Europe

Excerpts from Reid, T.R. The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy. NY: Penguin, 2004.


"...a geopolitical revolution of historic dimensions is under way across the Atlantic: the unification of Europe. Twenty-five nations have joined together--with another dozen or so on the waiting list--to build a common economy, government, and culture... has more people, more wealth, and more trade than the United States of America... has more votes in every international organization than the US, and it gives away far more money in developement aid" (1)...

"...is becoming legally, commercially, and culturally borderless... has a president, a parliament, a constitution, a cabinet, a central bank, a bill of rights, a unified patent office, and a court system with the power to overrule the highest courts in every member nation...

"...the euro... has more daily users than the US dollar... ranks as the world's strongest currency... a daily message in every pocket that cooperation has replaced conflict across the continent...

"...EU motto: "Unity in diversity"... in three dozen languages" (2-3)...

"Because the united Europe is the world's largest trade market, it is the "Eurocrats" in Brussels, more and more, who make the business regulations that govern global industry...

"American presidents from both parties... have repeatedly declared that the United States has "the greatest health-care system in the world." That claim is hard to support. The unified Europe has higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality, lower rates of heart disease and cancer, and health insurance that covers every person--all for about half as much per capita as the United States spends...

"...the people of the EU are determined to change a world that had been dominated by Americans" (5-6)...

"...what they don't like about the United States... summarized... "The US is a selfish, individualistic society devoted to commerce, profit, and the despoliation of the planet. It is uncaring of the poor and sick and it is indifferent to the rest of humankind. The US rides roughshod over international laws and treaties and threatens the moral, environmental, and physical future of humanity. It is inconsistent and hypocritical in its foreign dealings, and it wields unparalleled military clout. It is, in short, a bull in a global china shop"...

"...most Europeans are appalled by the death penalty...

"... the open display of patriotism... is widely sneered at in Europe" (14-15)...

""To most Europeans born after the second world war, it is a somewhat bewildering sight, this massive outpouring of patriotism [in the US]... Those of us who pride ourselves on a certain degree of sophistication view flag-waving with lofty disdain. It is embarrassing, mawkish, potentially bellicose. I must confess that I find the sight of grown men touching their hearts at the sound of the national anthem a little ridiculous, too. And the ubiquitous incantations of "God Bless America" seem absurdly over the top...

"The place where American patriotism seems to annoy Europeans the most is at international sporting events. Chants of "USA! USA!" and "We're number one!"... drive Europe crazy... What the Russians are upset about... is the transformation of the Olympic Games into yet another American Festival of Victory... American athletes hysterical with their adrenalin-stoned patriotism... whooping, en masse, up-yours patriotism is not endearing...

"What really annoys the Europeans is that this nation perceived to be ignorant of the rest of the world has the wealth and power to dominate much of it... combination of strength and stupidity" (19)...

"Their dream was to produce, once and for all, an end to war on the continent, and an end to poverty" (25)...

"The clarion voice advocating European unity... was Winston Churchill" (33)...

"...the major impetus for European unity in the half decade after the war came largely from the United State... The Marshall Plan... set up... the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which forced the WWII combatants to work together on postwar development" (39)...

"In the spring of 1950, an opportunity came along, and Monnet jumped at it... Adenauer's government... was eager to restart the great steel mills of the Ruhr and Saar valleys...

"A meeting among the French, British, and American governments was scheduled for May 10, 1950, to resolve the German steel question. Schuman, then the French foreign minister, went to his friend Monnet, desparate for a solution. Monnet sketched out a plan" (41)...

"Schuman called a press conference...

"This "Schuman Declaration" was so expansive, so ambitious--and, as it turned out, so accurate--that the text has become a sort of Declaration of Independence for the European Union... today celebrate... every May 9... as Europe Day" (42)...

"...a vastly broader vision... with wartime adversaries joined together in a "European Federation" with a common economic system and unified political institutions. It was not a goal that would be achieved overnight, he added, but rather piece by piece, treaty by treaty, over a period of years or decades...

"Within days of this pronouncement, other European coal- and steel-producing nations asked to be included in the new communal undertaking... six members: France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands... The "Haute Autorité," or High Commission, that managed the business was headed by Jean Monnet...

