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.


  1. Very intresting post.
    The role of conspiracy thinking in Europhobic discourse highlights a number of issues. Conspiracy thinking, to me at least, always seem to be the refugue of those that are unable to understand something by normal critical thinking. Far easier to see a bit scary consipracy than to, you know, THINK about something and argue your case. Its a thought bypass excercise.

    The way that the British right-wing press reports EU matters is in the same tone, shadow figures and evil cabels. Its a strange conspiracy, clearly not secret (its in all the papers and blogs) but no one is every able to, as you have so well laid out, any actual proof.

    Conspiracy thinking used to be more the reserve of the far-left and far-right nutters, but it seems to increasingly be a part of the normal right-wing discourse. It is veyr hard to argue against. Disagreeing with them just provide ‘evidence’ that they are right, that you are part of the conspiracy.

    It would not surprise me that many of the Europhobias also hold similar conspiracy minded thinking with regard to issues like climate change.

    As for all the chaos in the EU right now….I think its a good thing! The economic landscape is a total mess, and yet the EU goes about its daily business regardless….like any mature system of governance.

  2. EvilEuropean: If you’re able to understand the EU ‘by normal critical thinking’, I salute you, sir. You’re a far brighter man than myself.

    Personally, I _like_ ways to explain the EU that are a bit simpler than the stultifyingly complex (and dull) reality. It doesn’t help that some governments (and I’m thinking here of the UK’s) have used the EU to try and pass laws that national legislature wouldn’t otherwise OK. It sort of gears the mind towards thinking in terms of underhand skullduggery.

    And it also doesn’t help that (particularly with the constitution) it seems that if voters give the wrong answer, you simply get them to vote again. Or bypass them. It doesn’t give the impression of an institution – or set of institutions – that particularly cares what it’s citizen’s opinions are.

    And whilst sharedealers usually warn against ‘using past performance as a guide to future returns’, to a large extent the EU has become an ‘ever closer union’ (glacially slowly, at times, granted). It is of course false to say that this _must_ continue, but…

    I don’t think this is a conspiracy theory, as such, to suggest that bureaucracies, left to themselves, will seek to expand; that ‘competencies’ as broad as ‘the environment’ help this along; and that there are an awful lot of ‘crats in Brussels. The devil makes work for idle hands, and all that.

    I’d also hazard a guess (and yes, this is me talking opinionated crap) that most of the civil servants and MEPs etc. of the various EU institutions are more pro-EU than the population as a whole. Otherwise, why work there? There are exceptions, obviously, but on _average_…

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  4. @Stuart; The problem within the EU is not that there are too many bureaucrats – it’s that there a re too few. The budget for the staff who do the real “donkey-work” is held on avery tight rein (not so that for EMP’s, Commissioners).

    And, the reason why most eurocrats (and EMPs for that matter) are more pro-EU is that they see close-up the advantages of the EU and what it is, haltingly, trying to achieve. Sad that all the good works (eg on behalf of consumers) doesn’t get reported. After all, does an anti-EU media want to promote good EU news?

  5. french derek: too few bureaucrats? Given that I doubt any national government has reduced it’s paper-pushing legions, every bureaucrat in Brussels is on top of those already employed; and if you can improve results by adding another layer of bureaucracy onto a process… well, the EU must be doing very well, indeed.

    Whilst I appreciate it’s difficult, can you point to anything that would have been done better, with _more_ civil servants overseeing it? Would the Constitution have been simpler, with more cooks stirring the broth? Would the law-making be more transparent? The ‘harmonisation’ of regulations occasionally resulting in _less_ paperwork, rather than more?

    And surely the advantages to blogs – such as the one we’e reading! – is that it bypasses any bias the media may have (and replaces it with the bias of our host and ourselves, of course). If there’s a case for the EU, make it! Please!

    As for MEPs and their staffs being more pro-EU* due to there exposure to it’s advantages; fair enough. I’m also fairly sure that there’s a self selection effect as well, though. But to a large effect, it doesn’t _matter_ why – it simply matters that their views apparently differ from their electorate, which leads to an obvious disconnect, allegations of a ‘Brussels Elite’, etc.

    *NB I’m still not entirely sure this is true; have there been any surveys on this?

  6. Good post, and gives the historical context on the superstate conspiracy (my post at gave a contemporary spin on the same thing).

