Foreign & Domestic: Expat Loyalty & The European Union

Shortly after moving to Dublin, as I started to learn more about the EU, I began to hear locals speak of the U.S. and its Federal Reserve banking system in lofty terms. It seems that out here on the fringes of the eurozone (as Ireland, one of the smaller trading partners, often feels), the centralized banking structure of the United States and its coalition of unified states are held in high regard.

To members of the EU experiment, the system of states all working together, and a strong central bank seems like utopia. But I find it interesting that just when Greece is lining up to leave the grand European experiment, the U.S. is also going through its own crisis of unity and central control. This begs the question: what does it mean for a country or group of states to be unified, and what does that mean for the immigrant? Where should their loyalty lie?

We moved to Ireland, and when we apply and qualify for citizenship we’ll get Irish passports. But we’ll also be members of the EU. Now, there is the EU (the 28 member states of the European Union), the EC (European Commission – the governing cabinet/coalition of the EU), and the eurozone (the 19 EU member states that have adopted the euro as their currency). Yes, you can be a member of the EU without adopting the euro. In fact, one of the EU’s strongest economic players (the U.K.) is not “on the euro”. And when we were in Croatia last month we had to re-enter the EU (after brief forays into Bosnia), but our euros were no good. eurozone, Euro, EU, EC, Oy Vey. Yes, it is confusing, and at times it’s hard to know where your economic loyalty should reside as well.

The grand European experiment linking everyone together is a nice idea, but seems a bit naïve. How can you force countries to ignore decades (if not centuries) of history and suddenly get along? Mankind is innately tribal. You don’t just tuck that in a back closet (press for my Irish friends) and pretend it doesn’t exist. And you’re joking if you really think everyone in that system will be “equal”.

Of course, Germany is dictating the terms of, well, everything. They are, arguably, the “strongest” (however you define that), and have the most to lose/gain. It’s nuts to think that would come down another way. Ireland gets a seat at the table, but just. Greece, well, most countries wish they would sit down, pay up, and shut up. Except Ireland, who somehow has become a creditor of Greece. Ireland? Seriously, Ireland is now loaning money, to anyone? I guess prosperity is relative. As is strength and stability.

At the exact same moment that the EU is in crisis and about to lose one of its members, if not two (Greece & the U.K. – fondly referred to as “Grexit” & “Brexit”), Ireland’s shining star of stability is having its own crisis of solidarity. Back in the U.S., recent Supreme Court ruling, while a profoundly good thing, may have spawned a crisis, or at least question, of state’s rights and federal control. I don’t think it will go very far, but it’s at least shown the world that we (Americans) are not as unified as we might imagine. That flavor of reality check is, I believe, healthy and good on a regular basis.

I think that may be the part that is missing in the European experiment. While the U.S. is a collection of states unified under a central government, in the U.S. the goal is autonomy (freedom and state’s rights) within that larger federal framework. But in Europe, while they pay lip service to each country retaining its own system of governance, the entire system is based on the notion that binding everyone together and reducing differences, or at least flattening the curve will prevent future conflict. But that very sublimation, coupled with the hierarchies that inevitably develop, is the thing that will ultimately weaken European unity.

I am now, and always will be, an American. But I’m also beginning to feel loyalty to Ireland. I don’t particularly care about the EU. It’s a necessary part of life in Ireland (a bit like an annoying uncle). So how much should we sacrifice to keep Greece in the boat? Did the Supreme Court overstep its bounds? Should states take steps to redress that wrong? And, when we’re citizens of Ireland, what flag do we fly on the 4th of July?

Oh, wait… doesn’t matter as long as we pay for it in drachma, right?

Glenn K.
Dublin, July 2015


Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Water Rights (Yeah, right)
Finding the “Right” City For You

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.
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