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What is the EU for?

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 07:56:01 AM EST

Richard Jones is a long time contributor to Charles Bremner's Timesonline blog on all things French - as seen from a British angle.  He has fought the good fight of making the case for the EU in the face of some hostile British Eurosceptic and American Neo-conservative comment  He finds the Eurotribune blog format somewhat difficult to use and so has agreed to my suggestion that I publish some of his contributions here on this blog.  So here goes...

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"I am a very new Eurotribune member under Richard Jones.

I wrote the two pieces (below) because I wanted to try and answer four questions that Charles Bremner (Times journalist) and others in his blog had asked.
a) What is the EU's function now?
b) Why is there a growing disaffection between the average European man in the street and the EU executive and bureaucracy.
c) Is it necessary to have the support and 'understanding' of the average European even if securing this means delays in the progress to European unity?
d) What does the EU need to do (and I forgot to mention review all the free trade legislation in my summary) to regain the average European's confidence?"


I would like to start with Baron Bremner de Marais' (Charles Bremner's) last sentence in his most `personally independent' post to date.
`People...do not know what Europe is for.'

I think the only way I can be clear is to say what I think Europe is now, or in this world of accelerating global is likely to soon become and why the `man in the EU street' is worried and unsure about this. Then I will trace the various EU phases and try and place EU national and popular attitudes to those phases in the hope of showing where and why disconnect started.
Finally try and put down how we can fruitfully restore that `connection'.

This whole parade of ideas is based on a story of two stools. The smallest number of legs needed to support and keep any system in equilibria is three.
At the national and as far as we can determine, using strongly federalized country models(USA, Switzerland), supranational level: we need our stool to have three properly placed and similar strengthened and stressed legs labeled - social, political and economic. Only if there are in reasonable tridem or troika can the second stool function

At the global level our current unipolar (and thus totally unstable) world (USA), already chafed and splintering, is looking for two other legs on the global stool. The EU is the strongest candidate, and US preferred as long as it remains secondstring, to be screwed into position as the second leg. Who, what and how the third leg will be designed and joined up is not quite clear but China must be a major component.

Less clear is how the `brink powers' will mesh or spoil. Will Russia, very aware of its potentially IslamIST underbelly, play its energy and no `buffer border' - Georgia and Armenia card to become a `first amongst equals' with the EU? Or will it go for a coalition of the East with China, the Koreas, Japan? What will India do? Brazil? How will Iran play the nuclear power leapfrog game?? Nevertheless, for simplicity our three poles (or legs) we can call USA, EU, China.

So to answer the Baron's question. The EU is a now global actor on the rickety stage of world power. It is unique in that of our three global power legs it is very youthful, brash; has multi-value systems; is multi-cultural, multi-ethical, multi-lingual, multi-lateral and fits together like a jigsaw from an Alzheimer workshop. In fact, both our imaginary stools are rickety and frail to say the least. And from the complexities I've already very briefly and superficially tinkered with, one can see why the people's carriages have been shunted into the sidings whilst the express locomotive roars on fitfully into a darkened tunnel of indeterminate gauge or length. No wonder there's a disconnect! In fact only a system incorporating massive doses of forced indoctrination from womb to tomb could possibly engender any form of andronic `connect'.

Next - you were warned this would be long and boring - we need to ask if this `disconnectivity' was always the case. Have the modern complexities of globalization and accelerated geo-political change caused the current - what shall we call it - disaffection. Is Ireland the only place where the social, political and economic synapse is totally dulled? To answer my own questions! Disaffection has always been there from an EU of 6, but worsening geometrically as the EU got bigger in a world that `morphs' quicker and quicker. I would suggest that `disaffection' is not particular to one country but more a function of the class, education, profession, and national identification than anything else. I am not saying it is exclusively the poor or the less intelligent that disaffect but there is a plum of truth in that statement. Over and above this EU wide general source of disaffection there are specific nationally-oriented factors. Often this component turns disaffection from a `live with it' disturbance to genuine discontent. Much of this is historic and unique to that particular member state which makes that disafeection hard to articulate to the EU and difficult for the EU mandarins to understand.