    There’s nothing wrong with questioning the EU – that in itself doesn’t make you a conspiracy theorist. But believing uncritically that everything about the EU is bad and that anything positive is a lie or that the person saying it is somehow part of the conspiracy… it probably is possible to find current politicians and possibly eurocrats who really do believe there is a necessity for a single European centralised state (yep, probably they don’t actually understand what the word federal actually means either), but it doesn’t make them mainstream or the majority.

    As for bureaucrats, whether in Brussels or London, the days of shutting the office door and listening to the cricket went out with the 1980s. It’s not so much idle hands as stressed from overwork these days. I’d always thought it tended to be the political rather than the bureaucratic mentality that sought to extend the scope of powers allocated.

  7. The EU does have a flag and a national anthem. It has a police force, EuroGendFor, and the EU has the powers to arrest people from a sovereign country(this without the mandate of the people concerned)

    I believe, I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, that there is now a determined effort by France and Germany to set up a European Army.

    There are also many other departments of the EU that would normally be associated with the nation state. If it walks like a state and quacks like a state then it is a state. If it is a large state consisting of 27 countries then it is a ‘Superstate’

    I actually believe that there has been a conspiracy carried out by the ‘Political Class’. I believe that ordinary people have been kept in the dark (we only have to look at the way that the constitution is being pushed through despite the reservations and rejections of several countries)

    But you are right. There is no conspiracy, it is fact. It was always clear to see but we were too blind to see it. There never has been a reverse gear on the ratchet.

    Oh, and please, if you are going to quote Churchill:

    “We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not comprised. We are associated but not absorbed. And should European statesmen address us and say, ‘Shall we speak for thee?’, we should reply, ‘Nay Sir, for we dwell among our own people’.”

    WG – Little Englander

  8. I’m particularly amazed that some people still see the EU as a Catholic plot – as I found out when I read this:

    Which is basically a rant on how the principle of subsidiarity is proof of the EU’s dangerous Catholic ways. (Ignoring that (a) subsidiarity is really a compromise word in order to leave out the (secular) F-word; (b) the UK’s entire constitution is based on the “Catholic subsidiarity” principle: parliament (or the Crown-in-Parliament) is supreme, and power trickles down to the devolved assemblies/parliaments/local councils only if parliament wills it; (c) the EU only has the powers delegated to it, and this principle is also enshrined in treaty).

    Interestingly, some far-right groups in Ireland see the EU as anti-religious and discriminating against Catholics, with an evil liberal agenda.

  9. Eurocentric,

    Groups in Ireland have very good reason to believe that the EU is anti-religious:

  10. Stuart: I can’t believe you don’t support the EU single market idea; why, even Margaret Thatcher strongly supported it. But, of course a single market area alone needs rules (directives) regulations and, of course bureaucrats to help both to frame these and to police them afterwards. Maybe you can’t remember the days when there were no budget airlines in Europe? Or when different countries applied different standards for even such commonplace things like paint quality, lawnmower noise, etc? A “single market” is based on the idea of countries becoming “an ever-closer union”, operating as an integrated, control-free “domestic” market.

    Also, Stuart, if you believe in the power of blogs to overcome the forces of Murdoch & co, then you’ve lost me. NB free)trade areas deal only with tariffs, but leaves aside other non-tariff barriers.

    But the EU is more than that. wg opposes the idea of europol (an EU-wide police support unit – NOT a police force, note): but your elected government’s representatives agreed to create this initiative and the bureaucracy required. The EU-wide arrest-warrant may only be granted through the courts. Do you suspect them of being in on some EU conspiracy too?

    The EU is not and never can be a state. It is severely constrained to do only what the Council of Ministers decide: usually to pass laws that they would like to pass in their home countries but wouldn’t dare. It has no fiscal control other than VAT.

    As for defence. Until Obama came onto the scene, some countries were being dragged along by the US willy-nilly, or (grudgingly) by a US-dominated NATO. Others, outside these orbits, were left with no say (and no contribution to) such actions. It’s still a valid question to ask “what is NATO for?” not that the Iron Curtain is no more.

    As far as I know, Jacques Delors was the last person with any clout in the EU who was pursuing federalism; but even he would not have thought the idea of a “superstate” was a thought worth considering. Mrs Thatcher blunted his federalist ambitions. He’s gone and there’s no-one of any substance so far on the scene with any such views.

    For me, I like much of what the EU does but there’s much that needs to be done to improve it, also. eg some sort of macro-economic overview. But if you ask me for a list, I could go on and on. I believe in change from within.

