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Shock new EU memo, or why the EU still doesn’t get it

The European Union says they get it. Then they show they don’t.

This is pretty much the only conclusion I can draw from reading a leaked copy of the post-Brexit memo prepared jointly by France and Germany for the presentation to the so called “Wyszehrad Group”, composed of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Write Foreign Ministers Jean-Marc Ayrault and Frank-Walter Steinmeier:

“We must… acknowledge that support and passion for our common project has faded over the past decade in parts of our societies. Neither a simple call for more Europe nor a phase of mere reflection can be an adequate answer.”

But in the next paragraph:

“We will… move further towards political union in Europe.”

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So people don’t want more Europe, and the EU acknowledges that more Europe is not an adequate answer, but the EU will move towards more Europe. This is precisely why so many people hate the Union.

The 9-page memo was leaked to a Polish TV channel, and you can read the whole document here. Some didn’t, hence rather breathless headlines like this from the UK’s “Express” newspaper: “European SUPERSTATE to be unveiled: EU nations ‘to be morphed into one’ post-Brexit”.

 

The “Express” goes on to report:

The foreign ministers of France and Germany are due to reveal a blueprint to effectively do away with individual member states in what is being described as an “ultimatum”.

Under the radical proposals EU countries will lose the right to have their own army, criminal law, taxation system or central bank, with all those powers being transferred to Brussels.

Controversially member states would also lose what few controls they have left over their own borders, including the procedure for admitting and relocating refugees.

That’s actually not what the document is saying, at least for the most part. What it does call for, among other things:

  • Stronger move towards a common security policy, which has been talked about incessantly for the past few decades, including a standing EU quick-response force.
  • Harmonising domestic criminal laws to the extent of giving the European public prosecutor’s office the power to pursue terrorism and organised crime (in addition to some financial offences currently).

It is, however, true to say that France and Germany want to see further economic integration, including further tax and welfare harmonisation, as well as a common, no-exceptions, immigration and refugee policy, including a EU border force.

What matters in the end is not anything that the document might specifically say or not say, but its general direction, which is an ever-greater integration. Contra “Express”, there are no proscription for a European “superstate”, merely more signposts and more small bricks towards constructing one. And despite protestations, there is nothing in the memo that indicates France and Germany really understand the popular concerns and discontent not just in Great Britain but across the whole continent. There is certainly nothing there to make the Union more democratic and more responsive to the needs and desires of the actual people it seeks to unite.

The problem – which the Union enthusiasts continue not to get, or if they do get it, disregard it – is the futility and absurdity of trying to homogenise and standardise a whole continent.

What the Europeans share is geography, common Christian heritage (which the EU disdains), and in a very broad and vague way, culture. Beyond that, there is not much commonality between a Pole and a Portuguese, or a Swede and a Greek. Some European countries are more pro-American, some more pro-Russian, some more open to Africa and the Middle East, others not, some more outward looking, some inward, some more communitarian, some more individualistic, some more cohesive, some more chaotic, some more market-oriented, some more statist. What France and Germany and other EU champions are trying to do is to fit this melange of different and often conflicting outlooks, interests and desires into a Procrustean bed of unity. If you know what a Procrustean bed is, you are a part of the European cultural heritage, and if you know what it is, you should also know why it’s a bad idea.

I love Europe, but I love it in all its crazy variety. A common European market, or effectively a free trade area, has always been desirable, and a lot of cooperation and harmonisation is needed and positive. But to turn the “European project” into a melting pot is a sheer folly, which has created a widespread anti-EU resentment of the kind that animated Brexit, and which is only bound to grow as the realisation dawns the Euro-elites really don’t give a shit what majorities of their populations think and want.

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