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CIA Predicts European Union Will Break Up Within 15 Years.
January 20, 2005 7:28 AM   Subscribe

CIA Predicts European Union Will Break Up Within 15 Years. With all the attention focused on Iraq, this new CIA report seems to have slipped under the radar. Europe's dismal economic prospects and the continent's unfavorable demographics could have dire consequences for the EU, result in the dissolution of NATO and generally @#$?! up every post World War II/Cold War alliance that has been formed over the last half-century. Not that the CIA has ever been wrong...
posted by Heminator (67 comments total)

 
The CIA seems to run on 90% wishful thinking these days. Not the most productive foundation.
posted by rushmc at 7:35 AM on January 20, 2005


I predict it won't.
posted by zeoslap at 7:36 AM on January 20, 2005


Interesting. I don't know if I agree with it or not, but it's certainly an interesting scenario. Europe, at the moment, is recreating itself. It remains to be seen what it will become. However, between labor struggles and immigration controversy, Europe's about to live in some interesting times.
posted by unreason at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2005


From the article:

The report ... warns that Europe could be dragged into economic decline by its ageing population.

Pot, kettle.

From the FPP:

Europe's dismal economic prospects and the continent's unfavorable demographics could have dire consequences for the EU, result in the dissolution of NATO and generally @#$?! up every post World War II/Cold War alliance that has been formed over the last half-century.

Ditto.
posted by moonbiter at 7:39 AM on January 20, 2005


Yeah the CIA also thought that if they could just get Castro's beard to fall out we'd have those casinos back in Cuba post-haste.

Oh and that there would never be any fallout from working with the Pakistani intelligence service to train and equip an army of insurgent Islamic militants to do guerilla warefare.

And that one about not seeing the fall of USSR coming at all and being so on the ball about 9/11 and a million other ones.

Everyone knows this one right:

Q) How do we know the CIA wasn't involved in the Kennedy assasination?



A) Well, he's dead isn't he?
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:41 AM on January 20, 2005


"The current EU welfare state is unsustainable..."

Weren't the same concerns raised by the USA when, for example, the UK first set-up its own post-war welfare state and, nearly half a century later, we're still one of the world's largest economies.

Prediction is always a dangerous political game to play, especially when one comes up with the kind of radical, politically motivated predictions presented here. I prefer to work with the predictive heuristic that things will generally stay much the same as they are, only worse so.
posted by axon at 7:41 AM on January 20, 2005


The CIA seems to run on 90% wishful thinking these days. Not the most productive foundation.

Actually, the breakup of the EU isn't really wishful thinking. The freedom fries crowd would like it, but an EU break-up wouldn't really be good for America. Economically, Europe is a trading partner, so an EU business downturn would be bad for the US. Militarily, the EU is a good thing for the US, if it intervenes in Kosovo style situations it would alleviate some of the pressures on the American military. And, of course, the breakup of NATO certainly isn't wishful thinking.
posted by unreason at 7:43 AM on January 20, 2005


So basically the warning signs are too much for social services and not enough defense spending?

Is there a more typically US sentiment than "Be like us or perish!"?
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:44 AM on January 20, 2005


First Brad and Jen and now this.
posted by bondcliff at 7:44 AM on January 20, 2005


hahaha, probably about as correct as when the CIA accused the Danish company Niro for selling things that could be 'used to produce WMD' to Iraq during the embargo. They were off with a bunch of years on the sales date (so it was not during embargo), and the farming equipment was just that.
posted by dabitch at 7:45 AM on January 20, 2005


They're right, and wrong. Europeans are the world champs at fig leaf-denial. The EU will change dramatically, and scale-back it's social dimension.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:45 AM on January 20, 2005


So basically the warning signs are too much for social services and not enough defense spending?

And allowing too many Muslims into your country.
posted by carter at 7:50 AM on January 20, 2005


The European short work week (and day) is just as damaging as the demographic aging problem. These are problems that can be fixed... it's just hard to see how these things could be reversed.

I agree this would be awful for both Europe and The United State.
posted by TetrisKid at 7:50 AM on January 20, 2005


My very subjective impression is like that of Unreason, that Europe is transforming very quickly right now. So a CIA analysis based on recent trends is dubious right from the start. Population aging is a real problem, but if Europe can combine immigration and assimilation, that can be overcome. Europe should be fine.

I would hate to see this thread hijacked into a US v. Europe argument, but Moonbiter is wrong in saying that the same trends are present in the U.S., where the population is actually growing, due to both much higher birthrates and higher immigration. Here is an Economist article: Half a Billion Americans?

On preview: Axon, my impression was that Thatcher dismantled much of the UK welfare state. Is that not correct?
posted by LarryC at 7:51 AM on January 20, 2005


economic growth rate is dragged down by Germany...

Ditto for the above: isn't Germany still one of the worlds largest economies, greater even than France and the UK?

