Monday, June 20, 2005

The Death of the EU

The unholy triumvirate of France, Germany and Luxembourg are at it again. Far from recognising the message that was sent out to the European elite in the French and Dutch referendums, these three nations are determined to push ahead as much as ever with their own plans for Europe. As far as they are concerned, they are right, and if the rest of the continent doesn't agree with them - well, they can go to hell.

The French and German political elite obviously have a different reason to see the EU succeed than most of the rest of the continent. The formative experiences of Chirac and Schroeder were shaped indelibly by the war, and a project of "ever closer union" to prevent the shame of another continent-wide catastrophe made sense, right from the Treaty of Rome onwards.

But we live in a different world now. It is undoubtedly to the credit of the European institutions that it is now possible to speak of "Europe" as an entity that isn't riven with intercenine warfare. The threat of war between the major powers is now unthinkable. This, however, is the single most important reason why another Europe needs to be found - one which consolidates the work of the second half of the 20th century, but is adaptable to the increasingly globalised world. In particular, it will have to be one ready to meet the challenges of the rise of India and China.

Enlargement was a great success, as it should hopefully integrate the countries of the East into the free market of the West, and the power of the EU as a bloc would be greatly enhanced if there can be considerable Eastern Europe development.

However, whilst Britain and France are at each other's throats over the rebate and the CAP, the EU is going to become detached from the people, and ultimately irrelevant. I lay the blame for this largely at the feet of Chirac. His arrogance cost him the referendum; to make up for his dented ego, he's trying to portray Britain as the bad guy in Europe - being intransigent on the rebate to avoid helping the new countries who need it most.

It's a shrewd tactic to play to the French voters at home. But if it's supposed to help the EU as an entity, it's a disaster. The political class squabbling over a vision of Europe cannot possibly help popular feeling towards the EU. Reconnecting with the wider population of Europe is essential. Whilst Brussels backrooms are de rigeur in decision-making, there's no chance of an EU that can truly represent the people of the continent. Chirac, Schroeder and Juncker are making the death of the EU inevitable.