The EU inferiority complex

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By Peter Hovens |

I believe that every European believes that our continent must have a strong position in the world order. But we don’t have that position (anymore) and we don’t behave that way either. We always look up to the Americans, whom we prefer to have defended our (military) interests. We also look with admiration, but perhaps also anxiously at emerging countries like China. In short, we behave rather passively. We feel rather small. Is that right?

Take the United States of America, for example. We consider this a large and strong country. But if you look at demographic figures, that thought is only very relative. The US have about 325 million inhabitants. Compare that to the EU-28, which has over 510 million inhabitants. Who is big, and who is small?

And if you compare the size of the American states on the one hand and the countries of the EU on the other, we can see that the largest American state, California (40 million inh.), is half the size of Germany (80 million inh.).

France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain also have more inhabitants than the largest American state. We can infer from this that America is actually not a large country at all. At least not in terms of population, nor by size of the 50 states.

So, why do we see America as a strong country? Quite simply, it operates as one country thanks to the federal form of government. Decisions on an exhaustive list of important political and social issues are taken in Washington DC, without interference from the 50 states. These 50 states – having their own parliament, government and judiciary – are autonomous and sovereignty for all other matters.

And we in Europe, we have a European Union that functions on the basis of an intergovernmental administrating system. In other words, it is the sum of 28 countries. Issues that call for a European response are answered after much hassle by 28 Heads of Government, each with their own national interest that prevails over the European interest. In this way, the EU organises its own powerlessness. And thus the US is strong and the EU occupies a marginal position on the global level.

If we accept this position, then that is fine. If we want to play a significant role, there is only one answer: the United States of Europe.



Peter Hovens, Editor

Member of the Promoting Committee
Federal Alliance of European Federalists


After studying Public Administration at the University of Twente, Peter Hovens worked for 17 years as a civil servant at the municipality of Maastricht. In 2004 he started his own consultancy office. In this period he also was several years employed as alderman in two different municipalities. He is an expert in demographic developments and the consequences for policy choices. He has written several publications about these issues. Furthermore he teaches interactive policy developments. For more than 40 years he is active in several non-profit organizations in culture, sports and politics. He is actually a co-founder and member of the Promoting Committee of FAEF (Federal Alliance of European Federalists).

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Gerard

    So true……

  2. Marcel Knippers

    Indeed a united European America makes sense. I totally agree on this subject, but some realistic terms should be taken into account, i.e. that it took all the 50 states of the US over a century to take shape in one unified country. Considering that the EU is quite young, we must show patience so as to provide all the 28 member states time resulting in a likewise cohort European America. However much time this will need, it wil be a must after WOII. Those brave allied Forces fought in order to give us this great opportunity above mentioned, which we musn’t botch up because of useless infights among our 28 member states.

    Marcel Knippers (The Netherlands/Holland)

    1. Peter Hovens

      Hi Marcel, maybe we have to be patient. On the other hand, we have to take steps. I am convinced that there would not have been a Brexit if we already had a federal Europe. So, being patient must not be the equivalent of doing nothing. Best, Peter.

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