Right now I’m fascinated by the various arguments happening around Europe for closer banking integration, the emerging discussion on federalism, and at the same time the calls for independence from some territories that might actually get a stronger form of autonomy if not outright independence from their current nations.
One of the businesses I part-own is a consultancy that helps young Spaniards with job hunting skills, and we are constantly frustrated by the lack of harmony within the EU, for example nurses, doctors, pharmacists who want to leave Spain to work in the UK, Ireland, or Germany need to get all of their qualifications professionally translated, they need to pay a fee to be registered to work, and they may even need police background checks.
It’s a painful process for many of them and highlights how far we still have to go in Europe. Despite the reassurance from the Nobel Prize Committee that Europe is indeed a peace partner in the world.
Of course politically things are very different, the EU Commission has proposed so many laws and treaties that are either enthusiastically taken up by some national governments, or completely ignored. Opt-outs by the UK in particular disturb me greatly as a British citizen living in Spain.
On the flip side, Spain has not introduced legislation about late paying of supplier invoices initiated by the EU, and then enacted by the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Ireland. So it’s unfair to say the UK is the only country preventing closer working between EU nations.
As a business person who frequently deals with clients from all across the EU, I want to see a federal Europe, with much closer legal systems so that I know I can do business in Spain just like I could if I was working in the UK or Germany. For my job hunting clients I wish it was always as simple as learning the local language, getting a CV translated, and then applying for work.
Separatism though is an interesting fly in the ointment. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron are expected to sign an agreement to hold a referendum on Scottish independence this week, with the vote in 2014. The Belgian Flemish separatists also increased the number of local government authorities under their control in their local elections this weekend.
In the same weekend we learned that discussions between Mariano Rajoy of Spain and the Catalan regional government about more autonomy have broken down, leading the Catalan president to declare that he will be campaigning on an independence ticket in their upcoming election. The danger is that Catalonia could surprise us and vote for independence, which would throw Spain into a constitutional crisis, as well as a financial crisis.
All of the separatists want to remain part of the EU however.
I wonder then if this is a logical development of a stronger EU, that once the reality of a federal Europe has entered people’s minds they are now thinking that at a local level they no longer need central governments that operate as middlemen. Remembering as well that many of Europe’s borders were defined by royal marriage or conquest. So it isn’t natural for people who speak different languages, or who have different cultural traditions to be stuck together in a nation that makes a minority of one group.
The fascinating thing is that all want to work together to create a stronger federal Europe. It almost seems like a contradiction, but looking at the mindset I now believe it is entirely correct and natural. We will have a strong federal Europe, where each language group or defined region is given as much autonomy as they want to regulate local laws like education, local taxes, healthcare, whilst also being part of a federal Europe that makes it easier for European citizens to work together outside of their historic state.
If this continues I can see the day where the UK, Spain, Italy and Belgium won’t exist as nations in their current form, but all of their former regions will be states within the EU. If the goal of boosting EU foreign affairs continues, and so too the Schengen area, then to all intents and purposes it won’t matter, but the people in Scotland or Catalonia will be much happier.
What do you think?