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We can repress the… nationalism of Europeans only gradually

Posted by Richard Monday, June 13, 2005

There you have it, the authentic voice of the Euro-élite, this one a voice from the past, Helmut Schmidt, former chancellor of Germany.

Writing in today's edition of the International Herald Tribune, under the heading: "Europe, slow and steady", he tells us that there is "no reason for pessimism" after the "no" votes from the Dutch and the French.

"Europe is nowhere near the end of the road," he writes. "The fact that so many diverse citizens and cultures have combined to create a union of their own free will and free of violence is a unique achievement in world history. The referendums' failure will not change that."

Schmidt thinks that a "variety of further developments are (sic) conceivable." The additional expansions currently under way may have to cease and it is "unfortunately possible" that the EU may shrink into an institutionally enriched free-trade zone – to the delight of the British. But it is also possible that in a few years time, he believes, negotiations could lead to the formation of an inner core of Europe from several governments and their nations.

Above all, Schmidt cautions, the Union cannot be brought to completion in just a few decades by ministers and diplomats:

The EU needs the consent and will of its citizens. The coming experience of increasing helplessness of smaller and medium-sized nations acting alone will increasingly convince their citizens of the need for the Union, but that will take time and perseverance.
Then comes the crunch: "Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Jacques Delors, many of the old guard knew: We can repress the historically created egocentric nationalism of Europeans only gradually. Today's statesmen and the overzealous Brussels commissioners should follow this example."

Yes, I am guilty of selective quoting, but I would contend that the omission of those four words, "historically created egocentric nationalism", from the title of this piece does not change the meeting. Schmidt and his fellow travellers mean to repress nationalism.

Like others, he now seems to think that the constitution was taking the "project" on too fast and he is counselling the slower – more deceitful – approach favoured by the "old guard". How he reconciles that with the "consent and will" of the citizens, he does not explain, when they have just expressed precisely that, in two resounding rejections.

But hey! That is what "leadship" is all about. When the people tell you they do not want to follow, you go ahead anyway, only more slowly. "The referendums' failure will not change that." Significant choice of word, that: "failure". The people failed. Time for some more leadership.