late wrote:It all started in Italy, a few hundred year ago. It's called the Renaissance,
Everybody likes the Renaissance, but it has nothing to do with the EU. It could even be argued that it is related to the very opposite. If anything, the HRE (Holy Roman Empire) is the predecessor of the EU. The burgeoning trading empires of the city states in the North of Italy, where the Italian Renaissance started, or The Netherlands, were the first to leave the safe harbour of the HRE. They probably felt that with the wealth accumulated from their trading empires, they could go it on their own, just like the British, who see themselves as a global trading nation, believe that they can go it on their own without the EU. Of course, there were other factors that hastened the decline of the HRE, most notably French imperialism.
Eurosceptics erroneously claim that the EU is against national sovereignty. That is a profoundly mistaken understanding of the EU. The EU protects and enhances the national sovereignty of its member states. Like the HRE, the EU is a Union of sovereign nations to protect against imperialism both inside and outside. Imperialism is nationalism gone wrong. It's an excessive form of nationalism that doesn't stay inside the national borders. Obviously, only the big powers can play the imperial game. For small and medium sized nations, a Union of nations like the EU is most beneficial.
Even though the EU did expand from the initial 7 member to the current 27 or 28 members, the expansion was entirely voluntary and not achieved by military force, as would be the case in an empire. Moreover, the EU does not have a the central decision-making body like the "imperial presidency" in the US or the presidential systems in Russia, Turkey or France. Even if the EU were to politically integrate, its federal structure and the diversity of its members will always prevent imperial policies.
If the EU were to open membership to nations beyond Europe, there would be more than a hundred candidates for membership; however, most would not meet membership criteria such as democracy, rule of law, etc. Admitting member with very different political or economic systems would destroy the EU. Thus, the solution would be a system of concentric rings of decreasing integration, in which the core would be fully integrated, and the periphery only shares some of the functions, such as the single market, etc., without, for example, the single currency or political integration.
This system of decreasing levels of integration around a central core already exists as is shown by this Euler diagram of the EU. Beyond the 50 odd nations in this diagram, there are further circles of Partnership Agreements, Association Agreements, Free Trade Agreements with countries ranging from Japan to Canada.
The task ahead will be to make the link between trade and climate. In other words, as in the EU's trade agreement with Mercosur, there will have to be clauses for protecting the climate (and social standards) that kick in when contracting nations violate their commitments under the Paris Agreement. While many of these agreements have been in the negotiating phase for years or even decades, Trump's unilateralism, which aims at the destruction of international organisations such as the WTO, has spurred the EU into action to build a global trade network independent of the pax-Americana. Due to the weaponizing of the US dollar, the EU has also started to promote the Euro as an international currency of trade.