America Is Bad. It Always Is.

If it is bad it has to be America. That is the leitmotiv of Louis Michel, the European Commissioner of Development and Humanitarian Aid. Michel was interviewed today by the Flemish magazine Knack about the recent European Summit.

In the interview Michel, who is a eurofederalist and hence (one would think) a proponent of a federal European superstate which would turn the EU into a genuine United States of Europe, blames London for wanting to… turn the EU into the US.

“I only know that the British did not want the summit to be a success,” Michel says: “[The British] have a different kind of roadmap. They want Europe to be a purely economic space. If we follow them we risk turning the EU into a miniature copy of the United States. If we restrict the EU to a free market association without common rules, without this constitution, without shared political values, then Europe will no longer be able to make the citizens dream.”

Commenting on the recent referendums Michel remarked: “It is said that the citizens are always right. Why do they have to be always right? Even I am not always right! But I am prepared to admit this. Why would the citizens not admit it? Politicians should not follow the citizens blindly, they should go in front of the people and show them the way.”

What dreams are the Europeans meant to dream? Those of their politicians, obviously. Has it ever been different? Perhaps in America, but not in Brussels. Louis Michel was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium before he became European Commissioner. He is a great admirer of Paul-Henri Spaak (1899-1972), one of his predecessors. Spaak is one of the EU’s “founding fathers” and one of the buildings of the European Parliament is named after him. In April 1956, he authored the so-called Spaak Report which laid the foundation for the Treaty of Rome the following year. In his memoirs Spaak acknowledged that “public opinion was indifferent” to European unification, but this was all the better: “The work was done by a minority who knew what they wanted.”


Incomprehensible and alarming it is that the Belgian, and even the Flemish people appear to consider the preposterous figure of Louis Michel a fit minister of foreign affairs. At least that is the result of a poll in which people could compose their ideal Belgian government, choosing from 90 politicians on

Mr. Michel, nicknamed

Mr. Michel, nicknamed 'Loulou' by his friends (photo here might be very knowledgeable about the sleepy provincial town of Jodoigne (where he started his career as bourgemestre). About the European political scene and history, on the other had, he missed a good chance to keep silent, as Chirac would say. With EU commissioners like Loulou, the Eurosceptics won’t have to worry too much.

The free trade anti-federal EU model of the UK is exactly the opposite of the strongly centralized US federal model. Social security and education is a largely private or state matter in the US, true. But the US has a centralized Justice, Police, Foreign Affairs and Defense system. The vital and privilege authority of a minimal state. Exactly those authorities the UK denies a federal EU.



"But the US has a centralized Justice, Police, Foreign Affairs and Defense system."

In what sense are Justice and Police systems centralised in the USA? Most "justice" and police services are delivered locally, and judges and police chiefs are locally elected officials. The individual states guard very jealously their rights in these matters.

As far as defence is concerned, the peace of Europe has been largely kept since WWII by NATO, snugly sheltering under the USA's umbrella. Most of Europe shows a distinct unwillingness to take defence seriously, if we are to judge by the pitiful amounts of money and resource committed to it.

I am curious why you blame the UK for denying Europe these things. It was the French and Dutch peoples who voted No to the Constitution. I know a lot of folk are in denial about this, but that's what happened. We in Britain haven't yet had the opportunity to do so!

Bob Doney

From confusion to pragmatism

Ironically enough the best way in the long run to create a true United States of Europe might be the British way. If a strong, vibrant economy is created and economic well-being and interdependence are encouraged, this surely will do more to bring about a true community than any amount of top-down impositions and deals done in the corridors of Brussels.

The British constitution evolved in a pragmatic and frequently painful way over many hundreds of years, and that is one of the reasons some of us are very reluctant to transfer much of this sovereignty to untried European institutions. But the British are if anything pragmatic, and if co-operation shows real benefits they will demand more of it.

I don't think there is much doubt now that the "ever-closer union" project is now in ruins, but as the old generation of European leaders step aside (with a little help!) a more pragmatic, evolutionary approach may prove more durable.

Bob Doney