Europe’s Muslim population is set to increase... potentially triggering tensions.

Wow, potentially triggering tensions. We might as well pack-up and go home. Again, similar things have been said a thousands times before, in the UK and elsewhere.

India’s GDP will have overtaken or be overtaking European economies.

Again, why is it always with the GDP? True, India's GDP could easily grow, and could easily out pace the USA as well. However, I doubt the current powers-that-be would permit such expansion. As has been stated on these pages many times before, GDP is the only measure of success for a society.

In summary, the report reads like some kind of neocon wank fantasy.

posted by axon at 7:52 AM on January 20, 2005


See also:

a) Backing the Shah is the way to go in Iran

b) Assassinating the President of Chile will result in a freer South America

c) North Vietnam will fall in 4-5 years

d) The Russians are closing the missle gap

e) Ahmed Chalabi is the go-to guy for Iraq

f) Prop up Chiang Kai-Shek at all costs

and so on...
posted by briank at 7:56 AM on January 20, 2005


LarryC: On preview: Axon, my impression was that Thatcher dismantled much of the UK welfare state. Is that not correct?

To a degree although it is arguable just how much of the welfare state was dismantled: many of the original institutions still remain in place such as the national helth service, and employment and housing benefit, albeit in altered forms. Getting rid of these institutions could easily be considered political suicide despite the posturing of various politicians.
posted by axon at 7:57 AM on January 20, 2005


the article ignores (or is ignorant of the fact) that some european nations have been making incredible pension reforms. in 2000 sweden - as socialist a country as you are likely to find in the EU - introduced private pension accounts (PPM) very similar to what the bush administration is calling for.

The pension fee for the pension system, which is 18.5 per cent, is paid through payroll tax and other taxes.

- 16 per cent of the pension fee goes to income pension and 2.5 per cent to premium pension.

- The amount that goes to premium pension is invested by the pension saver in funds. When a person for the first time is entitled to premium pension (by having earnt the qualifying amount of money for an income year) the person automatically receives an selection pack by mail, sent to his or hers registered address. The selection pack contains all information needed about the pension system, including guidelines on how to choose funds.


of course it was as stupid and corrupt an idea as the one bush is peddling in america - all the money gets stolen by the equities market - but at least it shows that europe isn't unaware of the pension problem or is unable/unwilling to introduce unpopular reforms.
posted by three blind mice at 7:58 AM on January 20, 2005


Anyone read T.R. Read's book "The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy"? There's a good Fresh Air interview with him, if you want a contrary view.
posted by gwint at 8:10 AM on January 20, 2005


axon, they're talking about growth rate with regard to Germany, not overall economy size. And it is not really up to par.

"Germany's economy expanded an average 1.2 percent from 1993 to 2003, the same as Japan and less than half the pace in the U.S. and U.K. Before last year, the economy hadn't grown faster than 0.8 percent since 2000." source
posted by smackfu at 8:10 AM on January 20, 2005


An utterly ridiculous piece of wishful thinking by the CIA. The USA supported the formation of what is now the EU. European wars are expensive for all concerned, and the emergence of a single large trading partner was good for American business. In recent times, America is wondering whether it may have been mistaken. It never envisaged the EU becoming a more powerful economic power than the USA, which it is well on the way to doing. It never envisaged the Euro supplanting the dollar as the currency of choice in the world. All things considered, the continued existance and expansion of the EU is threatening America's economic dominance.

The sky is not falling on the EU. The economic outlook is pretty rosy, all things considered. Yes, adjustments may need to be made to welfare over time, just as Bush is pushing for in the USA. Unemployment rates should be taken with a pinch of salt, since countries do not always use the same counting methods. (The number of people receiving unemployment benefit does not equal the number of people looking for work.)

I trust economists and currency dealers more than I trust the CIA. The former are putting their money where their mouth is, and the dollar is sliding as a result.
posted by salmacis at 8:16 AM on January 20, 2005


The former are putting their money where their mouth is, and the dollar is sliding as a result.

The EU may have a bright economic future, but it has nothing to do with the sliding dollar. That's basically an underhanded tactic of Bush's to discourage foreign imports and increase exports.

As for the CIA worried about Europe's possible economic supremacy, I don't really think they are, so much as they are worried about China's.
posted by unreason at 8:21 AM on January 20, 2005


Even if the CIA's pojected demographic trends come to pass they won't be cause for instability in the next 15 years - they would impact more in the 25 to 50 year time frame.

The most likely cause for EU instability in the next 15 years is financial/monetary policies. The EU imposes very strict budegetary and financial policies on its members, and the question a few years ago was "what will the EU do when members fail to meet these targets?".

Now we know the answer - it will do nothing, if its France and Germany that are the offenders, as they are now.

