Europe graduated from Medieval times by putting an end to senseless competition and conflicts of Roman Empire. The expectation was that society will move toward a more stable and secure period. It will help to create prosperity for people. The expectation was originated due to three very important reasons, 1) technological development especially in the field of agriculture and production, 2) end of useless wars and 3) limitation to the role of Church. Unfortunately, the medieval time was followed by another series of wars and conflicts. The prominent wars were eighty years of war between Spain and Dutch and 30 years’ war in Roman Empire. The major powers continued to fight for dominance and to undermine others. Wars introduced destruction and rupture of European society. It led to destruction of productive resources and hundreds of thousands of people lost life.
The wars concluded with Westphalia Treaty. The participating countries agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty and rights. It set the precedent for diplomatic solution to wars and conflicts. It gave chance to countries to concentrate on the development and prosperity of people. The Europe started to flourish. However, it was not good news for Asia and Africa. European countries started to invade Asian and African countries and process of colonization started. The raw material from Asia and Africa strengthened the industrial base of Europe. It also led to the process of slave keeping. Africa was particular target for enslaving people. The process continued till the conclusion of Second World War.
The destruction of World War-I and II compelled the countries to think about new means of engagement and peace. The winner of war USA led coalition introduced the concept of joint working, resources pooling and cooperation. Cooperation emerged as key word and actor to promote development across the world. USA generously contributed and shared its resources and market with other countries. The Marshall Plan was introduced to help the war-torn Europe and other countries. Although it excluded the communist bloc, but it helped many countries to develop.
Europe continued to ride on the wave and jump from one state of development to other. The good point was that it also continued to help other countries and tried to help its past colonies. The process helped many countries from Asia and Africa. Many countries started the journey of development due to help of Europe. However, the biggest success was creation of a unified Europe, in the form of European Union (EU). It is serving as an example for many other regions and they are trying to follow the foot steps like ASEAN, SAARC etc.
The inclusion of fiscal side is very important for the sustainability of EU. The lessons can be drawn form United States of America, which is monetary and fiscal union
However, during the last few years EU is facing immense pressure due to multiple reasons. The rise of right-wing politicians across the Europe has started to criticized EU. Right wing or nationalists are criticizing EU for weak policy on migration, poverty and in-equality. It is a rising trend and presenting a serious challenge to the unity of EU. The low performance on economic front is further giving impetus to nationalist movements. The rise of Nazi like party in Germany is worrisome. Although the leadership is trying to mitigate the impact and control the spread, but it will take time to reverse the process. BREXIT has shaken the whole structure of EU and it is struggling to cope the challenge.
These challenges present few lessons for Europe, which required attention from European leadership. The first lesson is that, economic system must ensure the trickle down of benefits at wider level. The failure to share benefits leads toward in-equality, which ultimately result in disintegration of political leadership. Second, the monetary union alone cannot serve the purpose in long term. It creates problems among the countries on economic and social fronts. Third, sharing and cooperation are key areas, which must be continued. Division only leads toward weakening of alliances.
EU will have to work on these fronts, if it wants to combat the challenges and pressure. First of all, the trickle-down theory needs to be revised. There is need of some new instrument, which can help to share benefits of development at wider scale. There is need to look for new economic tools, may be new economic system like social capitalism. The concept has good understanding among scholars and experts in Germany. Germany, without mentioning it, has adopted few elements of it like involvement of private sector in dual system of skill development or education. It provides opportunity to marginalized to get better chances of livelihoods. It is helping Germany to contain in-equality and provide decent livelihoods to people at wider scale.
Moreover, the structure and nature of union of EU needs to be revised or expanded. The monetary union leaves many countries at risk, as they cannot compete with strong countries in union. The free mobility of products in union impact the low competitive countries and bigger countries benefit from it. Besides, big countries do not have any obligation on fiscal or social front so weak countries suffer more. The situation become further aggravated when countries with fiscal problem do not have space to decide on monetary policies and has to follow the EU policies. Hence, there is need to expand the scope of EU. The inclusion of fiscal side is very important for the sustainability of EU. The lessons can be drawn form United States of America, which is monetary and fiscal union. EU can look at this model but with different angle, as in EU all members are sovereign states. EU can pick few good practices from USA model and try to adopt it.
Cooperation and benefit sharing are other areas which needs focus from all member states. Cooperation is key and detrimental factor for ensuring the sustainability of EU. It was cooperation and benefit sharing which led to peaceful co-existence in Europe. Unfortunately, EU is facing problem on this front. COVID-19 has further aggravated the situation. Some member states are openly criticizing EU and shows their discomfort. There is need to rediscover the spirit of cooperation. The big and rich countries like Germany, France, Norway etc. will have to take lead and devise tools to foster the cooperation and mitigate the negativity. Otherwise, the friction or negativity will lead to more complications. The worst-case scenario will be that Europe go back to pre-Westphalia period. Although the probability of this scenario is negligible but once the events start to happen then no one have control on consequences. Hence ,it is wise to nip the evil in bud and only way to do that is EU foster cooperation and benefit sharing.
This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/606822/cooptation-or-back-to-pre-westphalia-period/
Approved By SDPI