This shouldn’t come as all that much surprise, there’s enough evidence around to prove the contention. But it’s interesting to see it being said out loud all the same. The European Union isn’t just some cooperation between nations, it’s the deliberate attempt to stamp a particular political outcome upon the continent. That then bringing two lessons for us all. If you don’t share the political ideal than you should be against the EU. And then of course that old saw, if you don’t want certain powers to be used by your enemies then you’d probably not put them into the political system itself. For as sure as eggs is eggs those enemies are going to gain political power at some point.
But here it is:
The battle lines are now drawn for Europe’s ultimate test: the May 2019 elections for the European parliament. That’s when far-right and populist parties will attempt to complete their power grab in the EU. In the elections of 2014, they made gains. Next year, they’ll seek to dominate. The dramatic events we’ve witnessed over the past fortnight, in Germany and Italy have been a mere foretaste of the showdown that lies ahead.
It’s often said that anti-establishment and nationalist parties want to dismantle the European project altogether. But what’s at stake is more likely to be a full-on effort to redraw it to their liking. The migration issue is the starting point of a continental power struggle pitching two very different versions of the principles that should bind Europe together. One is liberal democratic, and attuned to the notion of an open society; the other is fortress-minded, illiberal and intolerant.
“Liberal, democratic” is something that we’re all in favour of. It’s the definition of those words which is the difficulty. The older and correct meaning of liberal would have us all doing whatever the hell we want as long as our doing so doesn’t impact upon the rights of others to do the same. A regulatory system which bans large motors on vacuum cleaners for our own good is not liberal in this sense. We also can’t throw the bastards out so it’s not democratic.
But there is that statement that the EU is a method of stamping a particular political world view upon the continent. Not, as we might hope, a method of working out what people want then delivering it, nor just the cooperation inevitable in a more interconnected world. It’s a structure to be imposed.
Further, while we can’t throw the bastards out – just look at how difficult they’re making Brexit – it might be possible to coopt that structure. Which is the mistake that the paternalists and other would be exercisers of significant political power always forget. Perhaps this particular power is necessary to build that desired world – regulation of vacuum cleaner motors – but at some point those who do not share that aim of the desire political structure are going to gain power. And they’ll gain access to all those powers that you’ve encoded into the system.
For example, there was much chuntering that if the “far right” won power in Austria then that country would have to be cut out of the EU in some manner. Certainly, made to suffer. Now imagine said far right (oooh, scary, eh?) gaining systemic power. That exclusion can now be imposed on anyone so dangerously left wing as to be a social democrat, can’t it? Or possibly more realistically upon any one so deluded as to be a communist.
Which really rather neatly beings us back to our definition of liberal. That modern meaning being to accumulate the powers to drive society in the desired direction. The older one being to disperse power so that it cannot be seized to impose anything at all, other than that each gets to determine their own direction.
Let’s face it, the European Union was a mistake in the first place.