But what will happen when smaller members need or want to violate the agreements? If they are allowed to do so widely, then fiscal instability will drag down the EU. IF they are forced to live up to the agreements they will be tempted to leave the union, or perhaps provoke a crisis that brings the whole edifice to the brink of collapse.
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:31 AM on January 20, 2005


The freedom fries crowd would like it, but an EU break-up wouldn't really be good for America.

I agree, but unfortunately the freedom fries crowd rule the roost at the moment.
posted by rushmc at 8:47 AM on January 20, 2005


This is what's going to happen:

1) Right-wing parties in a few nations will take power and severely cut back immigration
2) 20-30 years later, pensioners will be faced with having their benefits slashed in half because there are too many retirees and too few younger workers
3) The immigration floodgates will be reopened, brown people will happily come in and sustain the economy for the next 50 years
4) Go back to step (1)
posted by exhilaration at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2005


Who's to say the U.S. will still look the same in 15 years.
posted by orange swan at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2005


This is just more cheerleading by the CIA for the administration's upcoming policy initiatives. They're just trying to lay the groundwork for justifying all the prognostications of doom and gloom for Social Security reform, tax cuts and reform, tort reform, healthcare, etc.

It's a slam dunk.
posted by effwerd at 8:59 AM on January 20, 2005


I posted about the report 6 days back.
posted by Gyan at 9:09 AM on January 20, 2005


Yess, Gyan, but your post was insufficiently inflammatory. I hope you learned your lesson.
posted by trharlan at 9:14 AM on January 20, 2005


With reference to the Economist article, at some point (after presumed the EU break-up), the US will find that it's a majority spanish-language country.
posted by bonehead at 9:18 AM on January 20, 2005


Not only is it wishful thinking by the CIA, it's only being spun by the Scotsman because it is now so firmly right -- and anti-welfare state -- it's amazing they sell any copies at all.
posted by bonaldi at 9:19 AM on January 20, 2005


trharlan: It wasn't necessarily a complaint (maybe). Maybe people ought to, you know, just maybe, read the source directly. It seems to have been compiled not by the CIA itself, but the National Intelligence Council, which consulted governmental and nongovernmental "experts" from around the world. So, it's not like it's an internal report by the CIA. Of course, it may still be completely wrong.
posted by Gyan at 9:20 AM on January 20, 2005


So I guess the Neocons are now firmly in control at the CIA.

This sounds like more wishful thinking and sour grapes.
posted by bshort at 9:25 AM on January 20, 2005


So what are the Right-Wing odds now on the "EU collapses, Salon goes out of Business, Democratic Party competely dissolves" trifecta? Wheel's gotta stop on your number one of these days, right?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:38 AM on January 20, 2005


The EU may have a bright economic future, but it has nothing to do with the sliding dollar. That's basically an underhanded tactic of Bush's to discourage foreign imports and increase exports.

And what a successful tactic it has been!
posted by furtive at 9:43 AM on January 20, 2005


As far as I can see European countries are going to have problems with aging populations, etc, whether the EU stays together or not, how will EU dissolution help us to deal with them? The point of the EU is to stimulate trade and while some member states have clearly been putting more funds into expanding the Union, much of the benefit of the EU lies with the reductions in trade barriers that are achieved. Even if those nations which carry more than their share of the burdens of expansion were to cut back their would still be no reason to abandon those trading benefits.

As for their other prediction that Europe and the US will drift further apart, that has been the view of most geopolitical commentators for a good few years now.
posted by biffa at 9:49 AM on January 20, 2005


The CIA is just jealous.
posted by taursir at 10:10 AM on January 20, 2005


It's funny to hear people talk about countries "leaving" the EU. I remember reading a piece showing how the USA and the EU differed in terms of legal approach. In the EU model, a member's local laws becomes so intertwined with the EU laws that it becomes difficult to leave once you have joined.

That said, the EU is going to have to go through some changes in the next 10-15 years, especially if it starts gobbling up countries like Turkey and/or eastern European nations. The reason behind those issues are primarily economic and cultural.

As for predictions of NATO falling apart, I think that this may be something that would happen in reverse to the level of power the EU has: the more power the EU has, the lesser the need for NATO and, adversely, the less power the EU has, the greater the reliance of individual countries on NATO will be. If the EU succeeds in fully integrating (something that will NOT happen in the next 10-15 years but COULD happen on a longer timeline), it might start developing a military force that equals that of the USA. There are already efforts under way to develop a more common approach and it's clear that the EU wants to serve as a counterbalance to the USA.
posted by TNLNYC at 10:31 AM on January 20, 2005


It's a bit of a 'sky is falling' article, but I think the general concept is pretty accurate. The EU is a self-described bureaucratic disaster that could very well collapse under its own weight, stasis, and inability to balance the needs and wants of each of its member states.

The greatest failure of the EU (and I am fascinated by the whole project, spanning back to the 1950s) is that it has not really created any type of common "identity" that each member state can relate to. Furthermore, with a massive influx of immigration, particularly Muslim, the EU risks a lot of social fissures.

