As Euro-zone nations continue to struggle with a currency union that isn’t working, it looks like the European Union is either going to be forced to break up the currency union or head towards greater political integration. If one looks at the United States of America’s own history, though, the prospects of a United States of Europe appear dim at best.
Even though the 13 states were originally semi-autonomous colonies before the Revolutionary War, they were sharing some aspects of a single country. Most had a shared common language and most shared a common legal tradition. There was also a relatively high level of mobility between the colonies and a relatively similar national culture. The relatively young age of the colonies meant there were no century-old grievances between them. The revolutionary war also gave Americans some unifying national heroes like George Washington.
Yet despite the fact all these factors made the American states good candidates for political integration in a single federal system, the process for getting there was incredibly rocky. Regional economic differences were a serious problem. For the first several decades the country faced multiple potential threats of disintegration, with the most notable resulting in the Civil War. This was one of the bloodiest wars in history, a conflict that practically wiped out a whole generation of males.
Even with many factors going for it, the process of national unification, moving from “These United States” to “The United States,” was not smooth. It was at times devastating, horrible and come close to failing.
Looking at Europe, it is hard for me to see how the true political integration of multiple countries with different languages, cultures, national identities and legal traditions could possibly go more smoothly than our experience. It will be a radically tougher task than the 13 colonies faced.
Currently the United States of America functions as a single country, under a federal framework, so I can understand why a United States of Europe may seem to some like a nice ideal. But it took us a long time to get here. If Europeans want to become their own united states, they have to decide if it is worth going through what could easily be generations of horrible growing pains, and it has to be more than just so you can use the same coins in France that you do in Finland.