"...was a rip-roaring economic success. That prompted the member nations to expand the cooperative concept until it applied to all commercial and economic activity" (43)...

"Just as Monnet's operation paid its own way, the European institutions today have their own dedicated revenue source--a value-added tax, or sales tax... so that the union doesn't have to rely on voluntary contributions from governments. The underlying economic theory is that a sales tax, which is a tax on consumption, can be tolerated even in high-tax European countries because it does not penalize investment or production, the way income taxes might" (44)...

"Since the Industrial Revolution, the nations of Europe had in fact led the world in devising international agreements necessary to make commerce and industry work across national borders...

"That's why the global standards of weight and measurement are maintained to this day in Paris. That's why the system of international timekeeping, necessitated by the advent of high-speed railroads and steamships, is based on an imaginary line that runs through London--the Greenwich Meridian...

"...the separate economies of Germany, France, Italy, the low countries, and Britain all soared" (46-47)...

"The creation of the Common Market--formally, the European Economic Community--in 1957 put the six on a path toward a single trade market with no internal tariffs and common laws on taxation, wages and hours, workplace safety, and so on. Because France in the 1950s already had a national law requiring equal pay for men and women, the French demanded that the other five members do the same... The Common Market also endorsed a French-style farm subsidy program, with revenues from industrial growth guaranteeing steady prices and income for farmers in all the member nations... was so successful that other European nations came knocking at the door... Charles de Gaulle... blackballed the outsiders. He vetoed the applications of Norway, Britain, Denmark, and Ireland...

"The collapse of the Soviet empire, and the creation of more than a dozen newly independent states on European soil, inspired a new vision for European leaders--the dream of a continent completely united...

"...a key advocate of bringing the eastern states into the western union [was] Pope John Paul II" (52-53)...

"Candidate countries had to accept endless conditions. Any would-be EU member was required to guarantee its citizens a popularly elected government, the full range of civil liberties set forth in the far-reaching European Convention on Human Rights, and a free-market economy. The applicants also had to agree to give up their national currencies in favor of the euro, and to incorporate some 80,000 pages of EU law--a package known as the aquis communitaire, or "common agreement"--into their own statute books. They had to accept most aspects of the generous European welfare state, the EU's tough environmental laws and Western-style protections for criminal defendants, and they had to promise visa-free entry for anyone coming from another EU country. Most of the candidates, particularly those shaking off fifty years of Communist rule, were delighted to commit to these changes. The civil liberties requirement posed a serious problem to Turkey, which applied time and again for membership and was turned down on grounds that its human rights record was not up to EU standards" (54)...

"The union did not, however, change its flag to mark the expansion. The familiar design, a circle of twelve gold stars on a deep blue background--it was created in 1987, when the union had twelve members--did not expand to twenty-five stars. The notion of adding a star for each new member of the union was contemplated for a while, but adding a star was considered the American approach to flag architecture, and the United States of Europe is not inclined to take its cues from the United States of America" (55)...

The Euro

"...the boldest and most far-reaching act of economic union... took place on January 1, 2002... known in Europe as E-day... adopted the euro as their common currency" (61)...

"...the launch was epochal... for two reasons.

"In the first place, nothing like it had ever been attempted before...

"[Second] the challenge it presented to the planet's dominant form of money, the almighty dollar. From day one, the euro had more daily users than the US dollar. As the unit of exchange for a monetary zone that includes two of the world's five richest countries (Germany and France) and four of the top twelve (Germany, France, Italy, and Spain), the euro became the world's second-most important currency on the day it was launched... The euro was specifically designed to challenge the global hegemony of the US dollar... "an assertion of Europe's desire to create a monetary system that serves its own interests rather than accept a framework set up to work to American advantage" (63-64)...

"On the most basic level, it cost the people of Europe a lot of money to use all those different kinds of money... travelers had to make a currency exchange every time they crossed a border--and pay a fee to a bank...

"Consider how costly it would be if an American who flies from Baltimore to Boston were required to convert Maryland dollars to Massachusetts dollars before leaving the airport--and to pay a bank five cents for every Massachusetts dollar received. The next day, heading back to Baltimore, the traveler would have to trade in her remaining Massachusetts money for Maryland dollars--and pay the bank another fee for the privelege...

