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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 05 giugno 2012 alle ore 12:02.


PRINCETON – As European leaders struggle after another failed summit, they should think hard about what their continent – and the world – might look like if they continue to produce unsatisfactory solutions to Europe’s financial and economic problems. What would follow the disintegration of the eurozone and – almost certainly with it – that of the European Union?

The best place to consider that question would not be Brussels, but Tiraspol, the capital of the entity that calls itself the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, or Trans-Dniestr. This territorial sliver with a population of a half-million emerged in the early 1990’s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union (population almost 300 million), when it broke away from the Republic of Moldova (population four million), which had separated in the 1940’s from Ukraine (population 50 million).

Trans-Dniestr has its own government and parliament, army, constitution, flag, and a rousing Soviet-style national anthem; of course, its nationhood would be incomplete without its own currency. This political entity is a precise counterpart in the political world to a well-known physical phenomenon of splintering or fissuring. When stressed, a big surface bifurcates in big chunks, but then the disintegration continues into smaller and smaller fragments.

Of the six larger EU states, only France has a really well-defined centralized political system. Poland’s centralism comes close, but strong regional differences persist – a legacy of the three large and quite different imperial systems that encompassed today’s Poland in the nineteenth century.

Italy and Germany were nineteenth-century amalgamations of a colorful variety of small and medium-size political units. The United Kingdom looks older and more stable, but Scotland today is controlled by a political party that wants to repeal the 1707 Act of Union, with the future to be determined by a Scottish referendum in 2014. Spain after the Franco dictatorship stabilized itself by granting autonomy to its regions, which in many ways now behave like independent units.

In these fragmented political areas, the logic of integration in the past depended on areas that were dissatisfied with political outcomes appealing to new allies in larger units. Franconians in southern Germany disliked the fact that the Napoleonic Wars subjected them to Bavarian rule; they saw German nationalism as a way to use Prussia and Berlin as a counterweight to Munich’s hegemony. But, once Germany was united, Bavarians did not like the outcome, and then thought of a united Europe as a counterweight to the German state. Indeed, Bavaria became adept at using European Community resources to bolster its own political system.

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