To give some examples. We blabber blithely on about Europe `an old continent' when we talk to our Antipodean mates and regurgitated Americans, but in so many ways we are the `new frontier'. We are the continent that is still sorting out issues of national and supra-national assimilation resulting from other econo-politico systems (bankrupt Communism), from the results of national breakdown(the Balkans - Yugoslithia) and national reconfiguration (Germany) - all these, and I agree it's a lumpy spike in the last 12 to 15 years. When you joke about US history being only 250 years old, just remember what Germany looked like as little as a hundred and forty years ago, or Italy a decade before that. Norway did not exist as a state until 1907 (maybe 1905 - somebody will Wickedpederast the right date) by voting for a king! Finland was a Russian duchy until 1912 (sumbuddy check please). Greece, a major source of our European heritage became independent in Europe on 25 March 1821 - (don't need a check I was there) . Do you know what year France gained les department Savoyards? Can you tell me who ruled Alsace and Lorraine when from 1648 to 1950? Switzerland - old as the cuckoo clock - not cantonally complete until 1815, some would say 1848. Ireland, a star in the Celtic crown, became independent in December 1921, less than a hundred years ago. And look at these national struggles carefully because in many cases the struggle was impeded, delayed or fought against by - yes another EU member. Ireland gained independence from UK. The waltzing Alsatians are a function of Franco-Germanic war. I do not need to mention the Balkan dismemberment.
We are not old we are new, young, brash, inexperienced, politically puerile, over nationalistic and still latently warlike.

Does anybody know where I am?? Ah yes, `disaffection' is natural given all that happens as noted above and it all happens so fast we cannot keep the `membership informed', which sounds like an Islamist excuse to a woman.

Part of the reason things happen so fast these days is a global actor called Internet and all that lives beneath its stone. We see everything from everywhere as it happens, sometimes if you watch CNN I-report before it happens, or that's how it seems. Well these same techniques can be used to distribute knowledge as well, can be used to simplify complexity; can be used to nullify seditious misinformation; can be used to nurture required social, national, supernational and global networks: large multi-nationals do it; Baron Bremner de Marais does it (but only on Su^ndays).

Now in the next part I will try and work out how, why and when `disaaffection' grew from a nagging itch to a full grown canker. Starting with the first roll of the dice - Hey a 6! - threw (not a typo) until today

-------------Part 2

EU a history of lost love

A quick post-war picture. Food shortages and rationing: Marshall plan: French occupation of the Rhineland and Saarland (what CdG prescience here). In 1951 - CdG out of power - Schumann drives for the dissolution of the French authority in Ruhr and replacing it with European Coal and Steel Community. ECSC is made up of Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg (BENELUX), France, Germany and Italy. The ECSC soon begat Euratom and The European Court of Justice.

Viewed by the USA as a good thing in uniting Europe against the new Soviet foe, especially in the `war economy areas of coal and steel'. Viewed very optimistically by Germany who had assumed that the Ruhr occupation was the precursor of `reparations - hyperinflation, Weimar, Freikorps and other things from the after WW1 period that contributed to WW2.

Viewed not so optimistically by the Brits who felt that this was a further manifestation of the Marshall plan inequities, in which the WW2 losers - Germany, Italy - seemed to have done very well, but worse the largely despised French, who had played both sides against the middle, had done better than they out of the Marshall Plan. The only ray of light was the retreat from occupation of German territory. Already however there is Anglo-French resentment.

