Archive for the ‘European Monetary Union’ Category

Yet another reason I love the EU (and call myself European)

I think I’ve mentioned before that since Modern Europe is basically a very recent thing: I don’t have an actual ethnic heritage. That means I have a lot in common with the founders of the European Union, in particular Robert Schuman who moved between Luxembourg, Germany, and France.

I just learned about Euroregions, which usually refers to a transnational co-operation structure between two (or more) contiguous territories located in different European countries. Euroregions represent a specific type of cross-border region.

So, one of my ethnic lines is SaarLorLux, which is described as

There is no well-defined structure of SaarLorLux nor even an exclusive definition of its size. Instead, there exist multiple forms of cooperation and contractual relations among all or several members. Sometimes instead of SaarLorLux, the term Greater Region is used, short for the more formal “Greater Region of Saarland, Lorraine, Luxembourg, Wallonia and (Western-) Rhineland-Palatinate”.

That pretty much sums up one ancestral line really well, which makes me French-German. While France is the only static nation in this batch of little city-states, it now would comprise parts of Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. And the languages would be French and German, with a few other dialects tossed in for good measure. This thumbnail from the history of Metz pretty much sums up the situation:

With the signature of the Treaty of Chambord in 1552, Metz passed to the hands of the Kings of France. As the German Protestant Princes who traded Metz (alongside Toul and Verdun) for the promise of French military assistance, had no authority to cede territory of the Holy Roman Empire, the change of jurisdiction wasn’t recognised by the Holy Roman Empire until the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Under French rule, Metz was selected as capital of the Three Bishoprics and became a strategic fortified town. With creation of the departments by the Estates-General of 1789, Metz was chosen as capital of the Department of Moselle.

The fun thing is that some Euroregions can be within other ones! There are at least two regions which overlap in my “ethnic hertiage”. I’m not sure how up to date this list is: list. And they are in a couple of Eurodistricts to boot! It also explains yet another reason I like the Euro currency so much:

The launch of the Euro gave the citizens of the border region the possibility to trade across the border without the need for advanced arithmetic operations to calculate the price, when one German mark was about three French francs and about twenty Luxembourgian francs or Belgian francs. The Euro negates the need for SaarLorLux to have currency of its own.

I remember crossing the border back into France from Germany and literally having the cashier at the bureau de change toss about 7 marks worth of change at me (about 3.50€ or US$4). [1]

Anyway, it’s a lot easier being European (and speaking English, even though I can handle French and German with some others tossed in there for good measure) than the nationalistic alternative.

Footnote:
[1] I was a poor student at the time, so the amount of money he tossed at me was significant. It could have bought a decent meal at an inexpensive restaurant.

Love-Hate about the US-Europe

I have a long post simmering where I get into some of the things I don’t like about the US. Some apply to Europe as well, but that’s easy since Europe is basically a bunch of countries which have banded together because they finally figured out trying to kill each other made no sense. Although, there are a few people who still think it does. Part of this is due to watching (wasting a couple of hours) the first two episodes of something called “Tribes of Europe”. Europe has survived serious destruction without ending up like that series.

Portrait de la contesse Fouler de Relingue

Anyway, it sort of comes down to four things: food, culture, distance, caring for cities and countryside, and transport. We could get into the Oxford comma as well, but that is francophony-anglophony. The French will eat Grandma, but prefer their lovers….

I’m not sure I should make “head” jokes, but I am very certain some of my ancestors made it through the Terror. They were able to enjoy the bals des victimes, but they exited stage right when it came to Les Mis. I’m posting the cleaned up version of coiffure à la Titus which was popular post-terror. My race memory clicked on the painting by Guérin in the Louvre.

I don’t relate to US history and always thought that the Civil War monuments commemorated the Franco-Prussian War, which was the Civil War for me. My relations fought on both sides. A direct result was that my great-great-grandfather shipped his son off to the States to avoid Bismarck’s Army. It also set off a chain reaction of events which would lead to my being born in the US. The Second World War led to my father coming to the States.

