Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Why EU superstate conspiracy theories are nonsense

My jokey post on the “danger” of EU founding father Jean Monnet prompted a response from the usually well-intentioned and often thought-provoking eurosceptic Ken of EU Realist (on whom I don’t mean to pick, but he’s provided me with most of the standard anti-EU lines in one handy package).

We’ve started having at it in the comments there, where he has again restated the classic anti-EU conspiracy theory:

“the basic plan [is] to unite Europe under one government… there is nothing else on the table and… each succeeding treaty follows that exact plan”

As such, a response to this, the classic EU superstate conspiracy theory, originally posted as a couple of comments there:

It all starts with Ken’s claim that Monnet`s misquote [‘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 irreversibly lead to federation’] …Epitomises the aims and the methods to be employed in order to bring about a united Europe

Erm… Only it wasn’t a misquote. It was something made up by someone who believes the same things that Ken does about how the EEC/EU is progressing – things based on a misunderstanding of what “the United States of Europe” (Churchill’s phrase) was intended to mean (i.e. united in common purpose, not united as one country), an apparent inability to think of any federal system of government other than a heavily centralised one like that of the modern USA (take a look at Switzerland for an alternative model, for example), and an inclination to see the EEC/EU as a monolithic organisation characterised primarily by groupthink in which everyone thinks the same thing and wants the same thing. If the latter (in particular) were truly the case, do you really think it would have been stuck in a rut for the last two decades, unable to move forwards with this grand plan of continental political union?

As such, Ken’s initial claim about what the EU’s founding fathers were really after is, erm, nonsense. I can give you a brief run-down of what the various chaps usually considered the founding fathers (or at least, those listed by the EU itself) were after, if you like:

Schuman – merge those parts of the economy necessary for war to prevent future conflict
Monnet – take this further by encouraging cultural co-operation and cross-border friendship among the people (again to prevent war)
Spaak – use binding international treaties to prevent war
Hallstein – create common economic institutions
Adenauer – prevent war through ever-closer co-operation and friendship
Spinelli – introduce a loose federal model to aid economic co-operation
Gasperi – merge western European economies as closely as possible to prevent fascism and communism taking hold in weaker areas
Churchill (yes, THAT Churchill) – “We must build a kind of United States of Europe” (though please note the “kind of”…)

So when Ken (or another eurosceptic who believes the same stuff) claims that the founding fathers hoped “that Europe should become one nation state along the same lines as the United States of America with one overarching federal government”, what he really means is that one of the founding fathers (Winston Churchill) suggested something along the lines of one European state along the American model, and that another of them (Altiero Spinelli) pushed for some kind of federal structure.

Conflating the views of two people with a made-up quote from a third to arrive at a grand conspiracy. Nice.

Ken then asked another standard anti-EU question that usually crops up in superstate arguments: “Perhaps you could point to the [treaties] which returned power to the member states?”

Maastricht enshrined the principle of subsidiarity, as has every treaty since. The Commission has even started to act on this principle during the last five years by scrapping various silly laws and seeking greater deregulation at EU level to give powers back to the member states and regions – one of the few good things the Barroso Commission has achieved.

Ken’s belief in some kind of divine teleological providence guiding the EU to a predetermined destiny is charming, it really is. But the EU is a complex series of institutions with no single guiding hand, trying to reconcile the conflicting demands of 27 different countries. Its course is even less clear now than it has ever been.

Were it still just made up of the original six members then it’s possible that he (and his eurosceptic chums) might have a case. But as soon as Britain and Denmark joined back in ‘73 (not to mention Ireland with its specific constitutional requirements that have so hampered the progress of the Lisbon Treaty), the likelihood of the EEC/EU ending up as a single unified state became greatly diminished – not least because of the UK’s ongoing ties to the Commonwealth, something inadequately dealt with during the entry talks.

There are TWENTY-ONE more countries involved now than when Monnet, Schuman and co went about setting up the thing – which was OVER HALF A CENTURY AGO. Most – if not all – of the EU’s founders are dead and buried, along with the post-WWII, early Cold War ideals of the era in which they were working. And yet Ken and co think that somehow the founding fathers’ alleged grand plan for a superstate has been maintained all this time? Who by, for God’s sake? Seriously: I don’t get who it is they think has enough influence – let alone over the EU itself, but also over the governments of every single EU member state (and their opposition) to boot.

What Ken (and the rest) is suggesting IS a conspiracy – and a conspiracy mostly based on out of context quotes from 50+ years ago. Yes, it is possible to look at the current EU and see some of the things included in its various (failed) draft treaties of recent years as pointing towards a superstate. But to do that you have to ignore so much other evidence to the contrary as to make it laughable.

I’m not saying it’s not a possibility that a superstate is where the EU will end up – hell, anything’s possible. But I am saying that it is not part of the current plan. Because there IS no current plan. To think that there is would be to ignore the failure of Nice, of the Constitution, of Lisbon; it would be to ignore every stalemate, every failure, every continuing veto; it would be to conflate meaningless legal niceties (like calling us “citizens” – even though it grants us no more rights or obligations than we had before, and even though we remain subjects of Her Majesty) with serious progress.

What Ken (and the rest of the eurosceptics who believe this) is doing is assuming an end-point – a European superstate – and picking their evidence based on that assumption. It’s a classic technique used by whig historians for years, and can make for a nice and easy to understand narrative. But when historians do it, they tend to wait for the end-point to have actually happened. Ken and co’s end-point isn’t even likely – not in the current circumstances.

Have I missed something? Seriously – I’d love to know where the EU’s guiding hand is. Because all I can see at the moment is chaos.