"EU estimated, the average European traveler paid about $15 in exchange fees for each border crossing. On a continent where you can easily pass three national borders in a trip of 100 miles, that was expensive. This burden was even more costly for businesses, which had to pay the tranaction cost of currency exchange for each cross-border purchase. With the coming of the euro, though, the transaction cost fell to zero... The EU has estimated that elimination of currency exchange expenses saves the euro nations about 0.4 percent of GDP each year--a total savings greater than $10 billion annually.

"A more important benefit for the business community was the elimination of exchange rate risk... it's the chance that the yen, for example, will fall disastrously in value just after you've agreed to accept payment for your product in yen...

"The euro provided a boon to buyers by providing price transparency... Once that bottle was priced in euros in both countries, Irish consumers, and consumer magazines, could see that the same bottle cost 6 euroes in Spain but 17 in Ireland. For consumers, that kind of knowledge is power... Vodka prices in Ireland fell dramatically after the introduction of the euro" (63-69)...

"For amounts smaller than one euro, the fractional denomination is "cent"--from centum, the Latin word for 100. There are 100 cents per euro...

"By official EU decree, the plural of euro is supposed to be formed in the English way, by adding a final S--i.e., euros...

"...it was clear that the euro would need a world-class graphic symbol... M. Malivoir... took the Greek letter epsilon, because an epsilon is an E, and E is for Europe... and imposed two parallel lines" (72-73)...

"Just two years after its launch, the euro was already forcing Washington to pay higher interest rates to central banks around the world to induce them to buy US Treasury bonds. This means that, at a time when the US deficit was rising to new records every year, the mere existence of the euro was making it more costly for Americans to finance that debt...

"In fact, the euro raose about 60 percent against the dollar in the first two years" (86)...

"...Greece, the poorest by far of the eurozone countries" (76)...

"... one of the continent's all-time favorite snacks, french fries with mayonnaise" (80)...

Antitrust Laws

"One area where Europe is particularly determined to stand on par with Washington is in business regulation--as Jack Welch learned the hard way. Brussels has no intention to step aside and let the US Justice Department set the global antitrust agenda...

"Welch sought approval for his merger. By the time the GE-Honeywell deal arrived in Brussels for consideration, the Directorate-General for Competition had already squelched business plans proposed by such titans of American business as Microsoft, Intel, and Coca-Cola" (90)...

"...Europe's antitrust czar, Mario Monti...

"...he hit the German giant DaimlerChrysler with a €70 millin fine for charging different prices in different European countries for the same auto model...

"There was a strong clique of Monti fans in academia... "The notion of a European regulator in Brussels who can make the Americans tremble in their boots is fairly attractive to us," Davies said with a chuckle. "It used to be the Americans who were telling everybody what to do. Now the tables are turning"" (109)...

European-Owned American Companies

Shell and Texaco... are both run by the Netherlands oil company Royal Dutch Shell... Jiffy Lube is also a Dutch-owned firm...

"European multinational companies, banks, and investors are by far the top source of foreign capital coming into the United States... 65 percent of all foreign investment...

"... a phenomenon known as "L'Europe Qui Gagne"--that is, "Europe, the Winner"...

Also owned by European companies: Brooks Brothers, Archway Cookies, Hellman's Mayonnaise, Mazola Oil, Libby's Pineapple, Hawaiian Punch, Taster's Choice Coffee, Snapple, Random House, Kent Cigarettes, Kool, Viceroy, Case Tractors, Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Dove Soap, Vaseline, Pennzoil, The New York Post, Allfirst Bank, First Boston bank, Bird's Eye frozen foods, Los Angeles Dodgers, Armour Corned Beef Hash...

"British beer-and-whiskey company Diageo... American subsidiary, Burger King...

European Space Agency

"...the European Space Agency (ESA)... will be the world's dominant space explorer in another decade or two...

"...headquartered in Paris... a research and technology center in the Netherlands... an operations center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany... astronaut university (EAC) in Cologne... research center (ESRIN) in Italy, and banks of radio telescopes in England... launch pad in French Guiana... on the northeast corner of South America...

