For Spaniards of my generation, who grew up with Ortega's phrase "Spain is the problem, Europe the solution," it is painful to see that while Spain clearly doesn't work, nor does the European Union. This was so, even before the crisis highlighted the fact. Setting aside the specific problems of Spain, we also have to face those of the EU.
The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC, 1951) was a French initiative aimed at preventing the resurgence of a German armament industry. But it was also to prevent another armed confrontation, while strengthening Western Europe against the Soviet menace.
The US decision to re-found the German army, a decisive step in the Cold War, appalled the French. The only way of preventing this was to incorporate it in a European army, hence the French proposal for a European Defense Community (EDC), which from the outset enjoyed the support of the US and of the six countries that formed the ECSC. But in 1954 a perverse alliance of pro-Soviet Communists and nationalist Gaullists overturned the EDC in the French Assembly. What would have happened had we begun the construction of the EU with a common defense policy?
It is not however, a might-have-been history that interests us here, but an examination of the factors that have led to the present calamitous state of the EU. Though it may seem surprising, I categorically affirm that many of today's ills stem from the policy of enlargement.
Together with Ireland and Denmark, the United Kingdom joined in 1973, and from the first moment of its tardy enrolment, showed a strong distrust of the European Community. The fundamental reasons are twofold. Firstly, you cannot be the principal ally of the US and a loyal partner in the European Community. Secondly, the British faced a Community already bound up with the agrarian interests of France, and the industrial ones of Germany. But it was they who, at first, did not want to enter, when they would have been received with open arms, and could have bent the Community institutions to their own needs. They discovered too late that being on the winning side in two world wars did not prevent them from being dislodged from the Great Power pedestal, when they had lost their empire.
In 1995 - two years after the entry of the Treaty on European Union into effect - Austria, Finland and Sweden joined a new Union, with a single market and free circulation of merchandise, services, persons and capital, with the single currency already on the horizon, though propelling the UK and two other states into a bloc that was contrary to political union.
May 2004 saw the enlargement to the East, with 10 new countries, joined in 2007 by Bulgaria and Romania, forming a Union of 27 countries with 500 million inhabitants. The striking aspect was how both those who put amplification before consolidation, and those who shared the reverse preference, promoted such a rapid and so numerous an enlargement - albeit for different reasons. The British bloc aimed to definitively close the door against political union, while the Franco-German axis thought the conquest of new markets in the East compatible with its program of an economic union that would culminate in a political one.
The crisis has highlighted the divergent interests of The United Kingdom with a Europe economically and, some day, also politically united. In the latter bloc no one is unaware of the drag posed by Great Britain, while in Britain the voices rise clamoring for a referendum on leaving the Union. The United Kingdom has an interest in keeping clear of European projects, but staying within the Union - at least until it is clear whether or not the euro will survive. The question now is whether there is room for progress in integration, with Great Britain inside. There are, however, no mechanisms for expelling it; nor do the British seem to know whether it is best for them.