Over the course of this semester, from January to April 2013, the greatest focus in the European Union seems to have been over questions of money, budgets, and the Euro, coupled with, what could be considered more of a long-term effecting subject of, Britain’s decision to remain or to exit the EU. British Prime Minister David Cameron has kept the topic of British membership in the EU at the forefront of British politics since January. He has publicly stated that if the Union does not begin to focus more of its resources on increasing democratic accountability across the region, the awaiting danger is that of outright failure of the EU, which will swiftly lead to the exiting of the more powerful nations, of which Britain stands at the forefront. Such actions raises the question: what will happen to this historically united region if Britain does indeed decide to step out? What nations will follow, if any? Can it truly be prevented? With the resulting referendum that took place in Britain, it has become clear that the British people themselves have split opinions, with only half of them supporting membership, and nearly half believing an exit would be in the best interest of the country.
In recent years, the EU has experienced fears of Europe becoming “The United States of Europe.” Today, though, the fear has become the opposite: will the EU begin to break up? Countries like the UK have made it clear that they will never agree with full/total integration into the Union; thus, a “US of Europe” is highly unlikely. However, unless the EU endeavors to do a complete overhaul of all member nations to deal with democratic discrepancies and severe budget deficiencies, the future of the EU looks grim. Although the UK has been the only nation to officially voice its concerns, other democratically stable member nations will likely not be far behind in questioning the benefits of membership. France has already begun to recently question its own transparency in its banks, addressing issues of fraud and corruption. The crackdown, it is hoped, will trigger further similar responses by other member nations to do the same.
As regards the Euro, it has seemed to remain in a strong and stable condition over the past few months, but issues of debt and money crises in national budgets are still a concern for former Eastern bloc nations, as is the more prevalent Greek economic crisis. Yet again, discussions over economic stability have prompted the economically stable nations to weigh the benefits and disadvantages for continued membership.
As a response to the outcry over the fiscal strategy in Europe, the European Commission has recently begun to bring in official changes and address the concerns of member states. They have stated, “[I]t is a delicate balancing act between implementing credible adjustments, keeping flexibility against shocks, and factoring in institutional constraints” (Buti and Carnot 1). Indeed, this is the only way to adequately address fiscal issues. Perhaps most importantly, however, the EC has promised to “constantly keep [their] approach under review.”
The European Union has, historically, managed to unite and grow, debatably, becoming the most successful example of regional integration in the world. Although it is highly unlikely that the EU will ever completely disappear, changes in membership may take place, and improved policy changes to deal with new economic crises, globalization, and even wars, will certainly exist. The EU has, however, survived longer than any other regionally integrated institution, and it will likely continue to live as it endeavors to become more efficient, and appropriately deal with the changing times.