Redrawing the map of Europe

People who find their neighbors tiresome can move to another neighborhood, whereas countries can't. But suppose they could. Rejigging the map of Europe would make life more logical and friendlier.

Britain, which after Thursday's general election will have to confront its dire public finances, should move closer to the southern European countries that find themselves in a similar position. It could be towed to a new position near the Azores. (If the journey proves a bumpy one, it might be a good opportunity to make Wales and Scotland into separate islands).

In Britain's place should come Poland, which has suffered quite enough in its location between Russia and Germany and deserves a chance to enjoy the bracing winds of the North Atlantic and the security of seawater between it and any potential invaders.

Belgium's incomprehensible Flemish-French language squabbles (which have just brought down a government) are redolent of central Europe at its worst, especially the nonsenses Slovakia thinks up for its Hungarian-speaking ethnic minority. So Belgium should swap places with the Czech Republic. The stolid, well-organized Czechs would get on splendidly with their new Dutch neighbors, and vice versa.

Belarus, currently landlocked and trying to wriggle out from under Russia's thumb, would benefit greatly from exposure to the Nordic region, whose influence played a big role in helping the Baltics shed their Soviet legacy. So it should move northward to the Baltic, taking the place of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These three countries should move to a new location somewhere near Ireland. Like the Emerald Isle, they have bitten the bullet of "internal devaluation," regaining competitiveness by cutting wages and prices, rather than taking the easy option of depreciating the currency, or borrowing recklessly as Greece has.

Into the slots vacated by Poland and Belarus should come the western and central parts of Ukraine. Germany, with the Ukrainian border now only some 60 miles from Berlin, would start having to take the country's European integration seriously. The Ukrainian shift would allow Russia to move west and south too, thus vacating Siberia for the Chinese, who will take it sooner or later anyway.

Switzerland and Sweden are often confused. So it would make sense to move Switzerland north, where it would fit neatly into the Nordic countries. Its neutrality would go down well with the Finns and Swedes; Norway would be glad to have another non-EU country next door.

Germany can stay where it is, as can France. But Austria could shift westward into Switzerland's place, making room for Slovenia and Croatia to move north-west too. (A welcome side-effect of these changes will be to make space for previously fictional creations such as Anthony Hope's Ruritania, Herge's Syldavia and Borduria, and Vulgaria, the backdrop for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.) Slovenia and Croatia could then join northern Italy in a new regional alliance. The rest of Italy, Rome downward, would separate and join with Sicily to form a new country, officially called the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (but nicknamed Bordello). It could form a currency union with Greece, but nobody else.

Redrawing the map of Europe 05/04/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 3:41pm]

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