On Sunday, the European Union celebrated its 50th anniversary. The EU was established on March 25, 1957, when its six founding states (Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg) signed the Treaty of Rome. They solemnly declared that they would aim for "an ever closer union." As a first step towards the goal of political unification the six states decided to integrate their economies. They have meanwhile been joined by 21 other European countries.
Economic activities, however, cannot result in achieving a predetermined political goal without strict economic controls and centralist planning. The controlling and planning body of the EU is the European Commission, based in Brussels. The commissioners are not elected and are accountable to no one. This deliberate democratic deficit was built in as a structural feature of the EU. An unelected and unaccountable structure makes it easier to impose centrally driven change on a society.
Some of the EU's founding fathers claimed that political unification was needed to prevent European nations from going to war again. Others, such as Paul-Henri Spaak, the Belgian foreign minister who authored the Rome treaty, dreamed of a European superstate. He hoped that such a state might one day become as powerful as the United States. Robert Rothschild, Mr. Spaak's chef de cabinet, recalled later how Mr. Spaak told him in 1957: "I think we have re-established the Roman Empire without a single shot being fired."
Washington foolishly supported the European unification project. It failed to see that democratization and decentralization are far more likely to preserve peace than unification and centralization. Washington also thought that without the gradual obliteration of the former European nation-states the Europeans were bound to wage war on each other again. America became the EU's midwife. "Without the Americans we would not have gotten anywhere," Mr. Rothschild acknowledged.
Empires, however, are carnivorous monsters. They have to keep growing in order to avoid unraveling. Hence, they inevitably grow ever more totalitarian and expansionist. The EU is interfering more and more in the daily lives of its subjects. At the same time, its territory continues to expand, from the original six members to the present 27. By definition, there is no end to this process. The Leviathan has to be fed.
With the accession of Romania and Bulgaria on Jan. 1, the EU's territory has reached the outer boundaries of the European continent. Since the European Empire by definition has to expand, it has to move into Asia and Africa. The preparation for this crossing of the Rubicon -- in this case the crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar and the Bosporus -- has been going on for years.
Five years ago, Louis Michel, then the Belgian minister of foreign affairs and at present a member of the European Commission, told the Belgian parliament that eventually the EU will encompass the entire Mediterranean basin, including North Africa and the Middle East. Mr. Michel also posited that only by incorporating both Israel and Palestine into the EU will there be peace between them.
The European-Mediterranean ("Euro-Med") partnership between the EU and the countries of the Maghreb (an Arab word meaning "the West" and denoting Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya -- the North African Muslim countries to the west of Egypt) was established specifically to promote the economic, cultural and political integration of the EU and the Maghreb countries. The Brussels bureaucrats embrace Islam because they want the EU to expand into the Muslim east and south. They think that eventually the Maghreb will become part of Europe, but many ordinary Europeans fear that Europe is on its way to becoming the Maghreb, the Muslim "West."
The problem for the Brussels establishment is that the present institutional framework of the EU is not adapted to the rapid expansion which the EU has experienced since the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 1980s. To cope with expansion, the EU establishment produced the so-called "European Constitution," a bloated 70,000-word document full of politically correct phrases and carefully omitting any reference to Europe's Christian heritage and its cultural tradition. It expands the powers of the Brussels Eurocracy and limits the national sovereignty of the member states.
In early 2005 the constitution was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands. One of the reasons why people voted against it was their fear of Islam and their subsequent opposition to the admission of Turkey into the EU. Theoretically the constitution should have been discarded after its rejection at the polls. The Europeanist politicians, however, refuse to accept the electorate's "no." "It has to be yes," they say, as they know that the empire will collapse if it cannot expand. They are now writing down a new and binding institutional framework, which, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear, shall not be put before the electorate in a referendum. Empires cannot be democracies.
This piece was originally published in The Washington Times on March 28, 2007 .
[A longer version of this column can be found in the April issue of Chronicles]