In 1957 the Treaty of Rome really started the EU by replacing the 50 year Treaty of Paris (1951) with the time indefinite Treaty of Rome. `Rome' was pushed through just before CdG (5th Republic) regained power. He would certainly have unraveled it. In the UK at the time I remember - I was late thirties - the EC was viewed as the start of a French Empire, in which the Germans would voice their views through France, because any voice of their own would be viewed as WW3 and as it soon became clear the French Empire would make use of a resurging German manufacturing economy. We are now in the world of the EC - European Commuities - which lasted until it became the EU at Maastricht in 1993.

In 1960 UK `led' a purely trade and finance organization (well almost) called EFTA - comprising UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Portugal. Iceland kicked in in 1970. We now had more Anglo-French acrimony based on the inner 6 and the outer 7 - EC v. EFTA.

The UK and Denmark began to see better deals in the `inner 6' and started negociations in 1961 - yes 1961 - one year after EFTA starts.

In 1962 CAP is started, iniquitous, large subsidies provided to French agriculture from other EC members, notably Germany. Large part of subsidies used for non-agricultural projects, notably under VGdE.
France also, in 1966, decides to abnegate from NATO

The progress of the 3 new nations - UK,IR, DK to join the EC - was a long, slow struggle. France - the unforgiving, paranoic and vindictive de Gaulle kept up his vetoes (1963, 1966, 1967) - on the basis of UK's links with the old enemy (USA) who had, as the whole world knew, done nothing to help him in 1940-45.

On 1973 UK, Ireland and Denmark finally joined the EC. There was no referendum in the UK at that time but a Yes was acquired by referendum under Labour in 1975. Norway was also a candidate but a popular referendum turned things down. However, all that had preceded the enlargement had led to a Franco-Brit mutual wariness of enormous proportions. UK `s banner waving over CAP corruption started things off very badly but the upshot was. Depending on the frigidity of the Cold War at the time all three nations were worried about France's defense posture, especially as there was no material EC replacement for NATO's loss? All three nations were wary of what they perceived to be French artempts at `empire'. DK was concerned about France's `statist' economy, responding to criticism of similarity by saying they used socialist methods to deal with the `bad behaviour' of a market economy but did little to `manage the market itself' as France and by silent (but not true) implication on their part Germany did. Ireland saw their joining as buying a stake in Europe's economic growth.

Already we have international doubts and arguments on issues to do with things like managing national economies, international aggrandisement and irredentismand we only have 9 members. However, to be fair most of these problems were put aside before the next `take-on'. The only problem remaing was that the two with the most similar political systems - strong centrist power disagreed on the `free' market (UK) and `managed, statist market approach of France. So here we are with serious interstate issues that were brushed under the carpet as the EC moved to become an inter-state, supra- state, super-state organization. The risks are there just below the surface.

Now we move from 6 in 1957 to 9 nations 16 years later to 17 countries after another 9 years. This addition was an additional long-term problem. It was Greece in 1981 and fostered the following `loaded' thinking. France was the catalyst for Greece and this was taken by others as France forming an alliance because Greece was politically immature having just ridden themselves of a dictatorship and would be obliged to take on the French econo-political model which they have largely done (and with about the same level of success and failure). There are moves away from this model after the 2004 Olympic economic value-added. Greece also has no border with any other member and was viewed by many as an `outpost in the Balkans when that melts' addition to the EU.

Now, as we wait for Spain and Portugal, through yet another treaty - Amsterdam - we wheel in the Schengen agreement. This really rattles the unskilled labour class in Europe as he sees his job being ripped from underneath him by unskilled foreigners. However, European economic fundamentals were pretty strong and the jobs argument is not that strong.
However, by 1990, when Schengen II allowing free movement and no border controls for EC citizens the UK chooses to muddy the quieter waters by saying, `cos of the IRA, they will stay out. Poor old Ireland cannot do but do as the UK. Another example of the Anglo-UK struggle pulling down balanced, sensible European unity. Spain with ETA issues still joined Schengen, as did some non-EC members - Iceland, Norway. Again another `user doubt' issue is needless fanned from spark to blaze.

