The European Project, Not European Federalism

Jim Duffy on the dangers of European federalism.

The Euro nearly capsized the whole European project a couple of years ago, and many experts expect it will eventually crash and burn in another major crash (which, courtesy of Trump's reckless overheating of the US economy is likely to come within the next decade).

I am a strong supporter of the European project, though not of federalism, but sometimes the Euro-federalists are as deluded as the Brexiteers in their devotion to myth-making. The EU cannot survive without democratic legitimacy and Euro-federalism would rob the Union of that, as the member states are reduced to sub-units of a federal state where citizens in most of Europe ended up dwarfed by the dominance of the larger states. The difference with the US is that only three of the US states ever had an independent existence as a nation state and so possessed a strong sense of independent identity. All EU states have had, and citizens define themselves through that sense of national identity. In addition the US could compromise on some basic democratic principles the creating itself in the 19th century. So it could create an electoral college, an originally indirectly elected Senate elected by local state houses, etc. Those undemocratic compromises would be unacceptable to much of the nation-states of Europe in the 21st century. But without fundamentally undemocratic compromises a federal state could not get off the ground.

The EU worked because it pooled sovereignty. It didn't usurp it. Member states still had their own independent structures, independent policies, and independent legitimacy. The EU worked because it did not create a rivalry between itself and the nation-state but was complementary. The day it tries to assert its dominance and reduce the nation-state to mere US states is the day it will collapse, because millions will always pick their nation-state. It is the same way as if you ask millions what their identity is they will say "Irish", or "French", or "German", or "Polish", etc. They will define themselves as Irish people who live in Europe, or Italian people who live in Europe, not Europeans who live in Ireland, or Italy, or Poland. Those who thought national identity would wither and die and be replaced by a new European identity have been proved wrong by the resurgence of nationalism, which was often a response to a sense of an increasingly arrogant European elite.

The fact that some don't understand it in part explains their shock at Brexit. They find the desire in Britain for traditional blue passports puzzling. Yet recent polls across Europe found massive support in other countries for having their old passports back too. The passport to them isn't a technical document, but a badge of identity akin to their flag, their anthem, and their history. That sense of community identity is central to humans, and you dismiss it at your peril.

➽Jim Duffy is a writer.

1 comment:

  1. For me Anglo-jingoist condemnations of the supposed Euro-conspiracy against the UK are quite perverse, not to say bizarre. The UK has benefitted much more from the EU than Ireland has. If anything one could posit a plausible thesis that the EU was an Anglo-conspiracy - not vice versa. Before Ireland joined the EU (or Common Market) Ireland's commercial districts were populated almost entirely by Irish businesses - now most leading retailers in Ireland are British: Tesco, Boots, Argos, Debenhams, Littlewoods and so on. Likewise before we joined up, Ireland was culturally much more nationalistic than it is now. For instance most semi-state bodies had Irish names - and a working knowledge of the Irish language was essential for state employment. Now the English language rules the roost not just in Ireland, but increasingly throughout Europe. Spanish friends complain of the Anglicisation of the costas, and even the Danes lament the way British pop music dominates their airwaves. And let's not forget that "free trade" and privatisation - the cornerstones of EU economic policy in recent decades - are essentially "Anglo-Saxon" ideas. This whole Brexit business increasingly looks to me like a phony Coke versus Pepsi scam: you either support the EU or you support the noble Brits fighting the dastardly Eurocrats. Thanks all the same, but I support neither. Coke and Pepsi are both poison as far as I'm concerned.