After the tragedies of World War II, European leaders have made striving efforts to prevent such a catastrophic event from occurring on their continent again. The best solution seemed to be highly mechanized cooperation among the highest European powers to assure that future conflict, and perhaps war, could not arise between them. If all the states ran themselves in a manner cooperating with their neighbors, conflict could be avoided. To prevent other nations from not cooperating, treaties and institutions would have to be designed for each area of international interest such as trade, communications, security, and so forth.
As the century progressed, more organizations, institutions and associations were developed and soon leaders recognized that maybe more good could come to Europe as a whole if cooperation as such could grow and eventually arrive at full European integration. The "establishment of the European Union in November 1993 reoriented the European movement." The union incorporates a good portion of Western Europe and fundamentally acts as an enforcer of all the agreements the included nations make with each other in terms of trade and the "economic, political, and social stabilization of the entire continent." As we seem to get closer to Europe's achieving integration, the actual possibility of it ever really occurring has been in constant question among scholars. Liberals believe that cooperation on the level of integration is very possible and likely, as each nation essentially desires to maximize its own individual gains, and each nation gains more by cooperating more and banding together as one "state." However, as constructivists remind us, we cannot neglect the element of identity in this equation. Thereafter, we must recognize that lately it is more popular for nations to fight for their own established identity rather than to create a new one for the good of maintaining peace in their new state as we have seen in so many Eastern European countries.
Therefore, as realists would agree, integration is in reality impossible due to the trend of nations to protect their individual sovereignty and at the fear of losing it, move towards more nationalistic regimes. Liberals believe that nations inherently wish to cooperate as it benefits both actors more than if they conflict each other in any given arena. The thought is that each state is interested in maximizing its own individual gains and therefore does not mind if another state benefits more than itself in a game. If both benefit the most in cooperating, as is the case in the prisoner's dilemma, they will both cooperate, and peace will be maintained. This basic liberal assumption of the importance of individual gains is the main support for European integration. If all states cooperate in all arenas, leading to a collectively sovereign "Europe", the individual gains of each state will be adequate enough to avoid conflict among themselves making it easier to approach the rest of the international system together peacefully.
In the event of an integrated Europe, constructivists recognize that to completely avoid conflict, each state will have to succumb to a "European identity" and all individual identities will have to become merely "cultural gems" within the European system. This, they argue, can be achieved with the success of several steps including economic, judicial, and security integration. The first step has already been attempted with the establishment of the Euro, the common European currency, which has been outperformed by its monetary competitors. A great amount of trust will have to be secured between states before a common court or army can be established, and most likely with as little success as the common currency.
So, even by these simplified guidelines the outlook for the creation of a new "European identity" is rather grim. The recent endeavors of the European Union have not been as vastly successful as originally hoped. It was hoped that the Euro would be as popular to investors as the US dollar bringing the included nations of the European Union to an equal economic plateau. As mentioned above, this has not been the case and the Euro is not performing in the world economy at all as well as expected.
This has shaken the public's confidence in the European Union causing some states to rethink how beneficial European integration in fact may be to them. As a result, certain states, following Denmark's lead, refuse to even join the European Union as it is today. This is a perfect example of the reluctance state shave to yield their individual sovereignty to a greater "European state." Robert Gilpin observes: Despite the impressive goals achieved by postwar efforts to create European political and economic unity, individual European nations remain unwilling to sacrifice economic autonomy and political independence to a truly unified European economy and a European polity capable of speaking with one voice in international affairs. In the short run, therefore, if the EU continues to fail in its attempts at integration, support will fall, and it will become more difficult for the EU to realize each future venture. Realist international theories provide a more plausible explanation of how the European states relate to each other than the rather idealistic, integrationist theories of liberal philosophy. Realists, as Joseph Greco puts it, explain that "a state will focus both on its absolute and relative gains from cooperation, and a state that is satisfied with a partner's compliance in a joint arrangement might nevertheless exit from it because the partner is achieving relatively greater gains." This is because states are naturally inclined to protect their sovereignty from any outside actors.
Michael Ignatieff writes: The peoples of the world naturally divide into nations; that these nations should have the right to rule themselves; and that this exercise in self-determinations should, in most cases, result in each nation having a sovereign state of its own. Hence, cooperation will not be so easily achieved at all times as liberals hope. This will aid in the eventual difficulty of integration. The goal of the maximization of relative gains exists because states fear they will someday lose sovereignty. Such a struggle for power would not exist in the world if sovereignty were simple to uphold. This fear explains the rise of nationalist movements in European states today, and the reason states will not give up their sovereignty in the name of integration.
Each state has no incentive to trust its neighbor implicitly since each wants to maximize its relative gains. They can never know each other's intentions, and won't risk the cooperation if they think they can gain more in the future from conflicting. Furthermore, as in the Balkans or in Russia we have seen how disinclined nations or ethnic groups are to ignore their own unique national identity in order to create a new identity of the newly established state. Richard Caplan and John Feffer note that, "nationalism has been embraced as a bulwark against the erosion of cultural diversity and popular sovereignty in the face of creeping federalism." New ethnic conflict arises and peace is far from realized as a result of integration. The potential European integration would suffer a similar and most likely greater effect. In the long run, integration, if actualized, would not lead to a peaceful and trusting state as hoped, but instead a brand new set of ethnic and nationalist conflict.
This is a risk most states are probably not willing to take. As we have seen on smaller scales in newly integrated democratic states in Europe today, nationalism is not a dying epidemic. In fact, ethnic and nationalist conflicts.