Spain and Portugal in 1986, longer in stable democracy than Greece but not by an enormous time, are next. Perhaps, apart from their anger at being preceded by a much less ready Greece, this was the second easiest enlargement. Oh! And in 1985 somebody left - Greenland!!

And so to the easiest enlargement of all, apart from the Slytherin arrival of East Germany in 1990 which was applauded and generally felt to be a safew addition as it was just an addition to the wherewithal of the single strongest and perhaps the most European in outlook of all the member states.

About now the politicos begin to realise that the average EU citizen feels uneasy about the EU. In most countries the issues are to do with the treatment other countries are getting. The joining schedule issues (Greece), the subvention issue - CAP (UK, Germany and feckless France) - tumblings about the EU institutions about which nobody seems so sure.

This leads to some rules about accepting new countries called the Copenhagen criteria in 1993, along with the Maastricht Treaty of the same year that puts Union (AN ENORMOUS SOURCE OF CONCERN AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL) in the title. And the appointment of a French President of the Commission (Dehors) who announces within 3 weeks an aggressive agenda for UNION. This piece of stupidity largely of French manufacture gave the man in the street the wobbles. France did this knowing that only a political union at full speed was the only way to ensure an EU model reflecting theirs - central, highly executive poltical power and coupled to a statist `managed market'.

France takes a large part of the guilt for popular disaffection right here for that series of inept insensitivities. All they had to do was not change the name, or keep Delors quiet for a few months - but no! and they went on about NATO as well at a time of great incertitude over Russia's implosion.

Curiously the next enlargement in 1995 was the quietest and most successful so far - Austria, Finland, Sweden. All were ex-EFTA and thus understood the concept of `free trade' and Austria entered under the `tutelage' of Germany, whilst Sweden had strong national links with Denmark, an old member and Finland was also a Nordic. Remember we have had a 7 year gap: three nations are the bite: all three are strongish but relatively small economies.

This addition could have been the calmer of popular mood too, but Delors rhetoric about whose laws count, how we all need the same money frightened the average soul. Not only is he gonna do something to my wallet but he's going to do it with a set of new laws I won't understand and can't do anything to change. How long will it be before my nationality runs out?
The average person thought he was in a spin dryer of ever increasing speed in a launderette that wasn't in his street, and didn't use his money and some bloody foreigner had taken the stop button away.

From here on in we really discover the huge democratic deficit that faces
John, Jean, Jan, Gianni, Juan, Gianni everywhere. Suddenly it becomes clearer that the people have little power. They vote for a supranational Parliament that passes laws drafted by people they did not vote for. They do not vote for the EU executive, they do not vote for EU supranational bodies like ECB. They discover that most EU bodies are, frankly, more or less inaccountable to anybody never mind them looking askance out of their spin dryer window revolving at even greater speed.

The Euro comes and is a reasonable success in those economies that have a `heavy unit' already - Punt, Mark, Guilder but an inflationary disaster in the `light money states' Greece, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal. Some countries are stupid enough not to take the Euro and in so doing have a say above their weight in EU macro-economic planning.
The UK missed the opportunity of a lifetime, especially as Helmut Pohl had gone and the French were desperate for the ECB job. If UK, with a bit of resistance, had taken the Euro they could have conditioned it on running the ECB which they would have got. There would have been no Dim Dosyberg and the ECB would have been set on a more middle road between a free and a managed market to the good of everybody. UK stupid!!!! UK was not only stupid but perfidious (yep Albion Perfide) in setting about destroying international confidence in the Euro. Happily they were not very successful.

Thus we have confused, disaffected Europeans everywhere and the situation only gets worse for them as another massive enlargement gets underway. Look at the dates - 1956, 1973, 1981, 1986, 1995: look at the number of a states in there - 6, 9, 10, 12, 15. No explanation, very little `ordinary language' publicity, absolutely no effort from anybody to explain anything to you, me and the nice little family next door.

