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The Abduction of Europe, or How Jupiter Became a Bull

2-02-2012, 14:00

 

 

WE ARE WATCHING the "abduction of Europe": the European dream of many generations of great European politicians is melting away. It was immediately after the war that Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer, Paul-Henri Spaak and many others laid the ideological foundation of united Europe. In 1962, Harold Macmillan disappointed his audience by saying to the EEC prime ministers that his country was determined to integrate into Europe. The British primer was convinced that his country could look forward to economic growth only as part of a big continental bloc. Today, the British press has dismissed this as a superficial and short-sighted approach which nevertheless was accepted by the larger part of the establishment and which cost dearly to the nation. The Brits, however, are often pushed aside as an insular nation. Le Monde of France betrays its concern by asking "Will Europe repeat the history of the USSR?" It admits, with a great deal of bitterness, that the integration institutes and Euro-bureaucracy which have grown out of proportion "are treated in Europe at best with indifference or at worst are totally rejected."

The European Union was born as a post-Communist and post-Cold War political project by those who were convinced that time had come to set up the United States of Europe, the chance too good to be lost. This is not the first attempt at "globalization of Europe" in its long history. Napoleon relied on the sword and Code Napoleon to unite Europe around France. Generalissimo Alexander Suvorov was one of those in Russia who discerned Napoleon's design to build a new Rome in Europe at the brink of a precipice still during the first round of Napoleonic wars ... There is an opinion that the Third Reich was another, albeit an ugly,attempt to bring Europe together around Germany. The term integration hardly applies: the Nazi ideology rested on the idea of mono-ethnic domination of die Blonde Bestie.

The European Union was the first attempt at peaceful supra-national integration geared at universal criteria of democracy, the free market and inter-national tolerance.

The unifiers, however, stumbled at the early stage - the mishap echoed far and wide. The original idea of a European Federation was buried by Europeans who rejected the draft Constitution of the United States of Europe - the brightly illuminated and lavishly decorated banquet hall was suddenly plunged into twilight. National egoisms drifted away from Brussels toward regional associations united by common interests. Paris looked at the Mediterranean; Warsaw sought leadership in Eastern and partly Central Europe; the Scandinavian and the Baltic countries discovered shared interests; the U.K. remained true to its traditional "sitting on the fence" policy.

The crisis dispersed the groups and drove them into their national niches. This brings to mind the Bible story of the Tower of Babel: "And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said: 'Behold, they are one people, and they have the same language... Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the Lord scattered them abroad... and they stopped building the city" (Genesis 11:5-8).

This was how the latest EU summit looked: Greece flatly refused to let Germany control its budget; in fact, Berlin suggested that Athens should be deprived of the right to use its own money - this right should have been transferred to EU budget commissioner. Greece's petulance was quite understandable; Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Junker and many of the other EU members were dead set against the German plans: with time "budget commissioners" might develop into an institute of extracting finances from the sphere of the EU members' national control.

The Czech Republic and the UK both refused to sign a treaty which imposed financial rules. The day before London had broadly hinted at Germany's domination on the EU market by firing a salvo of sharp criticism at Berlin which ignored the disproportion of EU export surplus.

Ireland, in turn, announced that it would probably need a referendum; other countries doubted that their parliaments would endorse the treaties they had signed in Brussels. Poland, which does not belong to the Eurozone (as well as some other countries) was infuriated to be left in the cold, it wanted its own say at the summits which discussed the future of European currency. On the eve of the Brussels summit, the parliament of Sweden demanded that its fiscal decisions should be kept independent from the EU fiscal structures. President of the European Parliament Martin Schultz criticized what had been done: "Governments are undertaking strong efforts to correct budgetary imbalances on a sustainable basis but further efforts are needed to promote growth and employment. There are no quick fixes. Our action must be determined, persistent and broad-based. We must do more to get Europe out of the crisis."

The builders of the EU Tower prefer to ignore the warnings coming from all sides that the Union suffers from an identity, rather than economic and financial, crisis. It has become abundantly clear that consumer habits based on borrowing, abidance by tax rules and life styles differ from country to country. Neither a single Central Bank nor a single Finance Ministry can be regarded as a panacea. One of the Russian political observers has hit the point by saying that architects of a single European expanse seemed naively convinced that they were dealing with a single nation. As noted in La Repubblica, "never before Lithuanians, Cypriots, Maltians, Slovaks, Italians, Estonians, Brits, and Austrians -not to mention Germans and Frenchmen - have coexisted within integrated statehood, sharing economic resources, thoughts and sentiments." Unwilling to give up their national identities together with a great deal of their sovereignties the Europeans rejected the universal model. The latest outburst of nationalism on the continent is rightly associated not only with the rising wave of immigration but also with the process of leveling down the national in favor of a roadmap of abstract Europeanism.

Having scattered the nations around the Lord stopped their work and destroyed the Tower. The common European "construction project of the century" cannot be suspended - the building will immediately tumble down which makes the situation highly dramatic

The euphoria of the early, romantic stage of Euro integration has evaporated; the fetish which charmed Europe lost much of its former attraction. Abduction of Europe is going on yet "quod licet Jovi..."

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