Being a member of the European political class means never having to say you are wrong — much less, of course, having to say you are sorry. As a member of this self-perpetuating magic circle, you don’t have to learn from experience, consider the evidence, apply logic, or worry about the consequences. There are always expenses at the end of the tunnel.
Like the white man who speaks with forked tongue, or the Muslim permitted to use taqqiya to mislead the infidel, the Eurocrat never quite means what he says or says what he means. Indeed, what he says is compatible with almost anything, and this quality of emptying definite meaning from grammatically formed sentences full of polysyllables has been a characteristic from the very inception of what is now the European Union.
One of its founders, Jean Monnet, said more than 50 years ago:
We want the Community to be a gradual process of change. Attempting to predict the form it will finally take is therefore a contradiction in terms. Anticipating the outcome kills invention. It is only as we push forwards and upwards that we will discover new horizons.
It would, however, be quite wrong to conclude from this strange mixture of mystical exaltation and interdepartmental memo that Monnet did not know what he was about or what he wanted. He wanted a federal state of Europe, but knew that public opinion would not stand for it anywhere if it were spelled in so many words (which is why, in fact, he used so many words). Centralization by stealth was what was needed to achieve his goal.
Herman van Rompuy, the Belgian “president” of Europe whose electoral record makes Stalin’s positively shine (Stalin received too many votes, van Rompuy none at all), is Monnet’s spiritual heir, if one can apply such a term to such men. In a speech last November, van Rompuy — grey of face, grey of suit, grey of speech, and grey of thought — declared national sovereignty in Europe dead, not appearing to notice that his position was approximately that of a murderer who stands over his victim’s corpse muttering, “He’s gone, he’s gone!”
Another thing that Mr. van Rompuy appears not to have noticed is the situation in his own federal homeland, Belgium, which has now been without a central government for nearly 400 days (amen to that, I hear libertarians murmur, forgetting that there are more ways of fleecing the population than by a central government). The reason is that, after 180 years of cohabitation within the confines of the same state, the Walloons and the Flemings cannot agree on common interests deep or wide enough to make a central government acceptable to them both — and this despite the fact that their leaders would profit personally if they did so.
Now one might have thought that the failure of a country small enough to drive across in two hours to unite after nearly 200 years of experience of trying to forge a workable political identity would give the Eurocrats pause: but one would be wrong, not a bit of it. For in a certain sense the Eurocrats are highly imaginative, if an ability not to draw the most obvious conclusions from the most obvious facts, but rather to draw quite opposite conclusions, counts as imagination.