Somehow - given the Maastricht and Rome treaty makeover called Nice - the politicos manage to hold it together for the next wave - après euro, bend the Kobenhavn rules a bit - Malta - ok - small: Cyprus - ok as long as the Turks don't play up and the Greeks don't burst into tears: Slovenia - ex Yugo - kinda OK-goodish economy - strong links to Austria and Italy: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania - er well - longtime since 1940 Soviet states: Czech republic and Slovakia - just separated one from tother - Soviet dominated - not market economies: Hungary, Poland in the same boat. These guys join in 2004. Most of them are doing well, notably Slovenia - now €, as are Malta and Cyprus, with everybody planned for € by 2012 (I think) latest - Poland and Hungary will fail.

Years 1956................1973.......1981....1986.........1995........2004

States 6...9.10..12...15..........25 or

States 6 9 10 12 15 25

Now the people are beginning to ask awkward questions and some wiser souls decide something must be done. So in 2004 the Constitution is slapped down on national desks. Long, complex and not a constitution in many ways. It focuses on the type and sort of legislation that should be enacted,
not on maximising the democratic process for the enacting of legislation through accountable representation. Odd good bits - Human rights etc. etc.
And it is `driven' by the French (Voldemort). Another piece of insensitivity knowing that French domination of EU process and politics is a real fear.

The last 2 enlargement issue is not worth detailing as it is simply more of the same. The French and Dutch (that most comprising of nations) `no' is well understood as is the typically arrogant stupidity of Chiraq to the new members on the Constitution and Iraq issues.
Now we have a NO on the Constitution rewrite, which would have been a MASSIVE `no' if other nations had been allowed a popular vote.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++**************** *****
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SUMMARY

So, to summarise.

  1. Where, how, when and why does European unity cause `disaffection'
  2. Why Europe can't afford to ignore the `disaffection'
  3. What do we need to get from `disaffection' to (perhaps grudging)
`affection'?

WHERE. HOW, WHEN, WHY DOES EUROPEAN UNITYCAUSE POPULAR `DISAFFECTION'

Disaffection is a function at the national mix level of the `elitist' French inability to see that ordinary people matter in not so simple things like politics. They see no need to explain anything to anybody. It is also the French drive to something they see they can command even if they cannot dominate it that generates anxieties.
The UK acts as a stupid spoilt child in an effort to stop this perceived French dream of dominance and have so managed to destroy many sensible supra national advances. Their across the board `it's French so it's dodgy' approach rather than leaving a European population capable of asking some of the right questions some of the time has left the average European even more confused and polarized.
GERMANY as the strongest economy and maturest large national member needs to stand up and bang the heads of the stupid aggrandizing French and the perfidious Brits together. Buggar the `here we go again - European domination - WW3' type crap.
At the supranational level the lack of explanation when the EU goes outside its charter into global geo-politics and global economics is another major cause of popular disaffection.

WHY EUROPE CAN'T AFFORD TO IGNORE `POPULAR' DISAFFECTION

Do we need affection? Yes, oh yes, because Europe is about to enter a period of major economic, political and cultural difficulty, in which, unless the EU can count on its citizens there will be a massive retreat behind national lines to the point of cracks, fracture or even dismemberment.
When you are short of food, energy and money (don't laugh it's coming) and possibly under physical attack and your EU overarch does either nothing or does not explain what it is about to do: RUPTURE is what you'll get.
Becoming the second leg in the `polar stool' will also be fraught and joyless. There will be initial US resistance until they see that the EU is the best of a bad lot. The EU by definition is fragile every capillary needs nourishment for it to grow strong and wise.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO GET FROM `DISAFFECTION' TO (EVEN GRUDGING) `AFFECTION'?

How do we get from dis-affection to dat-affection - sorry but you know what I mean.

