Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

A rambling attempt at historical perspective

Old Ken over at EU Realist has been delving into the history books, and come up with some quotes from prominent pro-Europeans of times past which seem to confirm all Eurosceptics’ worst fears. It started with this, of which this one stood out:

�Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation” (Jean Monnet communication, 30 April 1952)

Following my suggestion that times have changed and that not all pro-Europeans necessarily have the same aims that Monnet did half a century ago, Ken came back with yet more quotes.

Here’s my vague response, posted as a comment on Ken’s site. We started off misunderstanding each other’s intentions – I thought Ken was claiming that the EU is driving towards a federal superstate, he thought I was denying that the EU is pushing for further integration and powers. It’s all off the top of my head, not backed up with any links, references or anything else, and was written while slightly sozzled after a liquid lunch, so it may not make any sense. It may, however, prompt some interesting debate. Or be mind-numbingly tedious, I don’t know…

Anyway, here it is – the point I initially refer to is that federalism is no longer the principle aim of the EU project:

The point still stands, however, no matter how many quotes you find (and there are a lot more than just that little lot – especially from the ’40s and ’50s when full-on federalism actually seemed like a desirable long-term goal). Quotes are not the same as facts.

There is certainly a minority of politicians – even leading ones – who are so idealistic as to actually want to create a United States of Europe (Ted Heath being one), but they are becoming rarer and rarer as time goes by and realpolitik takes over. It’s simply unrealistic and undesirable for all but the most idealistic of politicians.

Probably ought to clarify – further integration, yes, obviously, is an aim – including some semblance of political integration. But nowhere near as much as often seems to be claimed.

I don’t have any political philosophy reference works to hand to find the generally accepted definition of a political federation – but I’m fairly sure that by the broadest definition the EU already is one. What I am denying is the (peculiarly British) interpretation of the idea of a federal Europe being one in which nation states no longer hold any power or influence.

Ken’s response:

Federalism is not really the point, the point is that the EU is on the road to become the full government of Britain and the other states. To deny that, which you are attempting to do, flows against all of the history of the EU itself, every single treaty drives this project forward every single treaty removes power from the states and gives it to the EU. What you are doing is to deny the Monnet Method, which was designed to achieve unity in Europe by slow inconsistent unconnected moves toward integration that can be explained as something other.

Not sure what you mean by �full government�. If you mean having control over the majority of policy areas, we are blatantly still a long way off. As for �on the road� � well, in the sense that there is still a drive towards further integration, the EU is indeed on the road somewhere, and this involves gaining more influence over certain policy areas, certainly. But not you, nor I, nor they know where this road will end up � unless you have a crystal ball, that is?

I am by no means suggesting that a move to further integration is not happening now, as it obviously is � the EU project is still in its early stages (and no one knows what the final stage will be because, as is obvious from this little discussion, no one can agree yet).

I�m just trying to point out the obvious – namely that what was true in the 1950s is not the case now. What I am suggesting � as I am fairly certain that it is true � is that the drive to further integration which is happening today is happening for very different motives than was the case 40-50 years ago � even than 20 years ago. Lest we forget, in the mid to late 1940s one of the prime advocates of a European union, complete with a common army and all the rest, was Winston Churchill; he later changed his mind.

The �Monnet method� may well still be in existence, but if so the timescale has been extended to the point of being inconsequential � as I said before, there isn�t a hope in hell of this happening in either of our lifetimes, or indeed for centuries. Yet he intended for everything to be sorted by the end of the twentieth century. This proved utterly unrealistic, so plans have changed.

Monnet was also, lest we forget, working in a bipolar, Cold War world, and many then believed that building Europe into a geographically large and coherent superstate to compete alongside the USA and USSR was the best way to get by. Times and opinions change.

A fully politically integrated United States of Europe seemed like a good idea then for the mutual protection of the entire continent (nuclear bombs have a tendency not to stop spreading their radiation at national borders). Now it is less necessary for defensive purposes (although cross-border policing thanks to drug, people-trafficking and terrorist networks strikes me as a good idea with which the EU can greatly assist), and hence far, far less desirable to national political elites who want to maintain their hold on power.

The EU is not the product of one man�s vision, but a multitude of constantly-shifting opinions. It seems that, by your logic, Monnet said x, so everything the EU has been doing since has been to promote x. I might point out that in the early 1980s Tony Blair was opposed to both the EU and the United States� overseas influence. Has his sucking up to Bush and promotion of the EU constitution all been part of a masterplan to undermine both? Of course not � because times and opinions change.