  11. WG – One MEP launching an attack on the Catholic Church = the EU is anti-Catholic? By that logic the British Parliament believes that Northern Ireland should be part of Eire – thanks to the views of Sinn Fein MPs Conor Murphy, Michelle Gildernew, Pat Doherty, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams.

    There are any number of MEPs with extreme views – from hardcore anti-Semites through to hardcore anti-gay, anti-abortion, creationist Christians. By your “one MEP = the views of the EU” logic (a favourite of anti-EU types, I find) you can cherry-pick quotes to show the EU is both for and against EVERYTHING. Hell, I could pick a quote from Nigel Farage or some other UKIP/anti-EU MEP to show that the EU supports its own abolition!

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  13. @ wg:

    First of all, I’d reiterate the point made by Mike: one MEP does not a conspiracy make.

    Second, even if there are several militant anti-religious types in the EP, expressing an opinion is not the same as the EU passing discriminatory legislation.

    Third, ensuring a separation between church and state is not discrimination; acting in a way which prevents the religious from practicing their beliefs when they aren’t hurting anyone is discrimination.

  14. French Derek

    If you wish to have Europol, then have it. I think that Britain should secure its borders and stop these criminals from coming in. What has happened since Britain has ‘opened up’ is that we have more drugs, more illegal immigrants, and, most distressing in my opinion, the trafficking of young people for sex. The point to be made here is that for all of the policing apparatus of this wonderful new empire, crime is increasing in Britain. We also now have the threat from Islamic terrorism.

    The EU arrest warrant assumes that all countries that go to make up the EU have the same laws and offences; they do not. In Britain recently a Dr Toben was seized under the EU arrest warrant for something that is not an offence in Britain but was in Germany – holocaust denial. His arrest goes against British law. You, French Dereck, would most probably therefore call for a harmonization of the EU’s laws to make the arrest warrant work, another step in the direction of a legal super state.

    You also tell me that the leaders of the countries that go to make up the EU have all signed up to these measures. Well the leader in Britain led us into an illegal war with another sovereign country despite 2 million people marching on our Parliament. So what the leaders do and what the people think may be two different things. The leaders have no right to give away our ancient rights under our Common Law; their positions are temporary, the people are always there. Nobody has asked the people whether they wish to be subject to a EU arrest warrant and nobody is interested in informing the people of this removal of their rights.

    As for following the US, if the US and Thatcher hadn’t stood up against the Soviet Union the Eastern European countries would not be free. The only unfortunate thing is that they have jumped out of a Soviet pan and into a EU fire. (As people such as Vaclav Klaus are now finding)

    Your enlightened view seems to me to be very sincere but I personally find it naïve.
    Power corrupts. When Barosso talks of empire we are in dangerous territory. I don’t want to be part of a cold war with America any more than I wanted to be part of a cold war with Russia. Read between the lines, this is all about power (and you can add exploitation to that list)

    I am not the type of person who is willing to give up his sovereignty and legal rights for cheap texts or cheap flights on an aeroplane. I suggest that the reason you like the EU is because you gain from it; I am a manual worker and all I have seen from the EU is exploitation of the working man/woman in order to maintain a self-serving, self-feeding bureaucratic elite.

    I don’t really care if the EU wants to be a superstate or no, I just want to be rid of it.

    If you must have some sort of mechanism to enable a small group of privileged people to look important try starting from the bottom and ask the people first.

    But there’s a question for you. Why, if there is no conspiracy, are the results of referendums continuously ignored? The answer to that question is that the direction of the EU is pre-ordained; it is a belief by a few of how things should turn out for the many, and no country or its people are going to get in the way.

    To those of you who berate me for picking out an individual who is against religious intervention in politics, I would say this. Europe was built on Christian principles. Christianity has given us the rich culture (and it’s a common culture) as well as the basis of democracy and apparently – I have not checked myself – there is no mention of Christianity or God in the Lisbon Treaty. There is, in my opinion, a concerted effort to keep Christianity on the sidelines. I think that this is a shame. I do allow for the fact that a lot of people out there think that religion is a lot of mumbo-jumbo and that secularity should be the religion of choice. But there are also a lot of people to whom it is of great importance. I further believe that the EU wouldn’t like a force outside of their control – does this remind you of other past regimes.

