I once categorized the European Union as a country with a legislature and a judiciary but no executive. Doug Muir took exception to that, but I still think it holds. Europe has a bureaucracy, yes, but with a single exception of competition policy those bureaucrats do not tell private actors what to do. Rather, they tell the executive agencies of E.U. states to tell private actors what to do. People in, say, Spanish uniforms inspect car emissions (or contract with private labs to inspect car emissions), collect tariffs, monitor borders, arrest miscreants, impose fines, inspect vegetables, and carry out all the other policy missions determined in Brussels.
This is very different from real federal countries, like the United States. Europe has food and drug regulators. They never ever ever dress up like the guy on the right, who is an FDA agent named Robert Maes in the process of raiding a facility in Los Angeles. (Yes, FDA. Not a typo.) In the European Union, the European Medicines Agency might find out about a violation, but the people with guns who show up would work for (say) the Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios.
But now under pressure from the mass migration out of Syria (and to a lesser extent elsewhere) the European Commission has just proposed the creation of a European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Go read the link. Impressed? You should be. A more detailed Q&A is here. You can find the full legislative proposal here.
It still isn’ t quite a fully federal European Coast Guard. Yes, the EBCG will have its own uniformed personnel. Yes, the EBCG will maintain its own equipment pool. Yes, the EBCG will have the power to operate inside E.U. states without the local government’s approval. But most of its capabilities will be provided by reserve pools of uniformed personnel. The EBCG can call those personnel up for European duty whenever the E.U. so chooses, but the personnel will continue to wear their national uniforms (plus a blue armband, see page 49) and will operate under the same restrictions that the state government applies to its own law enforcement personnel.
The authorization for all this is under Article 77 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the first part of which reads:
1. The Union shall develop a policy with a view to:
(a) ensuring the absence of any controls on persons, whatever their nationality, when crossing internal borders;
(b) carrying out checks on persons and efficient monitoring of the crossing of external borders;
(c) the gradual introduction of an integrated management system for external borders.
I guess you could call the proposal an “integrated management system,” although that seems like a bit of an understatement. For all its limitations, it strikes me as one hell of a leap towards a federal Europe, if it happens.
So, readers, will it happen? The recent history of the Eurozone makes me wonder.