July 3, 2015

ANDREW MICHTA: Grexit May Be Europe’s Teaching Moment: The unfolding Greek tragedy is about more than economics. It’s also about the EU’s democracy deficit.

The European idea of a common market expanding into a larger community of nations remains as valid today as it was in the 1950s. Trade, cross-investment, and the sharing of resources for infrastructure projects, insofar as they benefit economic growth, are all part of the manifest successes of the original vision of a European community. Still, the EU as it is presently conceived has produced more than its share of hubris and bad ideas, beyond the notion of bringing Greece into the Eurozone. The partial de-nationalization of the state and the partial limits on state sovereignty in the name of peace still lie at the foundation of the original European project, but they have since given way, especially since the end of the Cold War, to a European bureaucratic fantasy of what should constitute the “Union.” The idea of a common market has been knocked out from its central place by the vision of a pan-European quasi-state entity, whose workings few in Europe understand, and which, most importantly, has consistently failed to generate a new Europe-wide identity in place of national allegiances. This is not just a Greek problem; bureaucratic empire building has its limits, and we call those limits “citizens.” The stirrings across Europe, from the United Kingdom through Spain to Poland, show that the issues at hand are not purely economic, and that traditional national identity, citizen participation and sovereignty remain just as relevant to democracy today as they were in years past.

The Common Market was about free trade. The EU was about creating an economic – and, especially, political — counterweight to America. It was a venture that put politics ahead of economics, which explains its current problems.

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