The Regionalization of Europe
The eurozone crisis — which is engulfing EU member states using the euro but is symbolically important for the entire European Union — is therefore a crisis of trust. Do the current political and security arrangements in Europe — the European Union and NATO — capture the right mix of nation-state interests? Do the member states of those organizations truly feel that they share the same fundamental fate? Are they willing, as the American colonies were at the end of the 18th century, to give up their independence in order to create a common front against political, economic and security concerns? And if the answer to these questions is no, then what are the alternative arrangements that do capture complementary nation-state interests?
On the security front, we already have our answer: the regionalization of European security organizations. NATO has ceased to effectively respond to the national security interests of European states. Germany and France have pursued an accommodationist attitude toward Russia, to the chagrin of the Baltic states and Central Europe. As a response, these Central European states have begun to arrange alternatives. The four Central European states that make up the regional Visegrad Group — Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — have used the forum as the mold in which to create a Central European battle group. Baltic states, threatened by Russia’s general resurgence, have looked to expand military and security cooperation with the Nordic countries, with Lithuania set to join the Nordic Battlegroup, of which Estonia is already a member. France and the United Kingdom have decided to enhance cooperation with an expansive military agreement at the end of 2010, and London has also expressed an interest in becoming close to the developing Baltic-Nordic cooperative military ventures.
Regionalization is currently most evident in security matters, but it is only a matter of time before it begins to manifest itself in political and economic matters as well. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forthcoming about wanting Poland and the Czech Republic to speed up their efforts to enter the eurozone. Recently, both indicated that they had cooled on the idea of eurozone entry. The decision, of course, has a lot to do with the euro being in a state of crisis, but we cannot underestimate the underlying sense in Warsaw that Berlin is not committed to Poland’s security. Central Europeans may not currently be in the eurozone (save for Estonia, Slovenia and Slovakia), but the future of the eurozone is intertwined in its appeal to the rest of Europe as both an economic and political bloc. All EU member states are contractually obligated to enter the eurozone (save for Denmark and the United Kingdom, which negotiated opt-outs). From Germany’s perspective, membership of the Czech Republic and Poland is more important than that of peripheral Europe. Germany’s trade with Poland and the Czech Republic alone is greater than its trade with Spain, Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined.
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The security regionalization of Europe is not a good sign for the future of the eurozone. A monetary union cannot be grafted onto security disunion, especially if the solution to the eurozone crisis becomes more integration. Warsaw is not going to give Berlin veto power over its budget spending if the two are not in agreement over what constitutes a security threat. This argument may seem simple, and it is cogent precisely because it is. Taxation is one of the most basic forms of state sovereignty, and one does not share it with countries that do not share one’s political, economic and security fate.
This goes for any country, not just Poland. If the solution to the eurozone crisis is greater integration, then the interests of the integrating states have to be closely aligned on more than just economic matters. The U.S. example from the late 18th century is particularly instructive, as one could make a cogent argument that American states had more divergent economic interests than European states do today, and yet their security concerns brought them together. In fact, the moment the external threat diminished in the mid-19th century due to Europe’s exhaustion from the Napoleonic Wars, American unity was shaken by the Civil War. America’s economic and cultural bifurcation, which existed even during the Revolutionary War, erupted in conflagration the moment the external threat was removed.
The bottom line is that Europeans have to agree on more than just a 3 percent budget-deficit threshold as the foundation for closer integration. Control over budgets goes to the very heart of sovereignty, and European nations will not give up that control unless they know their security and political interests will be taken seriously by their neighbors
Read more: The Divided States of Europe | STRATFOR