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Rudderless Europe

6.28.2005

There is an interesting take over at openDemocracy on the recent convulsions in the EU over the Constitution and the Rebate debate. The commentary, written by “Simon Berlaymont”, is a piece which chimes closely with my own reading of the situation facing Europe currently. The point of the fact is that the EU is not and never will be a Super-State and in representing this as its goal, both Euro-sceptics and Euro-federalists are misrepresenting the more global cases in favour of the EU.
These cases are the peace and prosperity offered by the EU since 1945 to citizens of what was once the most violent continent on earth coupled with the stabilising force which western EU provided to the Eastern countries following the fall of communism.
Of course most of us living in the EU are nominally aware of our cultural inheritance stemming from the formation of the EU and the post-war settlement across most of Western Europe. We have moved farther and farther away from the EU though as time has passed. The foremost of its achievements is no longer considered with gravitas among the younger EU generations. The threat of violence has not hung over us for a long time. Instead we take for granted the rule of law and the power to determine our movement across a continent that many see as naturally united.
It was not always so and the majority of our history is divisive and violent. Our current penchant for communal markets and regulation is an aberration from history and perhaps the best example of progress in our society.
The commentary from OD, perhaps obliquely or in abstract, suggests that the EU has now begun to lose its narrative and lost sight of its greatest strengths. There are and always will be a need for the EU to regulate and instigate shared relations and commerce between European states. It provides us with the greatest of platforms from which to spread or develop democracy and freedom for people.
At its finest the EU can act as the buffer between corporate interest and exploitation and the free individuals of Europe. There is a move it seems among those who are in or around Europe to finally move to reconnect and develop a narrative. By bringing the EU debate to the social aspects, by taking the debate away from the purpose of the EU and its natural domain and into that of the Nation state the leaders of the EU may be setting in train a process of encroachment that may do more harm than good.
I agree the EU bubble has probably now burst, but demographics ensured that EU was always going to lose touch or become irrelevant with the younger voters/citizens. A period of reflection, as Blair called it, is just the thing. I hope that on reflection those in Brussels decide to read what we are saying and writing about the EU.
By listening and developing a narrative for the next generation of Europeans, the EU may pull itself out of its nosedive.
Where does it go from here? In terms of policy that is a matter for national governments, in terms of purpose vision and direction the EU must be put on the track of employment, democracy and protection of individual freedom from corporations (that latter is my own hope and not currently the EU raison detre.
By creating a Europe wide consensus on the good work a large regulator can do, it’s the only way to cope with multinationals, and further increasing our democratic stake in controlling our common market and thus our interests, the EU can make a lot of headway. Here’s Hoping, but not too much.
RR

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