Can the EU still unite a continent shattered by world wars, or is it little more than a vehicle for austerity capitalism? The European Union is one of the premier trade organizations on the planet, with a collective GDP that surpasses the world’s largest national economies.
But it’s far more than a trade group. It’s also a banker, a judicial system, a watchdog, a military alliance, and — increasingly — an enforcer of economic rules among its 28 members. “Larger now than the Roman Empire of two thousand years ago,” observes British historian Perry Anderson, “more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.”