“I have never understood why public opinion about European ideas should be taken into account.” Attributed to Raymond Barre, former French premier and European commissioner
This quotation accurately, honestly and succinctly characterises both the original and the current attitudes that underpin the whole European Union project. The whole is a castle built on the sands of elitist disdain for the peoples of Europe and their democratic regimes.
We know that it is not possible to build a flourishing community that both requires and disdains the active participation of its citizens. To win active participation democracy is required: if democracy is disdained then autocracy is required. The EU is an autocratic regime imposed on its peoples, with the consent of their elected representatives.
An organisation founded on contempt for its members cannot be reformed. Re-colouring the logo on a bulldozer doesn’t make it a bus. A European community would be a good idea but the idea has to start from respect not from contempt. A democracy can seem messy and unreliable to those in charge but, as has often been said, all the alternatives that have been tried are worse. This includes the EU which, like any other autocratic regime, is unaccountable and unremovable, by design.
Increasingly, commercial, social and financial innovations are coming from other global organisations, such as the Council of Europe (see Europe versus EU), and are based in respect for, and an understanding of, changing circumstances and cultural forces. The EU has taken on some of these ideas, belatedly, and decided that they need to be expressed as uniform laws and regulations rather than as standards or recommendations that need democratic legitimacy before they can be implemented.
The arguments in support are based on two assumptions. The first is that Europe’s nation states are not capable of delivering their own improvements to economic, democratic and social circumstances, let alone that they can collaborate, other than through EU/EMU, to provide an environment that is congenial to efficient development. The second assumption is that a self-selected group of professional bureaucrats has the ability to achieve what individual nations cannot. From these assumptions the conclusion is drawn that the nations of Europe must pass substantial responsibility for development to a central, non-sovereign authority, which the professional bureaucrats will manage to the benefit of all.
The EU project is misdirected and misrepresented. The true agenda – ever-closer union – is not the declared agenda and the declared agenda – a better and fairer life for all citizens – is designed to cover up the true agenda. The true agenda is to be achieved by fiat; by member states giving up ever more of their sovereignty.
EU/EMU have a hidden agenda – central control – obscured by an unachievable goal: unachievable in principle because the divergent realities of economic, democratic and social development contradict the goal of union, and unachievable in practice because the juggernaut does not have the capability to achieve the declared goals.
The unjustified centralisation and top-down control provide sufficiently strong reasons for Britain, having avoided joining EMU, to leave the EU, before it collapses chaotically and destructively from the failures of its own logic and the inabilities of its managers to deliver outcomes that meet the needs of the peoples of Europe.
The current ‘professionals’ and their predecessors have overseen an EU of low economic growth, high unemployment and growing extremism. This despite their unshakeable confidence in their own abilities.
The resultant squabbles and compromises illustrate the underlying tension between the Commissioners’ demands for uniformity (dressed up as ‘union’) and the wish of citizens to have a say in their economic and legal systems. This tension cannot be resolved by soft words as it goes to the heart of the EU’s ambitions. In the end the people will decide, with or without the compliance of their ‘betters’ and this is the risk the EU is taking.
It is good to have ideals provided they don’t become ideologies. We should respond to experience and not just make excuses when schemes aren’t working. Science succeeds (eventually) by continuous feedback between theory and evidence but all too often the social sciences lack this discipline (of falsifiability). The theories are never wrong, they just haven’t been tried properly so need more time and patience.
The EU’s vision and its method have seen some progress but this has not been smooth and the conceptual faults are being brutally exposed. We are seeing the reversal of its liberal agenda, where solutions are imposed, in spite of their devastating effects on people and communities, to save the principles underlying its simplistic philosophy of human society (i.e. that the social and cultural differences developed over many generations can be formally dissolved without raising the destructive ire of the people, which recent events and polled opinions confirm is unrealistic).
We can see that the reforms required are fundamental and can only be achieved by a new treaty that replaces existing treaties. The EU will not allow such fundamental reform.
If the EU does collapse under the weight of its contradictions, then an alternative community of the nations of Europe may be formed, with more emphasis on the economic, social, intellectual and environmental benefits of collaboration and less on the need to interfere with political realities in order to exclude majorities from active participation. That is a community we should welcome and join.