European Analogies and Myths

In the midst of the current financial/debt crisis in Europe, there are many opinions formed on the ‘way out’, as well as proposals for ‘a solution’. On a more satirical note, I wish to express some views on the charge to unify Europe through tighter fiscal policy and the single currency we use.

Firstly, not many people are aware of where the name of our continent comes from. In Ancient Greek mythology, Europa is the name of a Phoenician woman of high lineage. In one myth, Europa is abducted by Zeus, who disguises himself as a white bull, and takes her to the island of Crete. There, she becomes the first queen of the island, and receives three gifts from the God –  a giant man made of bronze, a dog that never fails to catch what he is hunting, and a javelin that never misses. From this stems the myth of “The Abduction of Europa”.

How is this relevant? Well, Zeus was a Greek god, and he abducts Europa. In the current crisis, the EU Member State which is in most trouble is Greece. It has a debt of approximately 160% of GDP and is having problems paying it. They have already received one bailout and are in the process of obtaining another, given that they erect fast reforms designed to raise capital. It seems they have gotten the myth backwards though – Zeus abducts Europa and gives her gifts, while at the moment the Greeks have abducted Europe and are receiving gifts from her. Using this argument, any politician would probably blame the Greek educational system for not teaching people the myth properly, therefore completely missing the point.

Secondly, the last time that most of Europe was united was during the Roman Empire. At its maximal extent, it covered approximately 6.5 million km of land surface, which is more than the EU’s current 4.3 million km. One would say that the EU might have less area, but it has more democracy than the Empire. Wait… who elected Barroso, van Rompuy and the college of Commissioners again? Sounds like the return of Julius Caeser’s appointment as perpetual dictator by the Roman Senate. Food for thought right there.

However, we should not forget what happened to the Roman Empire – it broke down. The societal collapse and disintegration of the political, economic, military and institutional setup of the Empire, together with the foreign barbarian invasions, led to the great fall. Since then, the people of Europe have fought amongst each other, defined borders and built fences to keep foreigners out. Breaking down the borders through the Schengen Agreement marks a huge leap forward, which has led to a more inclusive EU, and a more exclusive Europe. But the real question is – is the single European currency erecting more borders than it breaks down?

Finally, there is a nursery rhyme which goes like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Using the ‘replace’ function on your word-processor could yield the following result:

Europe sat on a wall,
Europe had a great fall.
All the Member States and all the Eurocrats
Couldn’t put Europe together again.

You would think that Nicolas Sarkozy, who has three children, would have thought of this before. Yet, Angela Merkel has no children, but she should heed the advice anyway.

In the end, I can actually combine the three points above to form a coherent picture, clearer than an EU Regulation. In Greek mythology, Europe was abducted and made a Queen. Under the Roman Empire, Europe was united to a larger extent than it is now. Then it fell like Humpty Dumpty and broke into the contemporary 50 countries constituting the territory of the continent. Whether all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can put it back together again is the EU’s ongoing battle.

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