Whither Europe?

Duly Noted

Europe’s self chosen fate is, due to her weight, not a local but a global issue.

It does not take much skill to plead that, due to her size and economic power “Europe” is a decisive world neighborhood. The continent might not have the will or the organization to determine on the US, Russian and Chinese level global events. Nevertheless, its failures can, as in the past, shape worldwide developments. For this reason, the process that aims to give the term “Europe” a new content is of interest to those whose vision extends beyond the tip of their nose. 

Since the last world war, Europe is seeking local and global security through the creation of a new substance. Peace and economic development through cooperation are the goals. As of late, behind these honorable objectives, self-seeking forces using intimidation and extortion are in the process of kidnapping the European idea. 

Europe is a continent and through that a natural geographical unit. Cultural factors, such as a shared religion, Orthodoxy in the East and Catholicism/Protestantism in the West also points in the same direction. However, the favored analogy of the US’ example, limps. America’s states are not nations. Nor do these entities have the inclination to become sovereign states by the definition of international law. Even the immigrations that define some of the states lack the intention to be “nations”. The condition goes beyond the will to form an ethnic-based political community and is devoid of an indigenous group wanting to dominate a historic territory. Even Latin America’s nations failed, regardless of their common heritage, to achieve unity. In North America, Canada and the US have, regardless of what they have in common, chosen to stay separate. Therefore, what could belong together is not necessarily stapled together.

Pursuing an impractical goal, the EU has created a system in which everything is regulated by the nascent super state. That striven-for entity remains devoid of the natural glue that could fuse what has organically grown separately. In this case, regulation from the top replaces a natural demand from below. Movements that expressed the sentiment of peoples had moved mountains when the national states that conformed to Europe’s diversity were formed. In that process, ethnic consciousness replaced dynastic loyalty and common religion as the expression of what belongs together. In the case of the Hapsburg Empire, the power of the traditional factors that had created it declined. The defunct Austro-Hungarian state that provided a shell of unity pasted over growing diversity fed by resented centralism, furnishes an analogy for the Europe that is being erected. The rising national consciousness of its components have toppled the historical super state that used to stabilize the region. In our times, Yugoslavia, the shrunken copy of the Dual Monarchy, failed even if a common language and a smaller scale favored its existence. Therefore, a European unity that seeks to reverse the trend to national states has limited prospects.

As we ponder systems of unity, we discover the USA’s unique luck. Originally, she was held together by “constitutional patriotism”. In time, a common language and rising ethnic consciousness did not contradict the inherited status quo created by traditional components. The ability to absorb large immigrant groups that shared their hosts’ desire to pursue the “American Dream” was facilitated by spontaneous assimilation. It was propelled by upward social mobility connected to the adaptation of a common language required of the successful participants of the process.

In the case of the EU, a deficiency exists. Its expression is the missing of bonds that common intentions create. This state is not articulated by a common will and by elected representatives empowered to make it into policy. Much rather, the expression of this community is a bureaucracy. Without a bureaucracy the system, as constructed, can not function. Thus, the ruling officialdom asserts that Europe is a continent and therefore a natural unit. Again, the implied US analogy limps. The US’s states are not nations. Even large groups of immigrants are not a “people” in the sense of qualifying as an indigenous group forming the majority of a historic territory. 

To some, the EU’s regulations and their claimed purpose are not expressing what is but intend to create what is deemed desirable. The complaint against this golem raises the question “national sovereignty or bureaucratic centralism?” Demands made on very dissimilar peoples that have not been given the opportunity to consent, are likely to be perceived as suppressive, arbitrary and superfluous. After all, the union’s original purpose had been the protection of the integrity of its constituting parts. The organizational form of that goal is a confederation of largely sovereign entities. A further deficiency is that, while some members have to submit to the center’s decrees, others are free to ignore the rules they had imposed and which they would enforce against lesser members. 

An example is that EU rules forbade the rescue of profligate states by the currency union’s members. With the Greek crisis and the gathering storm in Iberia, France and Germany make the union do exactly the opposite. Now the banks of influential countries that purchased the sovereign debt of states that had no chance of meeting their obligations are to be saved. Everybody will contribute and the entire global monetary system is threatened. It is safe to assume that, while some banks will be saved, the redistributed debt will drag down more innocents than anticipated.

To its own peril and to the detriment of international stability, the praxis behind “Europe” is degenerating. Europe has a tradition of resistance to centralism. This applies to Charles the Great, the Sun King, Bonaparte, Hitler, and Stalin. Bureaucratic centralism’s project is unlikely to fare better once its fig leaf covering is welted. Wanting to force Europe, through administrative constraints, into a mold that ignores its organically determined pre-disposition, is not accidental. The attempt reflects the inclinations and political shrewdness of the West’s ’68-ers. Their left-collectivistic program is best realized through “Brussels” where they can act for the “masses” without having to consult them. The growing power of the center is exercised without a real democratic mandate and it is legitimized by an abstract and therefore stage-manageable idea. Accountability does not exist as the system is run without the endorsement of voters empowered to dismiss their “leaders”. 

Quite frequently, the political class of the member countries favors the system. The responsibility for underperformance can be attributed to EU obligations. Similarly, popular demands can be declared to be “invalid” and “illegal” as they might contradict “Brussels”. Meanwhile, if challenged, local leaders can count on the “center’s” endorsement. The coin has a reverse side. Governments that assert sovereignty in a way that contradicts the “Party line” are censured, pilloried, and even targeted for removal. Countries that resist their subordination and refuse membership by a popular vote are threatened with strangulation. Such means help those that have power and these can pursue their course regardless of the ignored majority. In the long term, this pressure will not weld together what is separate while the heat generated in the process could burn the hands that steer the project.


Maybe I am imagining things because I am currently studying about Napoleon, but is not the motive for the European Union and its unifying spiritual force nothing more than the same intellectual leanings expressed by Napoleon?