The inward-looking tendencies of European Union politicians has not only perpetuated their financial crisis, but has also created a delusional view of geography.
For example, last week the press office for UK’s Prime Minister Cameron advised that he will shortly be giving a major speech “on Europe.”
What they really meant is that he will be giving a speech on the UK’s views of the European Union.
There is a big difference.
The EU is a political structure of 27 countries that combined make up a surprisingly small part of the continent called Europe.
Cameron himself is guilty of this chauvinistic view of the EU.
In advance of his speech, he told the BBC:
One can only shake his head every time a Brussels bureaucrat lectures about what countries like Ukraine or Belarus must do if “they want to join Europe,” or what Russia must do to “improve relations with Europe.”
It’s a safe bet that few folks in Brussels know the EU capitol is approximately twice as far as Moscow is from the geographic center of Europe – 1,750 vs. 950 kilometers.
Those distances are only estimates. While I can smugly declare that only an act of God can remove the island of Great Britain from Europe, defining the borders of Europe is much more complicated.
Europeans have been “scientifically” debating the exact geographic center of Europe for over 150 years. At least 10 points have been declared by various scientific groups. Not surprisingly, for each claim the local town-folk proudly display a monument marking the point.
All of these points are within the territory of former Soviet Union or one of its East Bloc satellites. They include claims in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary.
Since 1989 the most widely accepted center of Europe is Purnuskes, Lithuania. Jean-George Affholder, a scientist at the French National Geographic Institute made that calculation.
Poland, Lithuania’s southern neighbor and testy rival, claims a more relevant methodology places the center point near its city of Poznan. The Poznan claim is made by considering only continental Europe, ignoring outlying islands like Iceland, Franz Josef Land and the Azores.
Given that some countries like Greece are in their 6th consecutive year of recession with 25% unemployment, the EU politicians should not be distracted now by their geography follies.
But at some point, Europeans need to teach the EU leadership that their political club is only a subset of the vast European continent.