Me: I promise I won't get all political...
three internet discussions later
Almost 4 years ago (umm) CGP Grey created a wonderful video explaining how the European Union is constructed and how it works. It was wonderful and I obviously encourage you to watch it – here. But hey, it's the 60th anniversary of The Treaty of Rome and I came up with a nice comparison, so why not give this topic a shot?
Warning: it will be oversimplified for the sake of understanding.
European Union (or European integration as a whole) is like a multi-storey building, let's call it the Europe's HQ. EHQ is divided in terms of willingness of integration – the higher you are, the more you are able to take part in various processes of integration.
This is the most important level in this building. This is an equivalent of the European Union as a specific international entity. There are, at the moment, 28 flats with an immense amount of trust and belief. Every person is welcome in another flat, the inhabitants created their own Hausordnung democratically, there are many joint initiatives for making their lives easier. No barriers on travel, emigration, trade and so on.
This floor also contains all offices of the building which are crucial for maintaining the state of the building. This is very important – all responsibilty and joint power is placed here.
It's the floor for people afraid of heights. It's fully integrated with the second floor. Although it has no power in decision-making, its inhabitants still have to stick to the rules created by the second floor. Anybody who is living here is able to move higher as soon as it decides to do so.
The ground floor is the place for beginners. It's mostly occupied by countries like Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Turkey and so on, but Switzerland also likes this place. Switzerland is the only inhabitant who doesn't want to go any higher. Everyone else wants to go upstairs as soon as possible.
At this level the integration is small, it is mostly based on free trade and occasionally the no-visa zone to some extent. Nothing interesting, we're going upstairs, because I forgot about the highest tier.
This is the most forward-looking part of the building. It's still mostly undeveloped, but there are some rooms for various initiatives – common currency for example. Some inhabitans of the second floor insist on furnishing this place and spending more and more time there. Other members are against it.
European Union is the second floor. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are the first floor. Switzerland and EU candidates are the ground floor. The third floor is, so called, two-speed Europe – integration processes not every country wants to participate in. Some countries are afraid that when some countries decide to integrate themselves more the less willing ones will be put out of pasture.
The second floor, the European Union and it's institutions like European Commision (executive), European Parliament (legislative) and European Council (something between) and more are in almost every situation responsible for all processes and treaties (which aren't exclusive just to the EU members), such as the Schengen Area – EU maintains it and supervises the execution of the treaty. That's why the collapse of the EU might very likely be the end of these things that almost everybody loves in European integration – 4 freedoms and Schengen.
We don't know yet how will the infamous Brexit look like. In the Europe HQ it might be only moving downstairs to become a neighbour of Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland (so called Soft Brexit or, more anglosaxon, BINO – Brexit in name only). However the reason for moving from the second floor is that Britain doesn't want to be subject to the Hausordnung and doesn't like some of it's neighbours. Moving down is not going to change these things for GB, which wants to stay in the building but without being forced to obey the rules. The rest of the inhabitants are... not in favour of this option, to put it lightly. That's why Britain will probably move out from the building completely, what we'll call Hard Brexit.
That's all I wanted to say. It's a little bit messy but I hope that this note leaves you with a new impression how the complex process of European integration works.
Thanks for reading.