This post is a detailed, critical review of the State of the Union address to the European Parliament.
This is the EU Commission’s website (in English):
At the top is the priority, which is:
This is the declared priority and the one that wishful thinkers subscribe to. The real priorities, evidenced throughout the Five Presidents Report to which the home screen refers, are increasing union and decreasing divergence. The declared priority is the veil under which the naked ambition to create a federal Europe is barely hidden. The biggest holes in the veil include the absence of “fairness”, “stability” and “democratic accountability”. In reality read ‘growing inequality’, ‘eurozone crises’ and ‘suppression of democracy’. Such deceit is at the root of the EU’s failures, though its proponents do not want to see this.
What follows is our second reaction on reading the full text of Jean-Claude Juncker’s address on 14 September 2016. The text (23 pages plus related documents) can be downloaded from here:
Or you can listen to the President giving his address (or at least parts in English) here:
The final section of the document lists 88 “Citizens’ Dialogues in the Member States” which were held between 1st November 2014 and 10th September 2016. It is notable that none of these dialogues took place in the UK, or involved UK representatives.
Here is the nub of Herr Juncker’s view of the present state of the Union:
“I have witnessed several decades of EU integration … But never before have I seen such little common ground between our Member States. So few areas where they agree to work together. Never before have I heard [/seen] …”. And so on.
Each subsequent “Never before…” attributes responsibility for the EU’s inadequacies to national leaders, their governments and their representatives. One stands out:
“Never before have I seen representatives of the EU institutions setting very different priorities, sometimes in direct opposition to national governments and national Parliaments. It is as if there is almost no intersection between the EU and its national capitals anymore.”
Here he seems to be including members of his own organisation in the blame. He accepts no responsibility, personally or on behalf of the Commission, for the dire state of the EU.
“Do we want to let our Union unravel before our eyes? … our State of the Union moment here in Europe shows very visibly the incomplete nature of our Union.”
It’s all our fault for not agreeing to more Europe. It’s our fault that the Union is incomplete (indeed, we hope we are responsible for delaying progress towards more union).
Most of the rest is an unrelenting stream of praise for himself and his Commission, and their works, in apparent contradiction of his opening remarks. He spins wildly to promote the (soon-to-be-coming) benefits and joys of membership. The purpose, clearly, is to show how wonderful the EU is and how much better it could be if only its members would conform to the overriding ideology and complete the union. That would square the circle.
It is of course a political speech with a clear agenda to push on with increasing union and dilute the opposition. The intensity of the spin is bewildering.
However, the ideology shows through despite J-C’s best efforts to disguise it. Here are selected glimpses, with clarifying commentary, offering a few peeks through the veil.
“Europe can only work if we all work for unity and commonality … Only then will leaders of the EU institutions and national governments be able to regain the trust of Europe’s citizens in our common project … What our citizens need much more is that someone governs.”
We can translate “unity” to mean that we need to buckle down to realising the ideology and “commonality” to mean that we should accept being governed from above and not expect to change that. Not many will believe that working for unity and commonality will be sufficient to “regain the trust of Europe’s citizens” in the EU. He goes on to ‘prove’ that the EU does deliver; though not many will believe that either, since only a few can measure the benefits they are supposed to experience (see the priorities above). As for “…someone governs”, that rips through the veil to reveal the naked truth, that he (and his like) want to govern us all.
“I am convinced the European way of life is something worth preserving. I have the impression that many seem to have forgotten what being European means. What it means to be part of this Union of Europeans.”
What does being European mean, apart from being permanent residents of the continent and having ancestors who were also residents of the continent? Many residents and citizens who fall under the jurisdiction of the EU would not describe themselves as European. Is he harking back to some golden age when there were few outsiders resident on the continent? And yet each ‘European’ is a foreigner in most of Europe, experiencing many differences of language and culture as they move through the region. And there are many ‘Europeans’ scattered widely throughout the non-EU world. None of that matters; what he means by ‘European’ is a citizen of a member state of the EU, which is circular, as he requires.
As so often, J-C falsely conflates being a citizen of the EU with being a European. He needs to do this to get us to think that “the European way of life” is the same as the EU way of life, whatever that might mean. Europe has centuries of history that he can then draw on; the EU is quite new and he knows that to talk of an EU way of life would trigger derision. The sleight of hand is explicit in the final sentence quoted above. But there is no “Union of Europeans”.
“An integral part of our European way of life is our values. The values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law.”
Does everyone share these values? Does no one outside Europe share them? This won’t do as a definition of “our European way of life”. And the rest of this section, entitled “A Europe that preserves our way of life” is little more than a sales list of what he believes the EU has achieved or will achieve, one day. He has to persuade us that the EU represents our European way of life.
“Above all, Europe means peace. It is no coincidence that the longest period of peace in written history in Europe started with the formation of the European Communities.”
This is outrageous and even the graphic that accompanies his claim gives it the lie. The longest period of peace in Europe began with the defeat of fascism in 1945, not with the “European Communities” of 1952. True, an early motive for the “Communities” was to ensure peace in Europe but there is no evidence beyond wishful thinking that the EU or its forbears contributed to that peace. Indeed, that early motive has been subsumed, and lost, in the dream of a federal Europe.
“I cannot and will not accept that Europe is and remains the continent of youth unemployment. I cannot and will not accept that the millennials, Generation Y, might be the first generation in 70 years to be poorer than their parents. Of course, this is mainly a task of national governments.”
