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Mapping the future of the European Union

Geographer Harm de Blij on the destiny of an unstable union.

Professor Harm de Blij, author of "Why Geography Matters More Than Ever"

Image of Why Geography Matters: More Than Ever
Author: Harm de Blij
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 368 pages

For Americans, elections mean maps -- half red, half blue -- that chart our fractious union. It's a union that, despite deep divisions on many topics, is seldom if ever in doubt.

You don't have to be a news junkie to know that the same cannot be said for the European Union. Blame the debt crisis if you will, but some think the seeds of failure were sown much earlier than that.

One of those people is Harm de Blij, the John A. Hanna professor of geography at Michigan State University and author of "Why Geography Matters More Than Ever."

"The question is: did that integration, which has taken not much more than half a century, go too fast, and therefore became too shallow to encompass all the diversity that European politics, economics, and culture entails?"

De Blij remembers the destruction of his hometown of Rotterdam, Holland by the Nazis at the outset of World War II, and he is not surprised that nations so bent on each others destruction 70 years ago have failed to unite in an indivisible way.

He says the union was designed to deter another continental war that wasted so many lives and so much treasure. "The system that they've tried to create to get over their fractiousness," he says, "is not working well."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Professor Harm de Blij, author of "Why Geography Matters More Than Ever"

Image of Why Geography Matters: More Than Ever
Author: Harm de Blij
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 368 pages
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One of the things that was not mentioned during the discussion of the European Union is a similarity to the formation of the U.S. Most people forget that the U.S. was originally formed under the Articles of Confederation. We eventually abandoned that structure and moved towards a strong union which we currently have and fought a war to keep. I believe that EU will have to make a similar move as they come to accept that the current organization that have established simply is not strong enough. The question that remains is will the individual countries being willing to yield sufficient soveriegnty to make such a move. In the U.S. when we made that move we the individual states had not held their independence that very long whereas many of the EU countries have held their independence much longer, a legacy they are likely not to be willing to release.

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