Not that the EU is an Orwellian dictatorship. Its structures may be undemocratic, its bureaucracy powerful, its propaganda scary; but it doesn’t put us in gulags or confiscate our passports. Nor is van Middelaar any kind of apologist for autocracy. He is plainly a democrat who has written an honest and jargon-free — indeed, almost uniquely in this field, acronym-free — book, seeking to justify the ways of Brussels to man.
Nonetheless, you’re left with a feeling of smallness, almost of tawdriness. The spirit has gone out of the whole scheme. The men who met in the Salon de l’Horloge were idealists, or at least ideologues. They believed, wrongheadedly but sincerely, that merging Europe’s nations would forestall national animosities and bring greater prosperity.