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The Tally Ho

Monday, May 10, 2004

Follow Up about EU Expansion

The following is from Craig who posts on NAAS. It is a response to Nick's post, An Unwelcome Celebration, that was too long for the comment section.
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Another American perspective:
Walking the two blocks from my car to the office this morning, I passed two three-flat condo buildings being constructed by a work crew of about 25 men. I noticed that all of the conversations underway at the work site were in Polish, the native language of much of the construction industry in Chicago. The Northwest Side has seen a steady flow of Polish immigration since the end of WWII. At the heart of current tensions between Washington and Warsaw is the Bush Administration's refusal to give the Poles, today one of our closest allies, the same freedom to travel to the US as the British, because "too many" Poles overstay their tourist visas and become illegal immigrants. The policy is ridiculous. Polish immigrants in my neighborhood don't make me any less American, why would Polish immigrants in Germany make them any less German?
The economic and political benefits of expanding the EU are clear - in fact, a future integrated Europe stretching from Ireland to Siberia could be the greatest superpower the world has ever known - a high tech, developed superstate with 750,000,000 citizens. The issue, as always, is ethnic "purity".
The nation-state is a relatively new development in European history, which supplanting a centuries-long tradition of multi-national empire a few hundred years back. In most cases, the ideal of the nation-state has coincided with the reality of state which have existed with substantial ethnic minorities within their borders. In WWII, however, ethnic cleansing on ALL sides and the redrawing of borders substantially increased the degree to which ethnicity corresponded to political borders. (Poland's once substantial Jewish, German, Gypsy, and Hungarian populations disappeared, leaving a state that was over 97% Polish, unheard of in the history of this previously diverse nation). Since the war, however, populations have continued to drift, as they always do. Now, those in the West are concerned about a flood of new migrants from the East and beyond.
Well, boo hoo. Germany's working age population is falling, and the standard of living will fall precipitously over the coming decades unless its workers are replaced by immigrants. So what's the big deal. Besides Hitler, who says German should be all Germans, anyway? An influx of Turks, Poles, and Romanians could revitalize Germany the way Mexicans, Asians, and Eastern Europeans have given new life to formerly declining areas in Chicago and Queens.
The nation state is an outdated, flawed, basically racist concept. At one time, ethnic solidarity was used well by Socialist parties to create some of the best social welfare and health care systems on the planet. But in the 21st century, ethnically based states seem like an anachronism, standing in the way of social progress, and increasingly, economic progress as well.
Like the city, the multinational empire is an ancient form of social organization that deserves to be given another chance.

- Craig
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