Much to their detriment, Americans like to ignore the world. Accordingly, they do not appreciate reminders that, like it or not, the rest of the world is out there. Worse, some of its “leading leaders” have rabies and “bite”. Aware of the provocation, Duly Noted has often indulged in its own version of “globalism”. In doing so, the European Union had received much attention.
If by your unearned luck you are an American reader, you wonder why the EU should be of concern to you. The evolvement of the Union will determine the quality of that entity and thereby its worth as a major ally. A federation might emerge that will, in a future crisis, be “neutral against the USA”. If some of this is true, the way Europe’s content will develop is of geopolitical significance.
Be reminded that Europe is a major world player. However, by its choice, it punches well under its weight class. With 500 million inhabitants and members rated as leading economies and with three of them listed among the great powers –England, France and Germany- Europe matters. It also counts as it had generated the forces that made the modern world. The Renaissance, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, modern science, from rocketry to cybernetics is, besides some key components of democracy, Europe’s contribution to the present. At the same time, two world wars and some of destructive systems of mass murder - Fascism, National Socialism and Communism- are also European products.
Viewed globally, Europe’s achievements - rounded out by the contribution of her overseas extensions- have made it a culture of reference. However, the caveats of that evaluation counsel to caution.
By the 20th century, the highs achieved in the arts, science, medicine, economics, have been unmatched by the Continent’s political performance. Staging the world wars expresses that. Europe’s efforts to protect past achievements and to project these into the future have been less than satisfactory. This holds especially true in the post WW2 period when the independence of Western Europe had to be maintained –even after the post-war recovery- by an extra-European power.
Europe’s weakness is caused by an amalgam. Its components are failing vision, misjudged threats, unfounded assumptions about security, and an unwillingness to sacrifice to protect values declared non-negotiable.
An adjunct is to be added. Politicians are inclined to underrate threats, so they promise to voters that should know better that there are no enemies, and that the proclaimed intentions of these are not meant seriously. The notion of “security for free” is a drug. Its lulling consumption is difficult to cut when illusions dissipate and resistance is called for.
Disturbing trends emerge once the Union’s development is examined. To begin: the analogy of the United States of America and the United States of Europe is misleading. America’s union project –even if there might have been an emerging Southern nation- has not encountered functioning, historical and conscious national entities. The Civil War has determined that America would not continue to develop as a confederation. Given “federalism’s” practice, the components of an expanding USA could live with that result.
East or West, Europe is peacefully and consensually not unifiable the way “United” in “United States” suggests. To create a unitary state here, one needs to weld together what does not wish to fit together. Europe’s states are not administrative conveniences but the products of diverging traditions and languages. Since Europe is an entity without a matching people, any plan to unite it administratively while also upholding liberty and identities, implies a commitment to contradictory concepts. This testifies to ignorance, to the pursuit of a hidden agenda –or both.
The foregoing should not be taken to indicate that some sort of a European Union must be a threat to the collective personality of its member nations. Decisive is the nature of the federation that can be had, while the values of democracy and the goal of prosperity are preserved.
Therefore, the question is what kind of a union is achievable that does not make the resulting entity into a “jailhouse of nations” as was the Russian Empire, the empire of the Habsburgs, Hitler’s Reich and Stalin’s uncompleted project.
By such standards, disturbing problems emerge. The original concept of an EU had been to guarantee the independence of sovereign states that were committed to defend shared values. These were “democracy”, limited self-government to cultivate localism, and a free market. The collective pursuit of shared objectives assumed freely extended cooperation among like-minded states. This is the juncture where the original principle departs from contemporary practice.
Operating a federation demands patience and the modesty of its managers. Europe’s tradition of centralism, enhanced by the natural craving for power, has resulted in a construction that defies its original purpose.
As the tasks of the EU grew, their implementation was assigned to bureaucratic agencies. As these duties widened the administrators saw their power expand. Bureaucracies upgrade their importance by extending their sway and by usurping power that is reserved for legislatives. In the case of the supranational Eurocrats, this grab has been facilitated because there is no European people and so, there can be no controlling national government. The supervising Commissioners are themselves bureaucratic creatures whose loyalty is more to administrative organs than to a non-existing people. The result is turf extension –and to create jobs for the like minded. The result is a system that is not governed by a responsible cabinet-like institution but by an interlocking system of regulations and officials.
Eurocracy is involved in a discernible campaign. Stealthily it seeks to expand its power to become a supranational equivalent of a national government. Lenin and Stalin wished to have totalitarian power to create the New Socialist Man that, as they had to admit, history failed to create. The faceless in charge of EU institutions wish to use their might to create the yet missing people to match the structure they operate.
That project finds that national identity and its institutions block the way to unity. This redefines independences as a hindrance and not a status to be preserved.
The creeping expansion makes the EU increasingly authoritarian. For that reason, the union has accepted underdeveloped states that were unqualified for membership. Being unripe, such countries incline to submit to tutelage in exchange for funding that feeds, if not the people, then the elites. An adjunct to admission against the statutes is the negative view of those that dare to refuse membership. Peripheral Norway gives money to buy its independence. Eight million Swiss send a billion to Brussels, ostensibly, to finance the upgrading of the underdeveloped members of a federation of which it is not a member. A steep price paid to be left alone, you might say. (Switzerland is a non-member because its system of direct democracy let her people to vote down the project to join.) Even so, the pressure on the recalcitrant is considerable. Conforming in some areas –border controls and immigration- to EU norms is not a question of persuasion but of pressure. In disputes regarding cooperation, the EU even demands that EU courts adjudicate the case. At the same time, members that show signs of wanting to “take their country back”, are exposed to serious threats. In case that a British exit materializes, London will face threats it has not seen since Hitler.
We are left with the impression that liberty in the EU is reduced to the right to agree with its central organs. This makes the personnel that run Europe into left-of-center collectivists. Binding more tightly than the inclination of the parts of an artificial construction allows, absorbs much energy. Shoring up the internal power base leaves little energy to counter outside threats -IS, Iran, Putin’s Russia.
Consequently, if the EU’s current course continues, its value as a member of the Atlantic Alliance will not improve. The implications of that are easily guessed.