Sunday, December 11, 2011

Europe without the UK?

The future of Europe is integration. Not cultural integration, but economic, fiscal, legal integration. The challenge will be to develop this kind of integration, while simultaneously preserving the diverse identity of different cultural groups, which are even more numerous than the countries involved.

Cultural diversification will increase, and that means that among the 27 nation-states which form the EU, we must recognize that there are over 40 different cultures.

However, these 40-plus cultures can share the same legal framework, the same fiscal policies, a single retirement plan, and the same currency (why not?).

In order to do that, people will have to accept a loss of sovereignty, of course! It is no surprise that the country which scores highest in Individualism (UK) has the greatest difficulty in accepting this loss of national sovereignty... Plus, the UK is a "low-Power Distance" culture, and not as likely to accept a central authority based elsewhere.

From a cultural perspective, it is only natural that France and Germany are leading the push for EU integration. For the French (and other high Power Distance countries) there is no problem in accepting strong authority. They can even accept it AND value Individualism simultaneously. Perhaps this is the best example of the values underlying an integrated EU, this co-existence of high-PDI and Individualism.

For the Germans, the driver is order. The EU needs to be better organized. It makes sense to have a common currency, common fiscal policies, a common legal framework, etc.

For the Dutch and Scandinavians, the key is "leveling". If all stakeholders are heard, if there is a relative balance among members of the EU and all opinions are taken into account, then why not?

The UK are the only Anglo-Saxon culture among EU members, and they risk becoming isolated because of that. Being an island doesn't help. However, all sides stand to lose more than gain from an EU without Britain and Britain stands to lose the most.

Perhaps the discussion should be about the reasons why Cameron has decided to withdraw from the treaty agreed last week. Was it about Britain or was it about the banks operating in the UK?

Even "The Economist" has clearly stated this was about the banks.


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