There are three serious divisions now within the European Union. Germany is part of all of them, not because Angela Merkel or Wolfgang Schaeuble have sought them, but because Germany is about the only viable country within the 28 and doesn’t intend to be deflected from its path of economic and cultural righteousness..
Firstly there’s the final North-South showdown with Greece, yet to take place when it has had its general election next week and the formation of a government willing, or not willing, to take on the austerity programme which the finance ministers of the other EU countries have laid out for it. I’m still of the opinion that it can really only end with Greece’s exit.
Secondly, there’s the recent East-West division in the treatment of Syrian refugees between the newest EU countries such as the ex-communist countries of Hungary, Poland and Serbia (though not yet full euro-using members) and the more receptive countries such as Germany and Sweden. The future of this, depending also on how many more people will be fleeing from Syria — and more recently from Pakistan and Afghanistan — is totally unguessable.
Thirdly, and undoubtedly what is going to be the most serious division of them all, is the fissure that is now widening between Germany and France. Germany wants no more favours extended to countries which can’t put their financial houses in order. France, which simply doesn’t have the necessary discipline to survive in an increasingly competitive world and senses that it, too, will be requiring bail-outs from the EU, is pressing Germany hard to become more generous. Behind France are the Brussels Commissioners, their president Jean-Claude Juncker and Italy, which will be another supplicant before too long.
The political impossibility of laying down the essential fundamentals of a future United States of Europe which any new nation-state in the past did as a matter of course — a centralised taxation and budgetary authority, and one official language (even if, in this case, it had to invent a new Euro-esperanto, by no means an impossible task) — then the EU should have remained what many, such as Britain, intended it to be for the benefit of all the European countries — a Common Market.
A Common Market could have been achieved with a comparatively small bureaucracy such as NAFTA’s between America, Canada and Mexico. But such a modest servicing operation wouldn’t have offered the same opportunities for yet more power to the senior civil servants of Britain, France, Germany, etc. who are as keen for an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels as the Politburo in China is keen to maintain its. Mind you, the Chinese Politburo might yet succeed, due to its cultural coherence going back to Confucius. A Brussels Politburo with no cultural adhesion between the people of its member countries, doesn’t have a chance.