The missing piece in the Eurozone crisis: Citizenship

“Citizenship and the Financial Crisis in Europe,” by Peter Schuck, for the Huffington Post:

The primary obstacle to solving Europe’s fiscal crisis is not money. There is enough money, especially in Germany, to stabilize European financial markets, at least until the next convulsion. What is plainly missing among the European states is the sense of mutual sacrifice and common political destiny that we call citizenship. The crisis has exposed the thinness of European citizenship, especially in comparison with that in the United States.

Not since the Maastricht Treaty twenty years ago has the location and scope of European sovereignty been so urgently contested. The bitter, seemingly endless negotiations over which taxpayers, banks, and investors will pay for what shares of the huge impending bailouts and haircuts are fueling resurgent nationalisms. Powerful Germany, the stolid Dutch, tiny Finland, and other flourishing states ask the question that defines citizenship: Why should our provident, already highly-taxed workers pay for the undisciplined spending of Greek and Italian politicians, their bloated public payrolls, and their corrupt institutions? Why should we allow irresponsible strangers who can barely govern themselves to punish our hard-won prosperity, restraint, and stability?…

The thinness of European citizenship is also revealed by the EU’s largely unsuccessful efforts to integrate immigrant, linguistic, and other minorities, efforts that have managed to reinforce the very nationalisms that the EU admirably sought to suppress. For example, each of the leading EU states now imposes a demanding cultural test as a precondition for citizenship — and in some cases, even for initial entry. These tests belie any notion of a common European culture, much less one that could justify the enormous inter-state transfers, subsidies, and sacrifices that the current crisis will increasingly require from the stronger states.

Then, there is the problem of borders. To be a citizen of a polity is, among other things, to be able to rely on borders that the polity will defend. Yet in Europe, the Schengen perimeter has proved quite porous. Frontier states like Italy and Greece have broken their Schengen promises both by failing to intercept illegal migrants from North Africa and by encouraging them to move northward into other, more prosperous EU states. This failure has helped to make right-wing nativist parties an electoral force in almost every EU state [Emphasis mine]

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