  15. French Derek,
    Thanks for the very thorough response. In return, I can only offer a few points:

    1 – I support free trade, rather than, necessarily, a single market. Common systems of units, and regulations, are convenient. But I don’t regard them as essential – as long as all parties are agreed on what terms a contract of sale consist of. The EU goes significantly further down this route than I believe is necessary. The fact that you use regulations concerning the permissable noise level of lawnmowers is a case in point. (And please note, Margaret Thatcher is hardly representative of all EU-sceptics.)

    In fact, the EU could be regarding as limiting the UKs trading options; I’d particularly like to see us reducing (ideally to zero) tarriffs from the Commonwealth. And as for ” A ‘single market’ is based on the idea of countries becoming ‘an ever-closer union'” I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree. I’m really not clear how a closer union is a prerequisite to a single market. (FYI, it was the VAT thing that turned me from EU-ambivalent to sceptic. Sometimes, it’s the smallest things…)

    2 – Regarding ‘the power of blogs to overcome Murdoch & Co…” Clearly, you’re right. In terms of readership, visibility, popularity, newspapers (and Sky) have blogs beat. But _we_ all do read blogs. I try and read blogs from across the spectrum, and no-one is making a clear and consistent argument in favour of the EU as is (perhaps you could recommend one?). There are a lot of blogs, (including, I’d say, this one), that like the EU in principle, but want large scale reform. And given that large scale reform isn’t happening – and that if it did happen, it probably wouldn’t be in the direction that I’d like – I’m throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and suggesting we start over.

    3 – The EU arrest warrent. Not something I’m overly fond of (surprise!) and yes, something that Tony Blair did support. But Blair supported a lot of things – illegal wars, torture, imprisonment without trial – that I didn’t. What can I say? I didn’t vote for him. But Blair had form (and I’m sure other European leaders do also) of using the EU legislature to pass things that the UK parliament wouldn’t – or at least, would protest a bit more visibly about.

    The thing is, I want to like the EU. I _like_ the freedom of movement, of goods, of services. But… why does this require ‘harmonised’ labour laws? HSE regulations? Yes, an EU arrest warrent? An EU foriegn policy? EU armed forces? An EU national anthem? And the grandaddy of them all: the Common Agricultural Policy? Why? What are they for? What is the EU for?

    The EU, as I see it, is a compromise between those wanting a large free trade area, and those wanting some form of European state; whether federal, centralised, some combination… whatever. To my mind, it seems to be too much of a compromise. But that’s just me.

  16. wg:

    I’m actually quite religious, but I disapprove of a mixing of Church and state. I don’t know why, since you’re so against the EU, you think that the EU would be better if it concerned itself with religion or the language of religion: I personally think that all government should stay out of religion because both tend to be abused by each other – the favoured religion imposes its view, or has the scope to be very influencal in pushing its view, to the detriment of other views in/sections of society; the state in turn meddles in religion for its own ends, corrupting it. In my view religion is a private thing, and it should be kept so.

    There is a mention of a common Christian heritage in the Treaty, but no mention of God. However, unless you want to push a certain religious view, then I can’t see the practical difference the whole thing makes.

    I note that Dr Toeben was released and not extradicted. The European Arrest Warrent is to ensure that the free movement of people does not mean that those who commit crime in one member state can simply hop across the border and not be brought to trial.

    As for the increases in those areas of crime: that’s been a feature of most countries in the world, with the production of drugs increasing, leading to a drop in prices, leading to more people being able to afford and get hooked on drugs, leading to more money for organised crime… Considering that the UK is one of the most closed off countries in the EU, having not signed up to the Schengen Agreement, by your logic it should be much worse in the other EU countries, but that’s not the case by any significant indicator. And surely if it was the case, there would be a greater reluctance for other countries to sign up – but Switzerland has signed up to the Schengen agreement recently.

    Crime happens across borders anyway, and I think it naive to think that any government can “seal off the borders” in any effective manner. Police and judical co-operation would be more effective in combating international crime networks than futile attempts to seal borders.

  17. @ Stuart

    The rationale behind the single market goes beyond merely eliminating tariffs, it aims to eliminate other fiscal and non-fiscal barriers to free trade which usually offer the most resistance to free trade. If we are to build that level of free trade, then it requires a common legal system, and common institutions to oversee the proper functioning of the single market. Common rules are, in fact, essential to prevent the exclusion of goods or services, etc. which would arise from national legislation.

