Among the EUtopians

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Recently I commented here on a New York Times piece in which Timothy Garton Ash, Oxford’s vaunted “Europe expert” and an indefatigable champion of European unity, made clear that, even in the face of the current euro disaster, his affection for the EU hasn’t diminished.  Now, as if the Times piece weren’t enough, the current issue of Foreign Affairs turns out to contain a long celebration of the EU by Garton Ash.  At the same time, by happy chance, Daniel Hannan, a British member of the European Parliament and eloquent Euroskeptic, has published a short book, A Doomed Marriage: Britain and Europe, in which he makes a tidy case against the EU.  Those still unsure of where they stand could do worse than to read Garton Ash and Hannan in tandem.

Let’s start with Garton Ash’s main argument for the EU – which is pretty much everybody’s main argument for the EU: that it’s kept European countries from going to war with one another.  Garton Ash opens his Foreign Affairs essay by juxtaposing an account of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto on May 10, 1943, with what’s plainly meant to be a stirring vignette of ardent young EU supporters who – gathering in Warsaw on May 10, 2003, a month before the Polish vote on EU membership – fervently sang Friedrich Schiller’s words to the official EU anthem, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Garton Ash quotes the words with manifest enthusiasm: “Be embraced, ye millions!  This kiss to the entire world!  Brothers, a loving father must live above that canopy of stars!” Yeesh.  His point, of course, is to contrast Nazi horror with the delights of what he calls “a generous European welfare state” – and to suggest that this welfare state, which he views as a supremely civilized alternative to both American-style capitalism and Soviet-style Communism, is all that stands between Europe and a rerun of the Nazi nightmare.

Sound reasonable?  OK, turn to Hannan, who reminds us that the Nazis made similar arguments for their own empire: it would bring Europeans together, give them a shared identity, and provide “a haven of civilization between two forms of barbarism: the Anglo-Saxon savagery of unregulated markets and crass commercialism, and the Soviet savagery of total communism.” As for the notion of the EU as a guarantor of peace, Hannan asks rhetorically: “Was the EU a cause of European peace, or was it a consequence of the peace brought about by the defeat of fascism, the spread of democracy and the Nato alliance?  Is it a vaccine against Nazism, or simply the latest in a long line of presumptuous supra-national ideologies?” As for the “generous European welfare state,” Garton Ash seems in utter denial about the fact that it won’t be around much longer, thanks to declining birthrates and freeloading immigrants.  In any event, as Hannan’s statistics show, the EU “hasn’t made its constituent nations wealthier” – much to the contrary, in fact.

It’s an article of faith among EU fans that nation-states are a bad thing, and that if Europeans want lasting peace they’ve got to transfer their loyalties to the superstate.  Few have struggled more valiantly than Garton Ash to (as he puts it in Foreign Affairs) “generate…solidarity among [EU] citizens” and whip up “European compatriotism” while demonizing traditional patriotic flag-waving.  Again, turn to Hannan, who reminds us that during World War II, “national citizenship was, for many European Jews and other victims, their only defence against the [Nazi] murderers”; that “[t]he worst massacres took place in those parts of Europe where there was nothing resembling a national government”; and that over time “national units have proved remarkably secure vessels of freedom” – bulwarks against the various isms “which purport to be bigger than the nation-state: fascism, Marxism, Islamic fundamentalism.”  How would Britain have gotten through the Blitz without good old-fashioned patriotism?

Garton Ash acknowledges – he could hardly do otherwise –  that “European integration has rightly been described as a project of the elites”; but in the next breath he insists that the EU has enjoyed the support of “a passive consensus among most of Europe’s national publics.” Balderdash.  He himself admits that while most Germans “opposed giving up their treasured deutsch mark,” they weren’t asked their opinion about the matter.  Similarly, he notes that the important EU decisions are made behind closed doors and that Europeans, realizing that their votes in EU elections are irrelevant, have participated in those farces in ever-shriveling numbers.  Yet to Garton Ash, the fact that the EU has put a big dent in European democracy is a minor issue.  Democratic or not, he knows the EU is good for Europe – and if most Europeans don’t agree, well, all the more reason to be glad that their opinions don’t count.