Of course he cannot accept these things; but it is and looks likely to remain so. And of course it is the “task of national governments” to change this. And what is the point of the EU if these things are none of its concern or responsibility? However, …
“My Commission enhanced the effectiveness and sped up delivery of the Youth Guarantee. More than 9 million young people have already benefitted from this programme. That is 9 million young people who got a job, traineeship or apprenticeship because of the EU.”
So although it is the task of national governments (and their responsibility for not doing it yet) the EU will show them how. And all will be well if we just place our faith in the super-state (or Superman).
“Solidarity is the glue that keeps our Union together.”
The only thing that will keep the Union together is effective outcomes, for at least a majority of its citizens. ‘Solidarity’ means that everybody (who really counts) should buy into the ideology and make the necessary noises in support. Does anyone who is not befuddled by wishful thinking believe that solidarity around a failing ideology will bring about benefits for more than a self-selected minority?
“Being European, for most of us, also means the euro … Our European budget is living proof of financial solidarity. The euro is an expression of solidarity.”
J-C appears to believe this; certainly he needs to say he does, to keep up appearances, which is all he has to offer. Having experienced it, we now recognise the euro as a disaster moving towards its inevitable conclusion.
“Only together are we and will we remain a force to be reckoned with … Soft power is not enough in our increasingly dangerous neighbourhood.”
“…our High Representative and my Vice-President, is doing a fantastic job. But she needs to become our European Foreign Minister via whom all diplomatic services, of big and small countries alike, pool their forces to achieve leverage in international negotiations.”
“Europe needs to toughen up. Nowhere is this truer than in our defence policy. But without a permanent structure we cannot act effectively.”
The naked ambition is easily visible through this tear in the veil. A “force to be reckoned with”, a Foreign Minister, “a permanent structure”; these are all characteristics of government and go well beyond an economic union, let alone a single market. J-C offers his listeners and readers no reason to believe the implicit claim that a federal government could do better than the member states to protect the people of Europe.
“We should also move towards common military assets, in some cases owned by the EU. And, of course, in full complementarity with NATO.”
He fails to explain how sharing military assets outside NATO would complement that organisation, which has surely contributed more to the defence of Europe than has the EU. Lay out the logic and its lack become clear: ‘Every region needs a defence force.’ ‘A defence force is the responsibility of government.’ Therefore, ‘Europe needs a government.’ This is the political agenda behind the state of the union, as seen by J-C. The strength of his conviction is echoed softly by the weakness of his argument.
“The Lisbon Treaty enables those Member States who wish, to pool their defence capabilities in the form of a permanent structured cooperation. I think the time to make use of this possibility is now.”
The Lisbon Treaty was originally to be the foundation for a constitution for the EU but that was thought to be too risky to declare so the brakes were gently applied. Now they can come off and the true nature of the Treaty can be pushed forward.
“For European defence to be strong, the European defence industry needs to innovate. That is why we will propose before the end of the year a European Defence Fund, to turbo boost research and innovation.”
The implication here is that European defence is weak and that is because the defence industry doesn’t innovate. Unpacked like this, neither premise would be agreed. Nor would a proposal to set up a fund be likely to improve innovation; that is a misunderstanding characteristic of the bureaucratic mind, which doesn’t innovate and has no idea where innovation comes from. That is not to say that European defence companies would not welcome some taxpayers’ money being diverted their way. Or that European countries without defence industries may be less well pleased as they face an even bigger EU budget, or the transfer of some of their subsidies to companies in better-off states.
“The Commission has to take responsibility by being political, and not technocratic.”
“We have to stop with the same old story that success is national, and failure European. Or our common project will not survive.”
J-C has already made his point that failure is national and success is ‘European’, by which he means the EU. It must be annoying that so few agree. But it is the nature of ideology that commitment has to be unwavering and facts have to be re-interpreted to fit the agenda, not the other way about. This ideology will surely bring about the demise of the EU project, were it to be adopted wholeheartedly. Britain has never been wholehearted, as J-C himself has noted, which is why a majority of referendum voters want to leave.
And finally, in the conclusion, comes the emotional history that has seen a worthy ideal dragged down into a worthless ideology:
“I am as young as the European project that turns 60 next year in March 2017. I have lived it, worked for it, my whole life. My father believed in Europe because he believed in stability, workers’ rights and social progress. Because he understood all too well that peace in Europe was precious – and fragile. I believe in Europe because my father taught me those same values. But what are we teaching our children now? What will they inherit from us? A Union that unravels in disunity? A Union that has forgotten its past and has no vision for the future?”
If the EU “unravels in disunity” it will because J-C and his co-ideologists are unable to distinguish the true benefits of a genuine unity from their own commitment to a project from which they, almost alone, benefit. They have not only discredited a potentially sound project and made it vulnerable to collapse but they have made it much more difficult for citizens of Europe to trust that a better project could be created to serve their interests and engage them actively in its furtherance. That is what “our children … will inherit”. And what he has done with his father’s values.
It’s clear that the EU bigwigs aren’t very confident about the future. If they were they’d tell Britain they’re sorry we don’t share their vision and enthusiasm but wish us good luck and ask how we think we could best cooperate from now on. Instead we’ve insulted their faith and provided an example to other potential apostates. So they want to punish us, for revenge and as a lesson to others. This practically defines ideologists.