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Is there such a thing as a European identity?

by Frank Schnittger Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 10:45:59 PM EST

The signing of the new reform treaty by Heads of Government in Lisbon this week seems like a good time to ask the question as to whether there is any such a thing as a European identity.

The EU arose from a determination by a post war generation of politicians that Europe should never again be the theatre for a world war.  In this, it has been extraordinarily successful, and it has gradually grown from being a free trade area covering a few strategic industries, to developing a common market and a large number of common political institutions and policy areas.

The collapse of the Soviet Union presented an opportunity to draw away the Iron Curtain and extend the concept eastwards to include the antagonists of the cold war - with the glaring exception of Russia and the various states made up from the former Republic of Yugoslavia.  Previously stringently enforced entry requirements and convergence criteria were set aside to allow even relatively under-developed states like Romania and Bulgaria to join.

That the enlargement was rushed and ultimately botched is probably unarguable.  Any governing structure which requires unanimous agreement of 27 Governments is unwieldy, cumbersome, and almost designed to fail.  The Reform Treaty, aka the European Constitution Lite should have been agreed before any enlargement took place, and enlargement made conditional on it being agreed.

Now, instead of it having to be agreed by just 15 members prior to enlargement, it has to be agreed by 27 members, and the compelling argument that it was required to streamline decision making and enable the (popular) inclusion of Eastern European states is rendered redundant, because they have been allowed to enter in any case.

So why was enlargement enacted so hastily, and why did it include relatively insignificant states like the Baltic states (apologies in advance to any Baltic friends here) and why was the possibility of Russian inclusion never seriously considered?


The answer to the first question seems to be twofold.  The collapse of the Soviet Union presented an opportunity which might never be repeated.  A strong Russia would never have allowed the inclusion of the Baltic states, particularly with the status of large ethnic Russian minorities there unresolved.   Better to strike whilst the former Soviet Union was in a state of near anarchy and collapse.

Secondly, it suited the British agenda to weaken the influence of the core Franco-German project to control the overall shape and direction of the EU.  Not only would Britain find some allies in Eastern Europe, but the wider the expansion, the less likely it would be able to deepen the integration and centralisation of many more state functions around Brussels.  Britain still saw the EU as primarily a joint trading block and did not want any widespread delegation of powers to Brussels, particularly when Brussels was still modelled very much on the Franco-German blueprint.

So why was Russia never even seriously considered for inclusion?  Was it simply too big a chunk for the EU to swallow?  Was it simply in too unstable a condition to be accommodated?  Certainly, its territory, extending all the way to Alaska would have stretched the geographical concept of "Europe" beyond all known limits.  Its population of c. 140 Million (twice that of Turkey) would have represented over 20% of the total enlarged EU including Russia.  

But its economy, as measured by GDP was little bigger than that of Denmark at one stage (during its economic collapse), and even in 2006 it was still smaller than each of German, Britain, France and Italy.  In those terms, it is still no more than a medium to large European state.  With its enormous reservoirs of Oil and Gas, would it not have been an ideal complimentary partner for the more advanced industrialised but resource poor western European states?

If the original founders of the EU could bring together its chief historic antagonists, Germany and France, to form the core of the new entity, should the eastward expansion not have included Russia, the chief antagonist of the second half of the 20th. Century, and for exactly the same reason: to secure the peace?  

Now that opportunity has been missed, and, for whatever reason, Russia and the EU are drifting apart.  We may not be back to the Cold War days (yet), but it seems highly unlikely that a fruitful and friction free alliance will develop out of the relationship.

I am not an international relations, or a Russian foreign policy expert, and so cannot give any obvious reason why Russia never seemed to be on the EU potential membership agenda.  Perhaps Russian Governments never wanted to join.  Perhaps the plan was to get all the smaller countries in first - many of them Russia's natural trading partners - with a view to create a situation where Russia had little option but to seek to join.  

Perhaps the suspicions and scars of the Cold War were simply too deep to allow any genuine sense of mutual destiny to develop.  I will leave it to the Russian foreign policy and international relations experts here to come up with a more convincing explanation.  But it has always seemed strange to me that the EU elite where very keen on Turkey to join, even though, in many ways it has far less resources, common interests, common culture and shared landmass with Europe proper.

All of this is by way of introduction to what IS my central question in this Diary: Is there such a thing as a common European identity, and on what basis has it been created, and thus, how may we expect it to develop in the future?

Western Europe may seem like a relatively homogeneous place now - with quaint differences of culture, language, philosophy etc. - but really the prospect of such diverse and historically antagonistic states uniting around such a comprehensive institution as the EU would have been unthinkable for most of the 20th. Century.

So what are it's natural boundaries?  Certainly Russia, west of the Urals at least has been intertwined with European history for centuries.  The Ottoman Empire famously extended to the gates of Vienna at one stage, but was it ever seen as anything but a foreign invader?

Turkey has a democratic and secular tradition which stands comparison with many European states, but has it ever been seen as truly European?  Israel is made up largely of European (and Russian) émigrés.  Is it disqualified from consideration as a European state by its geography, or by its politics?  Certainly the origins of most of its people would entitle it to be regarded as part of Europe.

If there is one thing (amongst others) which killed the first attempt at creating an EU constitution, it was a general antagonism to the accession of Turkey, widely seen as being on the Brussels agenda at the time.  Possibly the second reason was that it failed to articulate, in any recognisable way, ANY vision of what Europe was about - normally the first challenge confronting any constitution.

It is all very well for diplomats to want to streamline and rationalise decision making, and to consolidate a succession of barely intelligible treaties, but if even the experts cannot divine what the text of the proposed constitution actually means, it is hard to see why the general populace should be excited by it.

By the same token it is also hard to see why its latest Constitution Lite incarnation will be passed - if the electorates in the more sceptical countries are actually allowed to give their verdict by way of referendum.  Perhaps it will be sold negatively, on the basis that the alternative is decision making PARALYSIS and CHAOS.  

But at its heart there is a big missing.  Where does it say what Europe is actually FOR, why should citizens fight for its FREEDOMS, why should its soldiers be prepared to risk their lives in its defence?  Is this not the acid test of any state?

We might say that constitutions like the American Constitution, with all its stirring language, can also give rise to patriotic excess - and that is precisely what Europeans are wary of, having seen it as leading to the world wars of the 20th. Century.

And here we come to the nub of the matter.  It suits many people, in many member states, that the EU remains a somewhat inchoate and incoherent mess.  With no clear vision or governing structures, muddling along like some giant amoeba, going nowhere in particular but just looking after the joint interests of its members if and when those can be defined and agreed.

If anything the amoeba analogy is too kind, because an amoeba is a single celled organism whereas the EU has at least 27 cells, but no heart, brain, spine, bones, muscle, or soul - although the British would argue that it does have a lot of fat chiefly located in Brussels!

So does this mean that there is no discernable or European identity at the heart of the EU project?  Something that can tell us why (European) Russia is excluded, and eastern Turkey was emphatically rejected for inclusion by the populace if not the European elite?  Something that tells us that the largely European peopled Israel is anathema, but the largely Muslim Bosnia and Kosovo are favoured over Orthodox Serbia?  

Is it just a glorified economic trading pact made up of Sovereign Nation States which doesn't really have a strong identity and independent existence in itself?  Is it all a marriage of convenience which will collapse faster than the Warsaw Pact when circumstances change?  

I want to present a somewhat unfashionable and controversial thesis here that has been almost silent throughout all this debate, and it is this:  At its root Europe's identity, if it has one, is centred around a common European tradition of Christianity.

DROP OF JAWS all around.  How on earth did I reach such a conclusion?  Wasn't all reference to Christianity removed from early drafts of the EU Constitution.  Are we not all agreed that Religion has been a cause of as much strife as Nationalism (if not more) and do we really want to go THERE again?  The world wars of the 20th. Century may have been primarily driven by Nationalism, but the preceding centuries of war were driven by religion, and particularly by the divisions highlighted by the Reformation.

Isn't one of the singular achievements of European democracy that all constitutions are now secular?  Fascist Italy, Spain and Portugal with their close association to the Catholic Church are no more.  Even dear old Catholic Ireland has removed the reference to "the Special Position of the Catholic Church" from its Constitution.

However when I say Christianity, I do not mean the institutional Churches, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant.  I mean what they have in common, rather than what divides them.  In a really perverse way, the EU can be seen not just as a historic concordat between the competing Nationalisms of France and Germany (east west) but also the competing Christianities of Catholic (Latin) South and Protestant (Anglo Saxon) North, with Germany having a foot in both camps.

If you define the European identity in this way the exclusion of Orthodox Russia and Serbia, Islamic Turkey and Jewish Israel makes more sense.  Of course there are anomalies - there is Orthodox Greece, and the aforementioned possibility that Islamic Bosnia/Kosovo may join.  But these are relatively tiny populations which no not threaten the overall dominance of Roman Catholic/Protestant (or catholic as opposed to Orthodox) Christianity as a whole.

Of course, virtually no one in Europe wants to go back from a secular to a theocratic state structure in Europe - a society run by churchmen rather than statesmen.  The memories of religious conflict are still far too raw.  But that is not at all what I am arguing.

What I AM arguing is that the quintessential European identity HAS been moulded by centuries of conflict, chiefly along a Roman Catholic/Protestant  axis, and what we have now is a historic fusion between the two, combining elements of Protestant individualism and Catholic authoritarianism in a set of political structures which are avowedly secular, but Christian secular, that is to say, secular within a broadly Christian context.  In fact the word secular, in this context can be read to mean not only non-theocratic, but neutral as between Catholicism and Protestantism within Christianity.

That is all very well if your roots are broadly Christian - you can feel comfortable in any European state regardless of whether its roots were originally Catholic or Protestant.  That is what secularism guarantees you.  But what if you are Muslim?

The failure of many Muslim communities to integrate successfully in Europe is largely because the European concept of a secular state IS Christian.  Unless you agree to become a secularised Muslim (and there is really no such thing in Islam itself) you will find it difficult to integrate.

Turkey, by contrast, may also be a secular state - i.e. not run by Churchmen/Imams - but it is an Islamic secular state - and thus incompatible with a deep, hidden, but implicit Christianity at the heart of the secular (Western) European sense of identity.

This theory raises all sorts of problems.  At the heart of both the British multicultural and the French universalistic state projects is a rejection that the state should take any cogniscence of any religious affiliation whatsoever.  This may have arisen historically to create a de facto truce between Catholics and Protestants, and may never have been intended to extend to Jews and Moslems, for example.

However the horrors of the Holocaust, and the fact of the large-scale Moslem immigration to Europe (driven initially largely be economic or imperial factors) made it imperative that this "religion blindness" be extended to other religions as well.  This forced a repression of the fact that the original founding ethos of all western European states was a Christian one, whether Protestant, or Catholic, and, when secular, an abstraction combining elements common to both.

Western Europe thus had to suppress its folk memory of a common catholic (i.e non-orthodox) Christian founding ethos and identity, in order to atone for the Holocaust and take account of Islamic and Hindu immigration.  For Europe, now, to reassert its Christian identity would be profoundly threatening to its Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, or Atheistic citizens and run counter to both the multi-cultural and universalistic models of societal integration.

The problem now is that Europe had no common identity at all in its attempt to be non-discriminatory towards all its citizens.  Whereas all US citizens take a common Pledge of Allegiance and citizens of other countries are unambiguously Chinese, or South Africans, or whatever, European citizens have nothing more than a common passport or driving licence!

Europe can therefore never be a political power, in the sense that the US, Russia, China and India can be world powers because it will never be more than a mix of 27+ nationalities who are not allowed to have an identity based on about the only thing the vast majority of them have in common.

So the answer to my question: Is there such a thing as a European identity?  Is yes, and it is broadly, catholic Christian in origin.  But the very fact that the outcome of the religious wars was an assertion that all religious beliefs had to be tolerated and accepted means that this common European identity can never become the basis for the EU project.

Those who see the EU as an emerging superpower are therefore likely to be disappointed.  It lacks the shared values and identity that would be required to overcome all the competing nationalisms within.  

It will never have a directly elected President or Government answerable to a directly elected Parliament which relegates national governments/parliaments to regional subsidiary status.  It will probably never have a written Constitution worthy of the name, because the only values and identity which is remotely common to the vast majority of its citizens cannot acknowledge its own existence.

The reality is that in Europe today you can be German or French, Italian or British; Atheist, Christian, Hindu, Moslem, or Jew; but you cannot be European, because for that to be anything other than a banal regional appellation it would have to recognise the fact that it is fundamentally a Christian construct albeit expressed in secularised terms.  And that is about the only thing the vast majority of Europeans have in common.  How embarrassing is that, for those who think of religion as no more than a relic of an unfortunate past!

Display:
The "original founding ethos" of all Western European states in their modern incarnation is Enlightenment philosophy, which was vigorously and violently opposed by Christianity of all kinds and branches for several centuries before the priests recognised forces for which allowances must be made and tried to sneak in the back door by claiming that secularism, pluralism and tolerance (a.k.a. civilisation) had been a Christian value all along.

The very concepts of constitutional government, inalienable and individual human rights, sexual, religious and ethnic equality, not to mention freedom of speech and peaceable assembly are not only not found in any pre-enlightenment philosophy - Christian or otherwise - it runs directly counter to most of it! One of the chief reasons that Poland has been so much of a headache to the Union is that it has for years been run by wanna-be-theocrats. And I fondly remember a French diplomat telling the Pope to sit down and shut up while the sane people talk. Almost in so many words.

Any European 'Christian identity' would be so much intolerant, jingoistic nonsense. You need look no further than across the Pond to see the results of pandering to that particular prejudice.

As for your examples of the limits of our willingness to include Russia and Turkey (not to mention the North African states), there are several different facets. In the case of Russia, I believe that it's a combination of not wanting to have to deal with the way politics is made in Moscow, lingering cold-war animosity and a (probably not entirely unjustified) fear that Russia will be even more of the proverbial bull in the china shop that Poland has been.

In the case of Turkey and N. Africa, religious bigotry is more than likely a factor among conservatives, but I think that petty racism is more important as far as explanations go.

As for what the European identity is, that is as yet undetermined. I do not think that there is such a thing as a European identity at this point. We're still trying to make it. There are forces at work attempting to make it a Christian European identity. There are forces at work attempting to make it an Atlantic European identity and there are forces at work trying to kill it off. I find it imperative that none of those three succeed.

I would like the European identity to be an Enlightenment identity. For that matter, I would like European identity to be rather more Enlightenment than European. I see no problem, for example, in having a South American country join the Union if and when they meet the entry requirements.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 01:05:35 AM EST
"The "original founding ethos" of all Western European states in their modern incarnation is Enlightenment philosophy, which was vigorously and violently opposed" what a rubbish statement. Sorry. to be so blunt. But this is an oversimplification which is both incorrect and boring.

However where to start. What can we agree on?
Well, I like European identity to be an enlightend, Enlightenment identity as well.
I think that is a good starting point.

Secondly, I honestly think, you have a difficult time to prove that Enlightenment or Aufklaerung was and is always AGAINST Religion - Quite contrary, I would say. It is a movement that goes alongside Religion (espescially Christianity of the protestant sort, but others as well), interacts and grows along side it.
There are many facets to this.

First of all there is a political power of Church. Then there is intellectual influence.
I think these two need to be strictly seperated.
I am not interested in the political power of the Church or Religion in general. Undoubtatly it exists, undoubtatly it can/ has/ will have negative and positive influences on everyday lives. Undoubtadley that is where most hate and agression is directed against.

However, to repeat myself, in a discussion of Enlightenment it is not really of interest (to me). And I also don't think, that the simplification of a backward directed negative ideal (all church/Religion= all bad) is always helpful. Quite contrary, it actually distorts the field quite considerably.

I am currently at work and not really able to put my thoughts here into propper words. They would probably walk along certain names:
Galileo, Voltaire, Herder, Kant, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Blumenberg.
That has to be enought for the moment.

by PeWi on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 10:16:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Secondly, I honestly think, you have a difficult time to prove that Enlightenment or Aufklaerung was and is always AGAINST Religion

Enlightenment does not, as a rule, have a problem with religion. There is no denying that many key figures (think Voltaire and Madison) were strongly anti-clerical, but (as you note) that is not - quite - the same thing. But religion has not always been kind enough to return that favour.

