The following is a guest blog post from Alicia Chavy, a summer intern here at hudson.org. Alicia will be a senior at Georgetown this fall, majoring in International Politics.
Born and raised in France, I had a strong opinion of France’s domestic and foreign policy as a member of the European Union. I thought I had it all figured it out, even when I moved to the United States and started my education here. However, when I came to Georgetown to study international politics, the school challenged me to think original thoughts rather than thoughts from my origins.
I used to believe that France would emerge as the savior of the European Union with a solution that would be appropriate to all the different members and fix the current system of the Eurozone. The new French president, Francois Hollande, proposed a fiscal union to improve on the current monetary union. He believes “it is [his] responsibility as the leader of a founder member of the European Union… to pull Europe out of this torpor that has gripped it, and to reduce people’s disenchantment with it”. Hollande offered “an economic government for the Eurozone with its own budget, the right to borrow, a harmonized tax system and a full time president.” Is this really a good idea?
Hollande has yet to dealt with the current recession in France itself, nor has he reduced disenchantment of the French people. That fact raises doubts about any plans he has for Europe. Indeed, we should question whether the creation of a new Eurozone fiscal union will solve France’s domestic problems, let alone any other country’s. It may lead France and the European Union down a dangerous road.
Yes, the current EU is broken. It lacks regulations against members that amass too much debt, which led to the crisis in Greece and Italy. Yes, the problems that Europe faces are spreading throughout the region, including France. But they are at root local problems that nations need to tackle with local solutions. Now that France is going through a recession, Hollande wants others to pay for the debts we have accumulated over the years with a plan that disregards the different labor and welfare system of all the members.
In my opinion, governments need flexibility to tackle domestic problems, not a stronger center. A full-scale fiscal union would restrain them and worsen the situation. Hollande’s plan diminishes Europe’s competitiveness in the global market because it will force members like Ireland to engage in high taxes, and have citizens of France pay for the debt of other nations in trouble (hint: no French citizen will like that).
Going back to the original principle of the European Union, Charles de Gaulle described it as a regional organism where the different states, without losing their body, soul and figure, delegate a little bit of their sovereignty for strategic, economic and cultural purposes. “Les divers Etats, sans perdre leur corps, leur âme, leur figure, délèguent une part de leur souveraineté en matière stratégique, économique, culturelle” (Charles de Gaulle).
On the contrary now, Hollande wants to change the EU to a United States of Europe, or so he says, but even that analogy now strikes me as misleading. Is there an American state like Greece with unpaid debts and bad books? Hollande’s European members would surrender their arms, figure and sovereignty and would have to deal with more than the current crisis.