Referendums always raise questions about the future. That is also true for the referendum about the Euro in Sweden September 14th 2003. The most central question raised by this referendum is what kind of future Europe we want. No matter the result, it is impossible to predict if it will contribute to a positive or negative development, whether regarding democracy, economy or welfare. But it still says something important about the future, since it opens some paths and closes others. In other words, a "no" can have just as far-reaching consequences as a "yes".
The result of the Euro referendum can provide an idea of Europe's future in some areas, in particular regarding the development of the nation state, since we may expect a "yes" to the Euro to strengthen EU, while a "no" would weaken it.
But no matter what the result will be, it will not say much about whether we are going to see more or less centralism in Europe, even though this has often been used as an argument in the debate. A strong EU doesn't automatically mean more centralism. Similarly, strong nation states don't have to mean that political decisions will be made closer to the citizens - especially not if important decisions are made in a weak EU based a centralised hierarchy of nation states, as is the case today.
Nor will the result of the referendum provide any clear indication of whether the development will be an advantage or disadvantage to democracy and/or economy.
A central question will thus be if we want more or less nation state in Europe, independent of the above-mentioned factors. The current nation states can very much be seen as leftovers from the industrial society and the demands societal developments made of the European nations in the 19th century. Today globalisation and internationalisation make other demands of the nations - economically, politically and socially. The co-operation in EU can e.g. be seen in this light. And the introduction of the Euro can be seen as a logical next step in the effort to adapt the nations to the demands made by societal developments.
But it may be important to consider where this development is going and what the alternatives are. Society doesn't change from day to day, but neither does it ever stand still. The nation states as we know them are thus certainly going to change, just like everything else. This is true whether or not European co-operation is strengthened or weakened, or whether or not Sweden joins the EMU or not. The question thus isn't if, but how, we want Europe's nation states to change. In its own way, a no in the referendum means taking just as active a position for changing the community as a yes, and vice versa.
The future doesn't simply arrive - it is created. It thus isn't possible to give a precise image of how Sweden and Europe are going to evolve in the future. But with knowledge of current trends and a modicum of intuition, it is possible to outline the range of futures within which the coming reality will develop.
One way to describe this future range of possibilities is to develop scenarios according to the so-called scenario model. It is used to create scenarios that are possible images of the future, on the basis of the forces and trends that influence the present society. In most cases the scenarios won't portray any exact future. But the range of possibilities described by the scenarios provides the reader with an opportunity to evaluate what consequences different futures may have. By keeping in mind that the important thing is the range as a whole rather than the individual scenarios, we can choose to position us where we want - i.e., take a hand in deciding the future. This is a strategic choice we all can make, not a prediction. The goal of the scenarios is to create believable images of the future without moralising over or judging any of them.
A yes in the referendum will point to continued cohesion in Europe and a diminishing of the significance of the old nation states. This may lead to two different scenarios, which I have chosen to call Network Europe and The European State. Correspondingly, a no in the referendum points towards a slowing down of the co-operation between European nations and unchanged or growing focus on the nation states. This, in return, can lead to two scenarios, which I have chosen to call Co-operating Nation States and The Corrosion of Europe.
The idea behind the scenarios is to describe the overarching lines of development for Europe and the European nation states. After that, it is up to the reader to evaluate what they may imply for a single nation like Sweden. The scenarios are situated the following way in relation to political decentralisation and centralisation versus a development where the nation states lose significant or go on as before:
In Network Europe the nation states fade away as borders disappear and the peoples of Europe become integrated. A Europe of networks is developed as the natural city regions slowly assume more and more of the roles of the old nation states. EU evolves into an umbrella organisation that handles the common interests of the European regions. The role model is the federal system of the Swiss Republic. However, the different European city networks don't close themselves off to the rest of the world. Instead, human relations grow across the entire world while science, communication and economic development reaches new heights.
This happens because of the close community and the local concentrations of businesses and functions that crystallise everywhere, based on a site's comparative advantages compared to other regions. The global economy is held together by global corporations that utilise the regions' varied special competencies. Many small and medium-sized companies serve the global giants while others produce niche products and designer goods for both global and local markets.
The next scenario is one where EU is developed in a federal direction with a common president and an effective legislative body where the large countries dominate. Policies regarding economics and foreign and security matters are all controlled from Brussels. EU becomes a global player that in the future can compete with USA and China (and, in time, with India, Russia or Brazil). The effective management and the relatively manageable regulations support the economic development within the union.
However, the mighty and self-assured Europe competes against USA and China in the international competition for work and capital, which impedes a continued globalisation of the world markets. In return, EU gets the opportunity to strengthen its grip on its economical and political interests around the world. This e.g. means that countries within EU's sphere of interest get easy export terms to the European markets in return for buying European products and services. Within the union, European companies compete against each other on equal terms while American and Asian companies and products are kept out as much as possible.
In a third scenario, national differences lead to a halt and breakdown of the co-operation in EU in several central areas. It begins when the nation states once again get into an argument about foreign policy and security matters, and continues with the national governments all to often disregarding agreements about common policy. This undermines the legitimacy of EU, which in time turns into a toothless debate club even in economic matters of obvious common interest. Friction and frustration soon makes the monetary union totter and fall.
The result is that everybody blames everybody else for the misfortunes and that the nations openly begin to work against each other. In the end, Europe dissolves into different fractions. Economic recession and a strained political situation follow. However, several European countries still manage to maintain much of their welfare, just as Switzerland did for many years in spite of its chosen isolation from e.g. EU. Economic globalisation continues on American and Chinese terms, which in spite of everything does give companies in European countries some grounds for development.
In a fourth and final scenario, political and economical co-operation continues much as today. This means that we will continue to have co-operation between sovereign nation states, expanded in the fields of economy and environment. But the nation states retain most of their individual influence over foreign and security policy. In this scenario, EU is characterised by extensive and complicated legislation, based on compromises and mutual considerations.
The uncountable details regarding environmental and health issues, etc., function as an increasingly efficient trade barrier against the world outside EU. This undermines the co-operation in the World Trade Organisation WTO, which in time impedes economic globalisation. The development works against European export trade, while European consumers get to pay more for many products and services.