Career: Research & Development Engineer | Dupont-MECS | St. Louis, Missouri, USA
What the European Union and the United States Can Learn from Each Other
Climate change, the environment, limited energy and most of today’s challenges have a natural resources, poverty and the economic downturn of 2008: These are only some of the challenges that most countries face today. There is no obvious or immediate solution to any of them, making it all the more important for us to learn from each other and develop solutions together. I will focus mainly on issues related to energy production, immigration, migration and food production from the perspective of the United States and the European Union (EU).
Since its founding in 1776, the United States has made tremendous progress in uniting its states and developing a nation. Characteristic reflections of this unity are expressions such as “United we stand, divided we fall” or the traditional motto: “E pluribus unum” (“Out of Many, One”).
The parallel with the EU stems from the establishment of a trade agreement — the European Coal and Steel Community — in 1951. Coming shortly after World War II, its main goals included facilitating and promoting trade and economic growth, and establishing a federal union of the member states that would help to overcome extreme forms of nationalism. Like the United States, this organization sought to bring a continent together to facilitate the flow of work force, to maintain lasting peace and to promote economic growth. Today the European Union has 27 member countries, and its activities are aimed at living up to the motto adopted in 2000: “United in Diversity.” In the end, however, its unification efforts by no means really try to unite European nations in a manner similar to states in the United States.
In the case of the United States, member states have sought since its inception to develop a common culture based upon a common language, and they have created a vibrant economy that is supported by the free flow of the work force across the country. The citizens of the United States clearly have come together to form one country.
The European Union, by contrast, remains quite a multicultural organization with more and more ethnic groups trying to achieve autonomous governments. Such tendencies toward autonomy are reflected in the formation of the Republic of Kosovo in 2008, the election of a separatist party in Scotland in 2011, and ongoing issues of Belgium, where no formal government has been established since the elections in 2010 because a separatist party received a significant number of votes and is refusing to allow any other party to form a government without its acquiescence.
In contrast to the United States, which is largely monolingual, the European Union has no common language; currently 23 official languages are recognized. Citizens of the member states tend to think of themselves much more as citizens of each nation-state than as citizens of the European Union. This makes the free flow of the work force difficult even in 2011 despite the fact that many countries have officially opened their job markets to other members’ workers. The free flow of the work force in the EU remains an issue even though many Europeans speak several languages.
Immigration creates significant conflicts within European countries,even though it is fairly easy to immigrate into a European country. One example is France, where a ban was issued in 2004 on wearing certain religious symbols when attending educational institutions. In general, the approach contrasts with that of the United States,where strict laws regulate the immigration into the country in the first place, but internal regulation of citizens is less pronounced.
Food production in the European Union follows considerably stricter regulation than in America. Hormone treatment of animal products and genetic modification are generally forbidden in Europe, and organic food and healthy eating habits — including the consumption of vegetable products — play amore significant role in European culture than in the United States.
Green technologies and green energy production receive considerable interest in both Europe and America. Although nuclear energy production could considerably reduce the carbon footprint of electric energy production, after the disaster at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, it is unlikely to take on a more dominant role in the EU. In Germany, for example, there have been major protests against nuclear energy. Yet in order to avoid relying more heavily on fossil-fuel-based power, cooperative efforts such as the fusion reactor test facility (ITER)under development in Cadarache, France, will be needed. Another alternative would be to increase the role of renewable energy production technologies.
The examples I have provided demonstrate only a few areas where the EU and U.S.stand to benefit by learning from each other. In many cases they take different approaches to major social issues,but this does not preclude finding complementarities and other opportunities to learn. In particular, Europeans and Americans could work together to promote economic growth and advance technology.
Most of today’s challenges have a global impact,and there is a growing need for organizations above the level of individual nations to emerge and provide solutions. In many cases we can no longer rely on the efforts of individual countries.
But solving international issues will require addressing internal problems, and in some cases others may have already developed solutions. The sooner political leaders recognize that global problems can only be solved by taking global actions, the better. United we stand,divided we fall is becoming all the more important — but now at the global level.