Wednesday 18 March 2009

A Country Called Europe

Europe is something that worries me.
Very much.

Many people seemingly, are worried by a United Europe.

Actually, I'm not worried- in principle. I think a United Europe is the best way forward, as is a United Africa. Nation states on the old scheme are meaningless in the world of today. Just look in any phonebook in the UK. Patel is now the commonest surname. The nation state is dead. It is no longer the best unit for dealing with important decisions at the macro level.

The problem is- in the UK we tend to look at the smaller picture. THIS Europe, is a bad model, it is a Napoleonic bureaucracy, essentially structured to serve a Franco-German axis, it's unity is centred on a rump- the in crowd and the out crowd. And in the UK, the feeling is we're better off out of it.

Because in the short term, we'd be better off. We would, financially. Short term. And we wouldn't have to legislate according the legislative needs of France and Germany.

But long term, it isn't the right answer, I don't think. Europe without Britain will not work. It will retreat into a Charlemagnian rump, the Franco-German axis and the Benelux countries. And then?

The problem with Europe is exactly that, that as things stand it is geared up to serve the needs of the Franco-German axis. Two states that badly need eachother. Two states whose own problems balance eachother out. Each one gives the other without it cannot provide itself. They prop eachother up. And that is the unspoken problem with Europe.

It's not just about wresting control of Europe away from this axis, it's about addressing the real problems within those states that cause them use the EU as a heroin addict uses methadone.

Because the UK CAN do without the EU. But without the EU, both France and Germany have to face their problems. And them doing so, would be disruptive to ALL Europe. They are both too proud to open up and admit the realities, their own peoples can't. Their countries, their cultures are held up by the strength of the European scaffolding.

And that is what is wrong with Europe, for the UK. The lack of acknowledgement. When I talk to PEOPLE from other European countries, I find a lot of respect for Britain. Respect for the fact that Britain at least puts a brake on the Franco-German axis. But more than that. There is a dim sense, I think, amongst European PEOPLE (as opposed to their press and governments) of why we do it.

Because we don't want a lot of belligerent, impoverished, unstable dictatorships going round invading their smaller neighbours on our doorstep. We don't want another Napoleon, or another Kaiser Wilhelm, or another Hitler. We don't want to have to keep shedding blood in France.

We were there to pick up the pieces last time, at considerable expense to ourselves and we never get much acknowledgement for that. OK, it's history and the living owe the dead nothing, but that isn't the real point.

The main reason the UK stays in Europe and SHOULD stay in Europe, and in our guts we all know it- is if we left- it would all be far more likely to happen again.

Europe was torn apart last time and it hasn't come to terms with what happened. It hasn't faced it. It rebuilt itself after the last war, it looks all shiny and new, but underneath, underneath there is a dangerous instability.

That instability is in the realities of France and Germany. Why as states, they cling to eachother.

The EU creates an equilibrium in which their societies can exist in a stable state- of sorts- but the reality is, both of those states have inherent problems within their societies that make the minor racial tensions, the ineptitude of the Brown government, the high cost of living, the uncertainty of identity as a result of loss of Empire and all the other apparent problems of the UK pale by comparison.

The EU as it stands exists so France and Germany can prop eachother up and so the rest of us can keep an eye on them. And whilst it remains like that, it will always remain the corrupt, bureaucratic, authoritarian mess it currently is.

The answer? Like it or not, for Britain to stay in and give full commitment to the European project. And try wrest power from this rump block and see if a more democratic vision can't be set up. More Thomas Paine than Napoleon. One where the state has to prove you can't, not the citizen prove you can. And through that, see if we can't help both France and Germany address problems which should actually be addressed. Because right now the EU is being used to staunch those festering sores, not heal them.

But institutions alone can't solve those problems. There is no magic wand. But these problems DO need to be discussed. Openly. And in the case of Germany actually, that would go a long way. Talking about it properly.

I'd like to expand on both these countries more. I should add that the next two posts are not designed to offend, but to be candid.

And if this post or the next two seemed unduly jingoistic, then I sincerely apologise. I certainly don't mean them to be. But just because one is opposed to flag waving patriotism and all that God Save the Queen stuff doesn't mean you should go to the extreme of refusing to see good in a country or a culture merely because it happens to be your own. I don't believe that being born here means I can take credit for what people who once lived here once did, but I do believe that the people who sprung from these islands did something right and that the culture that they left behind should get off its sorry arse, stop whinging and realise it doesn't have it so bad.
And start showing some responsibility in the world.

Instead of asking what Europe does for us, we should be asking what we can do for Europe.
Why AREN'T we in the UK showing leadership?

Has it ever occurred to most Brits to wonder what the smaller countries in Europe think? Not France, not Germany, but the Denmarks and the Swedens and the Portugals and the Slovakias?

Do you think these countries would have signed up to a Europe without Britain in it?

Britain is the only country that COULD do it alone and not suffer for it. Which is the reason why we SHOULDN'T.

Britain still has a job to do in the world. At the centre of Europe, not as its grumpy uncle on the sidelines, but its elder, stronger, wiser brother. Elder, because it's here that freedom and responsible government begun, stronger because- let's face it, we're the only serious military power in Europe, we're the only power IN Europe that Europe can rely on to defend it, as things stand. And wiser because- well none of us are that wise really, in today's world all our governments seem to be staffed with power crazed lunatics, but I think our culture has grown up, beyond the sort of kneejerk manifestations of nationalism and racism, beyond some of the medieval throwbacks that still seem to rear their heads in other parts of Europe. Because here in the UK, we've managed to make lots of different cultures living side by side work.

And Britain can make Europe work.

Tomorrows post will deal with the German Identity Crisis. And the problems that causes.


Gledwood said...

I totally agree with you. In theory a United States of Europe seems a fantastic idea; in practice it seems to mean a frighteningly undemocratic megalithic beaurocracy...

also I think they should be outdoing America and SE Asia in skyscrapers/etc. I mean if we're GOING to have ugly modern buildings, why not the tallest in the world??

One thing we have outdone America in: the largest lottery jackpot on earth. Because our Euromillions is paid in one chunk without taxes!!

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

On the particular version of European government we have, I go with you and Gledwood to some extent.

They are pretty undemocratic, they certainly only accept democratic votes when they go the way they want.

They don't seem to get the idea that democracy shouldn't be optional if it does not go how you want.

Maybe that is the new democracy...

The EUs own accountants wont sign off on their finances they are so dodgy. Enough to make Enron or UK MPs expenses look honest by comparison.