First, take the already existing `bill of rights', slightly massage maybe so it is not irretrievably linked to Lisboa/Constitution. Massive, gi-normous publicity campaign - national referenda in all 27 member states. This will take 18 (maybe 24) months but the publicity should say that the EU in those 18 months will be doing the following.

- Ensuring that your rights are exemplified in a supranational popular democracy engine called the European Parliament (EP) and ensuring that this body has oversight over ALL the executive - Commission, President, Foreign Affair maestro. This may mean recourse to a US style Constitution.
The majority rules are also clear, in that, treaties, acts and amendments to the Constitution are by unanimity, which like the Swiss is a majority of member nations (14) and a majority of the population (25 million), thus all the smalls cannot do down UK+FR+GY and neither can the big 3 squeeze their national interest crap through either.
- A genuine European Court is in place to ensure that some treaty does not get passed into law as a Brussels cheese regulation. The Court should have three roles.
First safeguarding popular representation on treaties, constitution, major change (Schengen).
Second, safeguarding national versus supranational
legislation.
Thirdly, as the `Supreme Court' for legal action that cannot be
resolved at the national level.

-Reworking the Copenhagen criteria. Most important here is Euroland. All existing members(including UK - OR GET OUT) must be members by 2012 latest. New members have 5 years to Euroise.

-Reworking the associate member and application area.
First, as they are old EFTA members, and their economies will Euroise
very easily, special `fast track' negotiations for Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. A `No' referendum puts them in long-term denial like Morocco.

Second, tell Turkey and Croatia that their negotiations cannot start until 2014 but given no difficulties their accession should be ready by 2016(including €).

Third tell Makedonia, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo negotiations with them can not start until 2014.
Put a mechanism in place
that allows strict Forex arrangements with € and some basic trading benefits.

Finally the EU should have an enormous party for all the Baron de Marais bloggers in the new restored Parthenon, cuisine française, vino italiano, good German musick (Ludo, Johann(all of' em) & Dick), Greek and Spanish dancing, Danish cartoons, Dutch cheeses and so on because it is the baron's bloggers that have made Europe what it is 2day.

Display:
[ET Moderation Technology™] Richard Jones can create a diary by clicking on "new diary entry" or visiting the page http://www.eurotrib.com/submitstory/Diary

If he can create an empty diary I can move the text over.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 08:07:25 AM EST
I suggested this - but he felt more comfortable doing it this way.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 29th, 2008 at 05:57:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we expect comments?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 11:28:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
normally yes, but unfortunately I was away for past week - delaying publication - and now Richard is away on holidays and away from regular internet access so he may not be able to comment.  I should, perhaps, have delayed publication to enable him to contribute more actively, but I was not aware of his holiday plans when I committed to publish.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 11:37:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
very amusing, comprehensive romp through EU history, thanks frank and richard.

much to agree with too.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 02:09:16 PM EST
I think he meant Helmut Kohl not Pohl.

The issues:
this is a rather interesting summary of the development of the Union. But let me make some comments on the most important part, his recommendations how to precede.  


The majority rules are also clear, in that, treaties, acts and amendments to the Constitution are by unanimity, which like the Swiss is a majority of member nations (14) and a majority of the population (25 million), thus all the smalls cannot do down UK+FR+GY and neither can the big 3 squeeze their national interest crap through either.

I think here he means that unanimity means really unanimity (everybody). And for laws there needs to be double majority (majority of countries and (represented ) citizens).

This is without a doubt the best solution however I do not see that a referendum could be won. The loss of national sovereignty would be to much. The only way this could fly would be if you trim the areas where the EU can make decisions down. So that it is absolutely  clear for these areas why it makes sense to decide this on a European level. But with the current feeling of constant competence creep you would loose your referendum in every single country.


Reworking the Copenhagen criteria. Most important here is Euroland. All existing members(including UK - OR GET OUT) must be members by 2012 latest. New members have 5 years to Euroise.

