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The EU needs to start building and running actual infrastructure - railways, power lines, ports, airports, and other cross-border infrastructure. It needs to do so on budgets and scopes of work determined by engineering reality, not arbitrary fiscal rules. Both because this will directly show people an EU that makes their lives better and because it will foster the correct mentality in the European bureaucracy - a mentality of operations and engineering rather than finance and cost control.
Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
Now, it so happens that underserved countries will usually be peripheral countries, both because good infrastructure helps you to not be peripheral and because core countries are the ones who have historically been able to have nice things. But I see a danger in letting economic stimulus take priority over engineering. Partly because a major point of the exercise is to make the federal EU bureaucracy think in terms of industrial rather than fiscal policy. And partly because building rail lines to nowhere isn't going to win the EU any friends long-term.
The most obvious candidates for rail projects are Spain, Poland, and the Balkans. And I could definitely see a lot of time and effort being well spent on dredging and reworking bridges to make more of our rivers navigable. Because it's really hard to beat barges for cost and energy efficiency in hinterland transportation.
The power grid is in a lamentable state all over, so you can pretty much prioritize your projects by tossing darts at a map - I promise you you'll find a worthwhile way to spend your engineers' time within a hundred km of any point of impact.
I could also see potential in creating an East Mediterranean transshipment hub to match Hamburg and Algeciras, but the private sector seems to be doing okayish at building ports so the urgency is probably not very great.
But I could see a case for linking Ireland to Wales and Northern Ireland to Scotland, and giving the entire English and Scottish rail net an overhaul.
And a second English Channel tunnel, obviously.
If the locals insist on not connecting their cities to a perfectly nice network backbone like that, well you can drag a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
A few hilarious links:
Key idea: social and economic networks are limited in the end by travel times. Planes are fast, but can't land in city centers, and getting on one is a major production.
Planes are fast because they can go high, where air resistance is less because there is less air.
If you run your trains in a tunnel, and seal the tunnel properly, you can pump most of the air out of the tunnel and run trains faster than airplanes. And keep the whole city center stations, precise schedules and rapid on-off boarding paradigm.
The Japanese proposal is considering 900 KM/h maglevs. This how you do nationbuilding by engineering fiat - once the tunnels are done and the tracks are laid, the places connected will be so close in terms of travel time that untangling them politically becomes a very dicy proposition.
Also, of course, some military utility to the ability to redeploy forces at 900km/h underground.
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