But let's look at the foundation of a couple of modern European states:

France - both the democratic revolutions and the Charter of Human Rights were violently opposed by the Church.

Italy - specifically abolished the Vatican during its unification (the Vatican was later re-established by Mussolini, but that's a different story).

Spain - the first reasonably democratic government (in 1931) is strongly anti-clerical. This trend continues until Franco's coup. Post-Franco, one of the major divisions between the ex-phalangist conservative party and the democratic progressive parties is whether to continue the 'special relationship' with the Catholic Church (I leave it as an exercise to the reader to guess who's on which side).

Germany - I know too little about the political drive towards unification of Germany to make comment.

UK - Looking over English history, it is difficult to point to a decisive turning point w.r.t. democratic developments. It is certainly here that the case for religious-democratic co-evolution is strongest.

Belgium - Born in a nationalist revolution.

Scandinavia - Gradual democratic evolution, with religious leaders found on all sides - although it should be noted that on important issues such as universal suffrage and reproductive rights, religious opposition was pronounced until long after such things were fait accompli.

For myself, I'm not opposed to religion as such, although I am somewhat anti-clerical. But I think that religion should be kept away from politics. And building a 'national/European identity' around (a specific) religion seems like an exceedingly bad way to do that.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 01:07:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At its root Europe's identity, if it has one, is centred around a common European tradition of Christianity.

I agree (though I would also include Greco-Roman classical civilization, the Judaeo/Hebrew tradition, Islamic civilization, and the pagan barbarian cultures as very significant contributing elements to Western society as well.)

But Europe does not need an "identity", which I believe just boils down to good old-fashioned tribal affiliation.  And I should hope that Europeans would be moving beyond this.  If Europe succeeds in articulating and realizing its values and ideals, its actions and deeds will be identity enough.

Or if Europe must have an identity, how about plain old "human being", or better yet, "inhabitant of planet earth"?

Thanks for this excellent diary.

(The first part about the rapid, perhaps premature expansion of the EU, the problems this has posed for fixing a constitution, and issues about including Russia and Turkey or not, was particularly informative for me.)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 02:06:03 AM EST
European identity

First, a few factual comments:

-    The European Union did not start as a free trade area, but as a common industrial policy: the Coal and Steel European Community.

-    About Russia: joining the EU is not easy. First, integrating a major military (and nuclear) power extending as far as the Pacific ocean is not the same as integrating a 20 million inhabitants medium-sized country like Romania. Even if Russia and the EU agreed on Russia joining the EU, to meet the Copenhagen criteria, huge changes should be brought to the Russian society at all levels in the economy, the law, and the institutions. Turkey has been conducting major upheavals to its law and institutions and has nevertheless a long way to go before meeting the accession criteria. Contrary to what you say, the accession criteria have not been "set aside" for the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. Indeed some of them require further enforcement (mainly corruption), but the totality of the "acquis communautaire" has been translated into their law and the remaining criteria will be enforced now that both countries are member states.

-    I disagree about the alleged failure of Muslim communities to integrate successfully in Europe. At least in France, the Muslim community is more and more integrated, and I think it is true in other countries like Italy. That doesn't mean there is no racism, but tensions are mainly caused by social problems, not religious ones. By the way, you contradict yourself when you say:

Unless you agree to become a secularised Muslim (and there is really no such thing in Islam itself) you will find it difficult to integrate


And two lines below:
Turkey, by contrast, may also be a secular state - i.e. not run by Churchmen/Imams - but it is an Islamic secular state -

-    And you are wrong when you say:

At the heart of both the British multicultural and the French universalistic state projects is a rejection that the state should take any cogniscence of any religious affiliation whatsoever. This may have arisen historically to create a de facto truce between Catholics and Protestants, and may never have been intended to extend to Jews and Moslems, for example.

I am not enough knowledgeable about the history of Jews in England, but in France, Jews have been completely integrated after the French Revolution. Muslims were not in significant numbers until the second half of the twentieth century.

-    It is too easy to focus on a specific period of history in order to support your point of view. If you look at the European history from the beginning, Turkey has as much in common with other European countries as Russia, maybe more. Furthermore, modern Turkey has modelled its institutions and even its language on European ones.

Regarding identity, you are confusing history and identity. At a personal level as well as at a collective level, history is certainly a key element of the identity-building process, but the result cannot be reduced to the process, hence identity cannot be reduced to history.  In fact individuation (the emergence of individual identity - I don't have the English word) takes place when an individual (or a group) distances himself/herself/itself from his/her/its history. Furthermore, reducing identity to its religious dimension is an extremely narrow-focused approach. For example, I was raised in a Catholic family, went to Catholic schools, so Catholicism is a big part of my history, but I don't define myself as a Catholic.

So, to say Christianity is an important part of the history of Europe is obvious, but that doesn't mean Europe is Christian. You could as well say that monarchy is at the heart of European identity because Europe has been ruled by monarchies for most of its history. And I agree with Jake S: many values embedded in the European constituting principles (and in the Copenhagen criteria) have been developed against the opposition of the Catholic Church. You could also say that going to war with one another is at the heart of European identity...

Even if it acknowledges a common history, the European Union project is also by essence a willingness to distance itself from Europe's history.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 04:05:27 AM EST

First, a few factual comments:

-    The European Union did not start as a free trade area, but as a common industrial policy: the Coal and Steel European Community

I'm sorry but it WAS a free trade area- limited to the coal and steel industries.

There is no way the Romanian/Bulgarian economies can be said to have converged with the EU economies even if they have signed a gazillion regulations into law.


By the way, you contradict yourself  when you say:   Unless you agree to become a secularised Muslim (and there is really no such thing in Islam itself) you will find it difficult to integrate

And two lines below:

    Turkey, by contrast, may also be a secular state - i.e. not run by Churchmen/Imams - but it is an Islamic secular state -

The contradiction is in Turkey itself.  Turkey is an Islamic society run by a secular state on the European model (although I am sure they would say Kemal Atatürk invented it!) This means there are extraordinary tensions in Turkey between the Army - dedicated to the defense of the secular state - and Turkish society where many Turks would like to see the creation of an Islamic state in line with their religious beliefs.

I agree that the EU is an attempt to create something new and to distance itself from Europe's sordid history.  Christianity is obviously part of that.  My difficulty is that the original vision - to create peace in Europe - is now taken for granted, and the EU has moved way beyond that original vision in both size and scope.  However it is viewed by Europeans themselves as increasingly remote, undemocratic, opaque and run by a clique of Eurocrats who speak a language they do not understand.  The Constitution fiasco is symptomatic of that.

It needs in some way to reconnect to the basic ways in which Europeans perceive themselves and others and to inspire them to strive for even greater goals than those that have already been achieved.  People need to feel the the EU Commission and Parliament - are THEIR Commission and Parliament, not some remote institutions pursuing their own agendas.

To do that it probably needs a directly elected President and Government - answerable to the Parliament which can be fired by the people if they are unhappy with progress.  The proposed "reform" treaty does not even attempt to address this.  We have has enough PR speak about democratic deficits it is time for action.

At the end of the day all politics is personal.  Instead Europeans make do with a faceless bureaucracy that no one can relate to.  It therefore does not have the mechanisms and processes required to "distance itself from its own history".

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 02:28:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The European Coal and Steel Community was a common free steel and coal market, with freely set market prices, and without import/export duties or subsidies, but it was a regulated market. It included:
-    a High Authority in charge of defining industrial policies about steel and coal
-    a Council of ministers of the six founding countries
-    an Assembly made of representatives of the parliaments of the six member states
-    a Court of Justice in charge of disputes
All these bodies evolved into today's European institutions.

You claim that

many Turks would like to see the creation of an Islamic state

But, according to the Robert Schuman Foundation;

Elections législatives en Turquie, 22 juillet 2007

The number of Turks hoping to see the establishment of an Islamic State has decreased by 20% since 1999 to 9%

Finally, you say:

It needs in some way to reconnect to the basic ways in which Europeans perceive themselves and others and to inspire them to strive for even greater goals than those that have already been achieved. People need to feel the the EU Commission and Parliament - are THEIR Commission and Parliament, not some remote institutions pursuing their own agendas.

On this, we agree...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:11:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks for your substantial comments.  I wrote this Diary not because I thought I had all the answers, but because I think it is an important question to which we need to find answers.

I don't doubt the importance of historic events like the Enlightenment, the French revolution, or the Industrial revolution in shaping the manner in which Europe, and Christianity, has evolved in the last few centuries.  But very few people go around calling themselves enlightenment philosophers or Jacobins, and the inheritors of the Industrial revolution, Capitalists and Socialists, whilst a very important part of what Europe is about today, do not provide a sense of identity which is uniquely European.

European Christianity, such as it is, and I am not referring to its institutional manifestations, is very different from American or African Christianity.  It is secularised, it has adopted enlightenment values as its own, and it is radically different in its insistence on democratic norms of decision making than say Islam, which has a fundamental theocratic model of governance at its heart.

You can call any national/regional identity racist, if you wish, in that all tend to set out what it means to be e.g. an Australian, French, American, and these tend to be fashioned around the dominant ethnic groupings in those countries.  Thus the Australian identity is derived from the British (however much they may love to hate the Pommy Bastards), the French identity is derived from the metropolitan France (and particularly Parisian culture) and the U.S. identity is predominantly WASP even though ethnic WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) are becoming a minority.

Thus any European identity, if there is one, or if one is to be created as a basis for further European integration, has to include some things and exclude others.  Of course this definition cannot be ethnic or racist because of the wide diversity of races within Europe.  We saw what the last (Nazi) attempt to create a European super state built on such a definition (the Aryan race) resulted in.

Thus any European Identity can only be built on a set of shared values, however explicit or implicit) which are expressed in its constitution, institutions, laws, customs and practices.  Core amongst these are democracy, respect for human rights, separation of church and state, religious freedom, secularism, ethnic diversity, and a determination to pursue non-violent means of dispute resolution to the almost complete exclusion - except as a last resort - of military force.  It was this last "value" which was so grievously offended by the perpetrators and supporters of the Iraq war.

So when I refer to Europe having a christian identity, I do not refer to Christianity as a religion, but as a largely implicit set of values which have absorbed all the historical influences alluded to earlier and which are present in a unique combination in Europe.

So does it make sense to call it christianity at all?  Will this not just lead to endless confusion and charges of sectarianism?  Probably.  But when you look at Europe from the outside, what term could you use which uniquely describes the mix of historical influences which has shaped it and which differentiate it from the rest of the world?

Certainly, the EU could admit members from (say) Latin America or North Africa if they sign up to all the relevant treaties and economic convergence criteria.  But Government is also about the governed IDENTIFYING and feeling part of the symbols, structures, and culture of the state to which they are expected to give their allegiance.

The EU is already open to huge criticism and apathy because "Brussels" and the "Eurocracy" are perceived as being remote from the concerns and daily lives of its citizens.  EU citizens simply do not have any European institutions or Leaders they can identify with in the way that (say) American identify with their Constitution, Congress and President even if they are radically politically opposed to the current holder of the office.

We have a choice to make.  The EU can evolve into something resembling a European superstate if that is what its citizens want, or if that is what external exigencies (the rise of Russia, China, India and an increasingly hostile U.S.) force it to become.  Or it can become a sort of UN writ large, encompassing all sorts of  countries from all over the world with broadly similar economic and political philosophies - but with absolutely no shared identity at all - beyond the fact that we are all human and struggling to survive on an endangered planet.

Either option is a valid choice.  My argument here is simply to say that the first option is not an option unless Europe can fashion for itself a unique identity, which distinguishes it from all other non-European countries, and which the vast majority of its citizens can identify with.

My most general point is that Europe cannot create for itself a constitution, institutions and leadership dynamic within the world at large unless it can create a bond between those institutions and its people that is built on a sense of shared values and identity.

That bond is starkly missing at the moment.  If anything we are going backwards and even previously enthusiastic members such as Ireland are becoming disillusioned with the project.  That is why the Reform Treaty is such an opaque and anaemic document.  That is why it will probably not be ratified even in its present eviscerated form.  That is why the EU is on the brink of becoming a failing institution.

You may not like the answer I gave to the question of what is most characteristic of the European identity as opposed to non-European identities.  The reality is that no-one has come up with an answer, and that is why the European dream of a unified, secular, tolerant and yet dynamic, positive and effective actor on the world stage is never going to be realised.  

It has failed the test of statehood.  Its people do not know what they are supposed to identify with and belong to, and what they see is just a huge bureaucracy of faceless movers and shakers making decisions on their behalf that effect them, but to which they have given no special oath of loyalty or allegiance.

The bond between the EU and its peoples is becoming broken.  How are we going to fix it?  Answers on a postcard please, because if you cannot articulate what it means to the vast majority of Europeans to BE European within a few clear sentences you have no basis for the European Ideal to move forward.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 07:07:28 AM EST
Except they're Enlightenment values, not Christian ones.

It's not a surprise that the most reactionary countries in the EU - specifically the UK and Poland - are the ones with the most obvious religious influences.

We've recently had the spectacle of a supposedly left wing former prime minister admitting that his values - the ones that led to involvement in a military disaster, and a state of permanent terror alert against supposed Muslim plotters - were actually Catholic. Only he didn't bother to tell anyone what he really believed because he suspected people would think he was a nutter.

It's hard to imagine how Europe's Christian Problem could be spelled out more clearly. It's not a progressive influence, and it's at odds with most people's personal and political affiliations, and also with core Englightenment values.

So it's hard to see how Europe can be Christian, if the only way it can allow Christian issues to set policy is by forcing a prominent Christian to lie his true beliefs.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 07:30:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
very few people go around calling themselves enlightenment philosophers or Jacobins,

In Europe, very few go around calling themselves Christians...

European Christianity.... is radically different in its insistence on democratic norms of decision making than say Islam,

This is not obvious when you see the behaviour of some churches like in Spain, Poland or Portugal (for example regarding abortion rights). And Sunni Islam is much more democratic than Catholicism: it has no hierarchy and no clergy.

Of course this definition cannot be ethnic or racist because of the wide diversity of races within Europe.  We saw what the last (Nazi) attempt to create a European super state built on such a definition (the Aryan race) resulted in.

Of course this definition cannot be religious because of the wide diversity of religions and non-religious philosophies within Europe. We saw what the last attempt to create a Europe built on such a definition (the Catholic or Protestant religion) resulted in: the religion wars.

Thus any European Identity can only be built on a set of shared values... Core amongst these are democracy, respect for human rights, separation of church and state, religious freedom, secularism, ethnic diversity, and a determination to pursue non-violent means of dispute resolution to the almost complete exclusion - except as a last resort - of military force... So when I refer to Europe having a Christian identity, I do not refer to Christianity as a religion, but as a largely implicit set of values which have absorbed all the historical influences alluded to earlier and which are present in a unique combination in Europe.

But, as TBG underlines it, these are Enlightenment values which have been adopted by the European Christians and often under duress by the European churches (which regularly try to roll back some of them...). These values are also shared by a vast majority of Jews and by many Muslims. Contrary to what the dominant Huntingtonian narrative claims, there have been and there are interpretations of Islam which go very well along with these values (at least as well as the Catholicism) and it is the case of a majority of European Muslims. So why call it Christianity?

But when you look at Europe from the outside, what term could you use which uniquely describes the mix of historical influences which has shaped it and which differentiate it from the rest of the world?

What about European?

The EU can evolve into something resembling a European superstate... Or it can become a sort of UN writ large

I think you haven't got what characterizes the European project. It is a not a new Holy Roman Empire, nor the revival of Kakania , nor the United States of Europe. It is not a loose international body like the united Nations. It is a new political object, of a kind that had not been invented so far. Hence the problem of identity: the European identity cannot be copied on the pre-existing ones: we have to invent a new one.

And identity is not established by decree. It is slowly built by common institutions, common stories, shared experiences... I think European identity already exists sociologically speaking: when you look at some international polls about religion, social issues or foreign policies, you find that Europeans have a lot in common, sometimes without knowing it.  What strikes me every time I discuss this with non-Europeans is that, to outsiders, Europe is perceived as a rather cohesive set of countries, if not a country.