I am sympathetic to that, but several countries aren't ready for the Euro and they won't be in five years. I would prefer a smaller Union based on the Economies which can adopt the Euro, however in your proposal this completely collides with this point:


Second, tell Turkey and Croatia that their negotiations cannot start until 2014 but given no difficulties their accession should be ready by 2016(including €).

Impossible. This would kill the European Project instantly. In your story you emphasis how constant enlargement has alienated many people but now you propose exactly that!  

by rz on Sat Jun 28th, 2008 at 02:43:13 PM EST
European Tribune - Comments - What is the EU for?
At the global level our current unipolar (and thus totally unstable) world (USA), already chafed and splintering, is looking for two other legs on the global stool. The EU is the strongest candidate, and US preferred as long as it remains second string, to be screwed into position as the second leg. Who, what and how the third leg will be designed and joined up is not quite clear but China must be a major component.

The problem which this analogy highlights is than a stool with more than 3 legs is also unstable - unless the four or more legs are of the same length and precisely aligned.  Arguably that is what happened in the multi-polar world order (US, Britain, France, Germany, Austria/Hungary) prior to WW!.  The key players kept jockeying for position and trying to become the top dog.

The second issue this analogy highlights is that the US needs the EU to become a more equal partner in the world - something which is explicitly rejected by the Neo-cons who pine for "The New American Century" where the US reigns supreme.  The US is only very gradually coming to realise that it cannot run the world on its own.

However there is also a bigger question that this analogy raises.  Do Europeans actually want to become a major player in a tri- or multi-polar world order?  Many - e.g. in Germany - have had their fill of megalomaniacal dreams of playing a major role on the world stage.  The Irish "neutrality" argument is largely about not wanting to become part of a militarised (or other) superpower.  

Whether it is possible for the EU to survive (Swiss style) as a relatively neutral, inactive, player on the world stage - and not become prey to the military or other ambitions of others - is a difficult point to argue.  Can you remain an economic superpower with only marginal political and military influence to deploy in support of your interests?  Will you be bullied and kicked around and forced to accept increasingly disadvantageous terms of trade - never mind be subject to terrorist or other attacks if you are perceived to be politically/militarily weak?

I think it is fair to say that many on the European left do not want the EU to try and compete with the US (or Russia, China, Saudi et al) on military or political lines at all.  If this means the EU has little effective influence on (say) Israel, Iraq, Zimbabwe, or Burma, then so be it.  Those on the right argue that they are living in a fools paradise - made possible only by what remains of the US NATO security guarantee - and that the EU empire is only waiting to fall at the first sign of external aggression.  You could also draw parallels with US Isolationism which sought to prevent the US become like the other imperial powers and getting involved in global entanglements.

One thing seems clear.  There is, as yet, no consensus or even widespread popular debate on what role the EU should or needs to play in Global affairs in order to prosper - and thus attempts by EU leaders (not the Brussels bureaucrats) to create a more cohesive and dynamic EU have met with (at best) a lukewarm popular response, and determined opposition from both left and right as seen in the Irish referendum.

"The centre does not hold" (WB Yeats) because it hasn't made its case.

Yeats's Vision: W. B. Yeats and "A Vision"

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

from `The Second Coming'`The Second Coming'



"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 29th, 2008 at 06:56:21 AM EST
The problem which this analogy highlights is than a stool with more than 3 legs is also unstable - unless the four or more legs are of the same length and precisely aligned.  Arguably that is what happened in the multi-polar world order (US, Britain, France, Germany, Austria/Hungary) prior to WW!.  The key players kept jockeying for position and trying to become the top dog.

I fail to see why this could not happen with 3 major powers. Isn't the stool analogy being made to, er, support more than it really can?

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 10:28:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you live in N dimensions a stable stool has N legs.

Down with 3D chauvinism!

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 11:27:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I always suspected you lived in more than 3D

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 30th, 2008 at 11:38:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fortunately, we all live in more than 3D!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Jul 1st, 2008 at 04:02:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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