The thing is that I can get the things I like in Europe in the States/North America, and some of the things I hate about the States exist in Europe. Although, it’s hard to get something vaguely like Europe’s history in North America. People in the US prefer the myth and have done a great job of wrecking the real history, but that is changing. Just not fast enough for my taste.

Still, I would prefer Europe to the States even if there were TGVs, the cities ended at defined boundaries, and there were really cool small towns out there that had restaurants that served exciting local food. As opposed to restaurants that are exciting because everyone is carrying guns–that’s not they type of excitement I mean. I left out more obvous old settlements. Places like Cahokia and Cahawba don’t do it for me since they were ethnically cleansed from history.

I didn’t get the Hudson Valley School of Painting and the concept behind it until I spent a lot of time on the ground (can’t make a good pun of “sur-le-champ”). But no matter what the appearance is, natural resources are limited. While the Americas have been populated for millenia, the cultures that populated them have been ethnically cleansed. Or are seen as a quaint. This quotation about the “First Thanksgiving” gets to the point:

One is that history doesn’t begin for Native people until Europeans arrive. People had been in the Americas for least 12,000 years and according to some Native traditions, since the beginning of time. And having history start with the English is a way of dismissing all that. The second is that the arrival of the Mayflower is some kind of first-contact episode. It’s not. Wampanoags had a century of contact with Europeans–it was bloody and it involved slave raiding by Europeans. At least two and maybe more Wampanoags, when the Pilgrims arrived, spoke English, had already been to Europe and back and knew the very organizers of the Pilgrims’ venture.

Most poignantly, using a shared dinner as a symbol for colonialism really has it backward. No question about it, Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth and wanted an alliance with them. But it’s not because he was innately friendly. It’s because his people have been decimated by an epidemic disease, and Ousamequin sees the English as an opportunity to fend off his tribal rebels. That’s not the stuff of Thanksgiving pageants. The Thanksgiving myth doesn’t address the deterioration of this relationship culminating in one of the most horrific colonial Indian wars on record, King Philip’s War, and also doesn’t address Wampanoag survival and adaptation over the centuries, which is why they’re still here, despite the odds.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thanksgiving-myth-and-what-we-should-be-teaching-kids-180973655/

I found that while looking for this clip. I saw it when I went to the Smithsonian Museum of the Native American the day my application for European residency came through. The speaker is Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche).

Unfortunately, the westward expansion of the English Colonies meant ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans.

Anyway, Paul, my family is supposed to have been there for that First Thanksgiving, but it’s a lot more difficult for a European to move back than most people realise. And changing North America for the better is tough with monied interests blocking the way.

The Euro

The two best things about the European Union are the right of free movement and the Euro. Which is good since they sort of go together as it’s nice to not have to change currencies when you go from country to country. Imagine living in the US and having to change your money if you went from State to State: especially if there were drastic differences in value. Toss in the insult of having the coins thrown back at you even if they were significantly valuable (e.g, dollar, pound or Euro valued coins).

Despite this, only 19 of the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) have adopted the Euro as their primary currency and sole legal tender. Denmark (and the United Kingdom) opted out of adopting the Euro. It is also currency in a few of the “postage stamp” non-EU member States. Also, it’s used in some of the French overseas territories and the British Bases at Akrotiri and Dhekelia. The latter may be the only part of the United Kingdom to use the Euro, but it would make sense since they are on Cyprus, which is an EU member and part of the Eurozone. Montenegro and Kosovo also use the Euro, but they originally used the Yugoslav Dinar and then the German Mark as their currencies.

I’m not going to get into the mechanics of how countries become part of the Eurozone, but most of the non-Euro nations are part of the former eastern block with the exception of Denmark and Sweden. And I actually spend a lot of them, even if I joke about never seeing them. But I never carried around much cash anyway. More so since Brexit.