Spanish Posturing on Gibraltar: This Is Why We Need the EU
deficit. Unemployment prospects, especially for the increasingly disillusioned young, is at grimmer than ever. Restive provinces have joined the Basque country in pushing for independence.The country’s leaders can’t seem to get their own house in order, much less guide the nation out of this mess. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his People’s Party are embroiled in a corruption scandal that has the opposition calling for his resignation. Meanwhile, the Spanish monarchy—a symbol of national unity that led the transition to democracy after Franco’s death—has seen its reputation perhaps irreparably tarnished in an embezzlement scandal.So what are the country’s beleaguered leaders to do? Play the nationalist card in hopes that a patriotic surge will distract people from the woebegone economy. Spain this week stepped up its territorial dispute with the U.K. over Gibraltar. Spanish border guards began conducting extensive searches at the border crossing last weekend, causing massive delays for commuters. After Britain complained, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said in an interview that Spain might introduce a fifty euro crossing fee and might go as far as closing Spanish airspace to Gibraltar-bound flights.While this sort of bellicose, populist posturing may play well at home, it is just these types of disputes that led to untold trouble in Europe’s past. At moments like this we can be thankful for the European Union, despite all its flaws. The EU limits the moves each side can make and ensures that the two countries are immersed in all kinds of other business in which cooperation is mutually beneficial. Doing so offers checks to all the impulsive and demagogic politicians out there—and there are always plenty of them around.It’s often easy for Americans to be frustrated with Europe and poke fun at the EU’s many missteps. We should remember, though, that the EU is far and away the greatest political accomplishment these countries have ever had. In countless ways, it’s very much in the American interest that the European project succeed.
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