"...project has been designed specifically to challenge American space supremacy... "Galileo, a belt of thirty navigational and positioning satellites that will offer an improved version of the American GPS...

"...technical difficulty is that GPS... is not precise enough for many applications. It is not useful for air traffic control, and it can't generally pinpoint a location closer than a few hundred feet... GPS is not politically palatable to many potential users because it is a military project at heart; its signal is controlled by the Pentagon, a despised institution in much of the world.

"Galileo's locational signal, called the Public Regulated Service, or PRS, has been designed to trump the American effort" (140-142)...

The European Social Model

"...the stunning sales tax--a 17.5 percent tax tacked on to every purchase...

"...something that evokes enormous pride among Europeans--a phenomenon they call "the European social model." This is an elaborate and expensive network of publicly funded, cradle-to-grave programs designed to protect everyone in Europe against the vicissitudes of contemporary life... health, comfort, or economic status...

"Access to the generous benefits of the social model is seen as a basic right of every European... the social model is relentlessly egalitarian. At the same time, paying for the social model is seen as a basic responsibility of every European... another unifying force that makes Europeans feel they all belong to a single place--a place, they believe, that is definitely not American...

"The corporate executive in the back seat of the limo, her chauffeur up front, and the guy who pumps the gas for them all go to the same doctor and the same hospitals and send their children to the same (largely free) universities...

"This zeal for spreading the wealth fairly equally is reflected most dramatically in poverty rates... In America, about 20 percent of adults are living in poverty at any given time. In France, the comparable figure is 7.5 percent...

"...when a worker becomes unemployed... will get a housing benefit, a heat and light benefit, a food benefit, a child care benefit, and a monthly unemployment payment that is almost always higher than the American standard... will have the same access as everybody else to the public health-care system...

"Economists have a gauge to measure the relative generosity of unemployment assistance programs. It is called the replacement ration--that is, how much of the worker's former income is replaced through benefits. In the United States... about 50 percent... In France... 86 percent; in Britain, 83 percent; in Germany, 74 percent; in Sweden and the Netherlands, 90 percent...

"...the American neglect of the bottom 50 percent in the name of individualism is not reproduced in Europe...

"... the public broadcaster tends to be... more popular and more respected than any private network. Public transit systems are much more pervasive in Europe than in the United States, as are public art, public universities, and public medical systems. Public housing is so common... The inhabitants include not just the poor but a good proportion of the middle class as well.

"...Brussels sets some minimal standards, but each country establishes its own menu of public assistance... there's a Nordic model... There's the Rhineland capitalism model... There's a southern Catholic style, common in the Mediterranean nations... Britain, which is struggling to run a European welfare state with tax rates somewhat closer to the American standard, is in a class of its own. The Irish are more European...

"...European governments pay new parents to leave their jobs temporarily and stay home... "We have decided that raising a child is real work. And that this work provides value for the whole society. And that the society as a whole should pay for this valuable service. Americans like to talk about family values. We have decided to do more than talk" (153)...

"In 2003, Americans worked an average of 1,976 hours; German and French workers averaged some 400 hours less. That is, Joe Sixpack works some ten weeks more in one year" (155)...

"... public health-care systems.... these systems of "socialized medicine" work better, and more efficiently, than the mainly private American health-care system. The European countries have better public health statistics than the US, and a higher rate of satisfaction among patients" (157)...

"The advantage for European industry comes in avoiding the kind of health-care costs that pose an increasingly heavy weight pressing down on American companies... that fact is a key reason that a company like Volvo can compete on global markets; wages, pensions, and other benefits are more costly in Stockholm than in Detroit, but the huge saving on health insurance costs makes overall labor costs rougly equivalent" (159)...

"...even an arch-Tory like Margaret Thatcher never dared take on the health service. "The NHS is the closest thing the English have to a religion"...

"British doctors still make house calls" (160)...

"...glass and... dental carre... are not covered by the NHS except for particularly needy families...

"...the European Convention on Human Rights... adopted by virtually every European nation, including some that are not EU members...

