In reading about the geo-political tensions produced by the European Union’s signing of “partnership agreements” with Georgia, Moldova, and the Ukraine, I am reminded at how radically the European Union is transforming global politics. While international organizations have, most obviously with diplomatic mechanisms like the United Nations or military alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, been continuously shaping the post-World-War-II globe, the European Union seems to more directly threaten the status of the nation-state as the primary player in international relations. As Steven Rosenberg argues in his analysis, the EU pacts add to the resurfacing of quasi-Cold War tensions between a Russian-dominated East and the West, with the attraction of three former Soviet Bloc nations into a Western European economic world causing angst among pro-Russian partisans in the Ukraine. Putin’s production of a competing Eurasian Economic Union, seen in this light (and especially considering the destabilization of the Ukraine, which was pulled in both western and eastern economic directions), seems designed to make transnational pacts the key factor in a Euro-Asian arena in which nations themselves seem increasingly secondary to the transnational unions they can potentially produce.
The European Union is, of course, more than just a pragmatic economic alliance. Indeed, as the NATO statement on the agreements with Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine shows, the organization stands for a shared vision in terms of legal and social policy, as well as modes of governance. However, ti is hard not to see the economic factors as crucial here—and it is the primacy of this that seems to me to be most intensely pressuring the centrality of national identity. One factor that seems to be crucial to national autonomy (and this has become increasingly clear to me as I continue to read the gargantuan Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty) is the regulation of currency—thus, the European Union’s efforts to ground its identity in a transnational currency, quite emphatically undermine a key aspect of national autonomy. (It is worth noting that submission to a single currency has always been formally resisted by the British, who insisted on exceptional status (along with Denmark) when the 1992 Maastricht Treaty created the European Union and hence a centralized currency policy.)
In many ways, the increasing strength of transnational organizations need not be seen as some sort of linear advance into a new state, but rather seems to move back to older modes of imperial conflicts—whether it be an ancient world where a coalition of Greek city-states worked against the Persian Empire and its allies, or European lords united by religious affiliation waged concerted campaigns against medieval Islamic cultures; examples could be multiplied. Here, I think it is hard to sustain Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s idea of a single Empire ascendant in today’s globe— for this economic partnership conflict seem to show ever more strongly the primacy of multiple, competing coalitions, and forces us to consider the specters of a very independent China and a US against which the EU seems to have constructed itself in competition.