In this essay, I will present 3 or more reasons, citing textual evidence that answers the essential question, “What forces work for and against supranational cooperation among nations?”, and close with how it relates to today.
Firstly, members of the EU are able to utilize a trade bloc, which allows them to exert more control over the global economy. As stated in the Green Book, pg. 216, “By joining their economies, EU members have also created a powerful trade bloc.” When the concept of a nation was still in its infantile stages, control over trade between countries belonged to only the nations making those trades. Due to the fact that the nations were always fighting to extract better deals from each other, control of trade for a country was given only to what that country could do. A nation that owns all of the iron in the world has a monopoly on said resource, so it can sell that iron for whatever price they want, or just hoard it all for themselves. Such a monopoly is completely infeasible however, as many valuable resources are spread across many different countries and can’t be placed under the control of a single nation. There is a solution to this however, and that is by creating an alliance with other nations to trade fairly with each other. This new trade group now has access to a significantly larger amount of resources than any one nation had before. Members of the new trade bloc can import goods tariff free, and it can create better relations between the different nations. The trade bloc can also leverage trade agreements that are favorable to its members, but unfavorable to outside nations. This advantage is dependent on the size and individual trading power of the bloc’s member states and is one of the biggest perks available to members of the bloc. Of course, for this to work, member states may have to give up some of their own power so that the rest of the group can perform a specific action. For example, let’s say a trade bloc nation is enjoying friendly trading relations with a non-member state. However, the non-member is heavily disliked by the rest of the trade bloc because they export a large number of green water bottles, and the majority of the trade bloc prefers blue water bottles. This, naturally, leads to the trade bloc attempting to sanction the non-member, and forbidding any member state from attempting to trade with them. However, this conflicts with the interests of the nation that had been trading with the non-member, and also angers trade bloc members who don’t care whether or not the non-member likes green or blue water bottles. Tension rises, and the supranational cooperation of the bloc is frayed. Overall, trade blocs are useful for nations that wish to gain more control over a certain resource, and it allows them to strengthen their bonds with other countries who wish to do the same. However, they are a double-edged sword, and members of the bloc must be willing to sacrifice some of their power from time to time in order for the actions of the group itself to be effective.
Secondly, through the use of a common culture, the EU can better unite its members. As stated in the Green Book, pg. 220, “A common cultural identity is a centripetal force.” Humans learned very early on in their evolutionary history that sticking together was a good idea. The world was hostile and dangerous, filled with an untold number of predatory species that viewed humans as delicious snacks. We had no choice but to band together, realizing that there was strength and security in numbers. Even in our modern world, where humans have placed themselves at the top of our planet’s food chain and have ensured that every other species of animal on Earth is utterly at our mercy, that instinctual need to be with other humans is still there. We’re social creatures, and it was through working together that we managed to achieve all of the creature comforts that we now take for granted, like running water and antibiotics. One of the many beautiful things that we produced through this consistent standard of teamwork was culture. Culture can be many things, from time-honored traditions to grand events, to the smallest things that we do in our daily lives when we interact with other people. Every nation has its own culture, with many different regional and local variations mixed in that makes things even more diverse. Culture is one of the greatest uniting factors of a country, and it allows people to come together to celebrate things important to them. Holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah are some great examples of this, with hundreds of millions of people observing them. Seeing how culture can unite people, the EU knew it would be a good idea to create one for themselves as well and is doing its best to get people to see themselves not just as citizens of the country they were born in, but as citizens of Europe. Things like Europe Day and the European Flag are all meant to unite people under the overarching culture of the EU. Even though there is a lot of support for things like this, there is also a good deal of opposition. People in some countries might not see themselves as on the same cultural level as a completely different country who also happens to be in the EU. They might feel as though this new European culture is supposed to take priority over or even replace their current culture. There is also the fact that an overall European culture needs to be a blend of all the nations belonging to the European Union. Different cultures can have opposing ideals and details that clash with each other, thus creating division and tension. In order for the EU to create a common culture, it needs to be able to ensure that different cultures can coexist peacefully, and that the new common culture doesn’t overwrite the culture of individual nations. If it can accomplish this, then it will be that much easier to unify and bring together the people of the EU’s member states. If not, then the EU may soon be seeing more and more applications to leave, and its very fabric will be further strained by yet another centrifugal force.