...what is most characteristic of the European identity as opposed to non-European identities. The reality is that no-one has come up with an answer,

That doesn't mean the old answers will work...

What lacks are common rituals and symbols which we can share, like a European day or a European football team. That's partly what we tried to discuss in the diary Europe and its citizens.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 09:45:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]

In Europe, very few go around calling themselves Christians..

Really?  I'd like to see the stats on Church membership or personal self-identification by country.  In some countries like Poland it is possibly 90% plus?

In Ireland the political power of the church is utterly broken - but 90% of people still go to weddings and funerals and other services in a church context

I think you are confusing formal religiousity with an identification with a particular value system - which is the basis of my argument.

I am not even arguing whether it is a particularly good or bad value system.  Just that for the European project to move forward it needs to reconnect and inspire its constituent peoples, and that it is singularly failing o do.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 02:40:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When talking about values and religion in different countries, I always found the Map by Ronald Inglehart to be useful as a starting point.

You can find the data here.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:21:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
I think you are confusing formal religiousity with an identification with a particular value system

Actually I think you are.

Someone who gets married in a church isn't any more Christian than someone who drives to a wedding in a car is a Formula 1 celebrity.

Frank Schnittger:

Just that for the European project to move forward it needs to reconnect and inspire its constituent peoples, and that it is singularly failing o do.

True enough. But touting Christianity as an answer guarantees that you'll alienate even more of the population. Especially the many non-Christians of every description.

Active church-goers in the UK are around 5% of the population. People will often say 'Christian' by default if asked, but only because they remember school assembly, not out of any personal conviction.

The real religion of the EU is Secular Capitalism - a milder form of the Capitalist Darwinism which is the official religion of the US, and includes all of the Protestant Work Ethic without the Protestantism.

All of our daily rituals and social values revolve around it. Christianity barely gets a look in, in comparison.

If people are alienated, it's because Secular Capitalism doesn't have much of a future to offer them, and they're starting to wake up to this.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:35:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Religion on the Way Out in Europe: Angus Reid Global Monitor
The Angus Reid World Poll conducted for Maclean's found that most Europeans and Canadians appear to be turning away from religion, while Indians, South Africans, Mexicans and residents of three Middle East countries still consider it an important part of their daily lives.

France is at the bottom of the list, with only 17 per cent of respondents expressing interest in religion, with Britain at 23 per cent, Germany at 24 per cent and Spain at 31 per cent. Italy, traditionally one of the most Catholic countries in Europe, is the exception among continental nations with 51 per cent.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:35:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the Zuckerman study is still the best on this issue, because it separates things like "low interest in religion" from calling oneself atheist. Couldn't find the original, here is a breakdown.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 05:02:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The reality is that no-one has come up with an answer, and that is why the European dream of a unified, secular, tolerant and yet dynamic, positive and effective actor on the world stage is never going to be realised.  

It has failed the test of statehood.  Its people do not know what they are supposed to identify with and belong to,

so inviting them back into the emptying churches will help?

you write really well, frank, and ask some very tough, essential questions about europe that mirror my own, less well expressed ones.

i choose to remain more hopeful, and find your conclusions premature and fatalistic, though in my heart i cannot deny the depressing probability that you are right.

i don't know if you're a christian, or go to church, and it may not be relevant, seeing as this blog has never been about religion from a personal point of view, just a socio-political one.

one one level, i love jesus' message, the sermon on the mount is good advice couched in superb poetry, yet having seen what a botchup his socalled followers have created every time they had the power, i'm loath to believe increased church attendance would be a panacea for anything....(i am not saying this is what you propose!).

but...what if the power went down?

where would people congregate to be miserable sinners together, if not church?

once the town hall was burned, and leaders strung up on lamp-posts, whom then will be turned to for consolation and (possibly false) hope?

economists?

churches played a vital social role for centuries, people got together there to pray/worry when their fishermen husbands were lost in a storm, or when the harvest failed, and winter poised to claim the weak and fragile....they felt better, and called that feeling-better 'god'.

they did this even before christianity, and there has always been a race of cynics who have looked to manipulate those huddled in despair.

so now we have pontiffs wearing the price of an african village on their fingers, muttering mumbojumbo to uneducated indigenes, and taking their meagre contributions to build more glory-for-god...

i remember asking my divinity teacher in 1960: 'what exactly can we rolemodel on here in our lives, studying the life of a premedieval middle eastern shepherd?'

he had no answer, and later in life i found out for myself that jesus was a radical leftist, but he couldn't - or wouldn't - tell me that!

the forces that rome symbolised when it let the jews take down jesus are still alive and virulent in europe, so i have a real problem with european identity being built around being 'christian', yet i am proud to fail daily at trying to be one myself, whether jesus was real or just a myth (sorry about the 'just', kc!).

his message resonates for me, but i would keep the gangs of crooks who hijacked his name for their own agendas centuries ago as far away from the levers of power as possible, for ever if need be...

so it's not for worry about the muslims i want europe to be 'enlightenment', though sharia law seems like an abominable fate too, it's having anyone claim they're more divine and use it to hoodwink the naive, needy, broken and credulous into supplying them with political power.

a pox on all of them...

i think the values we need are the ones we're usually too modest to express, but which have been trumpeted to kingdom come over the atlantic, and defamed as thoroughly as we did until relatively recently.

religions as we knew them need a total makeover.

personally i feel the reason they can't come up with a constitution is that all the cliches have already been revamped ad nauseam, and the public is rightly sceptical about any more pap that isn't backed up by real actions.

cuz right now the only reason we look this good is because it's so much more fucked up everywhere else...

the oily, well-fed plutocrats that run europe are just less cartoonish than the transatlantic versions but they can be thrown out by an awakened populus, just as they have been since time began.

power always over-reaches, count on it!

can we construct a better euro-identity out of whole cloth?

i believe we can, but it must look for a global dimension, because though we have much work to do here, and should not meddle until we have cleaned house, if ever, with other cultures, ultimately what we want that's good for europe must never again be on the backs, of exploited, poorer nations.

good for us must mean good for all the noneuropeans too, or it's unsustainable and will spell our undoing.

if you ask the average european on the street what he thinks europe means to him, his mind will probably jump to some hazy combination of elements as disparate as the magna carta and the mona lisa.

i have advocated for a while that the european constitution should be open-sourced, and so it amuses me that they can't come up with the right set of platitudes that an increasingly savvy public will swallow.

this is a good sign for cognitive resonance, or an admission that language is tired of being used like a cheap whore.

it's for the people, you say?

then let the people write it!

i don't know if we'll ever come up with a definitive 'identity' that wouldn't look like something stamped on a coffee mug, nor do i care, frankly.

we will make mistakes, for sure, but what i would like to insist on is that as few of them as possible should be ones we've made before

what does interest me is the multitude of ways powers that be are trying to shut down my critical thinking by repeating lies till they become myths till they become currency till they become another cock-up...

so here we are busting myths here at ET, around the able captaincy of reverend jerome, master mythbuster extraordinaire, offering us a cozy salon to discuss all we don't like about euro-identity and other intellectually thorny issues, and i'm kinda hoping what's left after all the deconstruction will be our european identity, because this blog is the finest comb i've found in the 'sphere, when it comes to untangling the spaghetti agendas we're fed through the old media, and which sadly still have the power to scramble the minds of millions.

/rant over

thanks for this diary, the searching questions and the great comments it has attracted...

i don't agree with the idea that europe is basically 'christian', or should identify with being so, though i wish it really were.

hehe, another paradox...

and i don't agree that europe is destined to become a failed state, because that would be to deny the hope that comes to me when i see how smart and caring combines, such as here at ET!

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 10:36:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France had Arabs, Germany had Turks, and there were immigration-related problems, but with very little to do with religion.

It's only since the Americans have been on a crusade against the so-called "Islamofascists" (what a stupid, stupid word) that we have "Muslims" in europe, and it is just plain wrong.

And maybe we should remember that the rise of Islam is tied to events directly inspired by the West:

  • the support to Mujahedeen against Russian in Afghanistan;

  • the reaction of the population of Arab countries to our support for the autocratic, corrupt kleptocracies in power, with the only tolerated outlet for social/political action being religion and imams, and the icnreasingly storng connections West=dictature=corruption and islam=local social progress=democracy.

We've fed the beast, and made it our enemy.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 08:22:47 AM EST
I can see I have offended one of the "hidden values" of this blog by even suggesting that christianity (even with a small 'c' (the spell checker keeps wanting to capitalise it) is part of the evolving identity (such as it is) of the European project.

It has elicited the expected barrage of criticism encompassing the litany of historic sins of its adherents both past and present.  Not only does it evoke the ire of the huge number of secular and atheistic Europeans, but it creates unwanted problems with more or less well integrated immigrants of Islamic or Hindu origins.

However, no national ideology is universal (French claims to universalism notwithstanding) and every national ideology has to take in the major elements that most of its citizens can identify with.  

If France can define what it means to be French - even for those immigrants living in its midst whose primary identification is with Islam) why cannot Europe define what it means to be European even if not all Europeans are comfortable with it.?

It has been pointed out here that enlightenment values are somewhat missing in Poland, that secular values are under threat in Britain, that Univeralist values in France do not appear to extend to all in the Banlieues.

What of it!  All statements of national identity are compromises encompassing the major strands of thought in a country at a given time.  That does not make them invalid or any less necessary to enable national cohesion and a political dynamic the nation can build and evolve from.

It is the failure of Europe to create any kind of a coherent statement encompassing a range of elements (including Christianity, the enlightenment, the French revolution etc.) that means that the vast majority of Europeans have nothing they can identify with, vote for, work for, fight for, and in the last analysis and in extremis, die for.

For many, that's all fine and dandy.  We've had enough of that sort of thing.  The individual nation state is the right place for that sort of thing, if at all.  But then let us not cod ourselves into believing that the EU is some sort of Superstate in the making.  It can't be without some kind of guiding ideal and identity that the vast majority of its citizens can identify with.

I have written this diary because I have a dark foreboding that the relatively easy ride we have had with the EU to date is coming to an end.  Europe, Russia and the US are drifting apart and each will have to fend for itself in an increasingly globalised, and in some respects, hostile environment.

The other major players - The US, Russia, China, India etc. are well structured to meet the challenges ahead.  They have clear national identities, clear leadership structures, and clear methods and processes for ensuring that their peoples are engaged in the challenges facing the them in the world as a whole.

The EU is like an old gentleman's club in a world governed by Mafiosi.  It is a soft and sitting target for ruthless despots abroad and even minor despots within.  It can be easily bullied by its dependence on Russian oil and gas, by American military and economic might, by economic espionage and unfair labour practices in the far east.

It is set to move way down the international league of precedence in terms of economic power, political power, and military power.  As such it is only asking to be bullied and sidelined.  Meanwhile it is run by idealists who dream of a better world. and who proclaim abstract principles their citizens can barely understand never mind identify with.

We will only realise how weak we have become collectively when we are confronted with a major external threat or renewed world war over the increasingly scare resources of the planet.  And by then it will be much, much too late.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 09:22:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I can see I have offended one of the "hidden values" of this blog by even suggesting that christianity (even with a small 'c' (the spell checker keeps wanting to capitalise it) is part of the evolving identity (such as it is) of the European project."

I am around here probably (???) the only European outspoken and positive about a "traditional" religiosity. The subject does not come up very often, and is more like nuclear power stations. We know roughly where we stand, and don;t have to always point out how utterly ridiculeous the assumption is, that nuclear power has to be part of the energy mix, like the pope has to be part of everyday life...

However trying to offend ME and my faith personally if ever anybody tried to do that, would be a failure from the outset. Questions are part of the parcel and encouraged.

And to answer your question. 75%+ of all Germans are members of an established Church. All of these 75% know they could leave it at the drop of a hat. they don;t. It is part of the social fabric, even if they don't go every Sunday, every Christams, every Funeral. the church is in the village.
What that means, is a different question.

Christianity is here to stay. What it means is debatable. What it means in a European context is questionable.

Furthermore, european religious history and its cultural and social discrepancies is so complicated and utterly local, that simplifications are not really useful and often not helpful.

Maybe, that is the reason, we don;t often discuss it here.

by PeWi on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 10:32:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can see I have offended one of the "hidden values" of this blog by even suggesting that christianity ...is part of the evolving identity (such as it is) of the European project.

You offended no "hidden value", all values are discussed in the open here. And I don't think anyone will claim Christianity is not part of the evolving identity of the European project. What some of us question is defining the European identity as Christian.

If France can define what it means to be French - even for those immigrants living in its midst whose primary identification is with Islam

Again, the most recent polls show that a majority of French Muslims primarily identify with France before Islam.

It has been pointed out here that enlightenment values are somewhat missing in Poland, that secular values are under threat in Britain, that Univeralist values in France do not appear to extend to all in the Banlieues.

The results of the last elections in Poland seem to show that enlightenment values are not really missing in Poland. The fact that Tony Blair felt he couldn't mention his conversion to Catholicism before his resignation shows that secular values are still strong in the UK. And  the young people in the French banlieues revolt because they would like the French universalist values to apply to them, especially égalité. (see Roots of urban violence in French banlieues)

The US, Russia, China, India etc. are well structured to meet the challenges ahead.  They have clear national identities, clear leadership structures, and clear methods and processes for ensuring that their peoples are engaged in the challenges facing the them in the world as a whole.

On the contrary, I think that, under these ultimate forms, the westphalian nation-state is in its last throes (they might last a few decades more). The US Empire is collapsing under our eyes and China is not structured to face both the internal national centrifugal forces and the social tensions that are arising, let alone the huge financial crisis which is looming. About India, I am not knowledgeable enough, but I think that, being a decentralised democracy, it is better prepared to face the challenges ahead.

What you say about Europe "weakness" and "vulnerability" is what authoritarians used to say about democracies before WWII. They nevertheless managed to survive and keep their democratic values...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 11:39:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What you say about Europe "weakness" and "vulnerability" is what authoritarians used to say about democracies before WWII. They nevertheless managed to survive and keep their democratic values...

Yep - but I hope we have learned our lesson and don't think that the US is going to come to our rescue on a white charger this time around.  It won't happen and so we have to be big boys now and do it for ourselves - preferably by not allowing a WW3 scenario to develop in the first place.  

My argument here is that EU paralysis is an invitation for the other big players to kick us around.  Witness the utter disdain of the neo-conservatives for the Blair poodle, witness Putin's dismissive sabre rattling, witness China's complete disregard for Kyoto and willingness to prop up any dictator in Africa if it is good for business.  

The world is becoming a more dangerous place precisely because Europe is so weak.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 02:53:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's just convenient for a lot of people to claim so - and these people are precisely those that feel threatened by the EU as it bumbles forward - a transnational entity, not easily defined, not jingoistic, not encouraging the race to the bottom, not trying to divide people but trying to bring the laggards up - and easily blamed for other politicians' failings as it has no natrual constituency, easily mocked for being too technocratic when it's mostly competent.

Amongst those that demean it, apart from opportunistic politicians within, are the usual suspects that fear its power - starting with the British sovereignists, the US powerbrokers. and, as we know, they control the international debate (in English) and set the tune.

In fact, given how much mud is thrown at the EU on a daily basis, it's amazing that it's still pretty popular with European peoples, a testimony to the proof that it represents a very real, very enduring and very attractive ideal - that of peace, of cooperation, of progress, of solidarity. It's not perfect, but it's showing the way.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:38:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so do you suggest we try and outspend the usa on the military?

is that going to stop us getting kicked around?

i do see your point...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 04:57:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No - all I am arguing for is a clear constitution that people can identify with, and with efficient representative, accountability and decision making processes so that the EU can act decisively, pro-actively, and in a timely fashion when presented with challenges e.g. in Iraq, Srebeneca, Darfur or elsewhere in the world - and also obviously on internal issues - instead of the interminable wrangling and hand wringing which means that issues are never resolved in time for effective action.