I saw this first hand living in Spain where the Spaniards (and I hate to admit, but myself as well due to several unsavory encounters) have very little love for the large Muslim immigrant population and the newer Romanian/Eastern European immigration moving primarily to the Eastern Coast of Spain. Not only are Spaniards very nationalistic, but they are incredibly *regionalistic*, which creates a whole host of other dynamics.

As to Turkey's attempts at entry, I honestly think it is a pipe dream and that the EU leadership is dragging Turkey along. Opening up a pipeline for Muslims to enter, en masse, is a recipe for social disaster. Word on the street is that Turkey will have to sign a separate agreement to limit immigration.

While there may be strong economic ties that bind the individual member states, the tendency of the EU bureaucracy is to take a least-common-denomenator approach to satisfy each member state. Decision making is lethargic, to put it gently, and almost nobody is ever happy with the ultimate decision. With the introduction of the new member states I see the problems being magnified.

The EU seems to work best when it is handling a "Functional" Role (For you Poli Sci majors out there, this is the fun stuff). Basically, as a broad organization, the EU can cover some territories where there is lots of common interest (energy, trade, immigration, law enforcement). When it comes to social policy, this is where the EU has stumbled the most and where it tends to get bogged down the worst.

I'm always a bit uncomfortable with arguments based on economics because rarely are long-term forecasts accurate. However, Europe's economic model is a recipe for disaster when seen in the same world that has China, India and Brazil coming up from behind with relatively unexpensive labor and relatively educated workers. Europe is going to get caught in a squeeze worse than the United States will get caught in the next 10-15 years, and Europe's economy is far less elastic than ours is.

Europe's other big problem is that big government and large organizations tend to lead to a lessening of creativity and loss of risk tolerance. Europeans are far less tolerant of risk than Americans are. Look at the European legal system which operates more on a "Roman Law" system: Something is generally illegal until the State says otherwise. American society and legal norms are more "Common Law" based: Everything is legal until you do something to infringe upon common rights and the state says it is illegal. Americans are more flexible and willing to change, European political mindsets are not quite as flexible.

Creating a "Nation" or a "State" requires a lot of intangibles other than economics, military power and population age. It involves 'feel' and 'loyalty' and 'pride' and those things which sound a bit silly, but lead to strength. I don't see Europe (as in the EU) as having that kind of traditional loyalty from its citizens. This is a huge period of transition and perhaps Euroe is on to something new here - and I am fascinated to watch it all unfold. I'm just a bit skeptical.
posted by tgrundke at 10:33 AM on January 20, 2005


It's always depressing how wingnuts *want* the European model to fail. Universal healthcare, protection for workers, a social safety net? Horrible! It must die!
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:26 AM on January 20, 2005


Armitage -

I'm sure that there is a continent who want to see the European model fail, but I think that on the aggregate the criticisms are not leveled so much in a desire to see it fail, but as criticism. In the case of the EU, they are quite literally being strangled by the welfare state model. One cannot have it both ways: Germans cannot have immense worker protection, extensive benefits and time off and still be competitive with employees in Brazil, Mexico, China and Slovakia (I am speaking of Volkswagen, AG in particular here, who is moving production out of Germany as quickly and stealthily as they can due to extraordinary labor costs). You cannot offer admittedly wonderful pensions to every retiree when you have a declining workforce and declining number of youth to replace them and to continue paying into the system. And, you cannot improve the employment picture through the free market if your taxes continue to increase, your labor laws become more restrictive, your productivity decreases and your entrepreneurial spirit is eroded.

I think that the criticisms being made a very legitimate and they require some incredible overhauls that may not be at all possible unless European leaders take one of two routes:
1) Make very VERY minor, very small, very incremental steps toward reform over a long period of time;
2) Wait for a crisis to precipitate mass change and upheaval.

Sadly, my studies of world political systems and human nature lead me to believe that the likely impetus will be #2.
posted by tgrundke at 11:45 AM on January 20, 2005


Inevitably, we westerners are all going to see our standard of living drop, so that the standard of living for the third world can rise. There's no two ways about it: with a global economy comes either equalization or war.

I'd rather live with less and have peace, than be greedy and have war.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:02 PM on January 20, 2005


The main reason why Europe has been able to rebuild and integrate in the last half-century is - beyond doubt - that its security was guaranteed against foreign threats by its big bad partner in the NATO alliance.

Having the US provide a Nuclear Shield during the cold war and allowing the US to build up its own military dominance through bases in Germany and Asia -- and to continue to provide the force behind an ever-expanding NATO after the cold war -- has made it possible for European countries to avoid local arms races which has allowed them to experience a few generations of peace, which has built the good faith on which the economic integration was based.

