Where we are on the 40th anniversary of joining the EEC
The Political Basis of the EU:
All States and aspiring States have their myths of origin. The myth of origin of the EU is that it is a peace project to prevent wars between Germany and France – as if a tendency to go to war is somehow genetically inherited.
The actual facts are however that the first step towards supranational economic integration, the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, was to facilitate German rearmament at the start of the Cold War with Russia and to reconcile France to that fact. The US wanted a rearmed West Germany inside NATO. This greatly alarmed France which had been occupied by Germany just a few years before.
Jean Monnet, who was America’s man in the affair, came up with the solution. To assuage France’s fears he drafted the Schuman Declaration proposing to put the coal and steel industries of France, Germany and Benelux under a supranational High Authority as “the first step in the federation of Europe”. A federation is a State, so the political aim of establishing a State or quasi-superstate under Franco-German hegemony has been there from the start. The EU celebrates 9 May, the date of this Declaration, as “Europe Day” each year. Monnet became secretary of the supranational High Authority, the predecessor of today’s Brussels Commission.
Thus historically the EU is in its origin an out-of-date legacy of the Cold War, pushed by the USA in the 1950s to provide an economic underpinning to NATO in Europe.
Simultaneously “Europeanism” became the creed of a legion of intellectuals across the continent, disillusioned by the failed ideologies of the 20th century. They provided ideological arguments in support of their assault on all things national. Their central assertion was that conflict between Europe’s States could be prevented by putting their national democracies under the control of a supranational high authority of non-elected technocrats – namely themselves or people like themselves – while trying to merge their peoples in a kind of jellybowl of nations.
They developed the doctrine that by “pooling” sovereignty small States increase their influence over bigger ones, whereas in practical reality it is the other way round. Classically, the concept of sovereignty means that a State is the sole author of the laws prevailing in its territory. For EU members however most laws now come from Brussels. Talk of pooling sovereignty is like referring to a woman as being half-pregnant. Sovereignty “pooled” is sovereignty surrendered.
Forty years after the 1951 Coal and Steel Community, and the 1957 Treaty of Rome setting up the European Economic Community(EEC) which followed, another shift in Franco-German power, Germany’s reunification as a side-effect of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, led these two countries to establish the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and its single currency, the euro.
The big increase in Germany’s population and territory on reunification greatly alarmed France. However France had nuclear weapons, which Germany was precluded from having under the post-War treaties. The deal between the two of them was EU Monetary Union for Political Union or, put crudely, the Deutschemark for the Euro-bomb. Germany would give up its national currency, the symbol of its post-war economic achievement, and share the running of a new supranational EU currency with France, while France agreed to work jointly with Germany towards a supranational EU political union with its own common foreign, security and defence policy.
This would give Germany a central role in running a potential EU world power, with its finger on a nuclear trigger in due time. France in turn hoped the euro would give it a political lock on Germany. “The two pillars of the Nation State are the sword and the currency and we have changed that,” exulted EU Commission President Romano Prodi. A Franco-German army brigade with joint officers and a joint command was simultaneously set up as a symbol and prototype of the EU army of the future. Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain have since joined this as contributors to a common “Eurocorps”.
France and Germany are said to share a common interest in being joint engines of the EU integration project. The conventional wisdom has been that if they stay together they can push through the Brussels institutions whatever policy suits their interests, while between them they are strong enough to prevent any other group of EU States from adopting policies they do not like. The reality is somewhat different however, as Germany was always going to be the big winner in moves towards an EU monetary and political union.
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