Thursday, August 19, 2004

Lettuce pray

The "construction of Europe" is not a miracle, and that's official – according to the Vatican. So writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of The Daily Telegraph, back from his hols and ready to do battle with the Brussels circuit on our behalf.

His story, Vatican resists drive to canonise EU founder recounts how a campaign to sanctify the European Union through the beatification of its founding father, Robert Schuman, has run into stiff resistance from the Vatican and now appears likely to fail.

It least it seems the Vatican has retained some scruples. Having failed to find any evidence of miraculous healings or visions - a sine qua non for beatification, which is the first step towards canonisation – the investigators have refused to accept that "Franco-German reconciliation in the bitter aftermath of the Second World War was itself miraculous". "So far", writes Ambrose, "the Pope has responded coolly".

Schuman was, of course, the French foreign minister who on 9 May 1950 unveiled plans to pool western Europe's coal and steel production, which led to the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). This in turn provided a template for the institutional structures of the European Economic Community, which survive to this day in the form of the European Union.

But, although Schuman is publicly credited as having launched the ECSC, and is thus revered in some circles as the "Father of Europe" – with the anniversary of his 9 May speech "celebrated" as Europe day, it is well known that the true author of what was called the Schuman Plan was in fact Jean Monnet.

Monnet was a lapsed Catholic who married a divorcee - with a somewhat shady past which included selling, illegally, "firewater" to Canadian Indians. It is rather fitting, therefore, that the true author of "Franco-German reconciliation" could not possibly have been put up for sainthood, and the campaigners who are seeking the effective sanctification of the EU have had to go for Monnet's front man, M. Schuman, thus perpetuating the myth that he was the progenitor of "le Plan".

But the most fascinating detail of Ambrose's report is the fact that Schuman was "a gangly ascetic" who lived on eggs and lettuce. That detail should be more widely known. The judgement of anyone who lives in France, with its incomparable cuisine, and lives off eggs and lettuce, has to be seriously suspect.

Lettuce pray that that others will eventually see that M. Schuman's judgment on "Europe" was equally suspect, and the whole damn thing should be ditched, along with his supporters' ambitions for his sainthood.

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