I live in the Netherlands, one of the countries were the public opinion expresses the most resolute opinions against the financial bailout of Greece. In these days, the German, Dutch and Finnish governments even aired the opinion that Greece should exit the European Monetary Union. It is obvious how catastrophic this would be for Greece itself, but it seems to be less obvious how dramatic the consequences would be for the whole of the European Union. If Greece exits the EMU, it will be clear to all relevant actors that other member states could also be forced out: Portugal, Ireland, Italy… How likely is it the whole of the EMU would collapse?
Would the mutual trust between European countries survive this kind of risks? When would political retaliation start? The Single Market is already under pressure, especially in banking. The free circulation of capitals would immediately stop, the day Greece is out of the Euro. What about the free circulation of goods and people? Increasingly, people are leaving Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and moving northwards looking for jobs. When will Dutchmen or Finns start targeting European immigrants with restrictive policies? The PVV opened the way. They have already opened an internet website where citizens can post their complaints against “Central and Eastern Europeans”.
Countries like the Netherlands seem to have forgotten why the EU was founded in the first place. It took the Germans six days to conquer the Netherlands in 1940. Without the Eu, a country like this is condemned to utter international irrelevance. If the single markets collapses, to utter economic irrelevance as well. The economic development of the afterwar period is only due to the beginning of the single market. And the regression to national markets would be even worse for the Netherlands now because much of the generalist industrial base they had built for the national market has been lost to foreign companies, while the country specialized for competing Unionwide.
Finally, a last comment on something different. Massive movements of people within the European Union are difficult to assess. They are badly underestimated by statistics since people have an incentive not to move their official registration from their home country. I would say that Italian statistics capture not more than one half of the emigration directed to other EU country. Unionwide I think there are now millions of citizens who live in other member states. Their (our) life is already difficult enough in terms of bureaucracy and language, yet far easier than that of non-EU migrants. What would happen to all these people if the EU collapses?
Crosscountry companies, and internal migrants are the prove that the EU is much more than its nation states. The EU should probably think more in terms of citizens and less in terms of states.