There’s something terribly ironic about the fact that 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty.
“Twenty-five years, several expansion rounds and a serious financial and national debt crisis later, we still have the euro, but it’s come under increasing pressure. No one can guarantee that the common currency will survive in its current form,” Deutsche Welle wrote earlier this month, adding that “politically, nothing is as it once was.”
Indeed, proponents of the nationalistic fervor currently spreading across Europe will likely find some poetic justice in the fact that the dissolution of the EU could ultimately unfold just as the bloc celebrates a milestone in time.
Although, as the passages above from DW remind us, it would be a mistake to attribute the bloc’s descent into chaos entirely to the wave of asylum seekers that have flooded into Western Europe from the war-torn Mid-East, I think it’s entirely fair to say that the EU’s inability to craft a coherent response that preserves security but shows proper deference to basic human rights was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back.
And so, as we nervously look forward to elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, I thought the following visual and accompanying color from Stratfor seemed particularly apt.
The Maastricht Treaty is a product of its time. The collapse of communism and Germany’s reunification forced European leaders to reform the Continent politically and economically. The eurozone, for example, was constructed to bind countries more closely together – particularly Germany and France – in a political, financial and monetary union to reduce the chances of another war in Western Europe. Meanwhile, refigured European institutions would rejuvenate the bloc and attract new members from the former Soviet periphery.
Yet many of the treaty’s premises have been called into question over the past decade. Countries in Southern Europe have critiqued fiscal requirements, arguing they stifle growth during economic crises. Euroskeptic groups want their countries to leave the eurozone altogether, while others want to limit the ability of EU citizens to live and work freely within the bloc. In addition, many governments and political forces want to weaken Brussels’ control and give back many decision-making powers to national governments. 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, but it is also the year when many of the document’s principles will be challenged. Nationalist political forces are preparing for general elections across the European Union, vowing to reform, or even abolish, many of Europe’s institutions if they win.