Europe: North vs South – One Union, Two Sides

What makes Europe beautiful is the vast diversity of cultures and lifestyles. You can visit any country in Europe and you will experience different languages, monuments, different people, cuisines, temperaments etc… Wanna see monuments? Visit Italy and Rome. Wanna taste some good food? Visit France and Paris. Wanna hear beautiful music? Visit Vienna. You get the point. We are a multicultural union and therein lies our strength as people of Europe.

But there’s also a different side to this. Europe seems to be divided economically and some could say culturally, in the North and South region. While there are exceptions to this, we can clearly see massive differences in terms of how the system works in these regions. In the last 10 years, this separation has been more prominent because of the economic crisis that hit the southern part of the EU.

Countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal etc… have been in serious trouble, while Germany, Britain and the rest try to help them out. We can look any index and we will find out the gap between these said countries. This begs the question: Why is this happening?

History of Europe

The northern part of Europe was the first to go through the industrial revolution, hence skyrocketing the development quite early. Plus if we go further back, Enlightenment and the separation of the church from the state, moving towards a more secular system, enhanced the scientific and social progress.

In the meantime, Southern Europe was under Ottoman occupation or extreme religious dogmas, depending on the country, followed by communist revolutions, which delayed, even more, the development of the region.

Geography, Culture and Different Lifestyles across Europe

Everything goes hand in hand. We have the north with the beautiful mountains, rich in coal and iron, exploding the industrial production. And we have the south, with rich seas and the Mediterranean climate that helps the production of food and other consumable goods.

Culture and lifestyle also play a major part. Sunny beaches in the south, means more tourists, meaning the economy is based on services and tourism, while the north’s economy again is based on the industrial production, ie cars, infrastructures etc…

Disparity in Economy?

After all, both regions are making money, but in different ways right? Does that mean that one way is better than the other? Not really. It means that the economy grows or falls behind at different speeds. The already developed countries can easily sustain government cuts and lower wages, getting back in shape pretty quickly.

On the other hand, if a country already struggles to keep up, a crisis that keep in mind happens collectively in the Union, cannot carry the burden for too long. But the EU had a solution for that, the Euro.

Did the Euro Work?

I am not gonna answer the question, because I simply don’t know and can only make speculations. I will, however say this: The Euro was introduced as a way to connect the economies of the EU and increase the value of the weaker currencies to par with the stronger ones.

This inflated the purchasing power of Southern Europe, thus increasing the imports and lowering the exports. That had a huge increase in their internal market indexes, but slowly crippled the primary production. Also, it is true that SE depends more on small businesses and enterprises (remember tourism) that benefit from the exchange rates prior to Euro.

Going north, Europe is based on big cooperations, so a stable currency is extremely beneficial to them, especially when accompanied by the Maastricht Treaty. We may also add, that the weaker currency compared to the Mark in Germany for example, made northern countries more competitive and increased dramatically trade surpluses.

Are There Any Solutions?

There are many proposals on the table. From the disband of the EU as a whole to the proper systematic help of the two distinct Eurozones to the creation of different currencies for different regions.

Nonetheless, discussion is needed. We need to openly talk about this subject without taboos, blaming each other or cross-national hatred that will bleed into our real lives. Until now, every talk contains a dystopian ending point that politicians are using as leverage to blame the opposition or gain political advantage themselves.

What do the People of Europe Think?

Being a citizen of Greece, one of the countries that was deeply affected by the crisis and being a heavy tourist attraction, I’ve heard many views about the northern block. As I said, this battle of interests has contaminated the people. Stereotypes and outright racial slurs are projected towards other nations of Europe. And vice versa. I’ve visited countries like Norway and Britain and I have heard the natives there call the Greeks, Italians etc, ‘lazy’, ‘hotheaded’ and more. That’s not good. It’s a sign of social degeneration.

But the good news is that the younger people have an open mind and a calm, collected point of view. I’ve got friends around Europe that are eager to defend Europe against whomever tries to undermine the Union.

Thoughts on the European Union

“The European Union has high promises, though countries often mistake it for a machinery for sole personal gain. I do feel like a European and I enjoy the freedom of traveling and the feeling of unity with a diverse group of people that share my core values. Instead of jumping at each other’s throats, we have to work hard to make sure the EU is as democratic as the states it caters to and unites us in peace, not in conflict nor in fear.”

– Andreas Salmen, Editor-in-Chief at CrowdH.

“Look man, yes things look ugly right now. But that’s why we have the EU in the first place. If everything was alright and going well all the time then we wouldn’t need anyone. Do we forget what Europe has been through? I don’t. I mean it’s frustrating. Do you believe having 28 countries to cooperate is easy? This is real life. Countries, people, governments screw up. It’s part of the deal. Let’s face reallity, alright? And by the way, I will still visit you and Italy and Spain. I have nothing against the people and you know that…”

– My friend Luke over the phone from Germany with a refreshing viewpoint… I fired him up at the end.

My Take on Europe

What makes the EU so unique, is the spirit of diversity, that unites us. I believe if we want to sustain the European Union, we should consider what the people want. If we do choose to leave, the heart of Europe will still remain intact. We are brothers after all, sharing a rich history, with our ups and downs like any family, right?

We are connected by deeper things than money or language and we share a future together, even if that means we have to melt the iron in order to forge a stronger Union.

About Giwrgos Kourakos

Giwrgos is currently a student at the University of Patras in Greece, majoring in mathematics. He has a degree in musical theory and about to take his degree in classical guitar. Giwrgos is also a journalist who writes news articles about current affairs, events and parties around the country. He loves to read books and hopes to write one some day. As a proud Greek, he also loves debates, conversations about politics, religion and so much more!

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