Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In the late 1980s the USSR, Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire,” imploded. America might soon be confronted with another evil empire. Tomorrow, Europe’s politicians meet in Brussels to discuss how they can revive the constitutional treaty, often called the European Constitution, a bloated blueprint (more than 160,000 words in its English version) for transforming the European Union (EU) into a superstate.

Exactly two years ago, this constitution was rejected in referendums in the Netherlands and France. This came as a blow to Brussels, the capital of Belgium and home to the European Commission, the unelected EU executive, and its army of 54,000 eurocrats, a bureaucracy molded in the worst centralist and authoritarian French and German traditions.

Soon after the referendums it became apparent that the European politicians intended to ignore the people’s verdict and proceed with their plans for constructing the superstate. During the past six months, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been busy drafting a so-called amended treaty. This bypasses the need for public referendums on the new powers for Brussels, but retains the substance of the constitution — granting the EU substantial powers over its member states, such as the right to override national legislation and to impose a common foreign policy.

The British have always distrusted grandiose political schemes more than the continental West Europeans. In order to get London’s support for Mrs. Merkel’s amended treaty, Nicolas Sarkozy, the new president of France, has offered Tony Blair the job of the first president of Europe. Mr. Blair steps down as British prime minister on June 27 and is looking for a new job.

Nigel Farage, the leader in the European parliament of the British “euroskeptics”, those who oppose the centralization of powers in Brussels and defend the national sovereignty of the EU member states, is certain that Mr. Blair will accept the offer. Mr. Farage has already accused him of “sign[ing] away our future just days before he leaves [office].” It remains to be seen, however, whether Mr. Blair will, indeed, “do a Schroeder.” Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, negotiated a controversial gas deal with Russia in his final weeks in office and, in return, got himself a high position at the Russian gas company immediately after he retired from office. If Mr. Blair “does a Schroeder,” accepting to reduce Britain’s EU voting rights and its veto on European legislation in return for his own personal advancement, it is far from certain that the English will take this in as docile a fashion as the Germans accepted Mr. Schroeder’s despicable behavior.

If Mr. Blair dares to put his signature under the amended treaty, Mr. Farage warns, “his legacy will be a hand grenade with the pin pulled out.” In Monday’s (London) Times, William Rees-Mogg warned that “Any treaty along the lines of Mrs Merkel’s draft could trigger a fundamental rethinking of British policy. The British electorate, if not our politicians, might feel they would be better off out of such a federalized Europe, dominated by the Franco-German alliance.” Ambrose Evans-Pritchard announced in Monday’s Daily Telegraph that “If Europe’s political leaders succeed in ramming through a barely disguised remake of the same European constitution rejected by the French and Dutch people, I for one will come off the fence after years of hesitation and join the fight for total British withdrawal from the [European] Union.”

The British, and in particular the English, are the most euroskeptic of all European peoples. If forced to choose, they seem prepared to opt for British sovereignty over the European Union. Some regard this as almost a criminal attitude. Last week, the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, said that “those who are anti EU are terrorists,” while his colleague Horst Kohler, the president of Germany, described the tactics of the “euroskeptics” as “populist, demagogic campaigning.” It sounded almost as if Italy and Germany were blaming Britain for not having drawn lessons from the second World War, conveniently forgetting that it was England’s love of freedom that saved Europe from dictators like Messrs. Napolitano’s and Kohler’s predecessors, Mussolini and Hitler. The latter, too, nursed dreams of European political unification.

Liberty and democracy require limited governments, while supranationalism by definition tends toward unlimitedness. The former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky refers to the EU as the “EUSSR.” He does so, he explains, because the former USSR and the EU share the same goal: the obliteration of nations. “The European Union, like the Soviet Union, cannot be democratized,” he says. If the EU becomes a genuine state it is bound to be an evil empire, because there is no European nation.

“National loyalty is a form of neighborliness: It is loyalty to a shared home and to the people who have built it,” says the conservative English philosopher Roger Scruton. Without this loyalty there is no freedom, because “national loyalties enable people to respect the sovereignty and the rights of the individual.”

By seeking to extinguish national loyalty, the EU also destroys freedom, accountability and democracy. The eurocracy aims to extinguish the old national loyalties of the European peoples, and put a cosmopolitan indifference in their place.

Paul Belien is editor of the Brussels Journal and an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute.

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