I don't want the EU to try to compete with the US in Military terms - rather to be more effective economically, politically, diplomatically, and in terms of effective aid to troubled regions.  Even little things like stopping rendition flights through our territory would be a start.  Lets have some self respect.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 07:42:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even little things like stopping rendition flights through our territory would be a start.  Lets have some self respect.

amen

i agree 100% with this.

energy, energy, energy...


"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 04:31:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but healthy debate. You brought up some very interesting points, a well structured argument and, as you can see from the responses, some contentious propositions.

The substantila responses to your substantial post show that your text is taken seriously, with attempts to respond in kind, to enrich us and, hopefully, enlighten us too.

As you may have noticed, we come from many different countries, each with our country's "cutlure", and our own individual trajectory within it, and outside of it. The clash of perspectives can be quite fascinating.

I hope that you're not discouraged by these reactions, but rather encouraged to continue the dialogue!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 12:44:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't expecting an easy ride.  To an extent I was surprised by my own argument.  When I set out to write the piece I didn't have an answer to my own question and hadn't even considered the "christian" angle.

I think my position has been very much misunderstood on this.  I am not arguing for some sort of religious revival!  I am arguing - possibly from a broadly "realist" perspective - that any political structure, to be effective, has to connect with and inspire its people.

This the EU did in its early days, but that idealism has now very much been lost in a fog diplomatic games and mumbo jumbo which have almost no resonance with most people.

It needs identifiable leaders, with clear policies, who are subject to election or rejection at the polls.  Otherwise no program of reform, no matter how well intentioned or technically astute will mobilise and inspire the general populace.

The arguments over European identity should be the stuff of election campaigns, where there are clear winners and losers and therefore choices on the future direction of Europe being made.

The "reform" treaty, as currently drafted, is indeed an elite project.  It will inspire and mobilise no one.

At least my raising the "christian" angle here has mobilised some people to shower derision on the idea.  we have at least had a passionate debate.

That is what needs to happen on a Europe-wide basis.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:12:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and it has worked extraordinarily well. The problem is not that it's an elite-drive project, it's the ideology of the day that denies the competence of any elite that is not determined by money. Political elites, technocratic elites, and, God forbid, civil servants can do anything good, according to the gospel today.

Well, the EU is the obvious proof that this is not true. Just like EDF is. Just like Medicare. Just like the Finnish school system.

The problem is not elites, it's unaccountable elites. And accountability comes in many different ways. One of them can simply be to deliver on the promise of progress for all.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:42:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have argued on many occasions elsewhere that the EU is an extraordinarily successful elite project and that the much maligned EU bureaucracy numbers about the same as the public servants in a medium sized British city municipal administration.  (Admittedly the latter count includes garbage collectors!). So please don't lump me in with British tabloid Brussels bashers.

The issue as you say is accountability, and I would add transparency, and the identification and sense of ownership that the general populace have of the decisions taken.

And here I am sad to say, we differ, because competence is not a substitute for, or a form of accountability - much that we might prefer it were otherwise. One can have a very competent dictatorship (all though the actual competence of dictatorships is a huge myth).

The key POLITICAL issue is the degree to which people identify with and take ownership of whatever decisions are taken even if they are in some technical sense suboptimal.

You seem to reflect the disdain of the famed French Civil service that knows what's good for the people even if they are too ignorant to realise it for themselves!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 04:18:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not disdain if it's true, but arrogance. And I disagree with you: competence IS a form of accountability.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 06:04:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Demanding competence is a form of accountability but just being competent doesn't make you accountable. As for a way that competence actually is used by the EU as an excuse to avoid accountability, refer to "commitology", in particular the diary Airports and Secret Legislation by Migeru on September 8th, 2007.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 06:11:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How is your example relevant? I see no competence there.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 02:21:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These are "technical issues" and they are "best handled by experts", says the Commission. My example is just one of commitology gone awry, but the whole thing is massive, pervasive, and unaccountable.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 07:28:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is not comitology, it's incompetence.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 05:20:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Refer to The difference between being arrogant and matter-of-fact? by Jerome a Paris on August 26th, 2006.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 06:08:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know the French believe that they have created a definition of Frenchness that any and all must live up to, but I rather suspect that there is rather less homogeneity, even amongst white frenchpeople, than they fondly suppose.

Take Britain. Every so often some cultural commentator takes it upon themself to roam around the country pontificating on what Britishness actually is. And generally what we see is a parade of their own cultural assumptions painted, however unfittingly, onto the rest of the nation.

It's easy to wander around the white leafy shires of south East England and assume some cultural homogeneity. But that isn't the whole story, not even a majority. The working classes have different values from such people. The working classes in different parts of the country have different values from each other. There are also huge regional differences stemming from cultural invasions from long before the French in the 10th century, supposedly our Year Zero of British culture.

And that's before we wonder how the various different peoples who immigrated since then have changed and shaped things. Not just the Caribbean or Indian sub-continent people of the last 50 years. But the recurrent waves of Dutch, French, German, Chinese, african who have been coming here since the 16th century.

We in Brtain are not a whole homgenous culture, and any of these commentators who attempts find one will fail. More we are  patchwork, a smorgasboard; like the layers of an onion, peel away one layer of supposed non-Britishness and you'll just find another layer. and when you peel off the last layer, there won't be Britishness, but nothing. We are the whole thing, not some kernel at the centre. Every curry smell in Brick Lane and Bradford, every roast beef, every fish and chips is part of the mix.

What is Britishness ? It's the willingness to accept something different, to assimilate the untried. Or not.

It's the Queen (who's background is german and whose husband is greek). Or it's democracy. Or anti-monarchism. but always skepticism, except when we don't question.

so if we can't do it in a country that's beeen politically coherent for a few hundred years, europe has barely started.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 12:14:04 PM EST
Helen:
What is Britishness?

Not being French?

Though said tongue in cheek, I think there is a core of thruth.

My reasoning around identity is that it is generally defined negatively, as it is defined in order to shore up support for one ruler as opposed to the other. Britishness - with the english language as the language of the rulers - was started after the 100 years war which ended with a seperate France and Britain. Previous to that I believe the language of the rulers in England was french. So England is not France, Scotland is not England, Ireland is also not England. Germany is not France (by roots from the Holy Roman Empire but mostly from the Napoleonic, French-Preussian and ww1&2). France is neither England or Germany.

Denmark is not Germany. Sweden is not Denmark. Finland is neither Sweden nor Russia. Norway is neither Sweden nor Denmark.

The US started as being not Britain but morphed that into being not Europe, Europe today being defined as France, making it not France. And so it goes on and on.

So what is Europe to those within the EU? Not US, that is for sure. Nor Russia (from the cold war). Not Africa or Asia, that is the colonies (the only parts of Africa, America, Asia or the Pacific that are parts of EU are minor colonies (though with some rights nowadays) within a solid European state).

So there you have it: EUropeness is being not like those in US, Russia, Africa or Asia. If we really want to keep building governments on tribal identities is another question.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 07:02:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want action undertaken within a political unit, you have to define who is in and who is out. Although it would be fun to try out an open source model. Maybe the Swedes can take the lead there in their next elections? I'd sure like to participate, just for the experiment. I would probably even pay for a trip to a Swedish polling station, if required.

Snark aside, I'm all for more global governance, but right now the EU makes a lot of sense as a political unit because it can deal with a great variety of problems that can't be dealt with either on a global level, or by the small individual states of Europe in isolation.

If we want the EU to function as a democracy, having something like a European identity would help. Maybe it's is in part a chicken and egg issue. If we'd give the European Parliament more real things to decide, people should get more engaged. I'd think...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 08:55:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you have to define who is in and who is out. (Though I would love the idea of everybody getting to vote where they felt like.) And that is why national identities are defined at the border, not at the core (wheter Christianity, Enlightenment or The Right Pancake). There probably is no core. We have no positive definition of we. But we are not them. And thats a negative definition.

The british are defining themselves by calling the french frog-eaters. They are then stating that the french are a group who eats frogs, as opposed to the group calling themselves british. Is frog-eating the core of french identity? Not at all, it is only special in that the british do not eat frogs and so can use it to define themselves in opposition to the french.

So as a EUropean, what is the definition of EUrope? An area divided between US and Russia during the cold war. Thus it includes neither US or Russia. And it is not the colonies. Turkey is not the colonies, so it might be in. But Turkey is like the colonies in many ways, so it might also be out. (Not the same problem with their coreligionists in the Balkans. They are whiter.)

I think the best way to strenghten a common EUropean identity is by a perceived common threath. We are not Them, whoever Them might be. But we know how bloody that way has a tendency to turn out. What about those that disrespect the line drawn in the sand? Who insist on defying our defintion by including some elements of the feared Them? Clearly they must be dealt with. By elimination of culture or people the border is made clear.

That is why I figure it would be best to create an accountable political structure without that tribal messing about. And I think it is possible.

Is this making any sense?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 04:02:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It makes sense in the "I think I agree but I haven't worked this completely out myself either" sense of making sense.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 04:27:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't say I agree with you.
You posit that the Enlargement of the EU, specifically the inclusion of certain states and the exclusion of others gives an indication of what forms a common European identity. Yet the Union always was a project of the elites. Only after all the decisions are already made  the general population is asked to ratify the agreements. In terms of the rejection of the constitutional treaty Turkey's membership bid was far from the only factor. Many rejected it, because they saw the constitution treaty as enshrining neoliberal principals or an increasing militarism.

More importantly you completely ignore US influence. The main difference between Russia and Turkey is that one is a NATO member and the other is not. Including Turkey would strengthen Washington's control over Europe while including Russia could possibly significantly weaken it. All the countries of the last Enlargement had first to prove their loyalty to the US and become NATO members before they could be accepted.
You ask:

If the original founders of the EU could bring together its chief historic antagonists, Germany and France, to form the core of the new entity, should the eastward expansion not have included Russia, the chief antagonist of the second half of the 20th.

But at the time the EU was founded the question of European hegemony was already answered. All the founding members of the EU were more or less part of the US sphere of influence.

To answer the title question: I don't think there is a distinct European identity.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter

by generic on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 01:37:40 PM EST
Well then, whose interest is being served by the EU remaining chaotic and weak?  The US?  If so the people who rejected the constitution were playing into the US's hands.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:19:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well even with the constitution the EU would be chaotic and weak. Any hope of a genuine constitution was strangled in the drafting process.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter
by generic on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 04:22:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More importantly you completely ignore US influence. The main difference between Russia and Turkey is that one is a NATO member and the other is not. Including Turkey would strengthen Washington's control over Europe while including Russia could possibly significantly weaken it.

US influence is definitely a factor here. But I think Turkey is drifting away from the US, not towards it.
All the countries of the last Enlargement had first to prove their loyalty to the US and become NATO members before they could be accepted.

I think they all wanted to become NATO countries ASAP regardless of the lure of EU membership. It would be interesting to find out if any of them were actually pressured by the EU to join NATO.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 05:42:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think they were actually told they needed to join NATO as a prerequisite for EU membership, but by whom I don't know. DoDo will be best able to speak to that.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 06:16:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Both true. I remember how disappointed Wolfowitz was in 2003 when the army did not force the civilian government to support the Iraq war. But nonetheless there seems to be a correlation between Turkey drifting away from the US and the sinking likelihood of a Turkish EU membership.

I think they all wanted to become NATO countries ASAP regardless of the lure of EU membership. It would be interesting to find out if any of them were actually pressured by the EU to join NATO.

I didn't want to suggest that the candidates were forced into NATO, but I doubt most of them signed on to the "coalition of the willing" because they were afraid of Saddam's WMDs

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter

by generic on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 06:45:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
has never been higher.

Don't underestimate the importance of process. The process is finally under way. The technocrats on both sides will work towards making it possible, despite the lows and highs of the political relationship. and when it's actually possible technically, the political pressure will bevery strong to conclude.

And who knows what the context will be by 2015-20

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 02:28:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think your comment highlights precisely what is wrong with the EU as a democratic polity.  The very fact that the accession of a major country like Turkey could be considered to be largely a matter of a technical process to be decided by the EU elite "experts" and not by the people as a whole highlights the degree to which the project ha been "hijacked" and why people are becoming disillusioned by it.

The accession of Turkey would change the entire geographic, demographic, political, economic, cultural and religious balance of the EU, and hence its identity. It is thus a political matter for the people to decide whether they want to go in that direction.  If they do, then well and good.  If they do not get the opportunity to make that decision, they would be entitled to take the view the the EU has nothing to do with them and disengage entirely.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 08:03:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think your comment highlights precisely what is wrong with the EU as a democratic polity.  The very fact that the accession of a major country like Turkey could be considered to be largely a matter of a technical process to be decided by the EU elite "experts" and not by the people as a whole highlights the degree to which the project ha been "hijacked" and why people are becoming disillusioned by it.

There has been a political decision to open negotiations with Turkey, and another political decision to stop negotiations on a few chapters, due to difficulties over Cyprus. And there will be a final political decision in the end on whether Turkey will be allowed in (somewhere between 2014 and 2019, likely) and many political decisions on opening 'negotiation chapters' in between.

But the process of negotiating on single items, and to a larger extent the process of implementing and controlling the required changes in Turkey is just simply a lot of work, a lot of low-down coordination and communication. Through that huge amount of work being done by both sides, we integrate.

I don't understand people who'd want the process to become even more political than it already is. These already are the most political accession negotiations since the UK got in. As far as I can see, this is a proxy debate for not wanting Turkey to get a chance. I disagree with that outlook. We agreed to give Turkey a chance at accession and we have to honour that agreement.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 11:16:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See my comments above - I am not against Turkey's accession, but the manner of its accession is critical.  I accept that the negotiation process has been subject to political decisions made in the context of the EU's current, structurally flawed, political structures.  The terms of Turkey's accession will certainly be complex and detailed and require expert negotiation.  However the final RATIFICATION of any deal negotiated should be put to the peoples of both Turkey and the 27 existing members (counted as one constituency - i.e. not requiring 27 separate majorities).

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 01:26:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's nothing flawed with the process.

Bringing Turkey in cannot be just a political decision. It requires massive change on the Turks' side to adapt to our rules (the acquis communautaire) and understand that the EU, despite all appearances to the contrary (especialyl in recent times), is not just a place like the UN where countries fight for their narrow national interests in a zero-sum game.

So the process of getting them into that mindset, and doing the required massive internal changes is needed in any case, and it will make the ultimate political decision as Turkey will have changed in ways that we can appreciate and notice.

There was a political decision to get that process started, and the process itself, over ten years or so, will itself change things, and is a good thing in itself.

As to final ratification, the EU, so far, is still an inter-country treaty entity, and can only be changed in that way.

To get to a process whereby we get full scale referendums, you'll need to go through a unanimous treaty change ratified by all 27 members.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 05:26:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]

To get to a process whereby we get full scale referendums, you'll need to go through a unanimous treaty change ratified by all 27 members.

Yep, and that's precisely what's wrong with the current "constitution" and what should have been changed before enlargement took place.  It is now probably too late to make a substantial change because of the near impossibility of getting 27 members to agree on anything really radical - and hence the stagnation I fear.

Please note the conversation on the US constitution towards the end of this blog where I noted how difficult it was to amend he US constitution with very few changes since the first few years and the most recent one having taken 200 years to be ratified!  The US constitution only requires 2/3 votes by senate and congress and majority vote by 3/4 of all states.  The EU requires Unanimity amongst 27 states!

I think our difference of view extends only to the final ratification process - not the negotiation process which is long, detailed, tortuous and probably necessarily so.  The problem for me is that whilst the negotiation process is necessarily an elite process, the ratification process must involve the general citizenry (in both the EU and the accession state) as much as possible if they are to take ownership of the decision that has been made by the elite on their behalf.

The changes you refer to that must be agreed by the accession state are changes which effect not only the elite in (say) Turkey (who presumably have an interest in membership, otherwise they wouldn't be pursuing it), but the general populace in both Turkey and the existing EU states as well.  They need to be part of the debate and part of the change process.

The specific danger I see with Turkey is that those elements in Turkish society which are opposed to secularism will not be engaged at all and we will import into the EU a massive dissident population intent on establishing  an Islamic state in Turkey and possibly even elsewhere. (They may not be in a majority in Turkey now, but things can change if there is popular resentment towards the "eurofication" process).

