The news coming out of Europe in recent years has not been good: high unemployment, recession, austerity, threatened bank collapses, and speculation that the bold experiment of the euro might be on the verge of collapse. But an IUPUI professor of political science argues that the pessimism is misplaced and it is well past time to get the debate back on a productive track.
In his new book, "Why Europe Matters: The Case for the European Union" (Palgrave Macmillan), John McCormick argues that the European Union is widely misunderstood—on both sides of the Atlantic—and that the debate has for too long been dominated by critics known as euroskeptics.
“Many of their arguments are based on myths and misrepresentations about what the EU does, rather than on a fair and informed assessment," McCormick said. "They say that the EU is undemocratic, that it is expensive, that it is unresponsive, that it means more—not less—regulation, that it is unpopular, and that it reduces the sovereignty and independence of its state members.”
But while the EU is far from perfect, McCormick said, euroskeptics have exploited confusion and misunderstandings to make its problems seem much worse than they are.
McCormick, professor of political science in the School of Liberal Arts, has been studying and writing about the EU for more than 20 years. A citizen of both the U.S. and the U.K., he was awarded a Jean Monnet Chair in European Union politics from the EU in 2010, and he just spent several months in Europe as Fulbright-Schuman chair at the College of Europe in Belgium.
There has been a rising tide of euroskepticism since the early 1990s, he said, which has moved into high gear since the sovereign debt crisis broke in Greece in 2009.
“The euro suffered from the perfect storm of fallout from the global financial crisis, problems in the design of the euro, a failure by several of its member states to respect the eurozone rules on budget deficits and some foot-dragging by EU governments reluctant to bail out countries that misbehaved," he said.
The euro crisis zone has created a depressed mood for much of Europe, McCormick said, which has led to several rough years for the EU.
“But people have tended to forget all the good and positive things that have come out of the EU, and more people need to step up and speak up to balance the debate,” he said. “That’s why I wrote the book. I’ve been a longtime supporter of the EU, still believe strongly in what it does, and thought it was time that someone made the case for Europe in the face of all the myths being generated by its critics.”
McCormick argues that the EU has helped bring a lasting peace to Europe (for which it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year); has created new jobs and opportunities; has helped Europeans learn more about what they have in common; and has helped individual member states work together in being a substantial global actor and wield the kind of influence they could not if working alone.
“The EU has a population of more than half a billion,” he said. “It is the wealthiest marketplace in the world, is the biggest trading power in the world, is the biggest source of (and magnet for) foreign direct investment and has shown that it is possible to wield influence without relying on military power.”
McCormick’s book "Why Europe Matters," argues that the European Union is widely misunderstood on both sides of the Atlantic.
During the time McCormick has been researching and sharing his extensive knowledge of the European Union with IUPUI students, he’s helped bring the Euroculture program to IUPUI, and for 20 years ran a Model EU for students around the Midwest. McCormick has also been a prolific writer, with 13 books to his name.
Included in his publications are textbooks designed to help students understand the complex issues surrounding the European Union. His book "Understanding the European Union" will soon be coming out in a sixth edition and has been translated into Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Ukrainian, Croatian and Macedonian.
Unlike previous books that focused on an academic audience, "Why Europe Matters" was written for a general audience. McCormick wanted a book that was accessible for readers, feeling that the scholarly research on the EU and its academic nature was contributing little to the debates on the topic.
“I didn’t think that another academic tome would contribute as much to the debate as a book that tried to reach a broader audience by making some of the academic research more accessible and relevant to the debate about the EU,” McCormick said. “And even though the book is about Europe, Americans also stand to benefit by learning more about how the EU works and how its approaches and values are distinctive.”
—Written by Josh Flynn—