Thirdly, supranational cooperation only works if the countries involved give up some power so that the group can get things done. As stated in the Green Book, pg. 221, “It works because its member countries have been willing to give up some power.” Being able to cooperate with one another is one of the most effective ways human beings have been able to make progress. “Two heads are better than one”, they say. Well, then it should prove that three heads are better than two, and four better than three, and so on and so forth. This idea is one of the core basics of a centripetal force. Every human being has an extraordinary potential to contribute, from physical labor to academic brainpower to phenomenal problem-solving skills. If you multiply that by a local level, then a regional level, then a national level, then a global level, you get over eight billion people, all with the ability to exponentially contribute to the world. Over the course of humanity’s history, nations have always found themselves in situations where it was far more prudent to work together rather than undertake a monumental task themselves. When the seemingly unstoppable dragnet of the Third Reich set its sights on the complete and utter domination of Europe, the free nations of the world united as the Allied Powers, with their eventual victory laying the foundation for the world we know today. Shortly after that, Robert Shuman came up with the brilliant idea to establish the European Coal and Steel Community, which strengthened economic ties between European nations and built the groundwork for the European Union. In 1998, the spacefaring organizations of the U.S, Japan, Canada, Europe, and even Russia came together to build the International Space Station, allowing supranational cooperation to flourish even in the depths of space. Even so, such levels of success can only be achieved if the countries involved are willing to put aside their differences and willingly make sacrifices so that the end goal of the group is achieved. Nations must make some risk/reward calculations to determine whether or not the sacrifice is worth it. The cost required might end up being too great for the nation to pay, be it monetary, political, or another form of sacrifice. Nations like being free and independent, and they’re going to want substantial compensation in return for any loss of freedom they suffer. This is easily applicable to the EU, which saw in BREXIT that a country can only tolerate a lack of freedoms for so long before getting fed up and choosing to leave. The EU needs to be willing to give its member states more freedom if they ask for it, otherwise the centrifugal pressure on the EU could induce more events like this, threatening its long-term survival.
In conclusion, supranational cooperation can be achieved through many things, such as forming a trade bloc, establishing a common cultural identity, and by giving up some power in the interest of teamwork and collaboration. First of all, a trade bloc allows for different nations to join their economies together, which strengthens the economic relationships of said countries and promotes financial stability. It allows them to gain more control over the global economy as a whole, as nations with opposing trade interests can be stifled, thus allowing the bloc to perform trade more freely. Nations with similar resources and/or economic interests can band together to accomplish those goals more effectively than if they had tried to do so alone. Of course, those belonging to the bloc know that they might not always agree with the group as a whole. If the group wants to sanction another opposing nation, depending on the terms of the bloc, individual members will be pressured by the group to follow suit, even if they don’t want to. Second of all, a common cultural identity is a powerful centripetal tool that can unite the people of a nation with ease if used correctly. Things like flags, specific colors, and traditional events are all ways culture can unite people. Culture can help personify the important things that regular people value and connect them with others with the same values. Culture can also instill a sense of patriotism and loyalty towards one’s country, further unifying the country’s citizens. However, culture can also work against supranational cooperation as the culture of an individual nation can be threatened by what cooperating is supposed to accomplish, which can instigate pushback from that nation. This relates to today because during BREXIT, one of the many reasons the U.K. wanted to secede was because a large number of the pro-BREXIT population believed that the U.K. was losing its cultural identity as a result of its EU membership. The EU had been pushing its own overarching European cultural identity for a while now, which conflicted with some of the parts of the U.K.’s own culture. This, combined with several other important factors, culminated in the U.K.’s exit from the European Union. Third of all, supranational cooperation depends wholly on the practice of countries giving up some of their power for the interests of the group. This allows for ambitious projects like the ISS to be completed and can foster better relations between countries. However, if the cost of supranational cooperation becomes too great, such as being required to give up certain cultural practices in favor of others or being forced to spend money on something the nation doesn’t like, then cooperation can fray, and centrifugal forces can set in to divide the participating nations. Overall, supranational cooperation can be practiced through many ways, such as trade blocs, common culture, and by sacrificing power in favor of the group instead of the individual. Through it, nations have been able to complete amazing feats, from winning wars to building megaprojects in space, to even uniting nearly an entire continent under a single political organization. The costs of such cooperation, however, can be great, from loss of material resources to the even more substantial sacrifice of freedoms and liberties. Even so, supranational organizations have allowed nations to come together and work for the good of each other, not just for themselves. If nations continue to collaborate and coexist with each other, I think our species will have a bright future ahead of it.