Turkey's stability has, up until now, been guaranteed by the Army often taking quite a political role and dealing with dissent in a sometimes brutal way.  We do not want to import that requirement and culture into the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 06:44:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You will need to get a unanimous ratification by the 27 in order to be able to take a decision by referendum. It's not legally possible otherwise.

The EU is an inter-governmental body, it cannot be reformed in any other way, as a first step.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 09:39:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes Jerome!!!!!  That's what I've been saying!!!!! - please READ comment just above!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:04:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apart from the more specific arguments above, there is the more general argument that it is just misguided to assume that because there is one word for something, there must be a clear definition of it, even necessary and sufficient conditions for its application. As Wittegenstein pointed out, many supposed problems arise from mistaken ideas about language, cf.:

Nietzsche says it best: only that which has no history can be defined. Which I've always taken to mean, all complex classes of things come to share a lingustic/conceptual identity only by virtue of a shared history -- historical relationships between the things themselves, and historical relationships between the people talking about them.

Take jazz. In terms of musical style, there is almost nothing in common between Cecil Taylor and Louis Armstrong except improvisation, and even there, their respective ideas of improvisation are so different they might as well belong to two entirely different cultures. But if you asked any jazz fan -- or any competent record-store clerk -- what part of the store to stock "Unit Structures" and a Hot Fives record in, they'll say "jazz." Cecil Taylor is following a certain train of thought put in motion by Louis Armstrong (among others), but, as in a game of "telephone," that thought comes to us having followed a complicated series of transactions and in the process has changed out of recognition.

Wittgenstein uses the metaphor of the rope to think about the paradoxical way things can share a categorical identity while having nothing in common with one another. A rope is made up of thousands of strands that are twisted together to make the rope. The rope runs without break from point A to point Z, but there is no one strand within the rope that runs from A to Z. The rope, in the case of jazz, is history or tradition; the strands are the individual practices of artists like Taylor or Armstrong and the arguments of fans and critics.

http://musicology.typepad.com/dialm/2006/08/planets_and_jaz.html

Similarly with the word "european" - so it is misguided to look for a clear definition or specific set of defining characteristics which apply to it and only it.

This doesn't mean it becomes useless; we don't learn language through sets of definitions, but in use, in an often wide range of contexts - as with W's example of the word "game". I can be quite competent in using the word "game" correctly, without being able to give a precise definition of it.

It's no surprise that many Europeans don't think of themselves primarily as Europeans, but rather in terms of national identities, related to languages and specific histories - often involving long conflict with other European countries, e.g. England and France. But in the context of a discussion about differences with say Asia, or even the US, even the English might be more likely to refer to themselves as Europeans by contrast. The same kind of thing operates at other levels, thus some ares of England (let alone Britain) might well tend to refer to themselves as primarily Cornish, or even Liverpudlians - who then divide themselves into sub-groups:

Yet the port continues to define the identity of its population. Liverpudlians meeting for the first time always ask each other the same questions: the first is which school did you go to, so establishing whether you are Catholic or Protestant; and then, if you are Catholic, the next question is which parish you lived in. These are the means by which the tribes identify themselves.

http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary/liverpool.htm



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 02:00:48 PM EST
Thanks Ted.  I agree with all you say.  But constitutions are about creating political processes which can make decisions or choices about the future direction of a country, or in this case Europe.  At times of great uncertainty or indeed crisis, it is critical to the survival of "Europe" that such clear processes are in place.

The EU now has no mechanisms to respond quickly and decisively to major challenges and at the same time mobilise its people in support of those decisions.  Even the widespread popular opposition to the Iraq war could not be articulated into effective action at EU level.

The rendition flights are still flying through Shannon as I write this.  We can all just lie down and say that US hegemony is unavoidable, or we can build democratic structures at EU level which gives the EU a strategic clout comparable to its collective economic importance.

The US could laugh at French and German opposition to the war.  We must build a Europe that cannot be laughed at and ignored.  Europe has a lot of positive influences and traditions that it could bring to bear on the world stage - e.g. an Enlightenment opposition to all forms of religious fundamentalist theocracies from the Middle East to the Middle West.

But at the moment Europe can be bulled into accepting rendition flights and suppressing cartoons portraying the Prophet Mohamed.  What sort of wimps are we?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 03:38:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I don't see how trying to define "european" is supposed to have any effect on all this, especially if you try to focus on Christianity as an important part of it - a set of absurd beliefs happily in decline in Europe and especially the UK, cf.:

With over 170 distinct religions counted in the 2001 Census, the religious make-up of the UK is diverse, complex, multicultural and surprising. About half of the British believe in God, yet about 72% told the 2001 census that they were Christian, and 66% of the population have no actual connection to any religion or church, despite what they tend to write down on official forms. Between 1979 and 2005, half of all Christians stopped going to church on a Sunday. Religion in Britain has suffered an immense decline since the 1950s, and all indicators show a continued secularisation of British society in line with other European countries such as France.
...
In 2007, Tearfund published the following results of their comprehensive review of British Christian religion in 2006:
"One in four of the UK adult population say they go to church at least once a year. [...] 59% never or practically never go to church."

Tearfund (2007)10

    * 10% of the UK adult population go to church at least weekly.
    * 15% attend church at least monthly.
    * 26% attend church at least yearly.
    * 59% never or practically never go to church.

Self-disclosure polls of church attendance are generally twice as high as reality. Actual measures of church attendance have shown that Church attendance in 1999 was 7.5%, down from 10% in 1989 and 12% in 1979 (declining by about an absolute 2% per decade)[uk.news.yahoo.com 2000]. This trend predicts that in 2007, the rate will be close to 6% who attend, not the 10% who think they do according to Tearfund. This estimate was backed up by the English Church Census 2004.

See http://www.vexen.co.uk/UK/religion.html

See the site for masses of stats - I mean chapter and verse :-) - on the decline of Christianity in the UK.

While the US has a bunch of gangsters running it, and while it vastly outspends Europe and everyone else on the military, it will continue to ignore opposition, however culturally and politically organised. One plausible explanation of the reasons for the attack on Iraq was that it was meant to be a demonstration - against a relatively weak regime - of US military might, and a reminder to keep in line - or else.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 05:16:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I couldn't care less how many people go to Church.  The issue I was addressing is that the Reform Treaty aka European Constitution Lite is not a document ordinary people can understand or identify with.  As such it may very well not be ratified, and if it is, it will not enhance the the engagement and commitment of most people to the European Project.  

Part of the reason for that is that it contains no clear statement of what the European project actually is - and what people are being asked to buy into.  I don't have a magic answer as to what will engage people more and make them feel a sense of ownership of the decisions being taken other than greater accountability, transparency and efficiency in the decision making processes.

Perhaps an introductory narrative showing how the EU is building on the traditions and learning the lessons of Christianity, The Reformation, the Religious wars, The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Slavery, Colonialism, 2 World wars, the Cold war etc. will help persuade people that this is a project they want to be part of, particularly if it articulates how the EU will in future promote human rights, social justice, economic equity, environmental sustainability etc. going forward.

It needs to explain how decision making and accountability will be enhanced and what freedoms, rights and responsibilities will be provided for.

After all that you can go into the technical detail of how it will all be done and what judicial and democratic safeguards there will be for all etc as in the current 287 page document.

In other words - a document with which people coming from the various main strands of European thought can identify with, have rows about, but at least understand and feel part of once it has been ratified.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 08:16:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it will not be words, but words-linked-to-actions that will make or break european partnerships.  The yak-yak has been and been.  I think if there is a european project it is to be engaged to be worried about "who I am"--a good Colman riff about relative status, how politicians at national levels don't seem (in the main) to represent consensus intelligent thought and feel no obligation to have intelligent thought because that takes time and, as always when you're being harried by those who want to keep you focussed...

The best thing Europe can do right now is to build renewable energy platforms as fast as possible and to reduce car use to a bare minimum.  To the extent that another part of the world does this first, I consider that part of the world to be more my spiritual home than a country I grew up in where people are still driving cars all the time.

I stongly correlate car use with happiness; the more of the former, the more your happiness sits in your car.

Heh!  Teddible!

But seriously, I (as a smoker) am now out on the streets, okay.  Can someone stop the car drivers from smogging up my acoustic, pulminory, visual, and all other environments, please?  There is no need for private car movement in a built up area no more than 45 minutes-on-foot across.  So put cars at the edges for those who need to travel from one area to another.

Terrible idea, but my point is: I expect politicians to do sensible practicable things.  If they don't, I can vote in a group who will.  But if no one will, or if everyone else votes for Berlusconi because...I never did understand why; it was to do with corruption and mafias...a european project...how about: Europe will be energy neutral by 2020--we won't pump out any more than we can suck up.

There's a quote I can't find by R. Buckminster Fuller, where he says that if you build a bridge over a particularly difficult river, people will use it--without worrying who built it.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 08:59:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Perhaps an introductory narrative showing how the EU is building on the traditions and learning the lessons of Christianity, The Reformation, the Religious wars, The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Slavery, Colonialism, 2 World wars, the Cold war etc.

Oh a mere paragraph then :-) Can you imagine the problems  in drafting that so that each country's representatives could agree, let alone the historians. What, for example, ARE the "lessons of Christianity"? Given its history I think Europe is actually doing remarkably well in working co-operatively and maybe we should focus on that practical success, rather than deploring its failure to achieve more. I recommend Mark Leonard's "Why Europe will run the 21st century" for an alternative perspective.

What Europe has, argues Mark Leonard in his provocatively titled book, Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century, is a model, one centered around a new understanding of power and embodied in the institutions and norms of the European Union. The EU exerts an irresistible attraction on the countries around it, Leonard says, drawing them into its orbit, embedding them in its legal and economic framework and changing them from the inside out. Next to this "transformative power," the United States' military might, which can change regimes but not societies, and whose application is necessarily fleeting, seems a weak instrument indeed. Increasingly, Leonard tells us, we'll see more regional groupings emerge bound, as the EU is, by mutual self-interest and common values. It's in this sense, he argues, that Europe--or, more precisely, the "European way"--will dominate the 21st century.

http://www.motherjones.com/news/qa/2005/10/mark_leonard.html



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 05:40:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That the enlargement was rushed and ultimately botched is probably unarguable.  Any governing structure which requires unanimous agreement of 27 Governments is unwieldy, cumbersome, and almost designed to fail.  The Reform Treaty, aka the European Constitution Lite should have been agreed before any enlargement took place, and enlargement made conditional on it being agreed.

That's what they tried with the Treaty of Nice, and before that Amsterdam, but it broke down amidst bickering.
Secondly, it suited the British agenda to weaken the influence of the core Franco-German project to control the overall shape and direction of the EU.  Not only would Britain find some allies in Eastern Europe, but the wider the expansion, the less likely it would be able to deepen the integration and centralisation of many more state functions around Brussels.  Britain still saw the EU as primarily a joint trading block and did not want any widespread delegation of powers to Brussels, particularly when Brussels was still modelled very much on the Franco-German blueprint.

Yes, but then it was the Germans and the French who were in the main driving seats all this time. Either could have stopped expansion if they had really wanted to.

Now what Amsterdam and Nice did do was provide a mechanism for the old EU countries to continue integration if resistance against integration from the UK and the new Member States would get too bothersome, in the form of "enhanced cooperation", which basically means that the old Member States plus a few other countries (say, the Eurozone) can continue integration as they please without the others, with some limitations to do with the common market ("enhanced cooperation" has to be congruent with it).

Nobody really wants this to happen, but it can be used as a credible threat to the new Member States that if they obstruct integration for too long, it will just go on without them.

Safety valves aside, the Germans and the French probably calculated that they would gain from the expansion of the EU. In the longer run, they should.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 06:39:46 PM EST
Frank, on the one hand you say "I'm not advocating a religious revival" on the other, you say... what? It's not really clear what you are advocating. You veer off from advocation towards justification at the end, but I'll deal with that later on.

As for the logic of the diary, you make a fuzzy argument trying to equate enlargement so far with "a historical christian sphere" but ignoring many other factors, principally geography. Now I don't personally believe geography should be the limiting factor for the future of the EU, but you can't ignore the historical import and the same goes for economics wrt Russia and Turkey.

Then there's this little section:

Western Europe thus had to suppress its folk memory of a common catholic (i.e non-orthodox) Christian founding ethos and identity, in order to atone for the Holocaust and take account of Islamic and Hindu immigration.  For Europe, now, to reassert its Christian identity would be profoundly threatening to its Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, or Atheistic citizens and run counter to both the multi-cultural and universalistic models of societal integration.

The problem now is that Europe had no common identity at all in its attempt to be non-discriminatory towards all its citizens.  Whereas all US citizens take a common Pledge of Allegiance and citizens of other countries are unambiguously Chinese, or South Africans, or whatever, European citizens have nothing more than a common passport or driving licence!

Do you not see the circularity of your argument here? What makes all Chinese, Chinese? Or South Africans, South African? Hell, USians, USian? Do you even have a working hypothesis?

Your remarks about "Islam" and "secularism" betray some over-generalisation, which suggests you don't really have a good handle on either the Christian faith as it stands in modern Europe, or the majority experience of Islam, both in communities in the EU and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, since that particular section is the crux of your argument:

That is all very well if your roots are broadly Christian - you can feel comfortable in any European state regardless of whether its roots were originally Catholic or Protestant.  That is what secularism guarantees you.  But what if you are Muslim?

The failure of many Muslim communities to integrate successfully in Europe is largely because the European concept of a secular state IS Christian.  Unless you agree to become a secularised Muslim (and there is really no such thing in Islam itself) you will find it difficult to integrate.

Turkey, by contrast, may also be a secular state - i.e. not run by Churchmen/Imams - but it is an Islamic secular state - and thus incompatible with a deep, hidden, but implicit Christianity at the heart of the secular (Western) European sense of identity.

...the whole diary feels like it assumes what it claims to prove. Now I shouldn't leap to conclusions, but it rather looks like you have a hidden agenda there.

I said I'd return to the end of the diary and this seems like the point to do so:

The reality is that in Europe today you can be German or French, Italian or British; Atheist, Christian, Hindu, Moslem, or Jew; but you cannot be European, because for that to be anything other than a banal regional appellation it would have to recognise the fact that it is fundamentally a Christian construct albeit expressed in secularised terms.  And that is about the only thing the vast majority of Europeans have in common.  How embarrassing is that, for those who think of religion as no more than a relic of an unfortunate past!

  1. You haven't even tried to actually demonstrate that it is a Christian construct, just asserted it.

  2. You haven't begun to consider that "banal regional appellation" might have something more to it than meets the eye. In implication you simply argue for the impossibility of multi-cultural states. Whilst you might be proved right and the USA, India and China and Russia and various others destined to implode, I think you probably need, again, to back up that argument a little.

  3. Others have taken you to task on the equation of history with identity and you tried to just ignore them, but it is the critical issue here. What are we trying to build and why?

It's worth noting that your attempts to portray yourself as having "hit upon an unspoken taboo" look a little self-aggrandizing, in the light of the above.

In fact, it's taken me this much writing to identify two sleights of hand in your diary, but now it does come clear to me:

Is there such a thing as a European identity?  Is yes, and it is broadly, catholic Christian in origin.  But the very fact that the outcome of the religious wars was an assertion that all religious beliefs had to be tolerated and accepted means that this common European identity can never become the basis for the EU project.

  1. You conflate the long view history of European identity (although notably a flawed history, but that's a topic for another diary when I have time to address PeWi's objections too) with the shorter history of European history and then with the future of European identity.

  2. You place an importance on "Christianity" when you state yourself that the key outcome of the religious wars was to remove from Christianity one of it's key doctrines, that of intolerance of other faiths. This is the CDU trick of claiming that all the good things come out of Christianity and we can ignore all the bad things associated with Christianity. But why is that the case? If we're defining a new identity, why would we want to say "it's Christian in concept, but not with the bad bits of Christianity, honest!"
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 08:14:57 PM EST
Excellent comment!

it rather looks like you have a hidden agenda there

I think one of ET's strengths is that if forces out (maybe unseen) agendas but without necessarily "becoming all puritanical", which would be religious, but rather using our enlightenment brains to always search for (and find!) synthesis.

