In an extraordinary piece today, written for The Financial Times, Dominique de Villepin – temporary prime minister of France - sets out his "vision" for a "united way to a new political Europe".
He starts off with the thesis that "Europe is in crisis", thereby eliding the crisis amongst the political élites of the European Union with the condition of a continent – something which really does not stand up to scrutiny.
From there, however - in an obvious reference to the "no" votes delivered by his own countrymen and the Dutch – he claims that "never have its peoples so forcefully expressed their hope to see a Europe of values and determination, capable of addressing their social imperatives, being built." My comments about stakes through hearts applies here – these people simply cannot take "no" for an answer.
We then get some ritual burbling about globalisation, with the injunction that: "We must be able to defend our political, economic and social interests, presenting a united front." As the say, who is this "we" paleface?
Anyhow, the Vile pen recipe for success is that "we give ourselves the resources to build this new political Europe," or "we resign ourselves to making our continent a vast free-trade area, governed by the rules of competition." No guesses as to which he preferes, to which effect, he tells us, "we need ambitious projects."
His first is Prodi's old favourite - European economic governance. He proposes a dialogue between the eurogroup and the European Central Bank to define a genuine European economic government for eurozone countries. He also wants a debate on managing strategic oli reserves.
Secondly, of agriculture, he claims it has given Europe an independent food supply, made Europe the world's second-largest agricultural power, and given it huge economic power. At a time when the food problem is becoming urgent worldwide, we have to strengthen our agriculture while pursuing its adaptation. European consumers want to be sure they will not encounter supply or health problems and that prices will remain affordable: only the Common Agricultural Policy enables us to take up these challenges.
Third, he claims that, of innovation and research, there are not, on one side, "old" Europeans committed to the CAP and, on the other, "modern" Europeans defending the Lisbon strategy. We are all looking to the future, he says. But to address under-exploitation of European strengths in physics, mathematics and chemistry, he proposes the creation in France of one or two European research and technology institutes. They will be open to all European states wishing to participate. In France, he adds, we have decided to create "competitiveness centres" to bring together high-level, but widely dispersed skills: why should they not take on a European dimension?
Fourth: he argues that police co-operation, exchanges of intelligence and border controls form the basis of internal security (internal security?). On defence, he says, progress achieved must (note, the "must") serve as a basis for still-closer co-operation.
Fifth: European democracy. Identity has been forged through support for common values. Student exchanges under the Erasmus programme are strengthening this feeling, paving the way for the emergence of a European democracy. But this programme is confined to a limited number. The European voluntary service is itself embryonic. So I propose a debate on creating a genuine European service, which would give all young Europeans the opportunity of working in the humanitarian sector or emergency services outside their home countries.
With that stunning prescription, he then dives further into fantasy, claiming that "Europe's peoples have never been so close." Like France and Germany, he says:
…they want political leaders to come to find solutions rather than just raise issues. Mr Chirac paved the way at the Brussels summit by accepting a budget compromise, just as he had accepted a compromise on the CAP in 2002. Europe must take the initiative. Our peoples want a new political Europe, with a capacity for action, a conscience and a moral code. Europe has become the testing ground for new political, economic and social ideas.With that, he concludes with the peroration: "Let Europe speak out." Funny that – I thought it had, and the bit that was allowed to express an opinion said "no".
You really can't parody this – it speaks for itself. But if Blair really thinks he can make a deal with this man or – more to the point – this mindset, then we need the men in white coats.
The trouble is that what Vile pin writes is so fantastic, it is almost unbelievable. It'll never happen, we think. However, we've been caught like that before. Vile pen, and his fellow travellers, undoubtedly do believe it – as long as it is a French-run "political Europe" of course. Beware!