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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

European Hubris

It’s difficult these days to be objective about the European Union – the combination of the euro crisis, austerity and the immigration set off by the 2004 widening has given so many easy targets and scapegoats.
“The European Project” went from strength to strength (with a short breather until Delors became President in the 1980s) – until hubris set in at the start of the new millennium. The Euro was launched in 2002 with a great fanfare but, in less than a decade, has dragged the entire project into disrepute; the attempt to foist a new Convention on European Nations hit major hurdles very quickly with French and Dutch rejections of the draft in 2005. All the while, however, the European Court of Justice has been throbbing quietly in the basement, supplying the legality if not the legitimacy to the regulations drafted by the Commission with its supportive infrastructure of lobbyists and officials.

Intellectual coverage of this unique venture has been massive – with academia queuing up to receive generous European funding. Did you know, for example, that there were, at the last count, 409 Jean Monnet Professorial Chairs in European Universities – funded for the initial 3 years by the EU? Four Hundred and Nine!!

The natural scepticism of journalists has been kept in place by a combination of EC press releases; editorial control of newspapers whose owners are (to a man) pro-European; and by budgets which no longer permit detached scrutiny.
I told you it was difficult to be objective!

The UK, of course, is home to “the awkward squad” which has an innate resistance to overblown rhetoric and projects. Tom Gallagher’s latest book - Europe’s Path to Crisis – disintegration via monetary union - is a great read in that tradition eg the 2003 blockbuster “The Great Deception – can the European Union Survive?; the rather more philosophical The Tainted Source; and the incendiary 1995 book The Rotten Heart of Europe –the dirty war for Europe’s money by one of the guys behind the moves toward monetary integration (Bernard Connelly) whose detailed analysis was so explosive that he was not only sacked from the Commission but banned from further critical writing on the subject. Curiously for a book which was honoured with a Danish award for moral courage, Amazon cannot offer the book – not give any comment on it   

Tom Gallagher, whom I readily admit to being a friend, is no stranger to controversy - with a fascination for the undergrowth of political activity not only in the Balkans (an early specialism) but in the Celtic fringes of Portugal (1980s) and Scotland (most recently). Romania hardly qualifies in that category but has been a fruitful harvest for his ruthless probing - initially with Romania – theft of a nation, latterly with Romania and the European Union – how the weak vanquished the strong (2010)  

Possibly it was that second book which gave him the idea for this latest book which is very clearly not another technical study of the eurocrisis - but rather a very political analysis (with scrupulous references) which carries an unspoken question about hubris.    
His “Europe’s Path to Crisis” has inspired me to try to identify the more balanced of the critical writing on Europe - particularly those which can go beyond the critique and have an alternative agenda which might be worth exploring. To reach these (rare) sites, you have to wade through not only angry nationalist sites but also some which purport to be critical but which turn out to have European funding!
The best guide is probably this recent one from Cardiff University. I doubt, however, anyone has a realistic agenda which can satisfy both multinational interests and the frustration of European citizens.....
The recent appointment of Juncker as President of the Commission was hardly calculated to inspire confidence (not that this has ever seemed a consideration for the European political class) but recent revelations about the tax evasions which have been an integral part of the Luxembourg system over which Juncker presided for so many years so seem to be the last straw.

My surfing also threw up this interesting book on The sociology of Europe - and my mail, coincidentally, this New Pact for Europe - produced by a collection of worthy Foundations (including the Bertelsmann and Gulbenkian ones). 
Great rhetoric - but little reference to the hard economic, ecological and political realities I have been writing about in recent posts (the bibliography kills the report's credibility for me).

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