The June 4, 2005 issue of the Economist Magazine comments on recent developments in the European Union: “For those who fancied that they were building a United States of Europe, a combined power with more people and a bigger economy than the United States of America, the double ‘no’ to the European Union’s constitution from France on May 29th and the Netherlands on June 1st has been a cruel collision with reality. And yet ratifying the constitution was never going to be easy. Although legally just another treaty, the lengthy text consolidates all previous treaties and adds new powers for Brussels, a combination that invited opposition. With 11 countries putting the result to a popular vote, it was always likely that at least one would say no. And, because it required approval from all 25 EU members, that made it unlikely that the constitution would ever enter into force.” As a result, Britain said in early June that it would suspend plans for a referendum on the European constitution, while Ireland and others have decided to press ahead.
The announcement to Parliament by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary of Great Britain, indicated that if Britain was to press ahead as scheduled, the momentum of the French rejection would surely be transferred to the British result thus ensuring yet another “no” vote.
The major stumblingblock with the constitution is article 5 which states that “This constitution shall have primacy over the laws of the member states.” As such, it transfers power in a wide range of policy areas from elected politicians to the remote and unelected bureaucrats of the European Commission.
Once we understand that the goal of the union is to create a power similar to the United States with a common currency and a common constitution, we realize how very difficult the task is for the governmental entities. We know the ease with which U.S. residents move about in their own country. Retirement benefits, for example, from one state agency can easily be received while living in another state. Within the European Union, however, language and cultural barriers — not to mention wide differences in social insurance and retirement programs — encourage workers to stay in their own country.
The common currency
In 1999, the Euro was introduced as a common currency eventually to be used throughout the EU. In order to participate in the Euro certain stipulations, such as deficit and inflation controls, must be met by a country. After a successful launch, troubles have been noted in this area of European cooperation.. As noted in the Economist for June 13, 2005: “Various countries have been called ‘the sick man of Europe’ at one time or another, but never before has the competition for the title proved so fierce. Italy entered its second recession in two years in the first quarter of 2005. Germany, despite tentative stabs at structural reform, is struggling with slow growth rates and double-digit unemployment. And Portugal, also battling recession, just announced that its budget deficit will top 6.8% of GDP this year, more than twice the 3% limit set by the stability and growth pact agreed in Maastricht. Portugal is not the only one running up deficits. France, Germany and Italy, the euro area’s three biggest economies, have all breached the Maastricht criteria repeatedly.”
Even before the euro was put into everyday use three years ago, Italy was seen as its soft underbelly, and things have only become worse. In mid June, the European government threatened the Italians with huge fines for breaking the Euro’s borrowing rules. Italians blame the single currency for rising prices, and polls show that more than a quarter would like to ditch it. The row was started when two Italian cabinet ministers from the Northern League, which is allied with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, suggested a referendum on returning to the lira.
Further complications ahead
Before our eyes, we are witnessing many cultures and languages mingling together in the hope of creating a common country. Things are sure to be further complicated in October, 2005, when talks are scheduled to commence with the Muslim nation of Turkey with a hope of allowing it to enter the European Union. Are we observing the fulfillment of Daniel 2: “As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.”
We pray the next great event will be arrival of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which will fill the whole earth with the mountain of God’s kingdom.