The potential emergence of the European Union as an economic rival is understood as a threat by the US, and the EU knows exactly what it is doing. This rivalry provides insight into the real reasons for French, German (and Russian) refusals to participate in the Iraq adventure: the US doesn't need Middle Eastern oil in the short term. Europe, however, runs on the stuff, and US-Based companies controlling that oil is the best guarantee the US can hope for right now that Europe won't be getting uppity any time soon.

The real issue about whether EU will provide a legitimate challenge to US hegemony is based on its nascent military program. someone said 'it might start developing a military force that equals that of the USA. if it will ever be a rival, it must. but this is not a small project. The US currently spends approximately five times what all of the EU spends on military for their individual domestic militaries. Europe is leashed to the US. We own their asses. And when they start to get uppity about how much the success of their store has done for the neighborhood, we are prepared to send someone to break their knees in the backroom and remind them who it was that gave them permission to succeed.

on preview: fff -- you're right about the available choices, but i suspect you are not particularly wealthy. those who really control the wealth will fight to hold on to it. yes, our standard of living will have to shift downward. but first, the world is going to get a whole lot less nice.
posted by milkman at 12:16 PM on January 20, 2005


There will never be public support for a full-fledged war against other democratic countries whose only crime is differing views. More covert war-like activity, maybe, but that's not as expensive, so Europe can match.
posted by Tlogmer at 12:34 PM on January 20, 2005


Sadly, my studies of world political systems and human nature

...appear to extend only as far as a pile of clichés and overgeneralisations. Oh well.

The greatest failure of the EU (and I am fascinated by the whole project, spanning back to the 1950s) is that it has not really created any type of common "identity" that each member state can relate to.

Well, that's based on a federalist premise. I'd say the opposite: the EU has strengthened regional identity within states without it leading to separatism. Regions that have often been ignored by national governments, because they don't factor into electoral politics, have benefitted greatly from EU grant aid.

The basic problem with tgrundke's critique is that there's an implicit premise: the point of reference for success is an American model of federal identity and low-benefit, low-esteem work. Frankly, I think that's bullshit. Once you accept that premise, you head into a race to the bottom, as can be seen from the American economic malaise. And you can't compete with China and India: that's a given. The next century will be theirs.

Europe is going to get caught in a squeeze worse than the United States will get caught in the next 10-15 years, and Europe's economy is far less elastic than ours is.

See, I think that the US is in a far worse position, because its welfare system -- and believe me, the US has a huge welfare system -- is run through employers. The economists' joke is that General Motors is a pension and health insurance company with a sideline in building cars. (One reason Ford can afford to keep its Volvo factories open is because of the Swedish healthcare system.) Structural shifts in employment, as well as general demographics, leave both employers and employees more vulnerable in the US than in most developed nations.

I'm not a rah-rah booster for the EU: its flaws are well-documented. But I'm quietly confident that it has a better chance of reaching 2020 in good shape than, say, the CIA.
posted by riviera at 12:40 PM on January 20, 2005


This is a good thread full of very interesting observations.

milkman , I don't understand what you mean here: Europe is leashed to the US. We own their asses. And when they start to get uppity about how much the success of their store has done for the neighborhood, we are prepared to send someone to break their knees in the backroom and remind them who it was that gave them permission to succeed.

Are you saying the US will wage war if the EU becomes too successful?
posted by a_day_late at 12:53 PM on January 20, 2005


The greatest failure of the EU (and I am fascinated by the whole project, spanning back to the 1950s) is that it has not really created any type of common "identity" that each member state can relate to

Like Riviera, I would debate whether that is a failure or not.. but additionally, it's just not true. It depends which EU countries you visit, but there's a strong groundwell of support for the positive work the EU does, and pride in what the Union stands for, in most of the member states.

This is a good thread full of very interesting observations.

I wish that were true, but I wonder how many of us re actually qualified to pass comment. I know I'm not, apart from at the most basic observational level (see above)
posted by ascullion at 12:55 PM on January 20, 2005


Whereas the U.S., having exported its entire manufacturing base to Asia, and is currently throwing its skilled labor pool after it with both hands, whilst running massive deficits and eviscerating the public sector including infrastructure and education, will of course be heaven on earth in 2015.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:59 PM on January 20, 2005


There will never be public support for a full-fledged war against other democratic countries whose only crime is differing views.

While this is a comforting thought, it is also a myth. Never is a long time. The democratic peace theory is often cited by those who have remarkably inconsistent ideas of what a 'democracy' is -- and what a 'war' is. There have been plenty of wars between 'democratic' states already.

Not that it's going to stop anyone once things start really getting shitty. Their crime won't be differing views. It will be the development of an economic and military threat that starts to feel real. Anyway, this is endgame to empire we're talking about here. Your statement is premised on the idea that we will be a 'democratic state'.

a_day_late: more or less that's what i'm saying. not economically. but if they start to really feel entitled to a military of their own based on the economic strength we let them build, somebody is going to get reminded.
posted by milkman at 1:13 PM on January 20, 2005


Riviera -

You are very correct about the regionalism argument. However, I would counter with: So what? The EU has provided a forum for more 'legitimacy' for certain regions that otherwise were ignored - but does this strengthen the Union as a whole?

