Barroso's scare tactics show an EU consumed with fear
The Europhiles are frightened and they're weak. And they're frightened because, at some level, even they know just how weak their arguments are
Unless you've spent a decent amount of time living in continental Europe, it can be hard to appreciate the sheer poverty of the debate about the European Union. Bread and butter issues such as the structural flaws of the Euro, the gaping hole in the EU's democratic legitimacy or the manifest failure of the EU's much vaunted Common Foreign and Security Policy, go largely undiscussed.
And I'm not just talking about the narratives pushed by the pro-EU politicians. I've met professors at leading European universities who, when I raised the problem of a lack of a demos -- the core pre-requisite to a democratic polity -- looked at me as though I'd addressed them in the ancient Greek language from which that term ultimately derives. That utter inability to address the most important issues trickles down into the media. Hence the mess Europe is in.
But there's a reason for this, and in his State of the Union speech -- if you can bear the mental torture, see the pre-prepared version in full here -- to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso laid it out for anyone who has eyes to see:
"Next year, it will be one century after the start of the First World War. A war that tore Europe apart, from Sarajevo to the Somme. We must never take peace for granted."
"Let me say this to all those who rejoice in Europe's difficulties and who want to roll back our integration and go back to isolation: the pre-integrated Europe of the divisions, the war, the trenches, is not what people desire and deserve. The European continent has never in its history known such a long period of peace as since the creation of the European Community. It is our duty to preserve it and deepen it."
What you have just read is what now passes for the underlying, legitimising narrative of the European Union: You either go with us towards a more deeply integrated and politically unified Europe, or it's back to war.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, said something similar a while back about what would happen if the Euro was allowed to fail. I cannot even count the number of times I have heard the same theme at conferences hosted by supposedly respectable think tanks around Europe.
It is a narrative of fear. It is designed to frighten people against asking all the serious and necessary questions. And it comes from the most fundamental of misunderstandings about why war consumed Europe in the first half of the 20th century. For it assumes that it was the presence of nationalism rather than the absence of democracy that caused Europe's problems.
In reality nationalism was not the problem, not when you really drill down to the bottom of it all. Churchill rallied the British people to play a decisive role in defeating the Nazis by appealing to Britain's sense of itself as a democratic nation that would not stand for the arrogance and brutality of tyranny. Leaders from America, Canada and beyond did the same. It is no exaggeration to say that democratic nationalism saved the free world.
It is a long and winding road to bring this all back to the current debate about the modern European project and its obvious failings. But it is a rich and fruitful debate, and one that will cast the British position over Europe in a powerfully positive light. There is no "European People". There is no demos.
And that means that as more and more power is taken away from the nation states -- the only place where democratic peoplehood has genuine resonance -- European democracy dies a death of a thousand cuts.
Barroso and company tore decades of growing democratic precedents to pieces with the shameful repeat referendums of the last decade. When Ireland said no, it was told to vote again until it said yes. When France and the Netherlands said no, they were trampled on, ignored.
The Lisbon Treaty for which the EU fought, regardless of conscience and procedure, is the legal basis of the European Union. If it had been a business transaction, people would have gone to jail for fraud.
Jose Manuel Barroso, and the whole motley crew, are the enemies of European democracy. Their actions threaten to destroy everything they so falsely and so weakly claim to uphold.
That is why you are being told that, if you think matters through, you're sending us back to the killing fields of the Somme. These people are frightened and they're weak. And they're frightened because, at some level, even they know just how weak they are.
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