Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Growing up in the USA and watching the transition to a more formal European Union (EU), I often thought of the EU, like I did the Starship Enterprise. Peaceably bringing together nations that had been squabbling amongst themselves (to put it mildly) for hundreds of years, if not millennia, is an amazing feat. Creating a common monetary union, even more amazing.
Living in France, I will admit that I still have a very romantic view of the EU. The EU represents progress and peace. Open borders, freedom of movement. This is the world we would all like to live in. At the same time, there are sacrifices to be made. Outside of a common monetary system, the nations of the EU do not share political systems, economic systems, systems of health care or do they even have standardized accounting systems. Each nation is unique and relatively independent. Certain countries have stronger economies. Others have better health care. Some have higher wages. Not even road signs are universal between countries.
Today, over 10% of the French population is foreign born, overall unemployment is near 10% and unemployment for young adults is near 25%. France also has a higher average income than all but a handful of EU countries. Open borders in the EU, mean that anyone from an EU country can come to France and access both the health care system and legally work. Once you have met certain basic requires for legal work in France, and you become unemployed, you are eligible for unemployment. Unlike the US, there is not a cap on how long one can pull unemployment and it is not uncommon for individuals to work a 6-month contract and then take unemployment for 6 months, before taking a new contract. Affordable health care, housing assistance, and other social programs make meeting life’s’ basic necessities much more easily attained in France than in the United States.