The European Union is on the verge of collapse. Or so some analysts, organisations and media outlets would have us believe.
For many the European Union is somewhat of a mystery in terms of what exactly it is and what it does, and because of this any crisis is seen as "the end of the EU". Whether that's the economic crisis [there goes the euro down the proverbial gurgler] or the current refugee crisis [the end of the Schengen] - just to mention two.
Today, the European Union includes 28 out of the 195 countries on our planet - or 14.3%, and 503 million out of the world's population of 7.3 billion - or 6.9% - within its borders ... and it's not even a country yet!
Another 5 countries are in progress towards membership - Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey - whose combined population is 87.6 million. In other countries like Ukraine, Armenia and Israel - to name just three - the desire for EU membership is still vibrant despite the supposed "end of the EU" crisis.
Why do so many people in so many countries still wish membership into a body that some in the world claim it is collapsing? How can some people get it so wrong?
Personally I believe there are two reasons - one being the individuals and the organisations they may be involved with, and the other being the media outlets themselves. To a certain extent, the former can be forgiven for not knowing, the latter can't.
The European Union's predecessor the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was founded because of a crisis. In the ECSC's case, it was World War II and from it the desire to avoid another war, as well as being the first step in the federation of Europe. In addition to the ECSC being founded in 1952, the European Economic Community (EEC) and its customs union was founded in 1958, along with the European Atomic Energy Commission (EAEC).
Tensions in the 1960s saw the Merger Treaty being signed and the ECSC, the EEC and the EAEC were merged into what became known as the European Communities. In the 1970s, Greenland left whilst the United Kingdom and Ireland joined. Norway voted and decided not to join. The lack of "democratic" legitimacy saw the European Parliament's first direct elections held in 1979.
By 1986, Greece, Spain and Portugal had joined. To facilitate the free movement of goods in the enlarged European Communities, the Schengen Zone was created in 1985 to allow the citizens to move freely between the member states. This was followed by the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the merger of West Germany with East Germany.
The Maastricht Treaty saw the European Communities evolve into the European Union in 1992, and welcomed new members in 1995 Austria, Finland and Sweden; in 2004 [ten eastern European countries along with Malta and Cyprus], 2007 [Romania and Bulgaria], and in 2013 [Croatia]. The Maastricht Treaty also saw the introduction of the euro which is currently used by 19 out of the current 28 countries.
Each transformation was brought about directly or indirectly by a crisis and the desire to fulfill the founders' original intent - a united federal Europe. In short, each crisis was the fuel needed to further integration. Each crisis also saw the existing "rules" - whether the euro itself, the institutions or the laws by which the member states abided by - to be reviewed.
If the naysayers were correct, then the global financial crisis should have seen not only the eurozone collapse but also the euro itself. There were enough eurozone member states [Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland] to achieve this. Yet instead of collapsing, the eurozone and the European Union have evolved and to a certain extent, resolved many of the weaknesses that made it so susceptible to the global financial crisis.
A banking union among the eurozone members [and any non-eurozone country can also join if they desired], a Single Supervisory Mechanism and a Single Resolution Mechanism for banks are some of the changes to make the euro more stable and bring about more tighter integration.
Currently the European Union is facing a refugee crisis and once again the naysayers saw the lack of a "EU" single response as another "failure" and - again - the EU collapsing. Yet once again the naysayers failed or ignored the fact that the EU is not a country but a group of 28 countries working together. One can not expect the EU to act like a country if it isn't one; instead the EU did what it always does and that was to see each country voice their own opinions and views, work through them and come up with a solution.
The naysayers also conveniently forget that under the Schengen Agreement, countries can actually implement temporary border controls for situations like a serious threat to that state's "public policy or internal security" or when the "control of an external border is no longer ensured due to exceptional circumstances".
So with the huge influx of Syrian and other refugees in the summer of 2015 which to date is estimated to be over 500,000 people, the implementation of border controls by some EU member states was actually legal - a fact conveniently ignored.
However despite [or in-spite] of this human crisis, the EU member states did come up with a solution which included quotes for relocation of the refugees. In addition, the EU took additional steps to tackle the people smuggling via Operation Sophia.
In short, the European Union is not only unique in its operation and establishment, but is also unique in that it thrives on crises. Each crisis is tackled through the member states discussing and resolving the issues that confront them. Not always via unanimity as is the case with the refugee crisis, but a common solution is always found.
We must remember that the European Union and its predecessors were founded because of a crisis albeit a major one - World War II.
I find it a real shame that those who purport to be the "media" have not grasped the basic concept of what the European Union actually is or how it operates. But one has to suppose that positive news does not sell as much as death, doom and gloom.