Europe has a big problem. It doesn’t want to acknowledge that “ever closer union” requires real togetherness, the kind that binds California and Mississippi.
California contributes the most federal tax revenue and Mississippi is one of the most federally dependent states in America. And yet, they have equal representation in the US Senate and equal rights.
These United States truly do seem to want a “more perfect union,” to use the words of the preamble to the US Constitution. Donald Trump’s presidency has put this fundamental promise to the test but the US is still 50, diverse, united states.
The European Union not so much. On Tuesday night, the bloc’s finance ministers had a 14-hour on-off teleconference but seemed to agree on little beyond the reality that they couldn’t agree. At issue was:
- how to deploy the bloc’s bailout fund to disperse loans to struggling economies
- and whether to drop the idea of coronabonds altogether
The Italians want generosity and heart from their European brethren. More particularly, they want debt mutualisation and no conditions attached to European Stability Mechanism loans. The Dutch see no reason to agree to either.
When times are bad, the European project’s old divisions flare up, like a deep-seated infection that needs broad-spectrum treatment. The best therapy, of course, would be truth-telling. Ever closer union means there will be a California and a Mississippi, with their respective inherent strengths and weaknesses. If that’s too difficult to contemplate, there can be no union, just a single market.