EU fails to smother the resurgent nation state

The European project is designed to smother the nation state, and democracy with it. But the cracks in that edifice are now so wide that it can only be a matter of time before the resurgent nation state strikes back with a lethal blow

A flag nobody salutes
Tim Hedges
On 4 July 2018 11:30

I have always found it hard to argue with people who treat the European project as a cause or religion; Europeanists, I call them. They always try to make out that their case is normality, and that I am some sort of old fashioned xenophobe not to agree.

An exception has been perhaps the only straightforward one I have met, a European economist who blogs, in English, under the name Claude Nougat.

Claude, when I mentioned how I was disturbed at the damage the EU was doing to the nation state, told me to my face: ‘No, that is the whole issue, our aim is to destroy the nation state.’ I often think of that moment: it is how I now judge the progress of the EU. Has it smothered independent regional thought or are there pockets of resistance?

The last summit gives us much to work on. It had initially been pencilled in as the summit on the Eurozone, where the Franco-German ‘engine’ was going to propose the future of the 19 countries, without much asking the other 17 what they thought.

Then there was the emergency summit to keep Angela Merkel in office, irrespective of whether that is a proper use of civil servants’ time.

Then there was Brexit. On this the EU are maintaining that there must be no deviation from existing principles; that is to say they are refusing to negotiate.

On the Eurozone the Franco-German engine is pulling in different directions, and the German V8 is stopping any movement towards France. So a statement went out summarising the areas they did agree, which wasn’t much.

On Brexit a statement went out saying they agreed on the usual, which wasn’t new.

And on immigration they all agreed there should be camps set up abroad, although they agreed this will be really difficult and a few UN agencies would have to get involved (enough to ensure nothing happens for ten years).

Furthermore, secure camps could be set up in Europe but this would be on a voluntary basis. Mr Macron has already confirmed the French wouldn’t have one and the number of volunteers is likely to be zero.

It makes you realise how in the past people have been happy to be fobbed off with the ‘we are all unified, and making slow but steady progress’ shtick which has been the result of almost every summit since Maastricht. Now, things have changed -- not in the lack of unity, that has always been there, but in people’s willingness to make their views heard above the unity story.

Giuseppe Conte and Matteo Salvini in Italy have been traduced, there is almost no other word for it, by unelected bureaucrats whose interest is that nothing changes. Horst Seehofer, the home minister of Germany, who wanted some defence against migrants from Italy, has also been let down, but has withdrawn his resignation in favour of a stitch-up on the Austrian border.

These men, coming from different sides of the argument, are enraged at the bland statements put out, supposedly in their names, but written by people who simply don’t want any trouble. This speaking out against the guardians of the Europeanist flame is a new phenomenon, and very worrying for the powers that be.

Salvini and Seehofer can see the benefit of straight talking and will not be quiet for long. They will be joined by Sebastian Kurz of Austria, new rotating president of the European Council, who sees this as a reason to rip up the Schengen Agreement.

There are people in the EU, on both sides of the immigration debate, who are capable of independent thought and speaking their minds. The nation state lives on.

Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here

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