The 21-year old European Union has been a lightning rod of controversy, following the unwillingness of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign the agreement with them. Additionally, since Iceland’s withdrawal of its membership, the EU has been a major international newsmaker. Many seek refuge in their conservative attitude towards the Union, fearing that bureaucrats might instigate outright hostility. What people don’t realise is that the European integration has been conceived on the principles of freedom of trade and commerce, which is the very essence of a free market economy. Although to be completely a free market continent, the EU should not exist in the first place! However, this does not diminish the fact that the EU has been working with free market ideals.
Opening Free Trade
Several steps have been taken by the EU to bring about economic freedom and peace. In fact, the key makers have done their best to promote free market reforms in an attempt to stabilise Europe’s political economy. Thus far, it has worked with a clear role of promoting liberty throughout the continent.
Through the efforts of the Union, the continent now has over half a million people involved in a secured channel of capital movement, free trade and open borders. How? A membership with the Union ensures that the market participants are protected against ‘trade protectionism’. Sounds ironical?
Everyone has a fair chance because quotas and inflated tariffs are impossible within the EU. By cutting through centralisation and regulation, the stage has been set for economic openness through the continent. Meaning, the continent – as a single unit – is moving towards a free market.
The Union has encouraged the unrestricted movement of labour. This results in individual liberty that has helped the economy grow. So, one can migrate from a low GDP country, such a Romania, to any other member county of the European Union. Such freedom of movement is not possible even between California and Kansas, let alone Mexico and the US.
As a consequence of free movement, there has been a decline in nationalism. In the last few centuries, the idea of nationalism led to the establishment of totalitarian regimes across Europe, causing millions of deaths. Today, thanks to the European integration, an armed conflict between two member countries is unimaginable – Think how many lives have been saved! When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, it sent a reminder to all EU countries about the importance of peace. And, this is a lesson other continents must learn.
For the Sake of the Future
Taking the example of Ukraine’s Yanukovych, the EU membership has helped several post-communist nations surge and topple corrupt dictators. Countries like Lithuania and Bulgaria have been able to take measures like instilling currency boards and reducing taxes, so that they are able to quality for a European Union membership – They have realised the importance of free trade, not only within the county, but also inter-country. Right from Morocco to Norway, the EU has been extremely active in setting up agreements to help promote free trade.
The European Union has proved that is it essentially a free market project, in the hope that Europe can one day function in such an economy, without its help. So far, all its initiatives have been driven by the principles of individual liberty and a free market economy. So, rather than putting it in the midst of controversy, conservative thinkers must support the Union, at least for the sake of what it promises in the future.