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The differences between the US and Europe

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The differences between the US and Europe


Gera, in South Africa, asks:

“What’s the difference between the United States of America and the United countries of Europe?”

Domenico Rossetti di Valdalbero, with the Union of European Federalists, responds:

Let me first note some figures: 500 million inhabitants in the European Union and 300 million in the United States. We have 27 member states in Europe; the US has 50 states. For this idea of member states, I often stress the word ‘member’. It represents a togetherness, a will. We want to be a part of the European club. That is not necessarily the case in the United States of America.

Among the institutional differences, the US is a federation, with a presidential system, while we are halfway between being federal and being intergovernmental.

The budget is also a difference. The American federal budget, more or less, represents 20 percent of the United States’ GDP, so 20 percent is managed in a centralised way in the US, while just one percent is managed in a federal way in Europe, by the European Commission.

And the last point is — and it’s perhaps a capital difference — where the Europeans unite through treaties, all the way from the Treaty of Paris to the Treaty of Lisbon, the Americans have their basis in a constitution. We have treaties, the requirement for which is acceptance by the 27 member states. Unanimity carries a risk of blockage.

The economic and social models are also different. The Europeans find it a lot harder to live with social differences, social inequalities, and therefore we protect the poor far more, whether their weakness comes from age, unemployment or other things.

In Europe we have a strong sensitivity to environmental questions, that we call the ecological transition. We may want to eat more healthily, we pay attention to the kinds of energy we use, we are starting to pay more attention to transportation systems. This sensitivity is far less pronounced in the United States.

There you have some similarities and differences between us and our allies and American friends.

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