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The Tally Ho

Sunday, May 02, 2004

An Unwelcome Celebration

As it is the 2nd of May, I feel that it is my duty to relay some discussion I had yesterday regarding the inclusion of the 10 new members of the EU.

Perspective 1: A French Student

She is opposed to the EU expansion on the premise that none of the Central/Eastern countries are "developed." She sees the inclusion of the millions of new "European" citizens as putting a large burden on the revenues and taxes of westerners. Citing lack of developed industries, cities, etc and lower standards of living/higher poverty levels, she feels that the new countries will be draining the EU of funds to pay for their new infrastructure and to subsidize welfare disbursements to the millions of poor in the new 10 members. In addition, there are large concerns in France and Britain regarding free migration of peoples from the East into already mature and stagnant western job markets. Enter perspective 2...

Perspective 2: A middle-aged British man.

While passing few judgments during the conversation, there are concerns regarding immigration to Britain, France, and Germany and the "short-term" consequences that it will have on local economies. "Bad for my generation, good for yours" sentiment.

Perspective 3: The American...Me.

Okay, I understand the concerns mentioned above. However, I think it would be unreasonable to omit the benefits. For the mature, stagnant economies of Britain, France, and Germany, it serves as a boundless opportunity for growth. In order to join the EU, each of the companies have to have been performing in a satisfactory economic and political manner (based on elections, employment, growth, currency fluctuations, etc). In addition, many of the countries in the new 10 have been posting doubled-digit economic growth--flash to France with growth far below that of the U.S. (who is boasting 4%). The Western economies stand to gain fortunes from exploiting the new sources of low-cost, low-tax labor and raw materials as well as restriction-free retail markets. I know that I want to cry over a couple thousand immigrants. If Americans were suddenly give a new set of markets like this, American business may become unstoppable. For western Europeans, it means that they may be able to realistically compete with the American economy in the long-term...If not surpass it.

Perspective 4: The Hungarian.

My Hungarian roommate has mixed feelings regarding his country's accention into the EU. While young financiers with specialties in Hungary and Hungarian language (like himself) stand to make a fortune from the expansion. He, like many easterners, is perhaps a bit weary of economic growth when it will most likely be owned and dominated by westerners looking to exploit his country's economy and work force.

Conclusion:

As with everything the EU does, there are mixed emotions. But, it is to be expected given centuries and millennia of history and cultural differences. Perhaps the question that is essential to the true success of the EU is, can Europe realistically overcome its heritage to emerge as a truly "European" market? Ask a Latvian, a Hungarian, a Brit, and a Frenchman and your answers are likely to be starkly different. Now, try to implement standard currency, taxes, regulations, economic policy, agricultural, and environmental regulations and you might understand the challenges that the EU--and its citizens--face.

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