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The European Union
A horse designed by committee...

March 30, 2005  Commentary Archives

Is the European Union a model for Caribbean integration? Inherent in the ongoing process  in the Caribbean is some interesting similarities. While some of our leaders are not willing to admit that this initiative of CARICOM is a step towards a "West Indian Federation," or federation-like. The writing is on the wall.

This does not belie the fact that in the Caribbean community there are currently many other successful trade agreements in operation. And so this is the argument some of our leaders uses to deflect the opposition to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). This, of course does not hold water. CSME is necessarily a different animal of sort.

Parochialism

Historians tend to conclude that Caribbean Peoples geopolitics suggest that we are parochial (disposed to narrowness and selfishness). This might be true in some circles. The broader implication of this thinking, is to be sure, a topic for future discussion. But beyond the scope of this piece. I mention it here to set up this point.

The European continent came together and filtered their difference. Despite decades of conflicts that loss them their status. As the once richest nation on earth to the United States. This pride thing, along with the need for peace did much to foster a common interest toward regaining this once held position.

The European Union is currently twenty-five sovereign nations and the bickering among the federalist and nationalist is ever present. How to allocate power among  the big and small member countries, in whose country is the next piece of bureaucracy going to be stationed. A common tax code, for instance, one of the major goals of the European Union has yet to be realized.

EU a Fifty-Years Work in Progress

Over the some fifty-years of the European Union history, it has seen it's share of  failures, missteps and compromises. Out of these efforts a union has evolved that is a study in redundancy, that many American  view in amazement. I suspect this over lapping of various committees and agencies, represents a safety net of sorts that has come about as a matter of course. Attempts to streamline it has met little success. A popular American expression come to mind: "If it ain't broke don't fix it."

The EU's governing structure

T. R. Reid in his book The United States of Europe: the new Super Power and the end of American Supremacy. Describes the over lapping European governing structure as "a camel of a government."

If a camel is a horse designed by committee, as the old joke goes, then the ridiculous complicated structure of European Union councils, commissions, courts, committees, and Parliament scattered around various European cities make up a huge camel of a government...somehow manages to perform it's necessary functions in a difficult environment.

...the Unions unwieldy architecture simply evolved, the product of decades of treaties and agreements involving hundred of compromises along the way.
...The new Europe was created not according to some grand overall plan but rather piece by piece, as necessity and as experience suggested.

Currency conversion

One of the sticking points mentioned to deflect critics of CSME is the difficulties of  currency conversions that would be necessary element in any federation. But any "backward" person should know by now. That's where it's headed. The Europeans has manage to convert the currencies of some twenty-five sovereign countries, all speaking different languages to the euro. Not all were excited about it. Some of them made the switch kicking and screaming while some recognized the economic reality.

Fast Changing times

In the words of Sir Isaac Newton," A object in motion, stays in motion." And what does Newton's 1st law has to do with anything?

Obviously the focus of the CSME is toward some sort of Caribbean integration. And to that end all the necessary components, toward this goal, must, predictably come into play. Unless for some reason it's forced of track.

The economic momentum for fast change nowadays necessitates a secure market economy that can only come with some form of union in the Caribbean. It doesn't require a Ph.D., in economics to see  this.

The European union has so taken control of world markets that even American corporations are conforming to European standards. As the euro continues to out-perform the US dollar. The point here is, when it comes to market influence, the European Union is loud.

It has taken the EU fifty-years. Though the journey is not complete, they're poised to be the next economic power. It has been said that evolution is a long process, but survival depends on the ability to change quickly.

The Caribbean doesn't have fifty-years to experiment. Lucky for us. There's the EU. If I may again quote Sir Isaac Newton" If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants."  

We can take from the EU experience what suits us -- and we are. The Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is a body in motion. January 1, 2006 will be another major step toward a Caribbean union  as other members come in full compliance.-- "union," yea! Federation doesn't sound as nice. As a matter of digression, I'm appointing myself a committee of one to rid ourselves of it.

African Caribbean Pacific Bilateral Agreement.

One of our best trade agreements we have  going in international trade is with The European Union. The African Caribbean Pacific   Bilateral Trade Agreement (ACP) Economic Partnership agreement...well, good for whom? How much can we take from a good thing?

Examine the side bar to the right showing the EU's governing structure. Compare it to the current, and ongoing course of CSME.

An Informed Public

Granted the incentive were strong, for the European countries to reach [a consensus for change]. Yet It didn't start out with some grand road map toward a stated goal. The original six, started out as a kind of... SME. There's no such  issue driving Caribbean integration.

Since we're heading toward a union of the Caribbean  peoples it is of paramount importance that we are educated every step of the way. A snippet on the world wide web, and good lord, the noise in the newspapers  in  the past years -- in some circles -- was too much of a nauseating thing.

In July of last year I was at the Miss Caribbean U.S Beauty Pageant  here in Philadelphia. One of the questions posed to the contestants was the Federation issue. The answers, for those who had a legible answer, was simplistic and poorly informed to the point of appalling. The answer that got the healthiest applause was some pathetic groan about our differences, and as such, she contended. A Federation is  unworkable.

Kudos to the Caribbean Community and Common Market  (CARICOM) for a fine, information filled website. Though this does not guarantee that the intended audience is paying attention -- quite frankly I have no personal information as to whether CARICOM has conducted any polling in that regard. It would indeed be most disappointing if they haven't.

It has been my experience as webmaster of this site for some three years now. That on average even literate computer users doesn't go looking for this type of information unless it's incidental -- as in this site. Sadly it's all so easy to listen to some one else's opinion, and that's a dangerous thing. Since negative forces do a better job at that type of communicating.

Consideration must be given to the fact that we are embarking on the most important commitments in the area since the West Indian Federation. With implications for the welfare of every man, woman, and child across borders. So big, yet so connected.

The  EU Governing Structure

European Commission: The EU Executive branch. Issues that aren't resolved here, are taken on by the Board of directors.

Board of Directors: This supervisory body at the top of the organizational chart is made up of elected officials: Prime Ministers and Presidents of member countries.

European council: the currently 25 head of states. Has final say in any policy decisions.

Council of Ministers: Meeting of ministers from member states. Sometimes delegated by heads of states to represent them at European council meetings. on issues related to their expertise.

The Legislative Branch: This is The European Parliament . Members are elected to five year terms by voters of each member states.

The Judicial branch:  The "Court of Justice of the European Communities." Establishes that the law of the EU is the supreme law within the Union, and orders national governments to follow.

The European Central Bank: Responsible for monetary policy in all the euro currency based countries: Sets interest rates, oversees currency exchanges between the EU members on the euro currency and those not yet converted to the euro.

The Council of Europe: Completely separate entity. Made up of  some 45 European countries. Members all EU states plus 20 more

Federalist: Want to expand the collective authority of the EU government.

Nationalist: want to keep more authority with the various national governments.

 

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