I know that the European Union, its structures and the relationship between the member states can seem a little, shall we say complicated? But, believe it or not, the entire European Union can be explained using the classic 2004 American hip hop song Tipsy, by artist J-Kwon (the video is conveniently embedded below for your viewing pleasure).
Teen drinking is very bad. Yo, I got a fake ID though!
Our deficit should not be over three percent of GDP. Hey, we have the European Central Bank, though!
Now that you have, I trust, watched the video, I’m going to break it down for you, and explain the EU using the masterful three minutes 59 seconds of music video you just consumed. Let’s start from the top!
You have St. Louis, a decently sized American city, which, although it’s a little rough around the edges, is actually charming once you get to know it. It is also completely unknown to those who live outside the US and the setting of J-Kwon’s humble party. In the EU world, we have Brussels, where (almost) all the action takes place; it’s a decently sized European city, quirky and comforting once you get to know it, and generally unknown outside Europe. Zoom in on J-Kwon, the host of this epic get together. Nobody truly knows or cares who he is, but they aren’t going to pass up a good party. Much like J-Kwon, Belgium isn’t exactly the star of Europe, but nobody is going to tell them they can’t host the EU…
So J-Kwon texts all his buddies and lets them know his place is free for the rager. Sweet. His friends, quite possibly unimpressed but without any better ideas of their own, head on over to the bash. It almost reminds me of when Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Italy and (west) Germany all got together and formed the European Economic Community (the precursor to what we now know as the European Union). Those were the days.
One, here comes the two to the three to the four.
European Council, European Commission, European Parliament, Council of the European Union. Boom.
The party is chugging along and looks alright…wait, who is the old guy showing up with these two beautiful, younger women? Is it perhaps the UK? Desperately trying to say hip and relevant (but also somewhat aloof and distant)? And who are those young, fresh, interesting women coming in at the same time? Looks like Ireland and Denmark to me.
Then we have the guy stumbling down the hall desperately looking for a toilet or a sink. The thing is, everybody loves that guy, the one who’s going crazy, doing all the crazy stuff you wish you could do if you didn’t have to get up and be functional for work in the morning. And everybody loves him. He’s got an interesting past and great stories and everyone wants to be his friend. At least until he actually does throw up and you realize he’s kind of a mess and oh no…are you going to have to carry him home? Greece.
Shortly after the vomiting man, the girl in the blue trucker hat appears on the scene. She’s gorgeous. No doubt about that. And there’s just something about her that makes you want to get to know her. But the more time you spend with her, no matter how much you like her, you come to two sad realizations: 1) homegirl actually has a lot of problems going on under the surface, and, 2) she really doesn’t do anything—other than, ya know, standing around looking decorative. Sorry Spain and Portugal. That’s you.
By now, you’ve probably noticed J-Kwon runs a bit of an open house. You don’t have really have to be invited, you just have to know the right people. You don’t have to show your invitation, you just have to show up. And once you get there, everybody is pretty open about sharing food, beer, whatever it is you need. In 1995, the Schengen Agreement was signed, which led to the gradual abolition of borders in much of Europe. And the establishment of the Schengen Area not only facilitated the free movement of peoples across borders, it also facilitated movements of goods and services across those borders.
Now, if you were watching the video closely, you’ll notice that as soon as the party really starts bumpin, the guy in the black sweatshirt shows up. Was he invited? Who knows. But he’s here now, and he certainly doesn’t want to miss out on the fun. What I’m alluding to is the enlargement of 1995, when Austria, Sweden and Finland decided they just had to be part of the EU. And honestly, I don’t blame them. The European Union had officially been born (1993) and the Schengen Agreement was in the works. Between 1989 and the early 1990s, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed and communist regimes across Eastern Europe were replaced with democratically elected governments. By and large, it was a good time to be European. And Austria, Sweden and Finland were going to do the good European thing and join the EU.
So by this point the party is REALLY going. I mean, everyone wants to be at J-Kwon’s; it’s where all the cool kids are. So, naturally, all the groupies show up. And by groupies I mean the enlargement of 2004, when the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia join.
Then you have that guy taking up the bathroom for half the party. What is he doing in there? Did we really let him in? I’m not sure he can hang. What’s really going on behind that door? Yeah, everyone seems a little skeptical about this guy, and you probably don’t want to know what he does in the privacy of his own home, but at the end of the day, he’s a cool guy, and he really wants to be at that party. And, you know, at least he’s not afraid to be himself. A lot of people are still skeptical about Romania and Bulgaria, who joined the EU in 2007. Many people have worried about ongoing problems with fraud, corruption and organized crime. Migration has, of course, been another issue (although it seems that hasn’t been quite the crisis the western states imagined it might be), as has their (perceived) lack of economic stability. But honestly, they’ve weathered the Eurozone crisis better than quite a few others, there has been progress in tackling corruption and at the end of the day, they WANT to be in the EU.
Now, we have our final player. The pizza guy. Or the guy who randomly shows up with a lot of pizza. Either way, you’re happy this guy is here. He might have a bit of a rough past, but he’s cleaned up now and he brought a lot to work with…namely pizza. Similarly, Croatia has been through the mill a few times. But they’ve come out the other side looking pretty good. And they’ve brought beautiful beaches, fantastic historical sights, increasing tourism and (in my opinion) some of the best people in Europe. They still have a few kinks to work out, but who doesn’t?
At the end of the video, we see J-Kwon’s parents come home and they are LIVID about the mess he made, a mess that in all likeliness they will have to clean up. Could they tell J-Kwon that he’s on his own and that, since he made the mess, it’s his responsibility to clean it up? Absolutely. It would probably be good for him to learn some discipline. But, if they do that, they also have to face the very real possibility that he either cannot or will not clean up the house, in which case it will gradually fall into a total state of disrepair, which benefits nobody. For much of the Eurozone crisis, Germany was reluctant to back bailouts for countries like Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. They had kept their debt and deficit low, so why should they have to use their hard-earned money to bail out these states that didn’t? Would refusing a bailout force these countries to learn a lesson in fiscal responsibility? Perhaps. But, like J-Kwon’s parents, Germany had to realize that there was a very real possibility that they couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to come out of this on their own (and let’s be honest, most of Europe is still trying to recover) and the collapse of the Euro and the Eurozone would benefit NO ONE.
I know this probably leaves a few questions. What to MEPs actually do? Why is the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg? Will the EU ever actually start real negotiations with Turkey? I’m sorry that J-Kwon and I don’t have those answers for you (my best guesses would be 1)nothing 2)why not? and 3)no). But for being a pretty bad rapper, J-Kwon sure had a lot of hidden depth to him. Or maybe we’re all just tipsy.