I am also using the Federalist system as a benchmark because over the course of the past 200+ years it has been the most successful at balancing economic growth, social freedoms and in providing for the common defense.

Now, I do agree with you about the "race to the bottom" premise. However, the problem here is that both the US and Europe have it wrong, but from different ends. The US is intent on farming out all of the good jobs and growth to the Pacific Rim and the EU is intent on locking down the homestead and protecting its employees. The US version will drain resources in the long run and the Euro version will lead to economic sclerosis and collapse. Time to find another way?

As to the argument made about people being supportive of the Union - in a December 2003 survey performed by the EU, only 46% stated that they felt the "EU Benefits them", a drop of 6% from the year prior. (If anyone has more recent statistics, I would like to see them, I just don't have time to dig at the moment). But the question remains: Would people give up their national identities to fight for the EU? If asked to take up arms for the EU, would they? Sure it's an oversimplification and generalization, but the 'strength of the union' depends greatly on such sentiments and feelings.
posted by tgrundke at 1:24 PM on January 20, 2005


Boy oh boy. Some of y'all need some serious lessons in economics.

See for many years the Europeans were our customers (along with the rest of the world) for our chief export: Paper!

As in DOLLARS!

See the US worked out this great scam where the world gives us their invaluable labor (time) and natural resources (like oil) and we give them paper. Currency. Backed not by gold but by our missiles and tanks and F-16's.

Great friggn deal for US. As long as the tax payer pays for the military.

With the EU and it's strong currency they are in direct competition with the dollar - still our principle export (thanks to those T-bills financing our debt).

If the EU collapsed, and the Euro with it, it would be GREAT economic news. Big picture wise. We would STILL have a major market. I mean shit. Europe has ZERO natural resources like say oil or food.

PLUS They have poor infrastructure to move what they can get and no military to protect it all.

They HAVE to buy our stuff. So we would lose no market at all.

Still. It would make me sad if it did happen. I think we in the US have gotten to big for our britches. It's nice to have somebody show us up - lifestyle-wise. Even if is just a pipe dream.

The alternative to EU collapse may be war, unfortunately.
posted by tkchrist at 1:43 PM on January 20, 2005


Things I learned about Europe today:

We don't like muslims.
We have no food.

Thank you for the lesson! (And for the economic strength, too)
posted by mr.marx at 1:55 PM on January 20, 2005


Marx - you miss the point. Sure you have "food" - your population is not growing (except for immigration and that is fairly recent thing) right now. Right now. Europe still imports a HUGE portion of bulk staples to feed itself.

But that wasn't my point. I was being flippant.

More importantly you (the EU) cant grow your energy supply. And because of that the rest of your base industries could also stagnate - including food production.

Anyhoo. I don't have time to explain it all here.

Suffice to say I don't think the EU will collapse in 15 years. It will in maybe 50 or so due to rogue wave currency collapse and peak oil phenomena - especially if doesn't ditch the social welfare state before then.

But we will go down first. So don't feel so bad.
posted by tkchrist at 2:16 PM on January 20, 2005


The EU can grow its energy supply by switching to renewables. Denmark should be 15% wind within a decade or two, and it'll only accellerate after that.

milkman: fair enough. But I think that by the time things have changed enough for war to happen, things will have changed enough for the EU and US -- and the rest of the world -- to be totally unrecognizable, and perhaps to no longer be called the EU and US. 80 years, bare minumum, and this report's on the next 20.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:41 PM on January 20, 2005


Personally, I love the rotten library's assessment of the CIA:

While intelligence agencies like the KGB and Israel's Mossad have often employed appalling tactics to further their goals, the CIA has earned itself a special distinction for using most of the same appalling tactics much less effectively.

Read the rest here.
posted by Thoth at 2:56 PM on January 20, 2005


It's cynical but the aging population problem will solve itself either way. The only thing we can do right now is prepare for it as much as we can and brace ourselves.

Ironically, I'm figuring that the worse a nation prepares itself for it, the faster it will find it's population back in balance, but at a higher cost. For those who do prepare, I'm assuming it would take them 15, maybe 20 years before their populations balance out. After that, it's economic prosperity. Every developed nation is probably going to have to go through this faze and once past it will be able to expand it's welfare system again if it so cares.

And a prepared nation probably won't see its welfare system collapse but it will shrink considerably. It's citizens will be less protected and forced to take more risks. Many will find that they will have to work longer to sustain their current way of life.
It may also ease the immigrant population problem we have today. Their greatest frustration is that even with a good education, they are not getting the chances they deserve in the workforce. If the host population is forced to be less discriminatory to preserve their welfare system, it could become a win win situation for everybody.

