The “Non-Imperial Empire”
In 2007, just before the EU’s growth pains began, then European Commission president (and now non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and advisor to Goldman Sachs) Jose Manuel Barroso proudly proclaimed the EU to be the world’s first ever humanitarian empire. Asked by a journalist what kind of a structure the 28-nation bloc is, Mr Barroso said:
“We are a very special construction unique in the history of mankind. Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”
Whereas superstate empires of old were built on military conquest, the EU empire is built on voluntary pooling of power, Barroso gushed. “What we have is the first non-imperial empire.”
In a similar vein Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, recently urged the EU to become an “empire of the good and not of the bad” in a speech at the London School of Economics.
Whether imperial or not, good or bad, the EU empire, like all empires before it, has an insatiable thirst for expansion. The bloc’s last major enlargement was in 2004 when ten countries acceded, including seven from the former Eastern bloc (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), one from the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia), and two Mediterranean islands (Malta and Cyrpus), bringing the total number of EU Member States from 15 to 25. Since then only three new countries have joined, Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and Croatia in 2013.
Now, instead of growing, the EU could be about to shrink for the first time in its history…