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Could it be something in the water?

Posted by Helen Sunday, May 30, 2004

One of the most extraordinary aspects of the new report, Building a Political Europe, is the fatuousness of the assumptions that underlie it. The purpose of the report is to chart the way forward in defending something called the European model. But it is written by people (or, at least one person, since it is not clear whether the report is the work of Dominique Strauss-Kahn alone, or if he had the support of the international great and the good who sat on his committee) who have only a sketchy knowledge of European history, and no understanding of politics or economics.

Let us look at some of the more blatant contradictions in the document:

• The report bemoans the fact that there is no political Europe in the sense that the Commission, which ought to be a political government, has no power to impsoe all the necessary legislation to promote "the European model", which appears to be a highly centralized, bureaucratic, redistributionist, illiberal, inward looking, protectionist administrative tyranny. At the same time, the report makes it clear that the transfer of "concrete", "technical" powers was essential because there would have been no agreement to transfer political power.
In other words, the project lacked democratic legitimacy from the beginning, because that was the only way it could be created at all. This lack of legitimacy may now be undermining the whole project.

• It seems that the European model is rooted in imperial unity, such as Greek civilization and the Roman empire – neither exactly European but Mediterranean and Near Eastern, the various empires of Charlemagne, Charles V and Napoleon, as well as cultural unity like Christianity in the Middle Ages – presumably not when it was causing the deaths of thousands of Christians of slightly other persuasion and the Republic of Letters (what is that when it is at home?). But, apparently, the model is also rooted in the discords and wars and the horrors of the Second World War.
True enough, but where does that leave the idea of single model?

• Apart from the guff about inviolability of human rights, multilateralism and culture as a means of emancipation, there is the inevitable contradiction at the heart of the European economic project. The authors of the report proudly proclaim that the European model is a high taxing, high regulation, redistributive one. They are proud of the fact that taxation averages 42 per cent of GDP in Europe as opposed to 28 per cent in the USA and Japan. But, alas, the European project is foundering because of lack of growth and economic stagnation.
Could the two be possibly connected?

• Apparently European are proud of the model, which makes "a political Europe as the vector of this European model … legitimate". The trouble is that equally apparently, there is no faith in the model or support for it as shown by the low turn-out in elections and, it appears, according to the report, a loss of interest in representative democracy by the educated citizens of Europe.
But as, on their own account, the rulers of the EU have no democratic mandate, loss of interest in their antics hardly betokens loss of interest in representative democracy. Quite the opposite, it may show a desire to return to it.

• It seems that the European model, which protects its citizens and spreads its wonderful values in the world is threatened from within by economic stagnation and lack of political legitimacy and from without by the forces of globalization and international terrorism. It seems that this wonderful model simply cannot cope with what is going on in the world.
The one thing we are not told is why, in that case, it should be defended by more taxation, more regulation, more policy that has rendered it helpless and hopeless.

It is difficult to do justice to all the various contradictions and inanities in the document. We suggest that our readers look for themselves, pick out their favourite bits and send them in to us. To download full document in pdf click here.