Europe should have really just stuck to being a common market.
Donâ€™t take me wrong, I do understand and have some sympathy with the Pan-European sentiment of the founding fathers of European unity â€“ the feeling that after two world wars, which were really mostly just European civil wars, the continent could benefit from a bit less action and a bit more conversation. The problem is that right from the start of the European project in the ashes of World War Two there were always some influential movers and shakers (some would say most of them) whose vision was the United States of Europe rather than â€œthe Europe of nationsâ€. And they certainly made up in zeal what they lacked in historicity and realism. The last time most of what is now considered Europe had been united was under the Roman hegemony. A lot of water under the bridge since then, which is why no one, not Charlemagne, not the Habsburgs or the Bourbons, not Napoleon, not Hitler, have managed to put the Humpty-Dumpty back together. Intelligent people took note of that fact; federalist dreamers and ideologues merely thought that peoples with their cultures and histories are but minor speedbumps that can mildly inconvenience but not slow down or halt the supranational steamroller.
Which is why we have had several decades of leftist and centrist technocrats building their own Euro castle in the best feudal tradition, with the peasants best seen, not heard, but ideally neither, just paying their extortionate taxes and enjoying bread and circuses. Which is also why the European project is in deep shit now, because the serfs increasingly have had the gutful, seeing that unlike their ancestors a millennium ago they are now supposed to be consulted and listened to. At least thatâ€™s the theory.
And which is why the current European Council President, Polandâ€™s Donald (yes, there are sane people who share that name) Tusk, recently rallied against â€œa utopia of Europe without nation states, a utopia of Europe without conflicting interests and ambitions, a utopia of Europe imposing its own values on the external world. A utopia of a Euro-Asian unity.â€
Itâ€™s not unusual that it takes a Pole to utter some long-overdue common sense, even if I say so myself (and say it often). Tusk was speaking at an event marking the 40th anniversary of European People Party, or what the centre-right Christian Democrats call themselves in the European Parliament. He went on in a mea culpa mode:
Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe do not share our Euro-enthusiasm. Disillusioned with the great visions of the future, they demand that we cope with the present reality better than we have been doing until now. Today, Euro-scepticism, or even Euro-pessimism have become an alternative to those illusions. And increasingly louder are those who question the very principle of a united Europe. The spectre of a break-up is haunting Europe and a vision of a federation doesn’t seem to me like the best answer to it. We need to understand the necessity of the historical moment.
All very nice, but one gets an uncomfortable impression of too little too late. Perhaps if the European People Party did not spend most of the past forty years also being part of the problem it would now find it easier to be the part of the solution.
And so, united Europe joins the long list of otherwise noble and beautiful ideas fucked up by the left in the cold hard reality of implementation. What is just as sad is that Europeâ€™s centre-right, as centre-right as it is, has mostly aided and abetted the process. If fascism, populism and demagoguery are now rearing their ugly heads yet again throughout Europe itâ€™s to a large degree because the moderate right has failed to act as a sensible break on and counterbalance to the leftâ€™s utopian, elitist and anti-democratic aspirations. Herein lies a sad lesson for Europe â€“ and increasingly for the United States and the rest of the world.