A financially integrated Europe. That was the vision. But 16 years into the experiment, it looks like the European Union is on the brink of collapse with Great Britain conducting a referendum about its membership in June.
Critics say the plan was flawed from the beginning. With no common history or a shared culture, it’s easy to why many doubt its success.
But is the European project really headed into the abyss? Here are three signs that it is.
1. Crises abound
From the Greece debt crisis to the threat of a British exit, the union continues to face problems left and right. But more than the friction these crises create, it exposes a bigger problem underneath, and that is member countries’ propensity to place their own interests over the union’s. This was best illustrated by Northern Europe’s reluctance to rescue the South during the debt crisis. The recent immigration crisis also exposed the union’s fragile bond when some member nations bypassed the EU in attempting to stem the inflow of refugees into their own territory.
2. Sluggish economic growth
Despite optimistic statements from Brussels and more fiscal control from the EU, the Eurozone’s problems have not dissipated. Growth remains weak, inching forward by a mere 0.3 percent in the third quarter last year, while unemployment queues keep getting longer. The number of jobless in Spain remains at 23 percent, while 1 in 4 Greeks continues to be unemployed.
3. Shifting political climates in member countries
The economic crunch and growing frustration with EU’s leaders and policymakers, on both the far left and extreme right, are fueling the rise of populist parties in some member countries, setting potentially dangerous political trends.
In Britain, the UK Independence Party mustered enough support to pressure Prime Minister David Cameron into calling a referendum on the country’s continued membership to the European Union.
In other member countries, some leaders are beginning to bypass the EU on issues like immigration and the refugee crisis in an effort to appease constituents.