The Sight of Eyes Opening

by Andrew Stuttaford

From Open Europe’s Daily Press Summary:

Writing in FAZ, Berthold Kohler, one of the paper’s editors-in-chief, argues that with the eurozone crisis, a “European political belief bubble has burst. However, there is already a new dogma: The only choice available to Europeans is to seek refuge in a political union.” He goes on to argue, “To believe that [Europe’s] variability could be reduced to a common denominator with a single strike of constitutional and political genius, which the peoples of Europe will enthusiastically agree to in the face of all previous experiences, is to underestimate the strength of their cultures, collective memories, myths and mentalities – the very diversity that belongs to the essence of Europe.”

Writing in Die Welt, politics correspondent Alan Posener argues, “The crisis in Europe is not only about money but also the limits of ‘ever closer union’. Jean Monnet’s model of integration by means of the supranational [European] Commission is outdated.” Posener concludes, “This is a good thing…it is time for proper democracy in Europe.”

It is indeed long past time for proper democracy to be restored in the EU’s Europe, but the first step in that process must be the realization that this simply cannot be achieved at the European level. To repeat the mantra: Without a European demos, a European people, there cannot be a democratic federal or proto-federal EU.

There’s a new book out in the U.K. (Enoch at 100) to mark the centenary of the birth of the British politician, Enoch Powell. To say that Powell was a controversial figure is an understatement, but one of the more striking aspects of the book (which is well worth a look, certainly for anyone interested in British political history) is how Powell, a classical scholar by training and early career, “got” Europe, and how early he did so (as Mrs. Thatcher later acknowledged).  

Brits may never have been the greatest enthusiasts for joining the “Common Market” (as the EEC — the precursor to the EU — was generally known in the U.K.) but many of them were somewhat reassured by the idea that the whole thing was really about little more than free trade. Powell initially thought the same way. Then, thanks to the nature both of his training and his own somewhat exacting personality, he started a close study of the text of the treaties — and he came to realize that this particular vision of Europe was about a great deal more than free trade, and not in a good way.

One of the contributors to Enoch at 100 includes this extract from a 1971 (!) speech by Powell on Britain’s possible membership of the EEC that relates directly to the questions that Posener and Kohler are raising in 2012. Well, better late than never:

The question, then, of membership resolves itself, not ultimately but immediately and on the very threshold, into the most basic of all possible questions which can be addressed to the people of any nation: can they, and will they, so merge themselves with others that, in face of the external world, there is no longer ‘we’ and ‘they’, but only ‘we’; that the interests of the whole are instinctively seen as overriding those of any part; that a single political will and authority, which must necessarily be that supported by the majority, is unconditionally accepted as binding upon all? That is the question. That is what the real debate is about.

Are Greece and Germany a “we”?

To ask that question is to answer it.