Ted had the same idea as me: Wittgenstein.  Here's my quote.

A Synopsis of Wittgenstein's Logic of Language, Chapters 7-10

Games and Family Resemblances

Logic looks at the use of language from one point of view only: "what happens considered as a game".  (cf. PG p. 68, 66)

But think of just how varied games are: from chess with its strictly defined rules to the simple play of a child throwing a ball into the air and catching it.

Consider ... the proceedings that we call 'games'.  I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on.  What is common to them all? -- Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games'" -- but look and see whether there is anything common to all.  (PI § 66)

Tennis and jacks have a ball in common.  There is no ball in hopscotch, but there are "jacks".  There are no jacks in jump rope, but there is hopping.  Leapfrog is child's play (but there is no equipment, e.g. no ball, jacks or rope).  In volleyball there are no racquets, but there is a ball and a net.  Badminton has no ball, but there are racquets and a net.  There is no net in bridge and no playing cards in tennis, but bridge and doubles tennis are played by teams.  There are no teams in solitaire (or, patience), but there are playing cards.  There are no cards in chess, but an individual may play chess "against himself".  Jacks is not played with a dog, but fetch is sometimes played with a ball.  There is no winning or losing in fetch, but there is exercise in it for the dog.

There are countless similarities between particular games and between types of games.  But don't take Wittgenstein's word for this.  Look at some games for yourself.

For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that.  (ibid.)

All of us were taught that a common name must designate a common nature.  That is why our English teachers insisted that we give "essences" rather than examples when we defined words at school.  But Wittgenstein looked -- not at what philosophers have claimed -- but at the facts of our language.  And finding there, not something "in which they do not differ but are all alike" (Meno 72c), but only similarities among applications of words, he invented this simile:

I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than 'family resemblances' [or 'family likeness' (<acronym>BB p. 17)] ... And I shall say: games form a family.  (ibid. § 67)

So that, when we compare using language to playing games, we should remind ourselves that games (and the rules of games) are not alike in all respects -- any more than the members of any other "family" are alike in all respects.

*

But if anyone insists: "Still, games must have something in common", he can be told that there is indeed one thing that all games really do have in common: a word -- i.e. they are all called 'games'.  Take that word away, however --.

*

Resemblances between members of a family will overlap and intersect in a variety of places (ibid.), but in some instances they may not exist at all.... The principal criticism of this simile might be its lack of clear application -- what exactly is being compared to what?  But this metaphor is more a suggestive than an exact comparison (i.e. this is not a case of one-to-one correlation, although Wittgenstein did give one such example).

There are various criteria for inclusion in a human family (belief in common ancestry is the usual one, with adoption being another), but in the case of language there is only one criterion for inclusion in a family -- namely, bearing the same family name (e.g. the common name 'game') however it was that our natural history bequeathed this name to anything.  Wittgenstein is not here suggesting a theory of common ancestry: that is not the comparison he is making with this metaphor.

Note 6:  Some rules, we might want to say, have their foundation in what is practical: the corner grocer can only stock so many apples if he is to remain in business; or indeed in what is empirically possible: a game that required participants to leap 20 feet straight up into the air would be a game that no human being could play.  [If some very general facts of nature were different; cf. the game with the word 'to know' in Parable of The Born-Blind.]

But there are many different kinds of rules of the game, e.g. the rule in chess that if you touch a piece you must move that piece and not some other seems different in kind from the rule that the bishop is permitted only to move along diagonals.  The rule that the volleyball must be returned to the opposition server under the net not over it is similar to the touch rule in chess.  Some rules, we might want to say, are a matter of etiquette.  They appear to be somehow outside the game itself; nonetheless, they are binding.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 09:11:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the considered comment, Metatone.  My hidden agenda, if I have one, is that I see the EU as having been an extraordinary success up until now, and one I would very much like to see grow and develop still further, but that it may be headed for the rocks for a number of reasons which I have already touched on in other responses here.

Chief of these reasons are as follows:

  1.  It has been enlarged without a prior streamlining and consolidation of decision making processes which means it risks becoming increasingly stuck in a morass of indecision in a world which is becoming ever more fast moving and which requires agile and visionary leadership if the EU is to achieve a political and diplomatic influence commensurate with its economic importance

  2. The remoteness, complexity, slowness and opacity of the decision making processes means there is an increasing disengagement by the public from the EU even in previously very enthusiastic members like Ireland.

  3. It has been seen to be ineffective when crises have emerged over Iraq, Srebrenica, Darfur, Guantanamo, renditions etc. - where the "values" people claim are embedded in  the EU project have been violated.  People will rightly ask whether the ineffectiveness of the EU on such issues is actually a deliberate strategy to mask the fact that such "humanitarian" issues are really of no concern and that the real business is about looking after the interests of the EU elite.

The Reform treaty should be a crucial document aimed at addressing these issues and ensuring that the EU becomes a more effective actor on the world stage and more accountable to its people, who in turn become more engaged and identified with it.  Does anyone truly belief the Reform treaty, even if ratified will achieve this?

In my view, a few key things might help to address these problems.

i) Possibly a directly elected President who becomes a visible embodiment and figurehead for what Europe is all about.  People want to know who is in charge and are not inspired by Government by committee.

ii) A European Commission operating more like an elected  Government - where commissioners are grilled by the Parliament on a more regular basis and are dismissed on an individual basis if they lose the confidence of Parliament.

iii) Greater transparency on the budgeting process and cost benefit studies on new spending proposals

iv) Replacement of NATO with a common European defense force and greater harmonisation/cooperation between police forces particularly on common threats like terrorism

v) Political parties campaigning on a Pan European basis and laying out their stall as to what future direction of Europe should be - particularly for the election of the Directly Elected President.  In this context the Greens, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Liberals etc. can argue their respective cases as to what direction Europe should go in and therefore what "identity" it will have.

Vi)  Speaking sociologically (and without a personal agenda on this!) I think the religion issue will be a major if not always openly articulated factor in whether countries like Turkey will be allowed to join.

Unlike Jerome, I do not think this is a technical issue to be decided by technocratic elite, but rather a political issue which should be put to popular vote.  The very fact that Jerome can speak of this as a technical issue highlights (to me) how out of touch the technocrat elite can be with popular sentiment and why there is such a growing popular distrust of what the technocrats are up to!  Ultimately it is for the people to decide what the boundaries (geographic, political, ethnic, religious, cultural) of the EU should be -- and hence its identity.

Far from engaging in an exercise in self-aggrandizement here because I felt I had touched on a hidden taboo I think it is incredibly arrogant for a bureaucratic elite to think that they can slip Turkey into the EU based on some technical economic and legal criteria without consulting with how the electorate feel about it.  

Including  a major country like Turkey (or Russia) would make a major change to the social, cultural and religious balance of the EU - and hence its identity - and the very fact that it can be considered to be merely a matter for the elite to decide highlights just what is wrong with the EU as a democratic polity.

I hope this elitist "we know what's good for you" approach does not permeate though the general mindset in the ET because, if so, there is no place for me here.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 07:48:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope this elitist "we know what's good for you" approach does not permeate though the general mindset in the ET because, if so, there is no place for me here.

There's always a place for dissent, even if you're isolated. To characterise Jerome's viewpoint as an elitist 'we know what's good for you' approach goes a bit too far IMO. There's a legitimate debate to be had on the extent to which 'competence' and 'output' can function as legitimising factors for policy -- and the other hand of that debate is anti-elitism and populism against the civil service, which is more and more common. It's good to have alternative voices.

But you'll find that we have quite vigorous debates on this topic here, with people coming from very different positions. See for instance this thread.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 12:01:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my view, a few key things might help to address these problems.

i) Possibly a directly elected President who becomes a visible embodiment and figurehead for what Europe is all about.  People want to know who is in charge and are not inspired by Government by committee.

ii) A European Commission operating more like an elected  Government - where commissioners are grilled by the Parliament on a more regular basis and are dismissed on an individual basis if they lose the confidence of Parliament.

iii) Greater transparency on the budgeting process and cost benefit studies on new spending proposals

iv) Replacement of NATO with a common European defense force and greater harmonisation/cooperation between police forces particularly on common threats like terrorism

v) Political parties campaigning on a Pan European basis and laying out their stall as to what future direction of Europe should be - particularly for the election of the Directly Elected President.  In this context the Greens, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Liberals etc. can argue their respective cases as to what direction Europe should go in and therefore what "identity" it will have.

vi)  Speaking sociologically (and without a personal agenda on this!) I think the religion issue will be a major if not always openly articulated factor in whether countries like Turkey will be allowed to join.


We talk about our disagreements because they are what tickles us, but you know, you will find that nearly all people agree with you on at least one of these points. Myself, I prefer ii) to i), I agree with iii) except that CBA is just an aspect to be weighed and should be accompanied by EIA and SIA, and I agree with iv) and v).

I think that the Turkey issue mainly has to do with our view of the 'other' and that ethnicity has at least as much to do with it as religion.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 12:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK I think I can meet you half way on this.  I don't think competence is a form of our substitute for accountability but it can certainly render the effects of a lack of accountability less acute.

A good example of this is the recent enlargement of the EU which was a major change, and therefore should have been put to popular vote.  However the inclusion of the 10 Eastern European states after the collapse of the Iron Curtain was generally quite popular (less so the recent inclusion of Romania/Bulgaria) and so the lack of direct consultation was less of a political problem.  

It would still have been preferable had it been put to the popular vote because:

  1.  The process of an election campaign itself is a healthy exercise in consultation and engagement and means people take greater ownership and feel part of the EU decision making process

  2.  If things go seriously wrong with the expansion the elite can always say - "well we did ask you and it was your decision"

On your previous point, it was not my intension to personalise  - I was quoting Jerome but criticising the EU elite - which are , I'm sure, complete different entities!!!  However, the point I was making about religion was essentially sociological - as is your point about ethnicity - but it seemed to be taken up by other contributors here in a personalised way - implying I had a hidden agenda.

It certain circles you can't raise ethnic issues in the context of identity without being labelled a racist, or religious issues without being labelled a bigot.  I thought there might have been a touch of that here.  Both are critical to the issue of identity and the boundaries which people may legitimately want to set for their polity.  

Politics is also about sentiment or feeling -it is not purely an economic or technocratic issue and people have to feel and want to be part of something.  The enlargement to 27 was quite a shock to that system and will take quite some time to be fully absorbed.  The EU wasn't structurally ready for it and I doubt its people are ready for a further expansion just yet.  There is only so much "otherness" that people can take in and accept within a short period of time.

Turkey is unfortunate that its application comes so soon after the ill-digested expansion eastward and before structural reform has been achieved.  It sheer size and location and religious and ethnic differences compound that problem - particularly in the xenophobic atmosphere created by the "War on Terror".

I do not personally have a problem with Turkey's accession so long as it is preceded by structural reform and democratic consultation - neither of which seem to be on the agenda in any serious way at the moment.  In fact, I would positively welcome and campaign for Turkey's inclusion if I felt that Turkey's people, too, genuinely wanted to embrace and integrate with multiculturalism, secularism, and other "enlightenment" values discussed here earlier.  

However, on my reading, there is a great deal of tension between the secularist army and Islamic elements in Turkish civil society who want an Islamic state.  This needs to be resolved before accession because we do not want to import any more of those tensions into western Europe.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 01:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sociological point has some validity! But it's also unsatisfactory. Politics is the art of the possible, but we're engaged in advocacy here, not politics, so we tend to practice the art of the desirable. I think. If that makes sense...?

I'd like to have a popular pan-European vote, but I'd dread to hold the first one on Turkey. I don't know if we can set up the institution quickly enough for people to familiarise themselves with blocking something nationally, but not on the EU level.

The problem is also that any state can still veto Turkish entry. So there's your point for institutional change.

Then again, a pan-European vote on Turkey would be vastly preferable to a set of national referenda (as promised by Chirac for France, IIRC).

So, I guess we agree...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 03:25:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there is a big problem with this discussion, because if you start trying to define "Europe" based on philosophies or histories or trade relationships or defence agreements, you're going to have to be very careful or you'll end up with the U.S.A. as a full-fledged member of Europe.

It seems to me that Russia has a good claim to be part of Europe, and you might include parts of North Africa based on the 2000+ year history linking the countries that border the Med. Turkey seems a stretch to me, but certainly Greek culture extended quite a ways into Turkey at one point. If the argument is about Christianity, then South America is going to come into play.

Definitions other than those based on geography are going to be problematic...

by asdf on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 10:33:48 PM EST
Definitions based on geography are going to be problematic. What happens when Iran topples the Mullahs and installs a secular, democratic government that wants to join the Union, because the alternatives are China, Russia and an Arabian bloc which does not exactly love and cherish Persia? Do we tell them "no. You are not Europeans, because you happen to live on the wrong side of the Black Sea?" When Egypt wants to distance itself from the US by moving closer to the Union? Do we tell them "sorry, but you happen to be located on the wrong side of the Mediterranean?"

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 03:27:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that Geography is only one factor amongst many - religion, culture and ethnicity are others in addition to the usual legal and economic convergence criteria.  However I wouldn't like the EU to become simply a strategic coalition of allies who want to join because they are afraid of their neighbours.  

Just because Iran wants to align strategically with the EU might be a good logic for it for some kind of Nato like mutual defense and economic cooperation pact  - but that is an entirely different thing to it becoming an integral part of a multinational polity which is evolving (hopefully) into a supranational polity.

Remember strategic alignments can change - and historically countries have often switched from one block of allies to another as the interests of their ruling class changed.  Hopefully joining the EU is something a lot less opportunistic and more permanent.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 03:58:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is the proof:



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Dec 11th, 2007 at 10:35:06 PM EST
Frank:

"We might say that constitutions like the American Constitution, with all its stirring language, can also give rise to patriotic excess."

Really? Where's the "stirring" language that gives rise to patriotic excess?  I would be very interested if you would post the "stirring" language that causes excessive patriotism.  It seems to me you are confusing the constitution with the Declaration of Independence, which is NOT a legal document.

Have you read the U.S. constitution, Frank?  It is not a long document.  It should take you 10 minutes to read.  Europe might have something to learn from that our constitution.  Americaphobia prevents that.  One such clause is our Commerce Clause.  This prevents one state from using protectionist measures to benefit producers located in that state.  Might Europe benefit from such a clause?

Please post the language in the U.S. Constitution that causes excessive patriotism.

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 10:55:20 AM EST
is hard to define as "Europe", I bet...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 05:29:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank:

I am very interested in the euro and how it has been affecting different countries.

The euro is killing Italians.  The hate the euro, which they have said has caused massive inflation and reduced their purchasing power.  Many italians, tuscans in particular, told me this in the summer when I was there.  One foodmarket chain said they were going to accept the lire again!

I understand that Portugal is having the same problems.  

Europe does a common currency.  It seems to be driving the citizens of certain countries away from a unified Europe.  Your thoughts?

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 10:59:12 AM EST
Well, I don't know about Portugal, but Italy is a country with very particular issues in its politics that can manifest in peculiar ways. the current truckers strike seems to be a not well disguised attempt at a coup d'etat.

So inflation can be the result of very deliberate distortions in the economy.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 11:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to ET Terry!

I will always defer to your knowledge of the US constitution and so must assume I was confusing it with the Declaration of Independence!

On your Euro question - I will allow others to respond specifically in relation to Italy and Portugal - although this thread is very old now and perhaps only a few diehards may remain.  Perhaps you could post your own diary on the topic?

My understanding of the Euro is that it started with mixed reviews because many retails/service suppliers took the opportunity of the changeover to hike prices and so a n inflation spike occurred at the transition.  However things have settled down a lot since and it has been hugely popular in Ireland where its introduction enabled interest rates to go down from c. 15% to 3-4% which was a major factor in the success of the Celtic Tiger - but also a factor in the recent property bubble.

Globally there appears to be moves for the Euro to replace or at least supplement the Dollar as the Global reserve currency which is the source of some pride to some, but which also comes with a new set of problems.

