An 'Ideal' Mediterranean Union
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
As someone who considers the nation-states and their autonomy to be of the of the highest of importance, the European Union has, for as long as I have been interested in politics, been the organization that has gone above and beyond to undermine the validity of nation-states in Europe, with its single currency, its economic model, and the Schengen area playing a huge part in eroding the autonomy of each member state, not to mention the deeply undemocratic nature of this organization. Furthermore, its recent response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has been covered here, has not only been insufficient but sparked a new wave of criticism. A clear reflection of this is a new trend online where Italians burn the EU flag while playing the Italian national anthem on the background and saying ‘we will save ourselves’.
Obviously, in a globalized world, it is naïve to think that a Europe of independent nation-states would exist without other factions or alliances. For me, in an ideal scenario, any supranational organization would have to carry all of the positive aspects that the EU is known for (what little there is, frankly) and take out the negative. In a very simplistic way, do more of the good stuff, and less of the bad stuff. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to discuss an utopian Union that would be of my particular interest: a Mediterranean Union. This is obviously a very unrealistic scenario but the aim of this article is to come up with a blueprint for what would be a supranational organization that actually respects the sovereignty of its members. Here’s how it went:
The Member States
This small club of nations would include Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece. Obviously, other possible members would include, but not be limited to Malta, Andorra, San Marino or even Cyprus. For the sake of simplicity, our main focus should be on these four. These four countries all have economies that are, in terms of economic output and productivity, are subpar compared to central European economies, and during the fallout of the 2008 economic crash, these Mediterranean countries were particularly affected due to a plethora of reasons, the main which can be pointed out to be huge spending, significant deficits, and an inadequate economic model of the EU in order to fix the crisis. A quick example of this reality would simply be the inability of member states to manipulate the value of the currency, something is which is common practice in dealing with recessions.
Would a single currency exist?
Ideally, no. In order for this to be a reality, these countries would all have to return to the currency they previously had before the Euro, since a single currency would not be able to compete with the Euro in a near future, especially after having to deal with the consequences of switching currencies. However, if need be, this union could have a single currency down the line; one which did not create as many asymmetric problems as the Euro does, as they would not be sharing it with economic powerhouses. Furthermore, as a smaller club, it would be easier to come to terms in manipulating the currency if necessary.
Decision making: Majority Rules?
One of the biggest problems that the European Union has it’s the way in which it restricts the nation-states and does not offer its elected MP’s the ability to bring forward their own legislation, only having them to vote on the proposed legislation that is brought forward by an undemocratic body, be it the European Commission or whatever other branches of EU institutions that might exist at this point.
The Mediterranean Union, as an organization, would not have a capital, or a flag, or a parliament. Strangely enough, it could work in a way which I believe to be much more democratic than the current EU model. Each head of state and their delegations would meet every six months or maybe even monthly depending on the current situation, and would bring forward a couple of key proposals alongside going through what everyone else has brought to the table. Anything that is brought forward needs to be approved by all four
heads of state. Also, if one of them is not happy with what has been put forward but everyone else has approved it, he can put it to his people in a referendum and if the people say no, the whole organization must drop that bill in order to fully respect the rights of the people of that member state.
In this Union, referendums would have to be taken seriously, and one could not repeat the same question for a referendum for at least twelve years. If the decision of the people of that member state is not respected, they are entitled to leave the Union without having to pay for any compensation fees.
Trade and Travel
While citizens of each member state are free to travel and run their business anywhere in the Union, residence visas and overall travel restrictions still apply if a member sees them as necessary action. Again, not granting every single citizen of the union automatic citizenship or residence rights would not only preserve the rights of the existing nation-states but help prevent population and economic asymmetries that we see have happened under the
European Union model. Trade between the four members would be prioritized, with an exclusive no tariff deal, but they would also be free to have their own trade deals with their traditional allies and trading partners. Spain would still be able to do trade with its former American colonies; Portugal could strike a trade deal with its traditional ally Britain and by extension with the British Commonwealth, etc.
A substantial difference: the Migrant Crisis
It is hard to predict how the migrant crisis would play out with the existence of the Mediterranean Union. This organization includes Italy and Greece, the two countries within the EU who have had to deal with the arrival of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who had been trying to get to the stronger welfare states within the European Union.
Since these economies are much smaller and cannot provide these economic migrants with the opportunities that the welfare states of central and northern Europe can, there is a possibility that this migrant influx would be reduced by a combination of the economic aspect and the geographical one, as it is logical that both Italy and Greece would protect their borders in order to prevent getting overwhelmed by huge numbers of people.
However, if any country decides to take in migrants or refugees is their own decision, but other members are entitled to prevent entry to any migrants accepted by other members, and also those who are given citizenship and are not natural-born citizens.
A Final Thought
The existence of a political alliance of this nature is obviously very unlikely, if not somewhat utopian at this point. Entertaining the thought of a possible MU, and trying to make any supranational organization work for the people who it is supposed to represent is a difficult challenge, as we have seen for the few decades in which the EU has existed. This concept is still a work in progress, with many aspects to be further discussed and possibly a part two of this article in a few weeks.