By Griffin W. Huschke, Mayme and Herb Frank Research Fellow
As humans, we’re often plagued with self doubt and hesitance when it comes to big projects and unfamiliar undertakings, and it seems that international intuitions face the same problems (sorry for further anthropomorphizing the state, Dr. Kurtz, but its true!). At this week’s American Academy in Berlin awards dinner, the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl gave a speech that sought to extinguish doubts about the fate the European Union and push EU leaders to continue the pace of transatlantic integration. And, it seemed, on a deeper level, Kohl really wanted everyone to look around at everything the EU had achieved and seriously stop bickering for like five seconds!
While this phenomenon isn’t unique to the European Union, it seems like there are more doubts about the European project than any other international organization (including NATO, which is hard to do–just about everybody has predicted the demise of the Atlantic Alliance at some point). Even the famous quote that the EU was like a bicycle, “either it goes ahead or it falls to the ground” was a plea by former justice commissioner Franco Frattini to member-states for more integration at the EU level. And since the recession hit, there’s been a fresh wave of finger pointing, arguing, and speculation that the whole European Union is going to come crashing down.
Except it hasn’t come crashing down, and it won’t come crashing down in the foreseeable future. It’s been a trying time for the European Union, but the serious challenges the EU has faced, whether it’s the economic downturn putting pressure or the influx of refugees testing Europe’s open borders, haven’t damaged the foundation of the European project. When you get down to it, the European Union is still a fascinating experiment that hasn’t ever been tried before, and there will always be trials and growing pain for the EU as it takes on new powers and responsibilities. But in the end, an international organization that is neither fish nor fowl has increasingly gained sovereign responsibilities over the last 60 years, and contributed to the longest period of peace in European history. I think that’s a pretty good track record, and that Kohl has a point—maybe we should all take a second to think about the improbable existence of the EU, and how history is being made before our eyes.
A brief programming note: this will be my final post as the Mayme and Herb Frank Fund Research Fellow with the Streit Council. Thank you very much for reading—I am honored that, in some small way, my works have been read and considered. I am extremely grateful.