Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy 50th, Europe! (Now if only everyone would come to the party...

European nations are celebrating 5 decades of cooperation this week. The Treaty of Rome was signed on March 25, 1957, creating the European Economic Community (EEC). That was the first of several cooperative agreements that led to the formation of the European Union in 1993.

More on the continent-wide celebrations at Celebrating Europe.

Amid the celebrations, four European countries are steadfastly choosing to remain outside the EU: Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein.


According to the BBC:

"Each of the four West European outsider nations has its special reasons for not participating in this week's party.

"Switzerland is what was left over when the Europeans formed their nation states. Italian, French and German ultra-conservatives escaped to the mountains, joined forces and then created 500 years of peace, the cuckoo clock and the gnomes of Zurich.

"Today the Swiss feel a bit disorientated, because the country's business model - neutrality - is problematic. Totally surrounded by the EU, they "have no-one to be neutral against".

"They organise their relationship towards the EU via a series of bilateral agreements, and there are no signs that this will change in the foreseeable future although the Swiss have voted for joining some European initiatives, such as the Schengen area, where border controls have been lifted.

"But as long as the economy thrives (and it does), the Swiss stay out, knowing that they are a geographically unavoidable reality in Europe.

"Neighbouring Liechtenstein, another non-member, is a monarchy, and even more of a tax haven, while being effectively the 27th canton of Switzerland.

"It is, however, a member of the European Economic Area, a special arrangement for the European Union fringe, allowing free access to the internal market. EEA members have an obligation to implement the bulk of EU law, but without any influence over it.

"The second largest non-EU member of the EEA is Iceland, which has a single reason for not being a EU member - a deep fear of the EU Common Fisheries Policy. That fear is absolutely rational and Iceland's position is not going to change any time soon."

"As for Norway - according to the UN, the best place on Earth to live - its Europhobia is based on history, geography and luck.

"Norway gained independence as late as 1905 (from Sweden) and the word "union" still has a bad political taste.

"Being a vast country - the distance from the capital Oslo to the extreme north is about the same as from Oslo to Rome - it has developed strong local political cultures, and a deep-rooted unease about the idea of central rule.

"It never developed a strong industrial base, unlike big brother Sweden, and shares the fishery culture with Iceland.

"Add oil, discovered in the North Sea in the late 1960s, and the Norwegians got the means, as well as the will, to go it alone.

Read the whole article on the BBC website.

Between the countries that belong to EU, things haven't always been smooth, though. For more on that, read: Fifty Years of Fraternal Rivalry.

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