Europe Must Apply the Bronzing Cream of Democracy

Article published on Feb. 2, 2004
community published
Article published on Feb. 2, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Don’t trust any imitations. ‘Two-speed’ Europe, made in Franco-Germany, has arrived. Instructions for use and alternatives that are already on the market.

Him again. Forerunner of many astounding innovations widely distributed around the globe – such as videocracy, conflict of interests and the Business-State - old Silvio has again hit the bull’s eye. The latest idea launched by his Eminence? A facelift. Of course. So trendy, so fashionable, so chic that this time he is being copied by Chirac and Schroeder. Their dream? To reform once and for all the decrepit EU institutions by launching with great pomp the latest product selling like hotcakes in the supermarket of European politics: a ‘two-speed’ Europe.

Naïve federalists vs pragmatic federalists

The idea is almost as old as Berlusconi’s original face: to create a group of so-called ‘pioneer countries’ which want to break away from the more inept ones. It is almost an anti-American version of the ‘coalition of the willing’. All those tacticians for Washington, loath to ‘move forward’, in compliance with the ‘Iraq divide’, will be registered on the ‘nasty’ list. The reason for such a division? It is simple ladies and gentlemen: enlargement.

A Europe with 25 members is too big and too complex to be governed effectively. Therefore, the way is open for the creation of a ‘hard core’. Tickets for the first class carriage of the European intercity train are now available to the fortunate ‘visionaries’ who want to hold the pride of the Old Continent high.

But the reality, unfortunately, is different. As often happens, this facelift also hides something rotten within. The ambiguous spiral of the Franco-German discussion on the institutional nature of the pioneer group demonstrates this. No, it is not about creating a federal Europe, as too many naïve federalists want to believe. We will never witness the creation of federalist institutions in a union between Paris, Berlin and certain other European countries.

The de-localisation of power

This project is entirely different. It is based on an idea which is now frighteningly clear to all Europe’s national leaders (but not to public opinion): national sovereignty is no longer. In the 21st century, a State alone is practically powerless. Facelift or no facelift. There is no one big theme of political current affairs that is manageable in an effective way with the classical tools of the Nation State. For this we have Europe. The fact is that, if it concerns carbon and steel, the creation of a customs union, or cows and tomatoes, it concerns international law. That is to say, the intergovernmental method. But when it comes to the management of migratory movements (the Schengen agreement), currency (the Euro) or the infinite – I repeat infinite – regulation of Community law that now represents more than half Member States’ legislation, can we still accept that the people are excluded from the game? Can we allow a decision to be reached on a Treaty on subjects that historically has been decided in oh so democratic Europe by elected governments after debates and open campaigns (which is what the Constitution wanted do)? The answer is simple: no.

As they explain to the too distracted students of political science, who are also often the same people who go about waving Giscard and Prodi’s undemocratic Europe flags, politics is all about the fight for, the management of and finally the control of power. And today power is managed on a European level. Do we want to continue to swallow the de-localisation of power, the Europe of treaties, the Eurocracy of the capitals which mess up the political maps? We will just keep witnessing irresponsible and inadequate leaders. But the fact is that a two-speed Europe will only make things worse.

15 + 10 = 4

Why? Let me paint a picture for you ladies and gentlemen: It is 2008. The glorious France, governed by Chirac who has also been surgically enhanced and is almost in hibernation, launches the infamous ‘defence of Europe’. The team of Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. A Headquarters containing only 90 men is created through imposed ratification, legal decrees and circulars. Who will legitimise this initiative? A European Parliament with four States? Who will put it into practice? A Commission led by a tired Fischer who will look back with nostalgia to when he used to go and talk about federalism at the Humbolt University? And which little Parliamentarian or Commissioner do we want to prepare for the creation of the concentration camps…I’m sorry…the ‘welcome centres’ that the UK wants to construct in States bordering the EU? Who will step forward? How many are there? Five, six, ten countries?

The reality is that such a solution will imply the triumph of intergovernmental Europe. Simply because the exercise of democracy – already problematic in the EU today – will become impossible with fluctuating geometry. Not only that. Two speeds will stop the process of the 'federalisation’ of the European institutions, which has seen limited success, by Romano Prodi’s Commission, who is, it should be noted, the first to call himself President Prodi on his internet site. The result, therefore, will be political fragmentation. And we will succeed in calculating that 15 + 10 = 8, 5, 6, or even 11.

The only real solution remains to create a democratic Europe: the election of a European ruling class endowed with real political power and responsible before the people. We must manage to break down the walls between cultures, to knock down the Tower of Babel that lives on in our heads telling us that we can’t really have the same federal government for Germans and French, Danes and Poles etc.. Why not? For historical reasons maybe? Until proved otherwise, the democratic alternative is the healthier solution and a more natural evolution of our history. Because we are the children of an Enlightenment which remains enlightened. And because we are living through a historic moment in time.

The Franco-German face-lift disgusts me. I would prefer Europe to apply some democratic bronzing cream.