"...the Charter of Fundamental Rights goes well beyond the range of civil liberties protected in the US Bill of Rights... every person has an inalienable right to write to the EU in any of the twenty official languages, and get a reply in the same language... a citizen of any EU country can live, work, or run a business in any member nation, and vote or run for election in the country where she lives. For refugees, the charter declares that "the right of asylum shall be guaranteed."... there is a basic human right to health care, a right to free education, a right to join unions and go on strike, a right to "limitation of maximum working hours, to daily and weekly rest periods, and an annual period of paid leave," and a right to "parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child." Article 29 even declares, "Everyone has the right of access to a free placement service" to help find a job. For good measure, the charter says that all workers employed in a country, no matter what their nationality, are entitled to all the benefits provided to nationals of that country...

"...guarantees a right to "environmental protection"... all shall receive "a high level of consumer protection." It assures the elderly... the right "to lead a life of dignity and independence and to participate in social and cultural life." Article 7 establishes a sweeping right of privacy, and Article 8 assures the "protection of personal data," which amounts to a legal right to see any dossier maintained on you, government or private, and to have it corrected if it's wrong. Article 21, the right to nondiscrimination, contains what is probably the most sweeping definition of "discrimination" ever put on paper...

"The court has used the antidiscrimination chapter of the charter to force all European nations to allow homosexuals in the military... the court has banned spanking in all schools" (164-165)...

"To the consternation of some American conservatives, the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights have become a point of reference for judges around the world, even in the United States... the US Supreme Court cited the European charter and decisions of the Strasbourg court in support of its rulings" (166)...

Capital Punishment

"...European view of capital punishment... "It is simply barbaric"...

"Europeans are downright proud that they have moved beyond capital punishment... the United States still executes criminals. That point alone, to tens of millions of Europeans, makes the European Union a better place to live than the American one... when it comes to the death penalty, the US is not a leader. Your country stands with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo... friend of mine in Germany [says] "for us, the death penalty stands even with torture, with slavery. It should by now be ancient history!"...

"For this reason, it is against the law in any European country to extradite a prisoner to the United States for a crime that could bring the death penalty. A British official told Washington that not even Osama bin Laden would be extradited, if captured by Europeans" (169)...

"US diplomats in Europe say they are deluged with complaints about capital punishment" (170)...

Drugs

"A few nations on the continent still follow the traditional law-enforcement pattern favored in the United States... Sweden and Greece... Most European nations, though, have shifted to a new mindset... from "use reduction" to "harm reduction." The basic thesis of "harm reduction," Cave writes, is that drug addicts are people who need treatment, not punishment. "People do obtain and use drugs, even if you spend billions trying to stop them. The US war on drugs demonstrates that...

"For the most part, users of "soft" drugs like marijuana and Ecstasy are simply ignored by the police in European countries; people caught using heroin or cocaine are picked up but delivered to a treatment facility rather than to jail" (172)...

"There's also a strong dose of pragmatism involved. Since people are going to use drugs anyway, the thinking goes, it is a waste of police time and public money to try to catch them all and jail them... focuses on the traffickers and does not pursue the drug user as a criminal...

"...decriminalization has worked fairly well in the Netherlands. Drug use in general in the Netherlands appears to be lower than in the prohibitionist United States" (173)...

"The pioneer of the harm-reduction approach for harder drugs was Portugal... Police spent much of their time pursuing drug dealers and users... all this seemed futile...

"...Canas convinced Portugal's parliament to decriminalize the use of all drugs, and to guarantee treatment rather than imprisonment for all addicts... the new law would not tolerate or legalize hard drugs... Under our law, the traficante [the dealer] is still a felon and faces a severe prison term. But the person buying heroin is not a criminal. He is a sick person" (174)...

"The fact is, it is cheaper to treat addicts than to jail them" (176)...

The Military

"...neither the US military nor the NATO brass are pleased with the concept of an autonomous European "army"... the EuroArmy...

"... the basic policy choice of contemporary Europe: scrimp on tanks, missiles, and aircraft carriers in order to spend more on schools, health care, and pensions... The EuroAmry... amounts to self-defense on the cheap" (179)...

"... the US spends more on defense than the EU, Russia, and China combines" [paranoia or empire?] (180)...

