All hail President Blair! Er... or not?
Tony Blair sought to answer Henry Kissinger's old question yesterday. If he wants to call Europe, just pick up and say "Yo Blair!"... apparently.
In a taped interview with The Times yesterday it was revealed that Tony Blair believes that what the EU needs, really needs – much more than an end to the Euro, or a strong opposition in its Parliament, or a hefty cut to its obscenely bloated budget – is an elected President to bring to Europe a model of “strong, collective leadership and direction”.
There was a time during the dark days of the Brown Government, when the country seemed to be inexorably sliding into the sort of socialist nightmare Ayn Rand correctly describes as ‘hell’, in which I found myself – for a brief moment – nostalgically longing for the Blair era. How I laughed at my naiveté for even entertaining such a thought as I listened to ‘Blair on Europe’.
“In the world in which China is going to become the dominant power of the 21st Century, it is sensible for Europe to combine together, to use its collective weight in order to achieve influence and the rational for Europe today is therefore about power, not peace.” He goes on: “We won’t have the weight and influence that a country like Britain needs unless we’re part of that European power as well”.
What can he possibly mean? I’ll be honest, I’m baffled. Does Blair – leader of our proud nation for ten years and now 'International Statesperson' (if such a thing exists) really believe that the Chinese economy is growing at pace simply because China has a large landmass and a great many people? If so, how does he account for the fact that the tiny nation state of Britain held a global empire whilst home to only 35million people? Has the fact that the Chinese economy is 70%+ privatised completely escaped him? And if not, is there really no part of him that makes a link between the freeing of China’s markets with that country’s competitiveness on a global scale?
Why does he believe that Britain will have more influence as one region in a collective of 27 then it will as a single entity? My first political job was in the European Parliament, of which I knew painfully little when I first arrived. It was also my first experience of living on the continent. Time and again I was amazed by the arguments advanced by British integrationists: that Britain desperately needed to be part of an ever more unified Europe because her day had passed, because Britain could be Great no more, because outside, on our own out in the cold we would be just another tiny island at the mercy of the Big Powers. I think that’s nonsense.
Nations don’t rise (or fall) because of how many people live within them. They don’t command respect globally because they happen to be spread over a large land mass. Nations become powerful when the minds within them are set free to produce, to invest, to achieve, and most of all: to compete. Shackling a number of nations together, many of whom have little more in common than geographical location, will not afford Blair the sort of clout on the world stage that he craves.
I hope you’ll forgive me a moment of cynicism, but my suspicion is that it is precisely that clout, sought by a man who has lost his position on the world stage, that has inspired these musings – and thoughts of an EU Presidency – in Blair. To give him his dues, he has identified a few problems with the European Union. He talks about a third way (another third way) for Europe which avoids the dissolving of the whole project, but also rules out more power for the Commission. Instead, the President of Europe could simply take charge. I suppose this would solve Henry Kissinger’s European problem – he would finally know who to call.
But Blair also acknowledges that the idea would be a hard sell to the people of Europe. No kidding. With the EU’s record on democracy thus far do you blame them? With the French and Dutch ‘No’ votes on the Constitution ignored by simply renaming the document, and the Irish asked to go away and vote again until they got the right answer on Lisbon, the concept of democracy in the EU starts to look a little hazy. A slightly more in depth look at the unelected Commission – which sets the agenda, and the elected Parliament – which has no meaningful opposition, reveals a democratic deficit that is difficult for anyone to coherently defend.
In a speech to the European Parliament in 2009, Vaclav Klaus, then President of the Czech Republic said “Since there is no European demos – and no European nation – this [democratic] defect cannot be solved by strengthening the role of the European parliament. This would, on the contrary, make the problem worse and lead to an even greater alienation between the citizens of the European countries and Union institutions.”
This is the fundamental flaw in the European integrationist project. Those in favour think that by simply willing it to be so, by using ‘collective weight’ and the power of force they can somehow steamroller the people of Europe into becoming one entity, and the people of the world into respecting their influence. People like Vaclav Klaus, who have lived under a regime of totalitarian oppression, know that however nicely it is presented, even a democratically elected leader, without the true support of the people is nothing but a sanctioned dictator.
Donna Edmunds is Director of Research at Progressive Vision, a libertarian think-tank. She tweets at: @
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