For example if China and the Oil exporters were to switch their huge surpluses into Euros (which may already be starting to happen) then the value of the Euro will shoot up relative to the Dollar.

There has already been a very significant realignment between the two and exporters to the Non-Euro areas are feeling the pinch.  On the upside it has helped to cushion the oil price increases and the EU does have a huge internal market which is unaffected by this.

Much of the current volatility has also been caused by the sub-prime crisis which many Europeans see as being caused by the under-regulation of the American financial services sector - a point on which I'm sure you won't agree!

So how about a Diary on either the Euro or your views on France?  Alternatively you could comment on the Global Climate Warming summit - another topic dear to your heart!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 01:47:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank:

Thanks for your comments on the euro. I do not have enough knowledge to write intelligently on how the euro is affecting individual citizens in Europe.  I only know that there is much distaste for it in Italy and Portugal, while other countries have benefited.

Back to the US constitution.  I do suggest you read it.  It is very brief and is produced in small pocket guides that fit in your pocket. It is wonderful for it's breadth and simplicity.  A quick guide to it if you should peruse it.  The first ten amendments are what's known as the "Bill of Rights".  The whole premise of the constitution is to protect individuals from the government.  These ten specify the limits of government power on individuals by conferring rights.  The rest set forth other limits on government.  The Commerce Clause is the most relevant to your european thesis.  It would prevent France from taxing cheese imports, for example.  

I am thinking of writing a blog in response to yours about American "identity".  We dont identify ourselves by a religion or a ethnicity or even a language.  It's more like we all have a common belief that people are generally free to do as they choose. I think that is what unites Americans and how we identify ourselves.

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 04:04:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Had a brief look at the US constitution.  It is rightly concerned primarily with the processes by which the people shall be governed although it sets the bar for amending it very high.  There is thus a risk that it may not be possible to amend it sufficiently in line with changing circumstances.   Some of its "content" - e.g. the right to bear arms - would not seem appropriate in a nuclear age - but I appreciate how controversial that point is in the US.  Does the right to bear arms extend to owning a tank or a cluster bomb?

Good luck with the blog on US "identity".  As you can see from this blog, the concept is very problematic in a European context.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 06:22:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can own a tank in the U.S.

It takes a 2/3 vote to amend the constitution. As it should be.  These are rights that dont require sudden changes.  Also, our supreme court interprets these laws, which gives them some elasticity.  State laws overlap these laws and can be changed.

The European Constitution is what? 400 pages. That is ridiculous.  It is too bulky and cumbersome.

As to europe, the whole point of the unification was to compete economically with the U.S.  But each country is trying to protect its own turf.  The US has a Commerce Clause that prevents that. Europe may want to try it.

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 07:17:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you own a nuclear bomb?

The 2/3 is ok - it's the 3/4 of states as well which makes it v. tough - the 27th amendment took 74,000 days - from September 25, 1789 to get ratified!

Agreed on Euro constitution.  Which is the Commerce clause?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 08:30:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank:

The relevant portion of the constitution.  All duties in the U.S. SHALL be uniform. (shall in law always means must).  This clause prevents Idaho from taxing New Jersey's potatoes coming into Idaho.

Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government. -Thomas Jefferson

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 09:57:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There has been a great deal of tax harmonisation in the EU as well, although not covering areas like personal income and corporation profits taxes.  This has led to charges that some countries - chiefly Ireland and the new accession states - are engaging in tax competition to attract foreign investment.  This is largely true, but has been tolerated as a means of enabling peripheral and underdeveloped economies to overcome their natural disadvantages of underdevelopment,  scale and distance from the major markets and to catch up in terms of GDP/Capita.  

Attitudes are changing now that Ireland's GDP/Capita is higher than all of the other EU states (bar Luxembourg).  Some argue that tax competition is one way of ensuring that state sectors remain efficient and frugal in their use of tax monies, others than tax competition will lead to "a race to the bottom" whereby the only outcome of such competition will be that social services will suffer and corporate profits will rise.

No doubt there will be the usual EU fudge arrived at after years of negotiation which will lead to greater "harmonistaion" and convergence in this area.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 10:42:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]

As to europe, the whole point of the unification was to compete economically with the U.S.  But each country is trying to protect its own turf.

No, no, no.  - whatever you mean by "unification".

The EU is not about the economy. Get information about the EU in other sources than the English-language media, please.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 05:31:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The name of th European project has evolved from "The Coal and Steel Community", to the "Common Market", to The "European Economic Community" to the "European Community", to the European Union" reflecting a slow, conscious, deliberate attempt to move the project beyond its economic origins.  

However it is taking things too far to say that the "EU is not about the economy".  As Bill Clinton famously said about what are the key political issues of the day "Its the Economy Stupid!"  The EU was and is (amongst other things) primarily about providing market access and economies of scale, and administrative efficiencies which can better enable its member states to compete better in a rapidly globalising economy.

I know there are also high minded ideals behind the whole project, specifically about removing the threat of nationalism and war from the European continent, but the method used to achieve this is to ensure that the economic interests of the European elites are closely aligned and coordinated.

Hopefully the EU project will continue to move beyond its economic origins - and there is a huge debate bubbling within it between liberal free market and dirigiste social market ideologies - and the accession of many lesser developed states (including Ireland at the time) was at least in part, motivated by genuine idealism.  

But I don't think we have even begun to see the long term cultural impact of the accession of the Eastern European states on the dominant Franco-German model of EU development so ably articulated by Jerome here, and my fear is that the EU may become less cohesive, rather than more in the years ahead unless it can achieve very signiciant structural political reforms sooner rather than later.  The new accession states won't just "shut up" when France speaks, and there are now many more voices at the table.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 07:18:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the goal of the European community, from the start, was to make Europe peaceful. The first attempt was to build a defense union, but it narrowly failed to pass through the French parliament. It was then understood it'd be easier to start from an Economic Union, but the lofty ideals were present before the Steel and Coal Union.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 07:35:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All your comments were interesting.  

It would seem to me to be impossible to forge a european identity when each member state is trying to use protectionism to buttress up its own industries or agriculture at the expense of the others. This foments the exact opposite sentiments of the European harmony you are trying to achieve.

Here's another thing. Do Tuscans have anything really in common with, say, the Irish? I dont think being catholic is enough.

In the U.S., New Jerseyans do have something in common with Montanans and Californians and even Hawaiins (spelling?) First, we have a common language.   Second, we all believe in the same ideal.  America was founded by people who wanted to escape the rigid economic and governmental system of Europe.  The colonies were very autonomous and England, Holland, Spain and France exerted little government control.  Away from the feudal systems, guild systems, heavy taxation, the aristocratic social structure, colonists thrived in the U.S.  For once, people could live free and keep what they earned.  In other words, individual opportunity.  By contrast, the European countries, for the most part, had systems and societal structures that stifled individual achievement and prosperity.  With the exception of maybe just England, individual citizens did not obtain the right to vote in Europe until the TWENTIETH century.  Consequently, many europeans came to the United States so they could have opportunity.  That is the ideal that binds Americans into being American.

Ethinicity and religion is not so important in the U.S. Most of us our immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Many of us have unusual heritages.  I am Scottish and German. I was born lutheran and am now jewish.  This is not uncommon.

Personally, I think the EU is a mistake.  The EU constitution is the silliest thing I have ever read. 400 pages long?  It seems more like an effort to spread the disease of socialism throughout ALL of Europe.  Are those the notions that will bring comradery between the Tuscan and the Irishman? I doubt it.  Heavy regulation and high taxation will continue to force your young to flock to the United States.

BTW: Frank, I was interested in why the EU is so important to you.  What do you see in it?

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 09:35:58 AM EST
As you say, the US identity has been largely shaped in contradistinction to what the emigrants experienced in their homelands - famine in Ireland, discrimination in Catholic countries, repression of various kinds elsewhere.

However the dominant US culture/identity still seems to have been largely WASP, and it will be interesting to see how an emerging Hispanic/catholic majority will change that.

My view is that a coherent EU identity, if one is to emerge, will also be forged in contradistinction to what is going on elsewhere - possibly requiring a traumatic event like a third world war for diminishing resources (peak oil) or the effects of climate change - to clarify exactly what being European is and is not all about.  

It is always easier to define yourself in contradistinction to others than to find common ground amongst your own disparate peoples.  (In some ways the Iraq war was already something of a defining event - those leaders which supported it Blair, Berlusconi, Aznar were more or less hounded out of office despite being very sucessful in other fields of policy and politics).

You are right in saying the Ireland and Tuscany are coming from very different places, but we are now being shaped by very similar forces - globalisation, peak oil, climate change, market integration, tourism, technology, multinational corporations, EU government and regulation, the Euro etc. so there is a huge convergence in the challenges faces us and our responses to it.

I do not think that protectionism is as big an issue as you allege.  Sure, some Governments - chiefly France and Italy, are trying to protect a very few key industries from foreign takeover by forming "national champions", but what they are doing is strictly illegal under EU law, and is gradually being undermined by court rulings.  The level of market integration and inter-penetration is increasing all the time, and is not all that different from the situation you describe in the US.

My interest in the EU derives from 2 main sources.   Although I have lived in Ireland virtually all my life, my parents were German and were caught up in WW2.  You cannot imagine how strong the "never again war" feeling is that permeates through Europe in a way that does not appear to be present in the US despite Vietnam etc.  If a major nuclear war with many millions of casualties was fought on US soil I think you can understand the determination to ensure that it never happens again.

Secondly, Ireland was a god forsaken, provincial, inbred and grossly under developed country in my youth - forget what the tourist brochures say - visiting Connemara for a couple of weeks in summer as a relatively wealthy tourist is not the same as having to live and be unemployed there.  

Ireland has changed more than any country I know of on this planet in the past 20 years, and most of the changes are for the better, and many are at least partly due to the EU and the vision of its founders and leaders.  We are now ready to give something back.

---
PS - you didn't say whether the "Right to bear arms" clause entitles you to carry a suitcase nuclear bomb...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 10:29:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I always wondered what type of Irish name Schnittger was.  

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether the 2nd amendement permits nuclear weapon ownership.  But since the general rule is that words are given there normal and well understood meaning, I doubt that they are.

As for war in europe, you dont need the EU to accomplish that goal.  Democracy is the remedy (usually) for war.  Name me two democracies that have gone to war against each other (maybe War of 1812-MAYBE).  Wars are caused by despotic regimes.  Democracies do not war with each other because democracies are free societies. We dont want war unless we feel it is absolutely necessary.  It disrupts business and the lives of its citizens. Dictators first rule is to remain in power. And if they need to start a war to keep their people in line or to stir up patriotism, they do it (See Falklands War).

Europe is at peace because the Allies installed democracy there.  That is the real reason why we are in Iraq.  To bring democracy there.  Whether that is successful or a wise idea is another story.  However, the reason why the middle east and africa and asia and North Korea etc are such dangerous areas, is the lack of democracy.  When/if the middle east becomes democratic, it will cease to be a danger.

I have never been to ireland, but I have been informed that the greatest improvement is the food.  Not to take anything else away from their other achievements. But the food was supposedly so bloody awful....

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 03:34:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Terry:
Name me two democracies that have gone to war against each other

What are your definitions of "democracy" and "go to war"?

Clue: If democracies require universal voting rights the rule is not applicable until the 20th century.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 05:11:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If "the right to bear arms" allows you to own a tank firing depleted Uranium shells, I'm not sure why the same logic can't apply to a suitcase sized nuclear bomb.  Neither weapon was imaginable at the time the amendment was passed.  Either you interpret it to allow only weapons that were current in 1791, or it seems there is no logical or absolute bar to any kind of weapon.

Alternatively you could interpret the amendment to simply give each citizen the right to join a well regulated state Militia - and be subject to the disciplines of doing so.  In which case they might or might not be allowed to bear arms when not on duty - depending on whether they were in good standing with the militia.  It seems that the right to bear arms was for the purpose of defending the state, and not to be part of everyday civilian life in peacetime.

I'm afraid democracies do make war - e.g. Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt etc. are all democracies.

The US itself has instigated violent regime change against democratically elected Governments in Iran (1953), Guatemala 1954, Democratic Republic of the Congo 1960, Chile 1973, Nicaragua 1981-1990, and Venezuela 2002.  Many of these countries have higher participation rates in elections than the US itself.  The common thread in these actions is that the elected governments were not sufficiently supportive of US commercial interests in the region.

The US certainly had a very positive role in post war Europe in preventing a very punitive Versailles Treaty like approach to German, providing Marshall Plan aid to shattered economies, and providing a security shied against further Soviet encroachment - though some argue that the Warsaw Pact was more a defensive shield for the Soviet Union fearing an invasion from the west - something that was indeed discussed by Churchill/Truman but dismissed as impractical given the the realities of post war exhaustion and anti-war feeling in Europe.

In my view the US's role in helping to end WW2 and in helping Western Europe get back on its feet post 1945 marks the high point of US and possibly world history.

Yep the food in Ireland has improved out of all recognition - but you'd want to hurry -  prices are heading towards the Paris level and with the declining dollar you'd want to up your $200/hr. charge rate to afford it.!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 05:15:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
The US certainly had a very positive role in post war Europe in preventing a very punitive Versailles Treaty like approach to German

First the plan was very much a punitive handling of Germany:

History of Germany since 1945 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The initial proposal for the post-surrender policy of the Western powers, the so-called Morgenthau Plan proposed by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., was one of "pastoralization".[2] The Morgenthau Plan, though subsequently ostensibly shelved due to public opposition, influenced occupation policy; most notably through the U.S. punitive occupation directive JCS 1067[3][4] and The industrial plans for Germany[5][5] [6].

'The "'Level of Industry plans for Germany" were the plans to lower German industrial potential after World War II. At the Potsdam conference, with the U.S. operating under influence of the Morgenthau plan[6], the victorious Allies decided to abolish the German armed forces as well as all munitions factories and civilian industries that could support them. This included the destruction of all ship and aircraft manufacturing capability. Further, it was decided that civilian industries which might have a military potential, which in the modern era of "total war" included virtually all, were to be severely restricted. The restriction of the latter was set to Germany's "approved peacetime needs", which were defined to be set on the average European standard. In order to achieve this, each type of industry was subsequently reviewed to see how many factories Germany required under these minimum level of industry requirements.

Then circumstances shifted:

History of Germany since 1945 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

With the beginning of the Cold war, the U.S. policy gradually changed as it became evident that a return to operation of West German industry was needed not only for the restoration of the whole European economy, but also for the rearmament of West Germany as an ally against the Soviet Union. They feared that the poverty and hunger would drive the West Germans to Communism. General Lucius Clay stated "There is no choice between being a communist on 1,500 calories a day and a believer in democracy on a thousand".

And thus (the threath of) communism saved West Germany!

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 05:40:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"I'm afraid democracies do make war - e.g. Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt etc. are all democracies."

With the exception of Israel, I dont think these countries really qualify as democracies. Ive been to 3 of them.  Jordan is a kingdom.  You may have a looser definition of democracy than I do.

As to the 2nd amendment applying to a militia, Ive actually debated the topic in a law school competition. It is one of the weakest arguments ever used by leftists in america, who obviously do not have any grasp on American history. Nearly every colonist owned a gun.  None of the founders would have ever considered banning gun use.  The whole revolution was ignited over the british attempting to confiscate guns and ammo.

My larger point, somewhat ignored, is that democracies dont war with each other.  They certainly go to war with dictatorships, when they perceive it's in their interests. But not with each other.

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 08:03:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but they do have a history of redefining democracies as dictatorships to facilitate declarations of war,

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 08:11:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"You may have a looser definition of democracy than I do." -terry

I doubt it.  The US doesn't fully qualify as a democracy in my book because the voter registration, voting administration, and vote counting are often in partisan hands which has led to numerous abuses of the democratic process most recently illustrated by the Florida fiasco.

In addition, although the US is in theory a democracy of equal citizens, in reality corporate donations, corporate media interests, and the sheer cost of running campaigns means that speech, although sometimes free (if your not labelled a communist), is shouted down by those who can pay to have their message drown out all others.

