Friday, May 2, 2014

Knowing When a Union is a Good Thing

Seen from afar the lack of enthusiasm for their Union in some of the larger and more successful European countries is hard to countenance. As a holder of an EU (in addition to my Canadian) passport I am concerned that many of those EU citizens who live in and therefore can vote in the Union are either indifferent to its future or actively hostile. An EU passport is a gift that, thanks to British nationality rules, I am able to pass on to my children and grandchildren born in Canada. It is a pity that those like UKIP supporters or Scottish Nationalists who pursue a course likely to result in their loss of EU privileges cannot all spend time living outside the EU for a while to understand what a positive construct such a federation actually can be.

Here in Canada we have a functioning federation coming up for its 150 year anniversary in 2017. Recent election results in Quebec have improved the likelihood that the federation will remain whole for that celebration. Yet we have barriers against inter-provincial trade and movement of labour that might amaze EU citizens. Such commonplaces as consumer taxes, policing, health care delivery, professional certification, and legal systems vary, sometimes considerably, between the members of this vast federation (provinces and territories) in which there are seven time zones. The internal free trade and harmonized rules and goals of the EU are unthinkable here. That said, our multicultural federation functions adequately enough that 35 million people remain eligible for the G7.

Rethinking the nature of the Union rather than skedaddling out of it might well be worth more debate than seems to be occurring. How much do both Eurosceptics and those who favour the EU actually pay attention to, even study, other such polyglot but successful First World federations as the USA, Canada and Australia, let alone others like Russia, Brazil, India, China and Argentina, to see what works and what does not? People in Europe seem to feel they are inventing (or un-inventing) something totally new! Euro-arrogance, perhaps?

Hereabouts we are celebrating the final year of the War of 1812 that kept the British Colonies in North America out of the republican federation to our south, and allowed them to confederate 53 years later. That confederation remains based on the principle of equality between ‘national’ and federal governments and leaves most things that affect people’s daily lives in the hands of their (formerly colonial then provincial) governments. The seesaw contest between provincial (read national) and federation rights has been mostly healthy for the federation as it keeps the ‘nation states’ feeling in control of much of their destiny. Not a bad model.

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