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The Future of the European Union
Tsvi Bisk   Jul 2, 2018   Ethical Technology  

The present crises of the EU (70 years after its creation) are in large part a consequence of absorbing three former fascist countries (Greece, Portugal and Spain) and eleven former communist countries, whose economies, standards of living and political cultures lagged behind the 13 more politically and economically advanced countries. The internal migrations towards a better standard of living from the 14 to the 13, in addition to the refugee crisis, have been major contributors to the dissatisfactions that led to Brexit as well as the rise of other populist movements in member states.

Despite these crises, can anyone seriously deny that the EU fulfilled a monumental historical duty in absorbing these countries? This has been one of the great achievements of recent history – one that only the EU could have accomplished. The USA could not have. The EU has demonstrated it is not a counterbalance to the United States, but rather a complement.

So, whatever the complaints against the present EU – and they are numerous, substantive and justified – its contribution to human progress and wellbeing is unparalleled.  And even though it is now in deep crisis, this crisis is nowhere near as severe as that of the USA 70 some years after its foundation (the American Civil War).

America learned valuable lessons after its crisis. What lessons will the EU learn following Brexit? Brexit is nothing more than a canary in the coal mine; an indicator that the supercilious attitude and one-size-fits-all policies of Brussels cannot maintain themselves over the long run. Simply put, a lower case "united states of Europe" can never be an upper case "United States of Europe".

The United States of America is united by a common language, a common national history, a common legal culture (49 states have English Common Law as their legal foundation – Louisiana being the only outlier with Napoleonic law), and a common vision of their future (the much celebrated "American Dream").  The united states of Europe are not united by any of these characteristics.

There is also that sense of "American Exceptionalism" – much derided by European sophisticates and deracinated American academics but a tremendously powerful component of American identity. This reflects a fundamentally optimistic view of life that feels that no matter how disappointing current reality is in regards to the American dream there is always hope that the future will be better. Americans might be skeptical about the functions of the state, but they are rarely cynical about the essence of American civilization.

The "united states of Europe" do not share a common language, history or legal system. They reflect profoundly different psychological outlooks.  Compared to the differences in mentality and cultural values between Germany and Italy or England and Spain, the differences between the American North and South or East and West are minor.

I am reminded of the juxtaposition, some years ago, of two television programs as I was surfing on my remote. The first was a report on the violence generated by the anti-fox hunting protests of animal rights groups in England. The second was a live broadcast on Spanish TV of a bullfight – complete with color commentary ("the bull just gutted one of the picador's horses" etc.). I asked myself, "and these two countries are part of the same political/cultural project"?

There is no question that the civilization of Western Europe (the civilization of the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation) represents a historically cohesive meta-civilization. But because it is not unified by language, legal system or mentality it can never be "The United States of Europe", but can be "a united states of Europe". This differentiation must be recognized if there are not to be other 'Brexits'.

If the EU is to survive and flourish in the 21st century, it must recognize and respect national, demographic, social, and cultural idiosyncrasies within a constitutionalist framework that negates the anti-constitutional and undemocratic practices of some of its newest members (notably Orban's Hungary) as well as certain immigrant populations regarding their views on women and children's education. Multi-culturalism in no way obligates us to tolerate the human rights obscenities of other cultures in the name of pluralism and respect for the other. You live in Europe; you act according to European norms and values. Eat your own food, dance your own dances, wear your own clothes, but you must conform to the liberal constitutionalist democracy we have developed – no exceptions.

Moreover, there must be a more comprehensive project to actually redefine European civilization; to create an exciting and compelling vision of the European future. The EU has been a defense-minded enterprise in its first 70 years: preventing war, neutralizing poverty, defusing discrimination etc. In these roles it has been an unprecedented historical success. But, if it is to inculcate a compelling loyalty to the European Project amongst the younger populations of the various states as we move deeper into the 21st century, it must formulate a heroic vision of its future.

In its past, Europe made invaluable contributions to all of humanity: the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, as well as constitutionalist and democratic genomes that, when transferred to other parts of the world, flourished and served as the declared (if not real) basis of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It must reclaim these civilizational ambitions not only for the sake of all humanity but also for it's for its own sake.

When JFK instituted the Space Program and the Peace Corps he did so, amongst other things, to rejuvenate the American spirit. What could serve as the European equivalent to the American and Soviet space programs; something unique to Europe rather than a copy of the USA and Russia?

I propose that the ambition to resolve the energy/environment conundrum become Europe's unique contribution to humanity:  to declare that by 2030 the EU will be energy self-sufficient (a much greater ambition than energy independence).  Such a project would not only excite the idealism of Europe's' younger generations, but would also require dozens, if not hundreds, of technological innovations that would put Europe at the forefront of the world economy in the same way that America's Space Program did for the USA. Its repercussions for all humanity would once again place Europe at the forefront of world civilization

It would not only inspire and thrill the inherent idealism of young people, it would be an achievement that has the ability to restore the cultural self-confidence of the intellectual class – something that appears to have completely dissipated since WWII – and thus rejuvenate the robustness of the European political project.

Europe has played defense very successfully, but can anyone cite any civilizational achievement that even approaches the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution or the great artistic and musical achievements of the 19th century?

Europe has become a gigantic museum celebrating its past; a cemetery of dead cultural heroes. The European Union is about as inspiring as a very efficient shopping mall. If it is to survive – to avoid other 'Brexits' – it must now reinvent itself, just as the United States of America reinvented itself after the Civil War.

Tsvi Bisk (site) is director of the Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking and author of The Optimistic Jew: A Positive Vision for the Jewish People in the 21st Century (Maxanna Press, 2007). He also is Contributing Editor for Strategic Thinking for The Futurist magazine , the official publication of the World Future Society, and he has published over a hundred articles and essays in Hebrew and in English.

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