Although in theory the US is a multi-party democracy, in reality no party which is not in bed with the corporate/wealthy sectors of society has any chance of success.  Partly, as a consequence less than 50% of those who are entitled to vote can or bother to do so.

The US also has one of the largest prisoner populations in the world - systematically skewed towards minority groups - so the term free society doesn't really apply.  It has actively supported a terrorist campaign directed at Cuban civilians and imprisoned those who uncovered the evidence identifying the culprits.

I am not an expert on Jordan, but the CIA factbook lists it as a constitutional Monarchy - as is the U.K. - is their voter turnout lower than the US?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:31:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jordan is nominally a constitutional democracy, but in practice it is an absolute monarchy, where executive authority rests with the king -- who has the power to dissolve parliament and rule by decree, and did so as recently as 2001, for two years.  The parliament has little real power, and is at any rate entirely dominated by allies of the king because of the way the electoral system is organized.  (Rural tribal regions are overrepresented and political parties, the few that exist, are weak and largely irrelevant.)

At any rate, prior to 1991 the country was under martial law for much of its modern history, and it certainly cannot be considered to have been any kind of democracy at the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war or the Black September events of 1971.

I did find the list of alleged "democracies" to be rather bizarre.  Of the countries listed, only Israel and India can really be considered democracies.  And although Israel is a democracy, I will note that the majority of the residents of Israeli-controlled territory are not citizens of Israel and have no say in the decisions of government.

Egypt (where I live) is a democracy (and a republic) in name only.  In practice, it is a one-party police state where total power has rested with the president, of which there have been three in the last 51 years, all of them former military officers.

Iran is closer to a democracy than most other countries in the region, but true decisionmaking power still resides with the Supreme Leader and the Council of Guardians.

Pakistan has, in its modern history, alternated between periods of military rule and civilian government, but even the civilian governments have at times only been superficially so.  In 1965, Pakistan was ruled by Gen. Ayub Khan, who seized power in a coup and "legitimized" his rule two years later by a yes-or-no referendum in which only village councilmen could vote.  Not a democracy.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 07:21:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All of which highlights just how problematic blanket definitions of democracy, claims that the Iraq war is all about creating a democracy, and assertions that democracies do not make war really are.  In many ways Cuba has more democratic participation than many so called democracies, but being a formal one party state, it cannot be considered to be one.  

Even well established western democracies have a long tradition of colonialism, rule by more or less accountable economic/social/corporate elites, and marginalization/disenfranchisement both formal or informal of many people within.  

I am all for democracy, but it comes in many different forms and is in many different stages of development around the world.  We should avoid presumptions that our form is always superior or more appropriate to the particular stage of development a particular society finds it in.

Democracy is a very recent innovation in the conduct of human affairs when one considers the full span of human and social evolution..   It works best where there is a relatively homogeneous population - e.g. New Zealand - and is most problematic where there are major ethnic, religious, cultural or economic divisions in a society.

That is why the EU - for all its faults as noted above - is still quite an amazing success.  It is a pity it wasn't extended to the Yugoslavia when Tito was still in power.  It might have saved us a lot of very bloody war in the meantime.  But then he was a communist dictator, wasn't he?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:57:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In what way does Cuba have more democratic participation in it than, say, the U.S.  The last time I looked, there was no right to vote, no right to speech and, in fact, no right to anything.

Terry
by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:53:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not an expert on Cuba.  When I was last there - c. 12 years ago - there was huge participation in politics  - right down to street committee level, and everyone seemed to have a vote.  The only problem was you had to be a member of the Communist party, and most people were, whether out of conviction or pragmatism.  

I suspect there was far greater than 50% participation in politics - even if your choice as a voter was between a number of candidates all of whom were members.  Being a member was a bit like voter registration in the US - you had to do it if you wanted to vote or be a candidate.  Once you passed that hurdle it was a very democratic system.

I did meet some dissidents who hated Castro.  They were of the old aristocracy who had been dispossessed by the revolution.  They were renting their old aristocratic home back from the Government and running it as a B&B - where we stayed.  They used to dress for dinner and speak of th old days flavoured with lots of colourful invective against Castro.  The local street committee found out they were running an unlicensed B&B - a small contribution to the town "water rates" sorted that out.
I have come across much worse corruption in Africa.

We also ran foul of the authorities because we had engaged an unlicensed cabby to dive us around the Island.  He had been cultural attache in their Czech embassy but had fallen foul of the licencing arrangements.  The police hauled him in at a checkpoint so I followed him into the station.  His papers were not in order.  I told the cops that Castro would be very proud of the way he was showing us their beautiful country.  That seemed to solve the problem.  I don't think we would have gotten away with that in the US.

I do not wish to minimise the fact that there are many people in Cuba who have fallen foul of the authorities for reasons that would not be acceptable here.  I don't know the numbers but would be surprised if the % of the population in Jail is as high as the US.  

Most of the people we met were intensely proud of the revolution - despite all the privations which they blamed on American sanctions -  and were fearful of what would happen if the Yankees ever invaded and re-established the dictatorial mafiosi who ran the Island before the revolution.

I think the Cuban regime are very silly not to allow multi-party politics.  The communist party would probably win anyway.  They are probably afraid that wealthy Florida based cuban exiles would buy the electorate if they were allowed back in.  

Certainly foreign investment is badly needed, but do not underestimate how proud most Cubans are of what they have achieved despite a sustained US campaign of sanctions and terrorism (which has killed 3000 civilians) aided and abetted by the CIA and FBI.  
http://www.freethefive.org/updates/IntlMedia/IMBBCGerardo70307.htm

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:50:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Once you get past the hurdle that you can only vote for whatever communist candidate Castro puts up, it is a very democratic system?  Is this the same system you want for Europe?  

So you think most people would be communist out of conviction anyway? I think that is rather amusing.  I am sure one might have said the same about east germans, poles etc 20 years ago, and would be just as incorrect.  I would suggest the reason why castro doesnt allow multiple parties, is because he is afraid he will lose.

It sounds like a wonderful place (read sarcasm). Are you by any chance a socialist, Frank?  Where do you classify yourself politically.

Frank, is castro a dictator?

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 11:55:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The U.S. doesn't qualify as a democracy?  But Jordon does?  Well, that says a mouthful, Frank.  If that is your starting premise, everything else is after that is quite questionable.

I hate to break this to you, but vote counting will always be in partisan hands wherever you go.  The notion that there are these non-partisan elves who exist who will count our votes for us is fantasy.  Our system allows the partisans to watch each other count the vote.  Nobody's vote was suppressed in Florida. What you had was one party trying to flip the election results in a state where the vote was close.  It failed.  The New YOrk Times, along with other newspapers, counted the votes and Bush won.  

Florida, is actually a wonderful example of how our democracy works.  The issue wasnt resolved in the streets or with guns.

I dont know much about this terror campaign directed at Cubans because you didnt mention any details.  However, Castro, one of the richest men on the planet, has murdered or jailed all political opposition, denied his people a vote, enacted ruinuous economic policies, permits no freedom of the press.  Yet, I never hear too much criticism of his trampling of human rights.  Maybe, because he gives free healthcare.


Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 11:39:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Voter registration, the distribution of voting locations, and the counting of votes is carried out by non-partisan civil servants in Ireland, and, as far as I know in other EU countries aswell.  

The vote count itself is certainly witnessed by party activists on all sides - but it is paper based and thus highly "recountable".  An attempt to introduce electronic voting failed because the technology could not be proved to be tamper proof.  

The vote count itself if a complex process because of our multi-seat constituencies and transferable preference voting system which allows you to vote for as many candidates as you wish in order of your choice.  (Thus if your no. 1 choice is eliminated for being at the bottom of the poll, your vote goes to your second choice etc.)

The counting procedure is part of the tradition, theater and drama of our electoral process and draws huge public interest.  Seats have sometimes been decided by as few as 5 votes.  There has never been a controversy to even come close to the Florida election.

In a democracy it is important that elections are not only fair, but seen to be fair. Perhaps Bush did win fair and square.  I have been told so many stories about voters been refused registration, about registered voters been refused the vote, about polling stations being concentrated in pro-Bush areas, about hanging chads, and voting machines manufactured by pro-Bush businesses who guaranteed to deliver the election.

I don't know how much, if any, of that is true.  The point is that many Americans believed it was true, and such a belief is very corrosive of the democratic process.  No wonder so few end up voting.  A country where less than half the people feel the vote gives them a voice worth having is not an ideal democracy, is it?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 09:13:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank:

There is no such thing as a "nonpartisan" vote counter.  What are these, people who have no opinoin whatsoever?  

Civil servants are hired by partisan government officials.  You can call them as non-partisan, but that doesnt mean they are.

And, historically, it has been the DEMOCRATIC party that has abused vote counting. Not the republican party.  See Mayor Daley in Chicago. Ironically, it was his son trying to overturn Florida's vote for Gore.

Terry

by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 12:01:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If "the right to bear arms" allows you to own a tank firing depleted Uranium shells, I'm not sure why the same logic can't apply to a suitcase sized nuclear bomb.  Neither weapon was imaginable at the time the amendment was passed.  Either you interpret it to allow only weapons that were current in 1791, or it seems there is no logical or absolute bar to any kind of weapon.

In the UK when the last Major gun law changes occurred and  someone handed in a pair of cheiftain tanks, as rifled weapons  were now banned. and similarly, restored historical warships in the hands of museums had problems with Licencing. If however a Modern smotthbore weaponed main battle tank, such as a US Abrahms was  posessed by a UK private citizen, then all they would actually need is a shotgun licence.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 11:59:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is some level of similarity between Europe as it is at the moment, and the US in the years shortly after the revolution, in the early stages the country was not linguistically homogenous, there was much discussion about what was to be the oficial language, there being a split between those who favoured English and those who favoured German.

Europe does labour under that extra layer of history of feuds between the individual factions which you would expect to take longer to sort out, there is no reason really to expect that a solution wont be found at some point.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Dec 13th, 2007 at 11:00:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Personally, I think the EU is a mistake.  The EU constitution is the silliest thing I have ever read. 400 pages long?  It seems more like an effort to spread the disease of socialism throughout ALL of Europe.

Barf.


 Heavy regulation and high taxation will continue to force your young to flock to the United States.

Just continue to believe that, and implement it wherever you are, and we'll be fine with our socialism.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 09:45:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was under the impression it was the more mature looking for a place in the sun who were travelling out from Europe nowadays. The only young person I can think of who made that journey went in search of young blonde women who played soccer in San Diego.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 09:58:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Terry, I'm sure you believe what you're writing, but it is just that and nothing else: a set of beliefs.

About American history (on which you are substantially mistaken), about the importance of ethnicity and religion in the US today (ethnicity is extremely important in American society, and religion is far more important than in Europe), about the European young "flocking" to the States... Illusions, delusions...

Go on dreaming if it does you good :-)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:49:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your comment might mean something to me if you actually bothered to demonstrate with facts how my American history is wrong.

Terry
by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 11:24:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As your deluded ramblings don't mean a thing to me, I'm not going to bother. I can't see a single fact that you present yourself.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:01:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL, Just as I thought. The intellectual laziness of the left.

Terry
by Terry (Terry@pollackzuckerman.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:48:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So we can take it you think you're on the right?

Laziness is a fair appreciation of your wide-eyed dreamy view of America.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 02:47:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have attempt to summarise my take on this conversation in a new diary "Our European Identity" at http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/12/14/13841/028

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:25:43 PM EST
You generated quite some discussion. But I have to respond to stuff in the intro even before reading your main thesis: chiefly stuff on the new EU members, which BTW are in Central Europe.

First, I can't support your rendering of the history of accession as a geopolitical exercise against Russia. The Iron Curtain was pulled down before the Soviet Union collapsed -- we all had elected governments by 1991, and aspirations to join the EU. Russia didn't oppose the Baltic state's EU accession, unlike their NATO accesion. Among existing members, the real motivations were internal. The chief motor of expansion was Germany, which on one hand saw new markets, on the other hand didn't want to be the border of the EU. France and Germany were originally opponents, and how they came around is important also to know how and why accession criteria were watered down.

The watering down obviously began with the economic thinking in Germany. And not just Germany -- the neoliberal disease infected all the EU-15, with which I want to imply that problems started well before the eastward Accession. Even worse in Britain, that came around late in hope of support for its Thatcherite view on what the EU should and should not be. France for its part was the originator of the 'Big Bang' accession, e.g. that the new Central European candidates shall join in one go. This was originally thrown in in the hope that it would slow down things (especially as originally Romania, France's hope of a pro-French new member, was part of the parcel), but as the integrationists ground down resistance, it contributed heavily to the watering down.

All this leads me to another important disagreement: I do not think that the current woes of the EU have much to do with the new members.

Before I go into this, so that you know where I come from (which might not be what you'd expect from where I live): I do emphatically agree that accession was rushed, that it would have been better had our governments been subjected to much closer scrunity and accession criteria, and that an EU institutional reform would have been best timed in the late nineties already.

Now, what blocking role have new EU members played in the last three years? Apart from Poland, not much. However, when Poland did so, it usually ended up alone and cornered in the end, and even before its allies included old members like Spain. And more importantly, the most efficient blocker has been Bliar's Britain, whose main allies at times icluded Berlusconi's Italy, Aznar's Spain, and Denmark. At Nizza, the EU-15 failed at a meaningful institutional reform (the very reason in the first place that the later mis-directed process towards a Constitution started) primarily thanks to Chirac's unlimited blind selfishness.

What's more, once the Constitution was born, the obligation of 25 members to approve it wasn't under threat from the new members, where parliaments were rather quick to ratify and there was no strong public desire for referendums, but the old members -- ultimately failing in France and the Netherlands, while Ireland and Britain wouldn't have been certain either.

To conclude, methinks the fish stinks from its head, and the main problem for the EU is the deterioriation of its elites from the nineties. The national governments and the Commission members they appointed have shown poor oversight, even poorer strategic vision, bought into the neoliberal Zeitgeist, and let the European project slide just when they had the chance to do something. The botched-up Accession is more a symptom than a cause.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 04:17:01 PM EST
Nah, Ireland is the centre of Europe.  The rest of you are east...

Did Russia ever express any interest in joining the EU?  Many of their natural markets, neighbours and ethnic relations are now within the EU.  Why was Russia not invited to join?

I agree the new members have bought into he European ideal and have not sought to block progress.  As you say the Constitution was ultimately scuppered in France and the Netherlands for a variety of reasons.  But regardless of who does the blocking, any constitution that requires unanimity amongst 27 or more members for any major change (not just constitutional changes) is going to be very unwieldy going forward.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Invitation to join the EU is preceded by application to join, and Russia hasn't tried that so far (unlike Turkey). That said, some in a region of Russia did entertain the thought to join the EU: the Kaliningrad district (former Northern half of East Prussia, an enclave between Poland and Lithuania), to be less isolated.

On a practical level, Russia's accession would necessitate major changes within Russia (chiefly standards and border controls), and multiply the EU budget needs for structural funds (while a lot of EU-regions presently receiving funds would move above the threshold and no longer receive), so even just sorting out such issues would take a long time once the accession route would be taken.

That said, there are some prominent advocates of Russia joining here in the EU:

Slovak president wants Russia to join EU - The Slovak Spectator

PRESIDENT Ivan Gašparovič told Russian leader Vladimir Putin yesterday that Slovakia would like to see Russia one day become part of the European Union.

Following recent calls by Slovak government officials for better relations with Russia, Gašparovič told Putin that "European Union representatives already realize" that Russia will eventually join the EU, "even though that won't happen tomorrow or even next year".

I agree the new members have bought into he European ideal and have not sought to block progress.

I myself wouldn't go as far... The EU as milk cow and place where red carpets are rolled out for them, might be the 'European ideal' of most of our politicians.

I don't disagree that unanimity should go away, not infrequently having been unwieldy even in the EU-12.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 07:04:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rolling out the red carpet for countries that are behind in terms of living standards is PART of the European ideal - as Ireland knows only too well.  We've had our snout in the trough, now its your turn.  Enjoy.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 09:31:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not for countries. Heads of states. Not quite the same thing.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 09:39:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
brilliant, dodo.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Dec 16th, 2007 at 05:31:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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