitarian union incapable of inspiring passion, devotion, and loyalty.

And that’s what is being asked of the Irish, and the rest of the EU.  We’re being asked to declare our loyalty to the euro, not to an ideal, or to people.

Let’s not even start to discuss the idea that Germany (because it’s got all the money) is being allowed to dictate and demand national fiscal policies throughout Europe.  It’s like letting California set Louisiana’s budget.

We must remember that people swear their allegiance to country and countrymen, not to currency. “Twas always thus, and always thus will be.” *

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Looking Back On the First Year


* “Twas always thus, and always thus will be.” was taken from the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society.

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
This entry was posted in Bureaucracy, Dublin Life, Friends & Family, Home & A Sense of Place, Irish Life & Society, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Calling The Euro Home

  1. Chris Ogan says:

    Well said Glenn. The national cohesion that exists in the many countries of the EU will never exist in the international union that is the E U. However, a stronger Economic EU could happen by adopting some of the US’s financial institutions that resemble the Federal Reserve, I believe. Then perhaps Germany would not be able to call all the shots.

  2. Excellent observations, Glenn. As always, I’m enjoying your posts.

  3. eric says:

    sorry glenn but I’m one of those europeans that still keeps close the idea that allegiance to country and countryman is much worse. The website of the EU might not hold hight the notion that we have a union to prevent the sovereign states from misbehaving but its founders did after two world wars fueled by national pride. I agree that the union is doomed if it is imagined around a coin, markets and as a soulless project but much worse things would follow if that leads to the conclusion that it’s better to focus on nation than on markets. In my view that’s a false dilemma

    • Eric,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and particularly for taking the time to comment and contribute to the community and the discussion here.

      I agree with you that loyalty to country and countrymen can lead to xenophobia, and hyper nationalism. Understandably Europeans such as yourself are still quite sensitive to that side of things. Frankly that was behind my passive aggressive jibe at Germany. I’m surprised that the other members states have let Frau Merkel be so strident. Sadly that’s what happens when you let the one with the purse strings dictate policy.

      I’m hoping that one day Germany will realize (or be made to) that they only have such a booming economy because other member states buy from them. Their prosperity has not been created in a vacuum, and without bullying smaller markets. The world is watching, and the very forces that helped Germany reach its current level of prosperity may one day turn against it.

  4. Barbara says:

    Sitting in Italy, things look a bit different. Here people say that their allegiance is first to their city, sometimes the region, then to the EU. Nationalism is much less a virtue, given that it was a cornerstone of fascist policy. The EU has pushed forward some good changes in areas such as human rights, and is perceived to have helped the country stabilize economically. And, Italians would add, the EU bureaucracy is nothing compared to that in Italy!

    The austerity program that is pushed by Merkel may be challenged as Hollande changes the French position and perhaps helps to balance the perspective. Remember that a similar austerity agenda, complete with donations to the rich, is at the heart of the current Republican campaign in the US. If they are elected, California may want to join the EU.

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