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Its the narrative-stupid!!!!

6.18.2005

Obviously one can gather from the last post that I am irate at the manner in which a sovereign decision of citizens of two states in the EU to reject the provisional constitution have been hijacked to satisfy political gamesmanship rather than addressed by those appointed to do so. However I am not posting here to again berate the Kids at the party.
The Modern EU is founded on a principle of peace and shared resources and prosperity, this is our common tale of how the EU was founded and suitably romantic for all Europhiles, however a major factor in the foundation of the EU was realpolitik. The French wished to devise a means of tying Germany to Europe and preventing the strongest nation from terrorising the continent for a third time. To do this the French bit a diplomatic bullet and along with the other core states pooled resources into the coal and steel community.
The EU has come along way since then but if anything the recriminations emanating from the recent constitutional process (from conception to painful abortion) points to a failure of vision for the institution.
The EU has long been divisive for left leaning types. The hard core tend to dislike it while the middle class liberal left tend to benefit and enjoy its presence. However the EU is and will be an essential unit of protection in the new century for those of us who enjoy and believe in our political system. Economic and social arguments can and are had within the EU framework but what it guarantees us is unity in democratic principle and ideal. The romance of the EU as such is probably a major contributor to leftie affection for it.
And yet here we stand with two no votes not inconsiderably influenced by the left and by the disillusioned. This is a situation that calls out for more than a national politician; it calls for person who could come to define another European generation. The union needs vision and ability and not least a romantic ideal which the peoples of Europe can adopt, or swallow depending on your own views of the EU.
Yet this has all been lacking and what came forth from the French is perhaps a more damaging prospect still for the EU. Here's why, the EU entered this Budget summit knowing that it has at least another 9 months before panic sets in over completing the budget, as a result it provided a free meeting to try and forge a Euro consensus on the way forward, from things like increasing democracy, increasing its profile and relevance to ideological topics such as the role of the market and the division of power between state and EU at a local and national level. Obviously no major summit would talk such high and flighty talk unless it was necessary. What we lose sight of is that in this case, it is.
The world is faced with the increasing trend toward violent fundamentalism within the political sphere, not just in the east but also in the west. Christianity can be as violent when oppressed as Islam. The State has engaged in two decades of economic integration and barrier reduction aimed at some utopian free market project and emancipation of people from need and thus from war. This nonsense has been undermined since 9/11 and Madrid, and Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Israel etc etc and also the neo-Bolivar Chavez. The world is no longer simple. States and entities are redefining themselves in the wake of the cold war and new divisions are emerging. The EU is the body which can best insulate Europe from geo-political conflict while also fostering accountable and genuinely responsive government. At the moment it is unwieldy and completely uncared for. States do not see it as of essential national interest to promote the EU. They need to bash it for the good of votes and elections. This is short sighted and wrong headed.
The EU is not perfect and many people point to the effect CAP has on keeping African farmers poor. However CAP is not about market access it is about artificially inflating prices to ensure food security and also to encourage rural farmers to stay in the countryside. As one mandarin put it to me;
"They get dole in the city or CAP funding in the country".
The CAP in principle can be a redistributive and progressive policy which maintains food production standards and allows us to control our own output. This structure allows the EU to take funding from across the 25 states of east and west and distribute from rich to poor, it might not do that currently but it can should proper reform be done in a hard headed manner. It makes sense to keep poor farmers in business and promote their welfare. It makes none to give CAP funding to Prince Charles. These anomalies are the EU’s problem. I am a big fan of giving Africa trading access to markets but it might suit them to gain access to a market with high prices than one which is competitive and racing to the bottom of the food chain. Again the CAP falls to the feet of ideologists who desire to rid the potential for human error and inequality from their factorings.
Europe faces a broader problem than CAP or the British Rebate, with the passing of the VE day veterans’ generation and those who remember WWII falling into demographic obscurity, it now lacks a NARRATIVE. Finding one of those is much trickier for 25 states and indeed more difficult than rebate and budget divisions. I’m a fan of the EU and also a fan of EU reform. They don’t seem mutually incompatible.
Red Rover

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