The ideological divide around how to manage budgets, debt, and public spending in Europe threatens to split this, the largest unified economic region on Earth, into several factions. Here’s my speculation on how those European sub-regions may reunite over the next ten years. These regions are more similar in their governments and fiscal policy, leading to stronger cooperation:
Why these factions?
- UK and Switzerland – these countries have always remained isolated from the rest of Europe, and will likely continue that way.
- Germany and its neighbors – Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belguim, Luxemburg, Czech Republic, and even possibly Croatia – these countries look to Germany for stability and sound leadership. Some of the neighboring countries (Hungary, Boznia, Slovakia) might join too but tend to have sharp historical divisions with one of the other member countries of this economic alliance. This would be the remnants of the old EU, and likely would keep using the EURO.
- France – This is the hardest county to place. They will probably waver for the next ten years, trying to decide to unite with UK, Germany, or start something with Italy and Spain as the leader of the “Western Europe” alliance. But ultimately, I don’t think France can forge a lasting relationship with any of those countries, save Germany (because remaining in the EU with Germany would require the least decisive effort on the part of French leaders). France is more like the USA than even the UK – indecisive and ultimately divided among many allies, but never being a full partner to any of them.
- Eastern Europe – Uniting around a strong Poland, I foresee Hungary, Slovakia, Bosnia, and possibly Ukraine joining together. If Ukraine joined, then Romania and Bulgaria and other parts of the Balkans could flock to this strong group. However, these governments are still just learning how to be autonomous after 50 years of Soviet rule, and may have little to offer in the way of regional leadership. Poland and Ukraine at the powerhouses here of sound government and vision.
- Old Soviet Block – Russia may again dominate Belarus, and possibly Ukraine. But these former satellite states still resent Russia, and especially Ukraine is strong enough to remain on her own. The baltic states are especially resentful of Russia, yet not strongly connected to Scandinavia or Germany or Eastern Europe to predict which way they will go. They WILL join one of these groups eventually.
- Scandinavia – The second strongest and most stable part of Europe will likely become more closely connected with the breakup of the EU. I hope the Baltic states and Denmark join, leaving this region as the #2 force economic trading block in Europe. You don’t think about them much – but their economy is not plagued by sweeping downturns in the business cycle and Sweedish Nokia remains the world’s supplier of cheap cell phones in 160 poor countries.
- Southern Europe – last and definitely least are the Mediterranian states of Greece, Italy, and Spain. These bastard children are the cause of Europe’s problems, which 98 percent of Greeks working to avoid paying taxes every year, and Italy’s 50 parliaments in as many years. Spain too, is spending beyond her means. These countries might ally together around a Mediterranian alliance frought with weak governments and mountains of debt. I placed Turkey in this group not because they have weak government, but because the strong economic parts of Europe don’t seem ready to work with an Islamic state (look at you, Germany). It would make the most sense for Turkey to join Ukraine, but that alliance has never happened.
EU in 2012
EU in 2014 (prediction)
Well, looks like I totally missed on this prediction. In 2016 no countries have left, and none have joined. Ukraine’s Russian invasion made their joining all but impossible, and Syrian refugees spilling into Turkey has driven it out of the EU.
Greece continues to limp along, and the UK recently made demands on the EU to let it inform their economic policies without actually joining EU. So it looks like EU politically has opted to weaken itself rather than cull its weakest non-compliant members.