European efforts at economic integration have not delivered sustainable prosperity in poorer nations like Greece and Portugal.
Instead, these have left Mediterranean governments teetering on bankruptcy and at the mercy of Germany and other rich states who exploit European unity to live well at the expense of their poorer brethren.
The 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which considerably harmonized product and safety regulations and methods of taxation across Europe, was supposed to remove untold barriers to growth. It didn’t, because it did not moderate European labor laws and social programs that discourage individual ambition and investment.
The euro, created in 1999, floats against the dollar and yen, and its value reflects an average of the competitiveness of its entire membership. This leaves higher productivity economies like Germany with an undervalued currency and trade surpluses, and lower productivity economies like Greece with an overvalued currency and in constant need to borrow from foreign investors.
With Maastricht and the euro, German manufactures and technology became more valuable in a more integrated European market. However, Greece, Portugal and others are not able to use their lower labor costs to capture assembly plants to the degree, for example, that the U.S. South attracts automotive and high-end electronics manufacturing.
Moreover, Germany and other rich states continue subtle forms of protection that discourage outsourcing even to other EU member states, and this frustrates the EU single market promise to more effectively equalize employment opportunities and prosperity between the prosperous core and southern Europe.