"The European Rapid Reaction Force... ERRF... staffed and supplied out of existing armies; it does not involve any major commitment to more soldiers or more equipment...

"Compared to most of the world's armies, European forces are large and well equipped. The EU member nations have twice as many military personnel as Russia and almost as many as China, and a combined defense budget that dwarfs both of those important powers. Compared to the US defense establishment, however, Europe is a "military pygmy"... misses the point... Europeans are not willing to die in warfare, period... The whole point of the New Europe in the new century is that soldiers are no longer going to be sent off to die for their country, or for their united continent" (183)...

The US "thesis assumes that military power is an essential element of being a superpower" (186)...

"America's military power has hardly made it invulnerable. America's might did not scare off the ragtag terrorists of Al Qaeda... American spend nearly $400 billion of their tax dollars on defense every year, but they still have to take their belts and shoes off every time they want to get on an airplane...

"America's unchallenged power, In Iraq at least, forced it to pay, almost single-handed, an immensely expensive bill in blood, in dollars, and in international prestige. If that's what being a military superpower buys you, Europe doesn't want it" (188)...

"The Europeans, in contrast, are banking on the belief that the EU can become a superpower of its own on the world stage without building a military that can match American might... By corralling more votes than the Americans in the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and other international gatherings...

Europe represents "the persuasive power of a driving idea, such as the idea that nations should find methods other than warfare to resolve their differences...

"...the EU generally picks up numerous allies to add to its built-in twenty-four-vote margin in these organizations. It wins these allies not with a stick but a carrot... foreign aid...

"In a sense, Europe's commitment to foreign aid--often referred to on the continent as ODA, or "overseas development aid"--is the mirror image of Washington's determination to maintain the strongest military... Europeans refer to foreign aid as "soft security"--that is, another form of national defense" (189)...

"...European foreign policy is built around a principle of multilateralism, around regional and global agreements and associations... "We are the guardians of an ideal... that puts cooperations ahead of domination"" (193)...

"Indeed, the Europeans argue that hard power is so costly to maintain--and so likely to generate hatred from those who are weaker--that soft power amounts to greater power" (195-196)...

Europe's Coming Dominance

"The European Union was originally designed to be an alternative to warfare, and it has achieved that noble goal with stunning success" (227)...

"...the EU rules on labeling, content, manufacture, design, and safety have become the rules that manufacturers must follow all over the world" (232)...

"The EU has become "privacy cop to the world," issuing strict restrictions on the personal information that companies and governments can maintain and exchange about customers, employees, suppliers, and so on... Brussels has designated the United States as a nation with "inadequate" privacy laws, and thus it is illegal for European countries or governments to send personal information on anybody to a recipient in the United States... Today, in the EU, it is basically illegal to compile, keep, or pass on personal information about anybody without written consent from each individual whose records are on file" (234)...

"Canada, Australia, much of South America, and the democracies of East Asia--have adopted the Brussels privacy regime as their national standard...

"...the EU's commercial clout makes Brussels the world's regulatory superpower" (235)...

"For years, the United States has gotten away with this recurring cycle of spending and borrowing largely because investors around the world have had no better place to put their money" (241)...

"The threat facing the United States is that the euro, a strong currency backed up by some of the world's strongest economies, is beginning to look like a reliable alternative to the dollar... The members of OPEC, the cartel of oil-exporting countries, are already moving toward selling their product in euros...

"The explosive increase in euro-based international transactions suggests the worrisome possibility that foreign investors may have found a place other than the United States where they can safely store their money... there are indications that central banks... began putting significant portions of their reserves into euro bonds rather than dollar bonds beginning around 2003" (242)...

"...the success of Europe's common currency could bring America's fiancial house of cards tumbling down. The dollar could lose much more value on international markets; foreign investors could pull out of American markets, sending stock market indexes steeply downward; the US government could be forced to raise taxes to make up for the bonds it can no longer sell around the world" (243)...

The subcontinent of Europe "covers just 6 percent of the earth's total area and is home to just 12 percent of the global population; yet Europe has 40 percent of the world's wealth and accounts for more than half of all global commerce" (245)...


Colby Glass, MLIS