The biggest threat however will be from the rising economies. Each time a member state comes to the conclusion they can't solve a problem by themselves, the EU grows more powerful and this is one such problem that will need to be solved through the EU.
According to some, a solution may very well exist that could put Europe on the same economical footing as low wage countries while still preserving the welfare state. I'm not sure if it would actually work in practice, but it is assuring that there are people out there trying to find a creative way out of the mess we will soon face.
posted by Timeless at 3:09 PM on January 20, 2005


You are very correct about the regionalism argument. However, I would counter with: So what?

Um, how about 'so, 20th century European history'? Or pretty much every century of European history, for that matter, with its ongoing cyclical movements of regional separatism and trans-regional unification.

Why is it that many regionalist/nationalist/separatist political parties and groupings have embraced the EU's model of regional subsidiarity? The Catalan nationalists get a good deal out of EU membership; so do the Scottish Nationalists. And the union as a whole is strengthened by the stability of its component parts.

Again, I think you're basing your critique on a faulty federalist premise. I think the days of Delors-style federalism have passed, and we're now heading towards an EU that is curiously early-modern in character: a loose, baggy trans-national monster.

Would people give up their national identities to fight for the EU? If asked to take up arms for the EU, would they?

The premise is a faulty one: where exactly would people be asked to turn in their passports and their identities? I don't see people engaged in UN operations giving up their national identities.

I am also using the Federalist system as a benchmark because over the course of the past 200+ years it has been the most successful at balancing economic growth, social freedoms and in providing for the common defense.

Oh, that's very much a matter of opinion. (Or, to give you a change here: I'd like to see you come up with some way to quantify that, particularly given the US's economic frailty and frankly shitty social record for at least half of its existence.)

You're hung up on federalist exceptionalism, tgrundke. It's about time you got over it, otherwise you're going to be in denial for the next 20 years.
posted by riviera at 3:11 PM on January 20, 2005


riviera: exactly.

Europe is moving in two seemingly contradictory directions. Regions that are too small and insignificant on their own are using the unification of Europe as a way to achieve a greater independence for themselves.
posted by Timeless at 4:08 PM on January 20, 2005


Things I learned about Europe today:

We don't like muslims.


Uh, you don't. Or, at least, significant proportions of you don't. Unless there's some other reason for the ridiculous number of posters I saw last summer that said "Europe without Turkey."
posted by oaf at 4:11 PM on January 20, 2005


The EU can grow its energy supply by switching to renewables. Denmark should be 15% wind within a decade or two, and it'll only accelerate after that.

LOL. No. While you can "grow" wind, somewhat. You can't really grow most other renewables - like solar. Common misconception about growth in the economic sense. I wish I had the time and ability to articulate this... I don't. But trust me. you can't grow renewables in anything approaching the way you could petro-energy.

It would take 50-100 years for it to simply replace your current usage or petro-energy with wind. And in the mean time what are you constructing those turbines WITH. Diesel cranes and petro technology. It would be years of net energy LOSS. To avoid what will be the peak oil problem this "renewable" solution would have to have been implemented large scale 30 years ago.

This has already been hashed and re-hashed by the big brain strategic thinkers both here and in Europe. Sorry. As far as the EU competing with the US on growing their energy supply... well, they can't.

And the result will be a SEVERE drop in lifestyle and contraction in population (in the end THAT is what will save us as it will cause a severe labor shortage - already starting due to demographics).

The hit on Europe will be more severe than in the US. But both will be hit. And BOTH will not resemble what they are politically/socially now. Our economy is - as one poster said - more elastic. And we do have a labor pool already primed for living in the new Third World US, some untapped natural resources, and a heartier agro base etc.

And the EU could never militarize in time to go to war with us so they will have no hedge to back up resource confrontations. Even "IF" the EU builds strategic military alliances with the east. In a war with the US the EU would be destroyed.

That is why it puzzle me the course some EU leaders seem to taking in going head to head with the US (long BEFORE Iraq). It may sell in domestic elections but there is NO WAY the EU can compete with the US for resources and consumerist growth.

Doom and gloom. Well. Maybe not. But still in 50 years it ain't gonna be pretty. I hope and pray it won't be war. I do love going to Europe and hanging with my Italian friends.

Man all this talk and the inauguration of the Imperial Presidency has seriously depressed me.

Fuck off you guys. Damn.
posted by tkchrist at 6:21 PM on January 20, 2005


Anyhoo. I don't have time to explain it all here.

I wish I had the time and ability to articulate this... I don't.

This has already been hashed and re-hashed by the big brain strategic thinkers

So... what? Don't worry our pretty heads and take your word for it? Dude, this is a sorry performance. I think you have this place confused with some other MeFi, where people take you seriously even if you give no indication of knowing what you're talking about.
posted by pascal at 11:20 PM on January 20, 2005


Denmark should be 15% wind within a decade or two, and it'll only accelerate after that.