    If you’re against that level of free trade and the idea of the single market, then that’s another discussion, but to dismantle the single market would be a huge leap backwards in free trade.

  18. Eurocentric:
    I realise that the ‘harmonisation’ of regulation is to allow, say, a car manufactured in Spain to be sold in Germany without any caveats. It’s a neat idea. I realise that if one country brought in legislation requiring say, quieter lawnmowers, then loud lawnmowers manufactured for other countries wouldn’t be able to be sold in that country. But this isn’t _necessary_ for a free market. If one country requires higher standards, fair enough. Their goods will be more expensive for their consumers. A country with lower legislatory standards might have more choice at the lower end of the market. This has drawbacks, but it has advantages, too.

    And say that to “dismantle the single market would be a huge leap backwards in free trade” – There might be less cross border trade*. This I grant. But it wouldn’t be a ‘huge leap backwards’, either, unless your definition of ‘free trade’ requires no legal barriers. In which case, QED.

    *Is there time series data available for cross-border intra-EU trade vs outside-EU covering the various stages of market integration? We’re taking it as read that a more integrated market promotes cross border trade. I’m sure this is true but it would be nice to be able to quantify the effect with a pretty graph.

  19. @ wg and Stuart (if I amy address you both via a composite post, please:

    The creation of a European Security and Defence Policy followed a UK/France meeting in 1998. So far, by my estimation, they have succeeded in a few instances (notably overseeing a peace agreement, after 30 years of civil war between the Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh movement); they have not exactly sparkled elsewhere. Though I’ve read that their efforts in training police, judges and prison officers in various countries has been much appreciated.

    On border security, the “Area of Freedom, Justice and Security” is said to been more about “security” than “freedom” and “justice”. Part of that is down to UK pressure to close off borders to, it seems any and all “illegal” immigrants (whether genuine asylum-seekers or whatever). As you can guess, I like the idea of freedom and justice, but not at the price of “security”. And The European Arrest Warrant appears to me to be loaded against disadvantaged groups (who can’t afford, or don’t know about, legal defence.

    As for an EU Foreign Policy. Given that the EU comprises so many countries, each with a different national perspective on the world (never mind their “special interests” – eg the British Commonwealth), then – to me – this is an impossibility.

    Now the CAP is a wonder to try to get your arms around. It was probably the first truly common policy – and it has almost completely replaced national government policies in this area. But what a bureaucratic monster. Everyone who can claim to represent some sort of agricultural interest has demanded (and mainly been given) the right to be consulted – except for that body comprising our elected members – the EU Parliament. But when you start to look at where the money goes (difficult, even impossible in some countries) then you can see who has “friends in high places”. UK beneficiaries include HM QE2 and her son, various dukes and whatnots, plus a clutch of food processing companies. Not many ordinary farmers get much out of it. But how to ditch it with so many “special interests” involved?

    Finally, you live in a parliamentary democracy, where you are committed to accept that the majority party forms the government and acts on your behalf. And that’s whether your views and theirs coincide or not. OK, there is an “opposition”, whose role is to give the government of the day as rough a ride as possible; and your basic rights are protected by an independent judiciary (or were until recent law-makers decided to restrict these even). And, of course, if you’re really unhappy, then try to persuade a court to pass your grievance up to the European Court of Justice. This latter has been the only way that some, less fortunate, groups (UK included) have gained any redress. NB the latest group are foreign residents in Spain who have had their properties bought for peanuts by dodgy developers (but with local authority backing); Spain have been warned they’ll have their EU subsidies frozen if they don’t legislate.

    OK, I’m a europhile but I hope not naive.

  20. I don’t have much time, so this isn’t a comprehensive answer:

    Sorry, I should have been a bit clearer when I was talking about a legal framework: it doesn’t necessarily mean harmonisation measure, though they are a part of it too. The legal regime of the EU has liberated the single market through the application of treaty principles (e.g. in the form of the doctrine of mutual recognition, which allows good produced legally in one member state to be sold in all the others, though it can be blocked if there’s an overriding public interest reason).

    Community law also allows for the use of higher standards by member states – the Community can set a minimum standard and member states can set higher standards for businesses on their territory, as long as the goods, etc. meeting the minimum standards can circulate freely.

    There are many models of regulation used by the Community (not just the exhaustive harmonisation model that you refer to). The main feature of the single market, however, remains the acceptence of common rules (either centrally set, jointly set by the centre and the member states, or set just by the member states [and enforced by common legal principles]).

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