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  • harrylies

    America lost hundreds of thousands of soldfiers in two World Wars. Spent billions in the Cold War. All because Europeans were idiots. The EU is twenty-seven countries, just like America is fifty States, andf most Americans would say the likes of Robert Lee were wrong for trying to breqk up America.

    This year, the people of Croatia voted to join the EU. Croatia is poor. They know the EU is not a dicatorship like Yugoslavia was. The people of Latvia know the EU is not the Soviet Union. A lot of Europeans know what dictarorship is. They lived it, and the EU is not it. Lots of people from Latvia work in Britain. Just like someone in New York moving to Texas.

    No, the EU is not perfect. Neither is America, but chances are a person in Texas who burns the American flag would not be respected. EU critics are like Southerners who want to leave America.

    • Banastre Tarleton

      Comparing the artificial and recent EU to the political union of America is a bit of a stretch ….no common culture or language …the EU is a transplant not a natural evolution like the Colonies were ……it's like press ganging the countries of S America into a political union with the US and then hoping it would work

    • Paul Weston

      In the U.S. you get to vote for representatives who actually represent the electorate. You also get to vote for the President. This is not the case in Europe. I did not vote the ex-Maoist Barrosso into supreme power and I certainly cannot vote him out. This is not democratic, which is the only point that needs be made.

    • NoIslam

      I'm croatian and most croatians did vote to join the EU but only because the EU propaganda machine did it's job. There was nowhere in the croatian media anything/anyone against the EU because everyone who was against it got shut down by our government (EU puppets). So most people were ignorant in that matter. The EU is not democratic but not yet totalitarian. They are working hard to become a totalitarian regime though. EU must be stopped and decentralized. Europe must not be a union but some kind of confederation, to keep peace but also to keep the individuality and autonomy of all it's countries.

  • Niels Th. Riisgaard

    EU never secured peace, Nato did. And only after US- soldiers and other allies fought to liberate Europe. EU has gone ideologically crazy about demonising nations and national feelings. EU is forcing us into another disastrous ism, multiculturalism, letting in hostile unskilled illiterates by the millions. EU is an experiment doomed to go wrong. It makes me sad and angry to think of the future for my children and grandchildren.

    All the best
    Niels Thyge Riisgaard, Danmark

  • dieterdohmen

    You're absolutely right, Mr. Bawer. It is even worse. I come from Berlin, Germany. Unfortunately my English is much too bad, otherwise I would add many additional aspects to the discussion. But I don't want to frighten off anyone.
    I have my own trading business and I work very hard to get a foot outside of the EU.
    Although many people here in Germany blame the EU, they do nothing against it. On the contrary they rather demand a government that cares about every aspect of their lives. They are like children. They want daddy and mommy to take care.
    Watch out, dear Americans, because Obama tries to change your beautiful country into something similar, I think.
    Frontpage is excellent and I also like to read the comments

  • Drakken

    What the EU leadership and minions will live to regret is, the natives are becoming restless. You have a hostile muslim population that grows by the day, EU minions that rule by fiat instead of democracy, economic policies that are going to drive the EU off the cliff, nationalism that is on the rise and it scares the EU minions to death because they will bear the brunt of the natives wrath. It is a complete recipe for diaster. plus we have the added benefit of the EU not making any far reaching decisions until the US election. This will not end well at all.

  • jemaasjr

    My namesake ancestor was a German from Prussia. By blood I am about half German but I tend to think of myself as German. When I start reading about modern Germany what I notice is that the German population seems to have a collectivist mentality that I do not share. Under Hitler they went too far to the right, and now it is too far to the left.

    • PAthena

      Hitler was LEFTWING. The Nazi party was the National Socialist Party, Nationalsozialismus, following Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party, a nationalist socialist party Mussolini founded in World War I, after having been a leader of the Italian Socialist Party and editor of the Socialist newspaper, Avanti. The Italian Socialist party had not supported Italy in World War I on the ground that wars were between capitalists, and that socialism was internationalist. When Mussolini changed his mind and supported Italy in the war, he invented nationalist socialism – fascism.

    • Banastre Tarleton

      Germans make fine americans .. but they just make lousy Germans