Will “Euroscepticism” Halt the Unification of Europe?
Recent European elections provided a setback to the “European project.” But understanding European history and prophecy puts these results in perspective.
In late May European voters went to the polls to elect representatives to the European Parliament. To the shock and dismay of many, “Eurosceptic” political parties such as UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) won surprisingly large victories. This has caused a new wave of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth, with growing fears that the European project is on the verge of collapse. To some degree, this is understandable as the skeptics did win a surprising number of seats in the parliament.
But from a historical perspective, the uproar is overstated and premature. The growth of a united Europe has been underway since the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, and it has been growing in fits and starts through much of that time. Consider a brief survey of its growth.
The growth of a united Europe has been underway since the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, and it has been growing in fits and starts through much of that time. History of the European project
The ECSC was a very small beginning with only six nations engaged in economic cooperation. But even at that early stage, it was understood that they were aiming to build something much larger. Certainly they were looking to the U.S. as a model, wanting to form a “United States of Europe.” But it is also possible that they began with a customs union because they were following the example of Prussia, which formed an economic customs union (or free-trade zone) between many Germanic states called the Zollverein in 1834. This eventually led to the consolidation of these states into one nation called Germany in 1871.
In 1957 the Treaty of Rome was signed, which made more explicit the goal of integrating Europe into one economic union. Then in 1965 the Treaty of Brussels was signed, combining the three main European organizations (European Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Commission). This led to the elimination of the last internal tariff by 1970.
The expansion of the European Community (EC) began with Britain, Ireland and Denmark joining in 1973.
Also in the 1970s, the EC got its own separate funding with the creation of a value-added tax applied to the citizens of all member nations. This helped increase the size and scope of the community, which included the formation of a functioning court system and a larger bureaucracy.
From the 1980s through the present day, the European Union continued slow, steady growth, both in terms of membership and also in constitutional and bureaucratic structure. Perhaps the seminal moment in the last 20 years was the implementation of an integrated currency known as the euro.
The European economic problem
The implementation of the euro brought to the fore an issue that is really the core of the problem the EU is struggling with today. Notably, the economies of northern Europe, especially Germany, operate at a much higher level of productivity and lower debt than the southern European nations.
The nations that are really struggling economically include the so-called PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain). In reality, these nations were struggling economically before the implementation of the euro, but were able to paper over their problems as long as they controlled their own currency.
The question now is, will Europe find a workable solution to its problems and continue its inexorable growth into a world power?
The Bible prophesies of a final revival of the Roman Empire that will be a powerful union of 10 European nations or groups of nations (Daniel 7:24; Revelation 17:12). Is the creation of the European Union the beginning of this final revival? Or could the present European Union lead to another permutation that will become the end-time “beast” power?
At this writing, there are several European conditions that the prophecies discuss but that do not yet exist:
- A powerful leader (known as “the king of the North” and “the beast,” Daniel 11:40-42; Revelation 17:13) that will arise and dominate Europe. There is no one like that on the scene at the moment—but past European history shows that strong political leaders can arise unexpectedly and rapidly (e.g., Julius Caesar, Giuseppe Garibaldi; Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini).
- A powerful military (Daniel 11:40; Revelation 13:4; 19:19).
- A great religious revival that will include an influential religious leader who will partner with the political leader (Revelation 16:13). Europe is currently mired in a secular period, and religious devotion (other than in the Islamic communities of Europe) is at its lowest point in the continent’s history.
But don’t let current conditions cause you to doubt the prophecies! History in general (and European history especially) shows that circumstances and trends can change quickly and dramatically.
In one of the revivals of the Roman Empire, France was mired in a long war of stalemate with her neighbors when suddenly a strongman named Napoleon appeared on the scene. Under his dynamic leadership, France dominated the continent of Europe for more than a decade. Dramatic events (including apparent miracles) that cause rapid and dramatic religious “awakenings” have occurred several times in history.
Many of the world conditions listed in the Bible for the end times—the time approaching the return of Christ—are now present. The Bible instructs us to watch and prepare ourselves for the return of Christ (Luke 21:36). The election of a few skeptics to the European Parliament is but a small blip in the inexorable march to the end of this age.
For more coverage on Europe’s recently elections, read our blog “Will the Recent Elections Change the Future of Europe?”