Denmark has sourced >15% of its electricity from wind for over 3 years now, they're well on the way to 20%.

tkchrist: Clearly energy supply is a problem for the EU, and it has been noted that our increasing dependence on imports will be a major issue for EU economic growth. There is no real agreement at the expert level however as to whether the growing diversity of countries from which we will be importing oil and gas will give us sufficient energy security in the future.

With regard to renewables the EU has been much more progressive than the US in trying to drive forward growth. We will be seeing a more rapid expansion of wind (offshore and onshore) in the in the next decade. I think we can also expect to see some movement on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy in the same time period. This will have implications not just for the EU but also for trade in foodstuffs around the world, and you can expect this to have some influence on the nature of farm support in the US. With regard to energy supply, it is likely that reform will see increased potential for economically viable delivery of biofuels, though this is more of a long term solution which will offer only partial relief to EU energy security needs.

You mention that we cannot grow the solar resource without any real explanation of what you mean. The European solar resource is substantial. Greece has installed millions of solar thermal units and there is the potential for further expansion, the technology is also already economically viable in other southern EU states and with expansion, viability is likely to increase further north as unit cost comes down. (I will presume you are familiar with the underlying theory regarding saved energy being more valuable than generated energy.)
We can't grow the solar resource but we can certainly exploit a lot more of it than we do now. With regard to PV, unit costs remain high and the technology remains a longer term possibility, but unit costs have been declining steadily and are set to continue to do so on the back of R, D&D investment on the part of a number of EU Member States. Economically of course, this offers the potential for the capture of competitive advantage in a number of new industries for EU companies, something we have already seen the star of with Danish and German domination of the wind turbine manufacturing sector.

Environmental concerns relating to energy use already play a more significant role in energy policy in the EU than than the US, (there is, for example, significantly higher energy taxation in the EU). The EU has significant coal reserves and in the event of any real threat to our energy security these can serve as an energy source of last resort. It is the global price of coal, along with environmental restrictions that limit their current use. Should the world energy market get to the stage where that becomes an issue then things will have changed radically from the current position and I think we can probably assume a massive global downturn has already occurred.
posted by biffa at 2:32 AM on January 21, 2005


In the case of Belgium, about 60% of the power is nuclear, 25% is natural gas and 7% coal. Only 1.2% comes from petroleum products and in about 10 years time, about 10% will be from renewable energy sources.

It's the transportation sector that is influenced most by fluctuations in the oil market and the heavy taxes imposed by the government.
Even in an oil crisis, the government probably would hesitate lowering taxes in order to stimulate other modes of transportation such as by rail. There is already a very dense network in place.
There is also the trend for efficient fuel consumption by the automotive industry in part thanks to the heavy taxes.

The problems we face have little to do with energy, and more to with the fact that it costs too much to produce things here thanks to high wages and that the burden of a welfare system will fall on the shoulders of a shrinking workforce.
posted by Timeless at 4:44 AM on January 21, 2005


Things I learned about Europe today:

We don't like muslims.

Uh, you don't. Or, at least, significant proportions of you don't. Unless there's some other reason for the ridiculous number of posters I saw last summer that said "Europe without Turkey."


Ah, the old solid take-a-summer-trip-and-look-at-posters method. Can't beat that. I'm convinced!
posted by mr.marx at 4:56 AM on January 21, 2005


Unless there's some other reason for the ridiculous number of posters I saw last summer that said "Europe without Turkey."

Well my concerns about allowing Turkey entry relate to their not particularly attractive human rights record. Economic concerns are also an issue. Though of course, either of these reasons could be used as a disguise by racists/anti-muslim political constituencies, it does not mean they aren't a valid cause for concern.
posted by biffa at 6:45 AM on January 21, 2005


CIA Predicts European Union Will Break Up Within 15 Years.
And they don't care what they have to do to cause it.
posted by nofundy at 6:49 AM on January 21, 2005


The entire First-World has lots of problems that can cause it to fall apart in the next 15 years, and it's not limited to the EU. Resource problems are not limited to Europe (Hubbert Peak, anyone?), nor are problems with economies (see Debt, National), aging populations (Social Security, hot or not?), competition from upcoming Second-World nations, environmental issues, and so on.

The EU has problems that it needs to address to extend it's existence, and so does every other national or multinational entity in the First-World. Well, duh. This is not news. That is why I find the spin of this particular report somewhat overwrought -- "European Union Will Break Up Within 15 Years.[!!!]" -- and a bit hypocritical.

On the other hand I suppose it is within the purview of the CIA to try and make predictions like this. Why it got released to the Scotsman though (and I assume, other press outlets), makes me wonder about motive.
posted by moonbiter at 1:51 PM on January 21, 2005


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